A couple from the UK with a passion for exploring the world, and enjoying a drink or two while we’re at it!
We want to share our travel experiences to help you plan your next trip, and let you know the best places to enjoy a cold one when you get there!
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is a national park in central Scotland which straddles the border between the Lowlands and the Highlands.
The park is centred around Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Great Britain by surface area and the second largest by volume, being beaten by it's more well known cousin, Loch Ness.
Loch Lomond and the wider national park boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in Scotland, which makes the Loch a popular destination for people who prefer the outdoorsy life.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities to do around Loch Lomond, and the views from its hills and Munros are frankly unbeatable!
We only had one day in Loch Lomond before moving on up to the Cairngorms during our Scottish road trip in September 2020, which isn't nearly enough time to hike the myriad of trails surrounding the Loch.
We decided to pick two of the best hikes you can do and cram them both into one epic day of hiking!
First, we're going to take you for a short, gentle stroll up Conic Hill, followed by a mammoth climb up Scotland's southernmost Munro, Ben Lomond.
How to get to Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond is one of the most accessible National Parks in Scotland, mainly due to it's very convenient location.
We think that your best bet is to aim for Balloch, a town located at the Southernmost tip of the Loch. Most of the activities for visitors are centered around Balloch, and trains from Glasgow take as little at 50 minutes.
However, once you're at the Loch, you'll definitely need a car to get around, especially if you plan to hike as the best trails aren't readily accessible by public transport.
To drive to the Loch from the South, you'll need to take the M74/M8 past Glasgow, then change to the M898 to the Erskine Bridge, and follow the A82 into the National Park.
Drive times to Balloch from Glasgow are as little as 30 minutes, 90 minutes from Edinburgh, and only around 4 hours from Manchester. We travelled up from the Midlands so decided to stop half way for a few days in the Lake District, which we would absolutely recommend if you have a few extra days for your trip.
From the North, simply follow the A82 and you'll find your way down the Western shore of the Loch and straight into Balloch. Drive times from Fort William are around 2 hours, and 3 hours 30 minutes from Inverness.
Hike 1 - Conic Hill
Some of the best views of Loch Lomond will be your reward if you decide to take the short, steep walk up Conic Hill.
Located on the Eastern side of the Loch above the small village of Balmaha, Conic Hill offers some of the best expansive views of Loch Lomond and its islands for relatively little effort.
Conic Hill is super easy to find. There’s a large car park in the centre of Balmaha so you’ll most likely get a space providing you don’t arrive too late.
Conic Hill is a popular walk and the car park will fill up by mid-morning at the latest!
There's a small shop opposite the car park if you need to pick up any drinks or snacks before setting off on your walk.
The trailhead for the walk is at the rear corner of the car park, the path is well trodden and really easy to follow, there’s very little chance of getting lost here.
The walk starts with an easy, gently rising trail through Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, a small woodland of pine, oak and birch trees on the edge of the Loch. If you arrive a little early and the trail is quiet, the start of the walk is very peaceful.
The trail starts to rise sharply when you leave the wooded area, and after a short walk up some steps you reach a false summit, which is around a third of the way up the hill. This is the perfect spot to stop for a quick break, as the views already start to unfold from here.
From here, it’s a short but steep walk up a well-trodden, but fairly uneven path to the halfway point of the hike, a small col called Bealach Ard. It’s at this point you have two choices, stop now and take in the fantastic panoramas of the Loch, or continue up the well-marked and gently inclined path up to the summit of Conic Hill.
If you have no other plans for the rest of the day, we say go all the way and keep on hiking to the summit. The 360 panoramas from the summit are supposedly spectacular!
We had other plans for our afternoon that involved a lot more hiking, so we decided to turn around at the halfway point, but not before taking some time to enjoy the incredible views of the Loch and its islands. While making a few furry friends too…
We were incredibly lucky that some Highland Cattle had decided to take in the views that morning too. It almost seemed like they had been perfectly placed at the scene by ‘Visit Scotland’. The views of the Loch below combined with these beautiful animals made for one of the most memorable mornings of any of our travels.
Be careful of the small scrambly sections of the path on your way back down, especially if it’s raining or wet as it can be a little slippery. This short walk should take you no more than a couple of hours, even with a short break at the summit to enjoy the views! If you aren’t really into hiking but still want to get some great views in during your trip, this is the one for you.
Hike 2 - Ben Lomond
Hiking Ben Lomond is no easy feat. Scotland’s southernmost Munro (a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet), is almost 1000m high, and the 12km hike to the summit is a challenge even for experienced walkers. Bear with us though, is it worth it!
The views from the summit are simply breath-taking, with 360° panoramas of the Loch and its islands to the south, and ranges of Highland mountains to the North. It really isn’t an experience to be missed! Plus, we’re guessing if you’re willing to venture into Scotland’s rugged National Parks you’re no stranger to the outdoors, so this shouldn’t be too difficult for you.
Before you start, make sure you’re prepared. Although it is regarded as one of the easiest Munros to climb, it can still be fairly challenging. Make sure you’re carrying enough food and water, that you have enough layers and waterproof clothing for the weather, and that you have good quality socks and hiking boots.
The Ben Lomond car park is easy enough to find, there’s only one road on this side of the Loch after all! Google maps is your friend here to make life a little easier, but if you follow signs for Rowardennan, you will find yourself in the right place.
We eventually managed to find ourselves a spot around half a mile down the road from the trailhead like a lot of other people and set off on our hike, only to return to find that we, and several others all had fines! Turns out you can’t abandon your car along the access road to a busy tourist spot…
The moral of the story? ARRIVE EARLY!
If and when you do manage to secure yourselves a legal parking spot, it’s time to get your boots on and get climbing!
You will need to make your way to the car park if you aren’t already there and look for the information and toilet buildings.
The trailhead is at the back of these buildings and is very clearly marked.
Take the time to pose for a quick cheery before photo, just for fun to see the difference by the time you get back down!
The climb starts off fairly easily with a winding track up through the woods. There are a few rocky sections but nothing too technical. You’ll find yourselves above the tree line fairly quickly, and the views down towards the Loch begin to show themselves. When you’ve finished admiring the first glimpse of the Loch from Ben Lomond, look up at the summit in the distance for a reminder of how far you have left to go.
Once you clear the treeline, the path gently rises almost all the way to the summit. There are a few slightly steeper, rocky sections but these aren’t particularly testing.
The most challenging aspect of the hike is the gentle climb. There are a few flat sections along the way but generally you are climbing all the way from the Loch so make sure you’re well prepared with food and water as this can be challenging for novice hikers such as ourselves!
Don’t worry though as you will want to make plenty of stops to admire the views of the Loch behind you, and how far you’ve already climbed.
The last section of the climb is a little more challenging as the path follows some steep rocky switchbacks. Take care at this point especially if it’s raining as these sections can be pretty slippery!
That being said, once you clear the switchbacks it’s a pretty flat final push to the summit along a stunning ridgeline. This is the point in the climb when you get incredible panoramic views of the Trossachs to the East.
When you reach the summit, you’ll realise why this is one of the most popular hikes in Scotland. The 360° views are staggering! We were lucky enough to visit on a clear day and could see the entire 39km Loch, as well as range upon range of highland mountains to the North, the entirety of the Trossachs to the East, and ocean to the West. On especially clear days, Ben Nevis is visible from the summit, 40 miles away!
Words can’t do this justice, so we will wrap this article up with some of the photos we took from the summit.
If you don’t have much time in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, we would urge you to at least try and squeeze these two hikes into your itinerary. One very busy day of hiking will give you so many amazing memories of your Scottish adventure. This was the first experience on our Scotland Road trip and needless to say, it set the tone for the rest of our stay!