Take the High Road - and the Boat - To Ben Lomond!
Love Loch Lomond is delighted to introduce the first in a series of guest blog posts exploring Loch Lomond by boot and bike and using sustainable travel from guest writer Jill Phillip of Boot and Bike.
Ben Lomond, the most southerly of Scotland's Munros is widely regarded as "Glasgow's Munro" and, given that it's less than two hours out of the city by public transport -admittedly not your average commute, but an hour on the magical West Highland Railway, then a water bus across Loch Lomond - it's an appropriate and well- deserved accolade.
On a clear day you can glimpse its conical summit from the city and, equally, can spot some of the city’s symbolic landmarks, such as the University tower, from the Ben’s summit. So, where better to introduce a couple of visitors on their last day in Glasgow, eager to experience the thrill of scaling one of Scotland’s most famous mountains and equally keen to savour the best views over her most iconic loch?
Leaving Queen Street Station on ScotRail’s 8.21 to Oban, arriving Arrochar at 9.37, we turn left out of the station for the 10 minute walk down to the pier at Tarbet to catch the water bus operated by Cruise Loch Lomond (between April and October) that links Tarbet with Rowardennan and Inversnaid on the eastern shore of the loch.
Sailing at 10am, the boat - fellow passengers include ornithologists, photographers, sightseers, walkers for the West Highland Way to Inversnaid, climbers for the Ben, cyclists for the heart of the Trossachs, not forgetting Rufus, the black field spaniel, who looks up for all of these activities - reaches Rowardennan in about 45 minutes.
From the pier a few steps through the car park towards the toilets brings us to the path marked "Ben Lomond". And, from here, we just stick to the obvious, well-surfaced path. (But do stay safe and be honest about your own capabilities, whatever the time of year, or prevailling weather conditions.)
The climb starts in woodland, for about a mile, until we emerge into the open hill through a gate to come face-to-face with an unimpressed-looking ‘Hielan coo’ monitoring our progress. Although fairly steep to begin with, the route levels out along the Sron Aonaich Ridge and after about two miles, we reach the steep section of switchbacks that takes us to the summit.
After well-earned rest and another wondrous circular panorama - this time taking in the Arrochar Alps, Lochs Lomond, Sloy and Katrine, the Campsie Fells to the south and Lomond Hills to the east - we head north west from the summit and begin the steep descent along a rocky ridge, then across some stepping stones to the Ptarmigan Ridge. From here the views of the loch are equally breathtaking on a straightforward path. (You can, of course retrace your steps back down the mountain on the original path. Both routes finish at the car park.)
Despite spending too long sunbathing and admiring the views from the summit, we make it back with enough time to enjoy a cold drink at the Rowardennan Hotel. Arriving back at Tarbet Pier at 17.30, we take full advantage of the gorgeous evening, chilling out with our fish and chips and a great vista across the loch, before taking the short walk back to the station for the return to Queen Street at 20.07. (On Saturdays between March and September, an additional train calls at Arrochar at 18.02, arriving Queen Street 19.20).
Ben Lomond is the peak that marks the southern boundary of the Highlands and its location beside its eponymous loch, rightly, ensures its unique place in Scottish history and culture. My friends, seasoned global travellers, still rate the views across the Trossachs as unrivalled on any of their many journeys around the world.
Maps - OS Landranger 56, OS Explorer 364, Harvey Maps; Glasgow Popular Hills
Refreshments - light refreshments are available on board the water bus, you may have time for a drink at www.rowardennanhotel.co.uk and there are a number of hotels, restaurants and tea rooms in Tarbet.
- The return boat sails from Rowardennan at 16.45, so it is essential to work out your timings carefully, particularly if the weather turns inclement.
- Ben Lomond is 974m (3,196 ft). No matter what time of year, or whatever the weather is like at sea level, conditions can change rapidly and it can turn into a bleak and potentially dangerous climb.
- Always ensure you carry a map, navigation aid, wet weather gear, extra layers and adequate food and water.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.