A new year, a new calendar, and as always we all want to make this year a better one, myself included.
It was my birthday last month and one message on my Facebook stood out:
“Happy birthday bonny lass. Another successful trip around the sun.”
What a wonderful way to think of a full year I thought. Thanks Neil, I really love this.
It was New Year’s Day before we managed to get out for a long walk. I hadn’t been out walking or running since my last post in October when I walked the Balmoral Cairns. I know … what’s happened to my enthusiasm? I lost it for a few months. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it.
A wee day trip to Loch Lomond to hike Conic Hill for the first time was just what I needed. It’s over an hour’s drive away from where we live.
Conic Hill sits on the Highland Boundary Fault which divides the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. The hill is also part of the West Highland Way, a long distance walk/hike starting from Milgavnie to Fort William, around 96 miles (154 km). I would love to walk this when I get my fitness back up.
We arrived at Balmaha on the east side of Loch Lomond at around 10.30am. It was already starting to get busy in the car park at the National Park’s Visitor Information Centre. I was thinking it would be quiet on New Year’s Day. I was so wrong!
My plan (for about five minutes) was not to worry too much about taking photos or video and enjoy the hike. I wonder why I brought my camera and phone with me … just in case I thought.
The trail starts at the back of the car park. You can either go left and enjoy the shorter Millennium Forest Trail or go right to Conic Hill. I knew the hill wasn’t too high at 361 metres so this would be a good way to slowly build up my fitness again.
It was a short walk through the woodlands and I didn’t take many photos. I really was trying not to, honest. The light and the trees were playing magical tricks on me though, showing off, pulling at me to take my camera out.
It wasn’t long and we were walking uphill towards some steps where we reached a lovely wee kissing gate. Alan was already ahead of me as I was struggling a little, and people behind me were catching up. I stepped out of the dark into the open land where the sunshine was warmer against my face. Ah, hello sunshine.
The steps and huge boulders were hurting my left knee but I kept going as always. Many people passed us going up and down, it seemed to be a popular new year’s hike. I’d wrapped up with many layers and had to take my jacket off as I was too warm. It was such a beautiful crisp sunny day, a real fresh start to 2019.
Once we hiked up the steps below we reached a flat area where we stopped to look at the views. Views of the loch opened up the higher we got. This was perfect to catch a breather as I was feeling it.
After a five minute break we started upwards again, I felt a bit better, less breathless, but still sore. I think when you start out it feels like a struggle, then your body adjusts, warming up and becoming easier.
We reached the next plateau and as you can see the views here were so beautiful. The water in the loch was still, showing the reflections of the huge mountains around it. You don’t even need to reach the top of Conic Hill to enjoy the views.
Even though I was hoping for a quieter hike, I was inspired by the amount of people who got up out of their bed on New Year’s Day to walk and hike. Turning up is always the hardest, so once you’re there that’s an achievement in itself.
People of all ages were tackling the hill at their own pace. They were smiling, laughing and enjoying the beautiful day. Young children were wearing their wellies, out on an adventure with their parents and dogs. Some of the younger children were like mountain goats.
Look at all those lovely people coming up the hill!
We chatted to a few people and said Happy New Year. One lady said that she hadn’t hiked a hill in such a long time, but this day she decided to just do it. Hopefully it’s the start of many more for her.
Another gentleman told us he lived in this area and this was his first time hiking up Conic Hill.
I loved hearing everyone’s story about why they were outdoors on this day. I could hear parts of conversations and they were happy and positive. It made me more determined to keep going.
In the photo below can you see the islands stretching right across the loch? This is the Highland Boundary Fault.
The first larger island is Inchcailloch island where we’ve visited three times already.
My most recent trip to Inchcailloch was in May 2018 when I met up with my online blogger friend Susanne from Adventures Around Scotland. We wandered through the island gazing upon the most beautiful spread of bluebells. She has such an amazing blog, you should pop in for a visit for some more Scotland inspiration.
On one trip to Inchcailloch we were on top of the island looking up at Conic Hill wishing we were hiking there (photo below). Now we were!
We could also make out the outline of the Isle of Arran in this photo. The island also sits on the Highland Boundary Fault meaning it has highlands and lowlands. It is also known as Scotland in miniature.
When we reached the summit of Conic Hill there must have about 30 people on top! I sometimes joke about this and ask someone if this was where the meeting was. I asked a lovely young lady who replied “Sorry, I don’t know.”
After waiting a wee while, Alan managed to get a photo of me with no one else in it.
The mountains around Loch Lomond were still visible with some low cloud coming in. I love the mountains. Aren’t they beautiful!
We walked down and up to another hill where it was quieter away from all the people. Ben Lomond is to the far right in the photo below. I’ve yet to reach the top as I failed many years ago. I gazed at all the mountains wishing I could summit them all.
This zoomed in photo shows Ben Arthur (The Cobbler) where I hiked in the summer of 2018. It’s part of the pointy peak to the left. I waved, someone would be up there I bet.
As I looked across to Conic Hill all the tiny silhouetted people were still coming and going. It was an amazing sight to see with the stunning backdrop of Loch Lomond.
Alan was thinking of flying his small drone as it wasn’t windy for a change. I said not to bother at first as I’m always worrying someone doesn’t like it. We always follow the drone code and don’t stay up in the air too long. I’m glad he did fly it though as he captured some nice video clips of the hill with a little gathering of people (where the meeting was 😉)
Watch my video
This is my short video of our hike and some drone footage. Clips were recorded on my phone too.
We walked back up on to Conic Hill and then down towards another hill where I sat for a little while to really pay attention to the views. We kept seeing two black birds, which I think were Ravens flying above us. It was getting colder and my hands were starting to go numb.
I looked back at Conic Hill and people were still hiking! It was time for us to head back down I thought.
The clouds were beginning to hide the mountains with shimmery rain falling lightly around us. I waited for a little while as I felt a rainbow would appear soon, and it did. It was faint, you can just make it out on the right. I was happy I saw a rainbow on New Year’s Day.
We stopped off at another plateau on the way down and walked to end of the hill. It was around 1.40pm, but it felt later as the sun was slipping away for the day.
As we left this beautiful scene, so many people were still making their way up, we could hardly get down some of the steps. I hobbled my way back down past the crowds and was happy to get back to the car.
Altogether we walked around 4 miles (6.6km) as we also wandered around the other small hills. It was about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) to the summit of Conic Hill. Our moving time there and back was around 2 hours 10 minutes. Our total time was around 4 hours 30 minutes. As always, this shows how often we stopped.
Thinking back, we were all enjoying the fresh air and the start of a new year in our bonnie Scotland. Making fun and inspiring memories are the best!
There’s lots to explore in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. If you want to see more have a wee look at the National Park’s map on their website. Over the years I’ve visited some parts of Loch Lomond. Mostly day trips and camping. It’s a beautiful place to explore.
My peak challenge
It’s time for me to think about my challenges for 2019 and rejoin My Peak Challenge (MPC).
Even though I’ve not been following the training and nutrition platform, I have been setting my own goals. I love the community, the support and the new friends I have made. We are a peaker family. That’s what’s so loveable about MPC. With 50% of my membership fee going to the charities Bloodwise and Marie Curie it’s a win win for sure.
I also love that I have the opportunity to take part in lots of challenges with peakers, but I can also go at my own pace and create some of my own. I’ll be creating a My Peak Challenge 2019 page soon once I decide what challenges to do. It will be a smaller list this year though.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the bonnie views across Loch Lomond 😘
Love, Dawn-Marie x