Climbing Conic Hill
With a break in the winter weather and an urge to get outdoors, we prepared ourselves for a small hike up Conic Hill one Saturday afternoon. Conic Hill is a sharp summit located in Balmaha in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. It’s about 350m high, so about 2.5 miles in total distance. It also incorporates part of the West Highland Way, but breaks off near the tip where you can get spectacular views over Loch Lomond and the surrounding hills.
We had unfortunately chosen a foggy Saturday morning to hike up the hill, but it hadn’t stopped a mountain of people ascending to it, too. (But hugely impacted on my photos!). Conic Hill is a relatively easy hill to climb, so it wasn’t a surprise that every man, woman, child and dog had the same idea as us. I had only ever climbed Ben Lomond and Ben Nevis when I was about 14 as part of my school’s outdoor week. I was definitely wasn’t as fit as I was back then, so was recommended Conic Hill for its ease.
Conic Hill is located in Balmaha just off of the B837. The car park and start of the hike is directly across from the Oak Tree Inn hotel and restaurant. The car park was really full on this particular Saturday morning so we had to make do with parking half on the main road, half on the pavement.
The start of the walk is a long steady incline through a wooded area, slowly easing you in to your climb for five to ten minutes. The end of the forest track is met with a gate (one of the ones where you push it forward, step in, and then pull it back behind you – anyone know what they are called?!) *edit* I’ve been informed it’s a kissing gate!
You are then out in the open again and this is where the climb really starts. You are met with several quite steep steps, they’re not too high though. Once you conquer the steps, there is a large open area that gives you your first great view over Loch Lomond. (During the climb so far the Loch is at your back, so it’s great to stop here and take in the view).
Like I mentioned earlier, the weather was quite misty and foggy so visibility was sparse. I still managed to get a few photos though because the weather and low cloud was moving fast; there were 10 minute windows to grab a good snap!
It was another short climb up until the next little break point. The hill has a few false summits so it’s great to take a little rest if you’re not used to hill walking (or want to constantly take photos like me!). This false summit was great because it looked northerly (rather than southerly like the first one). I gives you great views of the surrounding hills and mountains, and if you go on a misty day, it will seem like you are on a cliff’s edge.
I would say the last big section is sort of split into two sections but without a flat resting area, with one going to the summit of Conic Hill and the other following the West Highland Way.
Prior to the split, the first stretch of path is a mixed bag of stony path, steps and mud. Although if you go in the summer I’m sure it will be perfectly dry. This was the section where my legs started to feel the burn. I felt because it was busy that I couldn’t go at my own pace. Not that I wanted to go any slower, I just had to accommodate for lots of families and dogs on their way down so it wasn’t a particularly relaxing walk.
After the path splits for the West Highland Way, there is quite a steep rocky climb to the summit. But it’s nothing you can’t do. Young children and older people done it. The 360 degree views at the top are breathtaking. And if you were forced to park on the street like me, try spotting your car!
Spoiler alert, we failed. The fog was too thick.
Heading Down & Food
As an orange tinge started to come down across the hills, we decided it was best we began our descent. There weren’t many people heading up the path because it was late afternoon so we were almost running to the bottom.
Our day ended perfectly: with a coffee and a hot chocolate in St Mocha (the coffee shop along from The Oak Tree Inn and directly adjacent to Conic Hill car park). If you’re feeling peckish, I highly recommend The Oak Tree for food; their haggis, neeps, tatties and whiskey sauce is to die for!
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