As well setting my running resolutions for this year (My Goals for 2018) I have also made a small aim for myself to explore more walks and hills throughout this year. So, at the weekend, Martin and I along with Murphy and our pals headed up to Loch Lomond to climb Conic Hill.
Conic Hill is located on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, near the small town of Balmaha. On the drive up, you can see the landscape of Conic Hill and the hills surrounding it rising dramatically which should quicken your heart rate with anticipation a little if you are anything like me. Sitting at 350m and around a 2.5 mile round trip if you follow the main route, it looks a lot higher than it is. It is a relatively short walk, but, the climb is steep and pretty instantaneous as soon as you start the walk. The hill sits along the Highland Boundary Line, the fault line which separates two distinct terrains in Scotland: the Highlands and Lowlands and offers stunning views of Loch Lomond and its islands.
To climb Conic Hill, you should park in the car park at Balmaha. This is about 40 – 50 minutes drive outside of Glasgow. You can head out through Bearsden or along the motorway and across the Erskine Bridge. The Erskine Bridge route is my favourite because this is the route that I would be driven when I was younger and we would go on holidays up north, so crossing that bridge is an indication of adventure and good times to me. The car park is pretty big, with plenty of spaces, however even on the miserable January day that we chose to climb the hill, the car park was still full of walkers and runners, so if you were going in summer, I’d perhaps advise getting there early.
Head out of the car park towards the forest and an information board and turn right. The climb begins quite steadily from here, but the trail is gorgeous. The trees tower above you and I began to feel very small against nature. Follow this trail (marked with the thistle symbol of the West Highland Way) for around half a mile and you will come to a little kissing gate, which when you pass through, will give you a view of Conic Hill.
Stay on the main path and it curves around between two hills. Keep looking back because as you climb, the views become more and more rewarding. Eventually the path will swing right to climb the far side of Conic Hill. By now, you should have some amazing views of Loch Lomond and the hills on the other side, which I found quite breathtaking even though our day was pretty murky.
On your way up this trail, there is a short grassy path that leads up to the ridge line of Conic Hill, which is on the exact line of the Highland Boundary Fault. I didn’t go up here unfortunately, as I was keen to get to the top! However, my friend Matt did and I am assured the views are even more spectacular!
As you continue up the main route, you might be fooled by a false summit, but don’t worry, the top is not too far! Ascend the final climb and be rewarded with what you came for – views across Loch Lomond, including the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond. The view is quite astounding and you feel like you can see for miles.
From there, you can head back down and retrace your steps I believe, however we headed across the ridges behind the view to explore some more of the peaks. These were quite easy to traverse and we were able to find slight paths in the grass underfoot in order to ascend and descend. Even in the rain and wind, it was too slippy or boggy and I recommend having a wee explore if you can!
We descended the last peak and joined onto the West Highland Way. You can come off the hill and follow the route to the right which will take you on a circular route. We chose to turn left and head for the route we had come due to time and the lack of daylight, but I am sure I will explore the other route in due course. Coming down the way you have climbed is no real hardship however as you can look for as long as you please at the wonderful views.
When you reach the bottom, you can of course head straight back to your car, or you can head to St Mocha’s for a well earned coffee and a cake. Might I recommend the cappucinos which are lovely and are served with a nice piece of tablet. The cafe is great, although pretty small so I can only imagine the queue on a hot summer day!
Overall, Conic Hill is a fantastic walk and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a shorter, easier hill walk in Scotland or even if you have young children who you would like to introduce to hiking. It’s a great day out and for us, resulted in one happy, sleepy pup.