If you're looking for a short hill walk, not far from both Glasgow and Stirling with stunning views over Loch Lomond, then Conic Hill is your answer! A really great option for getting out the city and into nature. You can also, treat yourself to a glass of wine/beer, some delicious food or refreshing ice cream from the restaurant and cafe across the road from the car park. Much needed after any hill walk!

So, this obviously all sounds great. What's the downfall? Well... there's only one but it's easy retified. The little village of Balmaha, where Conic Hill is located, get's extremely busy especially during peak season! There's two big car parks; the main car park and an overflow car park. I arrived at 1pm when I visited and had to wait a considerate amount of time for a space in the overflow car park. To avoid this situation, aim to get to Balmaha early - I'd suggest 9am.

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What and where is Conic Hill?

Conic Hill is a prominent 361-metre high hill, providing magnificent views over Loch Lomond. It's a relatively short and easy walk, which makes it very popular. It can be walked solely as an individual hike or as part of the West Highland Way, which is a 154km walk going from Milngavie to Fort William and takes roughly 6-8 days to complete. Conic Hill is part of the section of the West Highland Way between Drymen and Balmaha.

Conic Hill is located on the eastern side of Loch Lomond, in the popular village of Balmaha. It takes approximately 35 minutes to get to Balmaha from Stirling, 50 minutes from Glasgow and 90 minutes from Edinburgh.

Location of Balmaha in relation to Glasgow and Stirling.

What's the parking situation like?

There are two car parks; the main Conic Hill car park and an overflow car park. The main car park is in the best condition and I'd recommend trying to get a space there. The overflow car park is gravel and is a tad bumpy. These are big car parks and there's enough space for over 200 cars. However, Balmaha is an extremely popular destination, so these spaces fill up very quickly. You need to get there early to get a space.

Parking prices are:

  • Up to 1 hour parking is free. However, you will still need to get a ticket from the machine for the free hour.
  • Up to 2 hours parking costs £2.10.
  • Up to 4 hours parking costs £2.60.
  • All day parking is £3.20

You can pay for parking by cash or download the 'RingGo' app to pay by card. Parking charges for the car park are between the hours of 8.45am-5.30pm, Monday to Sunday.

Where to start the climb?

The climb starts at the main Conic Hill car park. There is a path leading into the forest at the back of this car park, next to an information board. For the first 10-15 minutes of this climb, you will be walking through the forest (beware of the midges during the summer). You will then reach a small gate, which leads you out of the forest to steep wooden stairs. Follow the winding path up the hill to the summit.

Photo by Sander Lenaerts / Unsplash

How long should it take?

Conic Hill can take anywhere from 1-3 hours to get up and back down, depending on your speed. When I climbed Conic Hill, it took us about 2 hours, but that involved taking a lot of breaks. It's a relatively easy climb with a distinct path and is around 4km/2.5miles in total (up and down). The only slightly difficult part is on the last stretch to the summit, where it can get a wee bit rocky.

When is the best time to climb Conic Hill?

There's not a bad time to climb Conic Hill. You can climb it all year round and at any time during the day. A good option might be for sunrise or sunset!

I would suggest climbing Conic Hill in spring and autumn. There's a good chance of getting a nice clear day but it won't be too hot. In spring and autumn, it will still be very busy but not as busy as during summer time, so you'll have more of a chance of getting a car park space.

It's a lot quieter to climb Conic Hill during the winter months (except for New Year's, where it's became a tradition for many to climb). However, you will have to be careful with snow and ice, which could make for a more difficult walk but you will be rewarded with beautiful views over the snow-capped mountains.

Photo by Gary Ellis / Unsplash

The views from Conic Hill

The views all the way up Conic Hill are incredible and help make the climb much more enjoyable! You will be rewarded with panoramic views over Loch Lomond and it's little islands and you will also get a good view over to Ben Lomond, which is the most southerly of the munros.

Conic Hill is also a fantastic place to see the Highland Boundary Fault. This geological fault occured over 400-500 million years ago and has created two distinct regions in Scotland, the highlands and the lowlands. You'll be able to see this in the picture below, the lowlands are present to the left where the ground is considerably flatter than the highlands on the right, where it's more mountainous.

Panaromic view of Loch Lomond from Conic Hill.

Nearby restaurants and cafes to visit before or after climbing

Is there anything better than getting a pint or ice-cream after a climb? Here's a couple of options of places to grab that much-deserved treat. They are both located directly across from the main car park so you won't need to walk far either.

  • Oak Tree Inn - This pub and restaurant is the perfect place to grab a drink or something more substantial. I highly recommend the steak pie - it's delicious! You can also sit outside to enjoy the scenery, especially if the weather's good. They also have 38-bedrooms, so you could turn your visit into an overnight stay.
  • St Mocha Coffee Shop - Serving up their own Loch Lomond Coffee, which is roasted on site, and delicious homemade ice cream. When I visited, I went for the Kinder Bueno ice cream, which was super tasty!
  • Perch Cafe Restaurant - I've not visited here so can't personally vouch for it but it does get some great reviews on Google. It offers brunch and light lunch options, as well as sweet treats and coffee.
The essentials of a good conversation.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

Other things to do around Balmaha

  • Take a boat to Inchcailloch - Inchcailloch is one of the largest islands on Loch Lomond. You can take a ferry from Balmaha Boatyard to Inchcailloch island everyday during the summer months from 9.30am until 5pm. The ferry usually runs every 30 minutes or so depending on how busy it is. You don't need to prebook, simply show up at the boatyard. The current price to Inchcailloch is £7.50 return for an adult and £4.00 return for a child. There's also a small campsite on the island, open from March to September, if you wanted to stay overnight.
  • Milarrochy Bay - This is a glorious beach on the banks of Loch Lomond, perfect for a picnic or BBQ in good weather. To get here, you need to walk the road of the West Highland Way from Balmaha to Milarrochy Bay, this will only take about 15-20 minutes, or if you don't want to walk, you can drive your car to it.