Why I Love Loch Lomond…
The big freeze is on around Scotland. Barren landscapes, road closures and gigantic energy bills all make for a slightly sad outlook and a lot of whisky consumption. Time for some reflection of less hostile seasons, so here’s one I wrote last summer and never had the opportunity to publish:
Today’s travels are bringing me a strange sense of comfort and familiarity. It’s a feeling that I’m at odds with. With the exception of my actual home in Glasgow, travel destinations tend to feel like exciting new adventures that will be sadly short lived. Nowhere gives me that sense of security, the sense that, this time, I’m on my own turf. My gratitude and relief to be back at Loch Lomond is all the sweeter as a result. For many more than just this besotted Glaswegian, this is a part of the world that seems to relish creeping into the soul of its visitors and setting up camp for eternity.
My familiarity stems from the fact that I spent a lot of my childhood in and around Loch Lomond. Both of my parents were raised nearby and I was that strange kid who was only too happy to leave the football pitch and the Playstation and embrace a visit to the grandparents. My grandpa also owned a sweetie shop but that’s by the by. What it was really all about was the outdoors. The vista of green in every direction, the endless peaks, the uncalculated risk of hypothermia with a dive into the blue waters and the prospect of an adventurous boat trip to one of the islands.
Now nestled in my Glasgow urban existence and many years after the demise of the 10p mix-up, the default escape for me always leads to the Bonnie Banks. Top of the list is the epic conquering of Ben Lomond. A diverse journey that offers continuously stunning views in all directions, it has achieved its status as one of Britain’s great walks on merit. Whether ascending beneath the sun’s glorious rays or grimly staring down the driving sideyways rain that the west of Scotland specialises in, the panorama from the summit is worth every step of exertion.
A huge percentage of outdoors-folk will scale the Ben, descend, give themselves a pat on the back, plan out how best to suitably promote their achievement to friends and leave it at that. Off to see more of the Highlands they go. But anyone I speak to about the area will get the lecture – there’s an awful lot more to it than that.
Another of my favourite walks in the area is the short, sweet and steep ascent of Duncryne Hill, affectionately known as The Dumpling. A super contrast to the gradual and lengthy ascent of Ben Lomond, this proud mound can be walked in as little as 15 knee-screaming minutes. Just south of Gartocharn, the views from the top are gorgeous and give an unmatched perspective of the Loch from the south. Even in summer it’s possible to have this walk all to yourself, a delightful travesty.
For something in between, the ascent of Conic Hill is one of my favourite walks in all of Scotland. From Balmaha it can be done, up and down, in around two hours, is challenging in parts and blissfully peaceful throughout. From the top it is easy to hop between peaks on the descent, enjoying the stunning views over the Loch all the way down. It’s a suggestion that may sound mortifying to many but I’ve tackled it alone at first light (hands firmly on hips at the summit by 7am) and had the whole morning completely to myself. That’s a very special experience.
Great walks all. Never let it be said though that Loch Lomond is not also a world class destination to relax and switch off from urban maelstroms. My favourite spot with this in mind is Glen Fruin, located within minutes of the delightful town of Luss on the western side of the water. It’s a thrilling drive through the glen for a start and the temptation to test the boundaries of the speedometer is only curbed by the need to keep your eyes peeled for a good spot by the River Fruin to stop. If the weather is behaving it’s an idyllic place for a picnic, or even a little fishing.
It takes me 44 minutes to drive from my flat to Loch Lomond. I’m a very fortunate man.