Climb an iconic Scottish hill, pausing for a picnic at the summit with views across beautiful Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
Remember to take wet-weather gear in the colder months and plenty of water in summer. Whatever the season, sturdy boots are recommended, as well as a picnic!
Walkers approaching Conic Hill on the West Highland Way ©Alamy
Begin at Milton of Buchanan. It’s on the bus route between Drymen and Balmaha, or there is some road-side parking. From the bus-stop, head north-east on a quiet side-road.
2. Enter forest land
After 800m a sign marks the entrance to Garadhban Forest. Follow a rough track with views down to Loch Lomond.
3. Turn north-west
At a junction of tracks through the forest, turn left beside a small way marker with the distinctive WHW thistle emblem.
4. Open moorland
Leave the trees for the wide open moorland. The waters of Loch Lomond glisten to the south-west, while the humpback ridge of Conic Hill rises to the west. Follow the path (still marked with WHW signs) as it runs beside a stone wall.
5. Cross the bridge
A footbridge crosses the Kilandan Burn, then after a further 300m the path drops into a little wooded gorge to a second bridge, crossing the Burn of Mar. This area is frequently grazed by Highland cattle.
6. Steep ascent
Now begins the hard work. The path is clear and, although there are some sections with built steps, it’s often rough and rocky. Take care on winter mornings in case the path has iced up.
The trail ascends steeply to a natural ledge at around the 300m contour that traverses the northern face of the hill. For the best views, turn left on one of several rough paths for the final short climb to the true crest of the ridge. The views are breathtaking: out across the loch and its string of islands; over to the rounded Luss Hills on the far side of the water; and up to the towering peak of Ben Lomond to the north-north-west.
Boats bobbing in Balmaha’s harbour ©Getty
8. Choose your path
From the top, it is possible to simply follow the crest of the ridge south-west – but the descent becomes very steep. It’s easier to retrace your steps to the main path running just below you to the north. Follow this south-west for about 700m.
At a small col, swing left and keep on the path. Some sections have built steps but some care is needed on the rougher sections.
10. Into the forest
After a stile, the path enters woodland and continues to descend, following the markers for the West Highland Way, until you reach a forestry track which eventually drops into the visitor centre car park at Balmaha.
Across the road are picnic benches and a bustling marina. Balmaha also boasts the Oak Tree Inn and a village shop. From here follow the B837 (sometimes busy on weekends or bank holidays) for the final 1Â½ miles back to the start. A path runs beside the road all the way, and there are pleasant views over fields to the knobbly profile of Conic Hill. Alternatively, a bus service runs back to Milton of Buchanan from the visitor centre carpark.
Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route.