After a bumpy start in the Isle of Skye, we started the long drive down to Loch Lomond. Why Loch Lomond? Well, we thought Loch Ness might be too touristy and Loch Lomond had a good, moderate hike up Conic Hill, which promised amazing views of the lake (it did).
Each time we turned on our car we worried the “low tire pressure” alert would go off and probably drove more gingerly down the Scottish roads than we’ve ever driven before. This driving day also marked the first non weekend or holiday day of our trip. And with that came so much roadwork. I’ll bet we were stopped at least 15 times throughout the drive where road crews were repairing the roads. After our flat tires, this made me feel a little bit better they’re aware and trying to remedy the road issues.
The above photos highlight our drive as we left the Isle of Skye and made our way toward Lomond. I believe the mountains you see in two of the above photos are of Ben Lomond. You can make the climb, but I think it takes all day and requires crampons (aka more expert hikers than me). We were surprised at how quickly the terrain changed again and again as we drove south. If the clouds had parted just a little bit more, we would’ve had some really stellar views throughout the drive.
Around late afternoon we’d arrived at our vacation home in an old castle on the lake. We were also greeted with sunshine and warmer temperatures. The view (as you can see below) was incredibly inviting. We unpacked and decided to do a little exploring along the shore before sitting down to an early dinner at The Balloch House (tasty pub food). There are lots of old castles and hotels being renovated along the lake with lots of spaces for public beaches (we saw a guy feeding a swan from his hand on one beach…which seemed like a bad idea). There were also some kayakers out on the water and even sea planes (unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance for either one).
The next morning we woke up early with plans of tackling Conic Hill before the rain set in. Unlike the Quiraing, the car park for Conic Hill is well paved and easy to find. We stopped at a gas station along the way for some homemade scones (legitimately one of the best scones of the trip), nuts, and waters before approaching Balmaha to start our hike.
Conic Hill is listed as 2.5 miles and easy/moderate. For the most part I’d agree, though if it’s wet it could be a lot more difficult as it’s an ascent (via stairs or earthen trails) almost the entire way. From the below photos (bottom two) you see the beginning of the trail, as you’re navigating through trees and it’s relatively flat/easy. However, after a couple flights of steps up a mountainside, the remainder of your hike looks like the top photo below.
Then we came to our first clearing (photos below). There are some amazing views of the lake and we weren’t even at the top of the hill yet!
After a slightly muddier ascent, we wound our way to the top of the hill. I am so glad we had our raincoats/wind breakers on as it was incredibly cold and windy up there. So windy that we were afraid if I set my tripod down to take a photo it would’ve flown away! Luckily some other hikers who took our picture.
At this point we’d worked up quite the appetite and decided we’d grab breakfast or an early lunch at The Oak Tree Inn, directly across the street from the parking lot. We were about an hour before they started serving lunch, so we had breakfast. Jim ordered another Scottish breakfast (complete with haggis) while I opted for scrambled eggs, toast, and sausage. We both gobbled up everything on our plates and my eggs were probably the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had. They were so good I urged Jim to try them (which he did & did not enjoy) and told him, well, that’s what amazing eggs taste like. I bet that is an amazing spot for lunch and dinner. If we were doing it over, we’d stay in Balmaha, for sure.
After lunch we drove back to our hotel, got cleaned up and decided to explore a bit more around the city, hitting the shopping center at Loch Lomond Shores. We spent a little less time there than we anticipated (and saw a lot of the hikers from that AM at Conic Hill also shopping) and decided we’d grab another early dinner at The Stables before returning for a relaxing night in.
This sunny retreat was just what we needed after our rainy time in Isle of Skye. I can’t wait to go back when it’s warmer and go swimming and/or canoeing in the lake OR exploring a few more of the walks/hikes in the area.