Wet West Highlands – Conic Hill   16 comments

Our last day and it was the greyest, wettest and most miserable of all. Spirits were sagging and we had little choice but to pack up and head for home. The forecast all the way back was poor so I even changed out of my walking clothes, giving up any hope of awalk to brighten the journey.

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After a tedious drive along the A82 in a never ending queue of motorhomes that now seem to clog the Highlands we saw a glimmer of brightness as we approached Loch Lomond. That brightness grew and by the time we reached the bottom end there was blue sky – albeit clearly with heavy showers in the mix. On a whim I turned off and headed for Balmaha on the opposite shore of the Loch. I had in mind Conic Hill, a well known small hill the overlooks the wide expanse of the southern end of the Loch and its islands. It’s only just over a thousand feet, a short afternoon walk and with fabled great views. We parked up and set off under an abundant blue sky and bright sunshine – at last something to smile about from a weather perspective.

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Whilst small, Conic Hill is a steep little bugger. As you exit the forest the views start to open out, firstly of the Campsie Fells.

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Then as you crest the ridge, this magnificent view out over Loch Lomond. After 4 days of gloomy grey skies and rain this was a treat for the eyes and the soul.

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Looking up towards the top of this mini-mountain.

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The Luss Hills where I’ve walked a few times to escape the bad weather in the Highlands.

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There were still showers racing through but when the clears spells between are so great you don’t really mind.

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A close up shot of Mid Hill which we climbed from Luss a couple of years ago.

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We contoured on the West Highland Way to make a small circuit and extend the enjoyment as long as possible (it really is a very short steep hill). We got hit by a very short sharp shower but it was the only time we got wet in the 3 hours we were out.

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Views out to the lonely moorland behind and towards – I think – Ben Ledi.

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And along the crest of the ridge.

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Summit selfie.

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A view along the ridge, over the Loch and islands and right on the distant skyline, the mountains of Arran.

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Another summit view (apologies, after 4 days of rain I got very excited at the blue skies and expansive views)

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A happy couple on the summit.

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Looking back along the ridge and its multiple little summits.

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Next best thing to a blue sky day is a day of sunshine a booming clouds and showers. The light effects were just superb.

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Its the first time I’ve had views this good over this part of the Loch.

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A panorama shot from the summit – click to enlarge.

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Looking north to the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond.

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Stormy clouds over the Campsies.

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The Professor looks a lot happier than he did on the way up – he was struggling after 4 consecutive days walking.

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We were incredibly lucky to hits such a stunning spell of weather and it lifted the whole mood of the weekend. As you can see there were still showers racing around so we thought it was time head down.

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Its a very well known and busy little hill even on a Monday and we also saw several backpackers on the West Highland Way. Rather than follow the masses we headed down the grassy path along the bumpy ridge of Drium Nam Buraich. It was a delightful way down with views across the Loch most of the way.

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All too soon we reached the road walk back to the car. Out of nowhere we’d been gifted a superb little afternoon. Only a short walk but a weekend transformed and something to look back on with great memories. Just another 6 hours in the car to get home but worth every minute.

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We didn’t do half of what we’d planned but we had a great time and its a lesson to remember why Scotland is so stunning and lush. It rains a lot. Already we are planning a return visit next year and at least cool windy weather meant no midges!

16 responses to “Wet West Highlands – Conic Hill

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  1. Always fancied Conic Hill

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  2. Glad you got a good final day for your trip. You can maybe see why I was delighted to do the Marilyns rather than the Corbetts after the Munros as it opened up my outdoor life to a new unaccustomed world of sunshine most outings after 20 plus years in the mist and rain. Smaller hills on their own get better weather for less effort. After learning that I was a convert. It’s true… Forget tall ice queen Greta Gabbro as small blondes are much more fun….a hill-walkers mantra…most have yet to learn…

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    • I also think that the views from high summits are often a bit samey – just an endless spread of similar mountains. You get a much different perspective from a smaller hill. Conic Hill gave a grandstand view of the most interesting corner of Loch Lomond with all its islands.

      Greta Gabbro – brilliant!! 🙂

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  3. Another fantastic adventure is to explore all the 23 loch islands by kayak. Something I rate up there with the first hill-walking trips to Torridon or the Skye Ridge traverse for sheer pleasure when I first explored them 30 odd years ago. It really was like finding an undiscovered new land after motoring past them for decades chasing the hills further north. Long chapter in my book Autohighography as a memory of that occasion. Oh, to be young again exploring an unknown shoreline when the world around was all new and fresh to the senses..You can get inflatable kayaks for around £100 quid each… plus life jackets and much easier than wild swimming them I’d imagine… or inflatable boards if you want to do it the hard way. Just a suggestion while you are still young enough to attempt/ enjoy it….Better to pick calm days though with light wind/ waves.

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    • I was thinking that the whole walk. I own a couple of kayaks and an SUP so it would be a superb outing. I’m assuming some of the islands are accessible to public?
      Mind you – have to pick the sweet spot between cold winter and midge summer!

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  4. Great decision turning off the road on the way back, and much needed by what you’ve written. Waiting so long for these little holidays we are all hoping for good weather so we can enjoy them to the full. Great to see you got at least one good walk weather day in, although the first two walks you did on this trip were also pretty good, especially the Beinn Lora one

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    • In hindsight we did pretty well to be honest. While the sun stayed hidden until the last afternoon, none of the days were unwalkable and we got out every day. I think the frustration came from the fact the weather had been so good in Scotland so far this year. This half day made the whole trip more memorable

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  5. That was one of the reasons I mentioned the islands Andy. You used to be able to wild camp on several at will. Being wooded they are also beautiful and mysterious in light drizzle,, clag or mist by kayak as few boats or visitors are out then and you get them to yourself. Conditions that are horrible up a hill but perfect on the loch as long as it’s a still day with no wind. Few midges either. I do not remember any midges at any time only exotic animals over there. You could also wild swim the obvious three closest sizable islands with a wet suit and safety float or small plastic raft just in case you need a rest. One is only a school football pitch away and you cross it to the narrows which is even shorter, a stones throw to bag two islands. You used to be able to walk anywhere out there but national park rules now apply. Need to look them up. One of the reasons I do not like Loch Lomond NP. Encourage loads more folk to visit then slap loads of new regs everywhere. If you haven’t read it my book. Auto, is worth a read for a pound on kindle… it’s very different from the blog and describes the islands and camping there when it was a new frontier for us with far fewer people pre internet days. I’ve had some great days out there when even Conic Hill was buried in cloud. Something to keep in mind if it’s rubbish high up. Only wind and heavy rain rules them out.

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  6. Cheers Andy. Looked up some of my back posts you might like for future SUP trips if the hills are clagged in, misty, wet etc again. A good alternative.
    A and B BSS titles ‘Loch Lomond Island Adventure’….. ‘River Falloch. Ardlui’…..’Loch Ard. Water World’….’Loch Lomond. The Islands. Camping Trip’. should give you some ideas for paddling trips, all of which I’ve loved for scenery and beauty. Rannoch Moor from the A82 is also a cracker for Loch Ba and the opposite one a five minute walk away. Over and out….

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    • Nice one Bob! – I’ll take a look tomorrow while I’m having my lunch. Mind you, paddling adventures are on hold – I have tendonitis in my left arm and looks like its months worth of physio to repair it 😕

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  7. Storming views over Loch Lomond, looks an obvious hill to be included in the book. Like the sound of Bob’s suggested paddling trips too. Some scope for doing that in the Lakes too, although National Trust (who own many of the islands) official policy is against it.

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    beatingthebounds
    • Every trip seems to add a new chapter for the book!
      Paddling the lakes is something I’m keen to do a lot more of. Sadly we don’t have many in South Wales and the only large one (Llangorse Lake) has blue-green algae at the moment so its not safe. Most of the others are reservoirs where paddling is frowned upon.

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  8. Great selfie. I can fully understand your excitement on having made that impulse decision, you were fully rewarded. Magnificent panorama!

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    • I take the odd selfie normally when I’m feeling particularly happy at a good decision! It was a great viewpoint over a classic Scottish loch and the sunshine was very welcome

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