Ben Lomond Hike: Scotland’s Southernmost Munro
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!
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!
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel – 0.5 miles beyond hike starting point.
- Rowardennan Hotel – 0.2 miles from hike starting point.
- Oak Tree Inn – 6.7 miles to hike starting point.
- Loch Lomond Waterfront Hotel – 7 miles from hike starting point.
- 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂 [no_toc]