This post is waaaaaaaaaaay overdue.
You see, I went for a hike on Conic Hill near Loch Lomond at the end of June, enjoyed it so much, and was so excited about writing a blog related to the experience. Alas, more than three months have gone by and still no blog post. I am a procrastinator!!
If Kinnoull Hill was my introduction to hill walking, then Conic Hill was what made me fall in love with this activity. I am aiming for the West Highland Way in the upcoming years and some real mountains eventually, possibly some Scottish Munros, but hill walking will get my training started nicely and slowly. Having searched the nearby Loch Lomond, I saw that many people have suggested trying Conic Hill before taking on the real beast of the Munro, especially for the inexperienced, which clearly referred to me. So one very sunny Saturday morning, I packed my backpack and my camera, hopped onto a very early train to Balloch (hills have the power to wake me up at 6:30 in the morning on a weekend, which is impressive), took a bus to Balmaha, and promptly started my solo ascent to Conic Hill at 9am.
Venturing into the woods
Steps leading to Conic Hill
Steps leading to Conic Hill
At an elevation of approximately 350 m, Conic Hill is a gentle climb and rather straightforward. The hill could be done as part of the West Highland Way (the Way), but since I was climbing it without doing the Way, I think I can skip it when I actually take on the Way in its entirety (though the views on Conic Hill were so impressive, as you will see, that I may contemplate repeating the route). The ascent was slow and steady with some gradual changes in elevation at the beginning, but be not fooled! Past the well-shaded foresty patches, the slopes suddenly became very steep quite quickly, and never-ending steps seemingly appeared out of nowhere in front of me. Oh, I knew I was in for a very sweaty workout, alright!
Amazing view of Loch Lomond
Looking back to the summit
A bit more!
Looking back – almost there!
Halfway up, stop, turn around, and be awed by the preview of what’s to be enjoyed at the summit! By now sweat drops the size of pearls were dropping onto the ground, no exaggeration. The weather of the day was actually perfect for hiking, not so hot and uncomfortable, but not too perfect for photography as the grayness did take away a lot of the vibrant colours of the landscape. I stopped and rested a bit before continuing onto the summit – the final climb, let’s go, Annie!
Cookie selfie at the summit!
That gorgeous moment when the world stood before a cookie
Amazing view of Loch Lomond
At the summit, the first thing I did was…sit down and treat myself to a cookie, because I deserved it! Cookie selfie? Yes please! Then it took a bit of time for me to catch my breath because the view in front of me was quite literally breathtaking. I had all of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in front of me, with islands scattered in the waters and Scottish mountains forming a backdrop, creating a lovely landscape. It was so beautiful!! I sat there for a good 20 minutes, just enjoying the nature, the silence, and the solitude, greeting walkers that joined me as they too reached the summit. A 6-am wake-up call and all that legwork and sweat for a view like this – for me, that was totally worth it!
On the way down
Now, a note about the descent – it was tough! There’s a Chinese saying that “it’s easy to go up the mountain but difficult to come down”. While there may be some figurative meaning to it, it is very true literally as well! Yes, going up took a lot of energy and muscle work, but going down took more strategy, deliberation, stability, and caution, especially because I decided to take an unconventional route! Somehow I followed a steep, narrow path down the side of the hill and ended up having to go through super off-track, rocky, and muddy sections, any of which could have caused me to slip and fall. And honestly, I almost did. The fact that I made it back down safely was probably a miracle, though I did have that Dutch guy to thank for helping me out on the way 😉 Lesson of the day: hill climbing isn’t as easy as you might believe it to be. Think and plan before you decide to take a potentially dangerous route!
Mountains from Loch Lomond
Burial site on Inchcailloch
A green mile
This boat is a “Little Risky”…
A boat named Margaret
After a careful and (sometimes not so) steady descent, I made it back to Balmaha, phew! I had a couple of options then. I could either follow my original plan and take a somewhat expensive ferry to the small village of Luss, or I could go to a newly discovered destination that was recommended by the guy at the tourist information office – Inchcailloch, an island that was 5 minutes away by boat. Taking into consideration the cost of the ferry, the time it would take to get to each destination, and the recommendation, I decided to go for Inchacailloch without any idea what to expect. And it was a nice surprise! Aside from another exhausting uphill climb (not expected at all!) to an elevated viewpoint to see Conic Hill from the island, Inchcailloch itself was a secluded place full of gems – an ancient burial ground, dead trees (including an actual place called “Drop Dead Gorging”), and pleasant hiking paths. I think it certainly was a wise decision, especially since I got to visit Luss a few months later on the way to Loch Ness anyway. Nothing missed!
Relaxing by the loch
Statue of “Mountain Man”, Tom Weir
Dog in Balmaha
A cute bagpiper in kilts
Before heading back to Glasgow, I took a short stroll around Balmaha. Balmaha itself is a stop on the West Highland Way and therefore quite a few walkers were around the area by the afternoon. I watched people picnicking by the loch, passed by the statue of Scottish climber and “Mountain Man” Tom Weir, and enjoyed the short performance of a bagpiper (who strangely reminded me of the adorable Tom in my lab) walking his dog. I would have done the Loch Lomond shores walk in Balloch but I was SO EXHAUSTED by then that I just wanted to collapse into deep sleep. Oh well, I will be back in Balloch again. This was me getting acquainted with the gorgeous Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, but it surely wouldn’t be my final visit because if I do end up walking the Way, then I’ll definitely be here again. Look out, Scottish hills, I’m out to conquer more of you!