Ben Lomond Hike: Scotland’s Southernmost Munro

Sep 28, 2018 | Hikes, Munros, Scotland's Mountains

If you’ve heard of only one Munro, then Ben Lomond is probably it. The Ben Lomond hike is one of Scotland’s most popular and you’ll be doing very well to get this one all to yourself.

If you want the combination of stunning views with peace and tranquillity (one of the purposes I go hiking), then you should definitely tackle this one at the crack of dawn, or alternatively in a summer’s evening.

I started the hike on a misty September morning at around 6:30. I’m normally quite reliant on the mist clearing as the day progress (by the time I reach the summit), but alas, on this day that didn’t really happen. On the way up I met one other hiker and a few keen fell runners – relatively quiet for Ben Lomond!

Heading down the Ptarmigan ridge at a couple of hours later and I started to pass fellow hikers, mostly tourists, in their masses. To reiterate, if you want this one to yourself then get there sharp!

sunrise from ben lomond slopes
Get up VERY early, and some of the morning views are the best
Due to its popularity, Ben Lomond is also probably Scotland’s best maintained Munro. The path is clearly marked all the way up and there is regular work and restoration to keep it as well protected as possible.

In the summer, Rowardennan and the area around Ben Lomond become a hive of activity with outdoors enthusiasts. It sits bang on the West Highland Way route so you’ll likely find the pubs and hotels filled with walkers.

Interestingly, Ben Lomond is the only Munro on the east side of Loch Lomond. So even though some of its neighbours can be easily seen from the summit, getting to them from Ben Lomond can be a bit of a pain.

Did you know: There are a few more Ben Lomonds dotted around the world. Ben Lomond Mountain is in Utah, USA and stands at 2,961 metres (9,716 feet) so is significantly larger than its namesake. There’s another Ben Lomond in Otago, New Zealand which stands at 1,748 metres (5,735 feet).  Finally, there’s an area of land in California, USA called Ben Lomond. It was named by John Burns, a Scotsman who established himself there in the mid 19th century. What do they all have in common? They’re named after the peak in Scotland, of course!

 

Contents


Munro Climbed


  1. Ben Lomond – 974 metres (3196 ft) – pronounced BEN-LOME-IND

Ben Lomond means “beacon hill” in Gaelic and it’s widely assumed it was given this name because of its visibility on a clear day from Glasgow, Scotland’s most populated area.

Getting There


As long as you’re not going in the depths of winter, the likelihood is you won’t be the only car headed for Rowardennan. From the quaint little village of Drymen you’ll begin to see the signs for Ben Lomond.

Follow the B837 for around 11 miles (17.7km) until you reach the Ben Lomond Car Park. It’s at the end of the road so you can’t miss it. Take care on this road, it alternates from single track to double quite suddenly at times and you’ll likely come across walkers due to it forming part of the West Highland Way.

Top Tip: Take change! I made this mistake, arriving at 6 in the morning with no change whatsoever. Turns out a day ticket to park there is £3 (at the time of writing). I had to go down to the Rowardennan Hotel where a friendly West Highland Way walker had change for my fiver so I got lucky. Don’t make this same mistake. It’s an absolute joke that they’re charging for parking, the first Munro I’ve climbed where I’ve had to pay to leave my car. But there you go, any opportunity for a bit of cash.

Difficulty


Ben Lomond is one of the most climbed Munros for a couple of reasons. The first because it’s in such close proximity to Glasgow (about an hour drive). The second because it’s one of the most straightforward climbs!

Granted, there are a few semi-rocky sections and parts where you need to watch your footing, especially if descending the Ptarmigan Ridge, but all in all the path is extremely well marked all the way up. It’s not uncommon to see entire families going up with very young kids.

cows relaxing on path
This may prove one of the tougher obstacles! They’ll move in their own time
Most families, or those of you wanting the most straightforward route, will follow the tourist path from the car park straight up and back down the same way. The Ptarmigan Ridge descent isn’t that much more difficult, it just has some steeper sections and can be a lot boggier than the tourist path. It offers an attractive alternative, especially if you don’t fancy heading up and back down the same way.

Duration & Length


Duration: 3 – 6 hours

Length:  7.2 miles (11.6 km)

If you go up and down the tourist route then it may take slightly longer. The Ptarmigan Ridge is more of a direct line south and about a mile shorter but this is compensated for with tougher terrain. Either way, there shouldn’t be much in it.

viewranger screenshot of hike

Ordnance Survey Map for route: Landranger 56 or Explorer OL39

 

Where To Stay


If you’re visiting from afar then there’s certainly no shortage of accommodation options in the Ben Lomond area:

Budget:

Mid-Range:

Expensive:

Camping:

  • Sallochy Campsite – 2.5 miles from hike starting point (open March – October).
  • Cashel Campsite – 4 miles from hike starting point (open March – October).

The Hike


The hike itself is possibly the most straightforward I’ve done in terms of clarity and ease of navigation. Unless you’re going in the dead of winter with feet of snow then it will be very difficult for you to lose your way on this hike.

That being said, in Scotland you always need to go prepared no matter the mountain or time of year. As you probably guessed, you start off at the Ben Lomond car park where there are toilets and an information centre.

Here you need to make the decision if you’ll be heading up the Ptarmigan Ridge, or up the standard tourist path. The majority of hikers choose the tourist path. Don’t be perturbed when you can’t see the mountain from the car park, it’ll become visible very soon.

For the tourist path, head through the car park and behind the information centre where the path starts to wind its way through the forested area. Cross over a track and continue on up the hill. The oak forest is quite dense at first but slowly starts to thin out and give you your first glimpses of Ben Lomond directly to the north.

ben lomond through the trees
Your first glimpse of the peak
The path continues up over a bridge and out into the open. You’ll pass through a couple of gates and it’ll start to become evident the sheer amount of work which has gone into the pathed area. The past 20/30 years has seen a huge revamp of the path and from the point of view of promoting tourism and encouraging folk to climb the mountain, they’ve done a great job.
ben lomonds refurbished path
The path is clear and easy to follow all the way up
I was surprised by the amount of sheep and cows on the hillside! Yes, some of the cows like to lie over the path and you will have to walk around them. I was a bit wary at first because some of them were fairly chunky but they seemed to be docile enough.

Oh, and watch out for any strategically placed cow pats.

The first section is quite steep but this doesn’t last long. You can take your time ascending and enjoy the continually improving views of Loch Lomond and its islands to your south.

loch lomond islands from mountain ascent
This view only gets better the higher you go
As the terrain evens out and the ridge widens you’ll begin to feel like you’re almost there.
the track getting wider
The track briefly gets wider as the terrain flattens
Follow the wide ridge towards the final steep ascent to the summit trig point. To the east is Ben Lomond’s famous and stunning eastern corrie. Unfortunately, the last time I did it there was an enormous blanket of cloud sat on the final few hundred feet of climbing. I couldn’t see 10 metres in front of me, let alone the corrie.

Next time I head up I’ll try and pick a clearer forecast. The path curves around the corrie and then you’re home and dry at the trig point!

path heading up to the summit
The path skirting around the eastern corrie
trig point on ben lomond summit
Next time I hope for better views from the top!
Again, my views were seriously hindered but on a normal day they are nothing short of spectacular. You’ll get a staggering panoramic of Loch Lomond and its islands, the Campsies to the south and on a very clear day you’ll even see Glasgow.

There are two principal descent options here. You can head back the same way you came up. This is probably the most popular option if you’re hiking with kids or are completely unsure of the route.

The second option is to descend the Ptarmigan Ridge to the south-west. I’m never a huge fan of retracing my steps and always like to incorporate some kind of a loop or horseshoe if I can, which is why I descended this way. The ridge gives stunning views of southern Loch Lomond and some of its islands.

ben lomond ptarmigan ridge descent
The views got a lot better very quickly as I descended from the clouds
Again, the path is very clear. Simply follow it south-west from the summit, where it takes a steep drop down to the col. Watch your footing here, it’s rocky and can be very slippery in wet weather.

Once you reach the ridge itself the terrain begins to even out and the path is clear for the majority of the route. Enjoy views of The Cobbler and Arrochar Alps to the west. After about 2 miles of descending you’ll pass through a wooded area and reach some trees.

There’s a river to your left and soon after you’ll be able to see a waterfall. Eventually, the path will enter the expanse of woodland and link up with the road.

the end of the ben lomond hike
Pass through the gate and you’re not far from the car park
You’ll pass the Youth Hostel and continue along back to the car park.

Top Tip: I’ve already mentioned this but want to reiterate that if you go any time which isn’t the dead of winter, you’ll likely run into several groups of hikers. If you find this takes away part of the novelty of hiking and “getting out” into nature, then I highly recommend you go for Ben Lomond and the crack of dawn (5 / 6 am), or for an evening hike. That way you’ll avoid the crowds which seem to start mid-morning and last the majority of the day.

Nearby Munros


The Arrochar Alps are the next group of Munros after Ben Lomond and it’s very realistic to tackle more of these at once. Two of the routes are:

If you are keen then it’s definitely possible to combine Beinn Ime, Beinn Narnain and Ben Vane in the one hike.

To Conclude


If you’re just getting started Munro-bagging, or if you fancy a challenging but not lung-bursting hike in close proximity to Glasgow then Ben Lomond is a fantastic option. This is a very family friendly Munro and it’s not uncommon to see families with young children making their way to the top.

What taints it for me is the fact that it is so popular (which may seem a bit contradictory). I’m selfish and love having the mountains to myself, and I’m sure many of you are as well.

That’s why I do recommend tackling the Ben Lomond hike as early as possible, or as late as possible if you wish to beat the crowds. You can also go in the heart of winter but this may prove to be more challenging. If you’re coming from afar then there’s no shortage of things to do nearby and the Loch Lomond area is brimming with accommodation options.

As always, thanks a lot for reading and please leave any questions or your thoughts in the comments box below. 🙂

14 Comments

  1. What I wouldn’t give to be able to hike Ben Lomond. I absolutely love hiking, and like you, I do if for the peace and tranquility it affords. I’ve always wanted to visit Scotland as I have a friend who lived there for three years, and is constantly talking about it. It sounds wonderful. 

    By the way I love the pictures on your post. You mentioned Ben Lomond Mountain in Utah. I’m definitely going to check it out as I live in Utah. My daughter is an avid hiker, so maybe the two of us can hike it one. Thanks for the interesting post!

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your comment! 🙂

      You should absolutely consider visiting Scotland, there is plenty to see and do here. Lots of mountains to climb 🙂

      Utah looks amazing! I’ve been to a few places in the US but never there. The landscape and hiking looks incredible, it’s quite high up on my list!

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the great post, this has given me the itch to get hiking again, its been far too long. 

    I love the pics this definitely looks like at stunning Mountain I have to try. Like you, I am not a fan of retracing my steps (whether I’m hiking or going for a run!) and always like to incorporate some kind of a loop or horseshoe if I can, so this tip is extremely useful. 

    Keep up the good posts and I’ll be bookmarking your site. 

    Reply
    • Thanks very much for the kind comment!

      Absolutely agree with you, a loop or horseshoe always makes the hike a bit more exciting. There are certain hikes in Scotland where that’s unavoidable but thankfully not many!

      Reply
  3. Wow! You really thought of everything with this post. From your hiking experience, to other places with the same name, a little history on the name, to who the trail is for, and even suggestions on where to stay! The photographs are great! It looks so peaceful. I have never been to Scotland but I’d love to go and possibly go on this hike with my family.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your comment!

      I try and give as informative a guide as I can on the mountains I climb, without being too much like a guidebook because I do believe that every hiker needs to be independent and able to cope out in the hills. 

      If you come to Scotland, there are plenty of mountains for you to choose from.. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hiking is definitely one of the best sports for me and for my dad. Although I have never been here I must say that I would like to try it. It looks challenging but that’s the point. I like how it looks from the top, it is definitely worth trying it although I don’t know how old persons can submit it.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your comment! 🙂

      The views from Ben Lomond are stunning and if you do visit Scotland then you should definitely consider doing some hikes!

      Reply
  5. That was an awesome description of Ben Lomond.  I love the pictures of the hike along the way and now I want to go to Scotland to hike up it lol I had never heard of it prior to reading your post and I’m so happy I came across it!

    I absolutely love hiking and it’s my pre-new years resolution to hike a summit every year (I’m hiking Diamond Head in December).  The views on Ben are spectacular.  What a great post and thanks for sharing.  You definitely have me adding it to my bucket list!!

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your kind comment!

      I had never heard of Diamond Head and after a quick Google Search saw that it’s in Hawaii! Looks amazing! Is that where you live?

      If you do visit Scotland, you should absolutely consider climbing Ben Lomond! As well as Ben Lomond, there are several other peaks to choose from.

      Reply
  6. wow this hike looks both like a lot of fun and a good workout. I’ve never really been hiking in my life — but this seems like the perfect place to start off at like you said.

    I really like the pictures you shared too — and I can only imagine that it looked 10 times better in actual person as well.

    I know you say winter is not a good time to go, but Whst again is your favorite months to go hiking here? Also what would you recommend we bring as nesseitities when doing this hike?

    Lol and one more question, if we are out of shape what’s the best way to get prepared for the hike?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for your comment!

      My favourite months to go hiking in Scotland are the spring and summer months. Each time of year offers its own distinct charm though. Winter hiking is also great fun but you have to have your wits about you. When you’re hiking in Scotland (or anywhere for that matter) you should always carry a map and compass, decent waterproof boots and plenty of extra layers just in case. The weather can change very quickly here.

      And if you’re out of shape I wouldn’t worry too much about Ben Lomond! It’s one mountain and just a case of going up then straight back down. You might be exhausted afterwards but even if you haven’t really done any hiking it should be manageable 🙂

      Reply
  7. Thanks for sharing this, I didn’t know that Scottland had such beautiful hiking trails. I would love to go camping there. But first, I will visit one of the Ben Lomond’s here in the states. I hope that they are all as nice as the one in Scottland. I do feel like you have to get there early for any park that you go to now and days to get the best views. Morning sunrises are the absolute best! 

    Reply
    • Thanks very much for your comment!

      Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world for hiking. There are so many mountains and routes for every season. And yes I agree with you 🙂 hikes at the crack of dawn are the best! It’s the best time for photos and getting the mountain all to yourself.

      Reply

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