Scotland: Hiking the Three Lochs Way

We did so many activities on our three week vacation that I wanted to high-light. I posted earlier how we spent our first few days in Scotland in Helensburgh where one of our adventures was hiking the first section of the Three Loch Way. I’ve been excited to share the details about our hike, so here it goes…

When I was planning out Scotland itinerary, I knew I wanted to spend lots of time hiking and being outdoors so I booked our first few days in the area near Loch Lommond and the Trossachs National Park.

I had originally thought about hiking all of The Three Lochs Way but instead settled on hiking parts of it from a central base. It is fairly easy to reach the trail segments by public transportation and this meant we could leave our car and stuff at one place while we day hiked.

On Monday we decided to tackle Stage 1 of the trail from Balloch to Hellensburgh. After a filling breakfast at the B and B we packed our day packs and walked the few blocks to the central train station. The train to Balloch costs £3.50 per person one way and while it requires a transfer in Dalreoch, it is really straightforward. Less than an hour after leaving our B and B we were at the Balloch Tourism Information Centre (right across from the train station) and the official start to the Three Loch Way.

You can buy a guide book to the trail but we found the directions on the website to be enough. The trail starts along the marina before taking you through a complex of stores and entertainment and then out onto a narrow paved road.

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Near the start of the trail
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Looking out into the loch

While not steep, you do have to climb upward along a paved road, across a pedestrian bridge and then up another paved road before the trail turns into a rough track.

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A paved section as the trail follows an old road
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Gravel track

You get beautiful views of the hills and, looking back, of Loch Lomond.

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The loch in the distance

After a while the trail passed into what we call a cut block (forest plantation) which still held some charm (I do have a soft spot for cut blocks). You fairly quickly turn off the main forestry tracks and head back towards views of the loch and a lovely old stone wall if cut blocks aren’t your thing.

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Cut block along the trail.
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Old stone fences
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More views of the loch

The trail then climbs steeply through the trees before leavelling off.

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The steepest part of the trail

There is a signed side trail to a view point (well worth the few extra meters of climbing) where we ate lunch while admiring the views out over the loch.

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Enjoying some of the usual hiking snacks in a new place

The main trail now gives views towards Helensburgh and the lochs in the other direction. I thought this was one of the most beautiful parts of the trail as we walked through a big open meadow.

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Jon enjoys the new path
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Beautiful views

Then the trail decends into the trees and while still pretty, loses the great views as you get closer to town.

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Hiking down to the town through the forest

I personally found the last few km of the trail a bit of a slog. Eventually it spits you out of the forest into the edge of town and you have to hike back to the centre along a main road. It does take you along the water front but isn’t as pretty as being up in the hills. We technically didn’t finish the walk as our B and B was closer than Hill House but we had already done a wander around the town the day before.

Even with the ending, I thought it was a beautiful hike and not particularly strenuous. The total distance was around 12 km and took us about four hours at a very casual pace.

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