If you are planning on visiting Loch Lomond this year (which you definitely should be!) then no doubts you’re in the mood for hiking.
This entire region is surrounded by incredible mountains, all just begging to be climbed.
But the biggest and best is Ben Lomond, a relatively moderate hike destined to offer the best possible views of the gorgeous Loch below.
I climbed Ben Lomond in October 2020, and was fortunate enough to be blessed by wonderful weather and even a Scottish hiking companion on the route back down.
Here’s a look at my experience, and any tips for climbing Ben Lomond that I picked up along the way.
First up, here’s a few teaser pics from my walk
Time to climb: 4-6 hours round trip
Car park: Check location here
Gear: Scotland packing list
There is one main car park for Ben Lomond, located here.
It’s at the very end of a long rural road running up alongside the eastern shores of Loch Lomond.
We drove this in our campervan that we converted and didn’t have any trouble getting up and down.
Just be aware that this road can get busy in the summer months, and expect plenty of campervans as there is space to overnight park in the Ben Lomond car park.
Day parking costs £3 for all day and there are toilet facilities there.
The time needed to climb Ben Lomond depends on a few things, such as …
But as a very rough guide, the boards suggest that it takes between 2-4 hours each way.
Or 4-6 hours round trip.
It took me about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get up and about an hour and 45 minutes to come down, so the 4 hour guideline was spot on.
I didn't really take any breaks; except for 5 minutes at the top and a few picture breaks on the way back down.
Like any mountain, it is generally quicker coming down than it is going up.
Compared to the other Munros in Scotland (mountains above 3000 feet / 914 metres), Ben Lomond is probably very straightforward.
You climb to a total of 974 metres above sea level, and much of the Red trail is well-trodden and very clear.
I climbed in October and for the final half of the way up the mountain there wasn’t much in the way of a view.
Pretty unsurprising and, according to my local travel companion on the way back down, it is like that much of the year.
He said he has climbed 5 times now and has never had a view from the top.
However, if you were to get lucky I can only imagine how incredible the views must be!
The walk back down was lovely as, once you slowly descend from the mist and clouds, you are slowly greeted by ever-more mesmerising views.
Especially if you choose to take the Orange Route back down like we did.
This route hugs the loch-side of the mountain very closely so you get views almost the whole way up and down Loch Lomond.
There are two routes heading to and from the summit of Ben Lomond.
When I did the walk, I saw perhaps 3 or 4 dozen other people doing the walk and 90%+ of them were going up and down the Red route.
Unsurprising as, though it’s slightly longer, it is more gradual and doesn’t require you to traverse any rocks.
I quickly decided that I was going to do the Red route up and the Orange route down, as I’ve never been much of a fan of walking the same route twice.
And in the end I am very happy that I did!
The Orange route was much more impressive views-wise and included walking past some really awesome drop-offs and even past a small body of water high not far from the top.
Based on my experience, this route definitely is more tricky and requires you to traverse more wet and slippery sections of rocks.
The final portion of this route to the summit is the trickiest, with about a hundred or so metres of rocks you must climb down in order to get to the main path.
However, if you are up for it then I’d definitely recommend doing both paths as a part of your Ben Lomond climb.
As far as I am aware, Ben Lomond is open all year round.
But you should definitely check the weather forecast and speak to some locals before doing the walk if you are there in winter.
There’s a very good chance of there being snow and ice higher up the mountain, making it much more treacherous and making the path harder to follow.
You’ll may even need more suitable gear, so it’s best to seek some advice from those more experienced.
Wild camping in Scotland was by far one of the most memorable parts of our entire 2 month long visit.
And it just so happens that one of the best spots is the Ben Lomond car park which allows you to stay overnight.
If you park in the car park, then you’ll need to pay for parking, but there are 7 or 8 spaces just at the entrance to the car park (pictured below) which don’t require a ticket.
We stayed here for one night and it was wonderful waking up early with no one around and wonderful views down Loch Lomond.
It also means you can get a head start up the mountain before it gets busy.
Staying overnight here also offered me the chance to discover some of the other sites around Ben Lomond.
There is a shorter walk that takes about 45 minutes round trip, that takes you on a tour of some old sites.
These are locations where small wooden/stone houses used to be where local farmers lived.
You can only imagine how brutal living in one of these must have been at times!
There is a small visitor centre here that has a re-creation of one of these old structures, as well as a map of the routes you can walk.
No matter what time of year you choose to visit Scotland and climb Ben Lomond, you can almost guarantee there will be rain or drizzle.
Good waterproofs are essential for the climb, as well as decent walking shoes.
Oh yeah, and a waterproof bag as well as you don’t want all of your clothes getting soaked!
We always recommend Osprey for our climbing gear as they’ve never let us down!
Ben Lomond climbing gear list:
They advise that the total route can take between 4 to 6 hours, so be sure to take plenty of food and water with you.
There is nowhere to buy food or drink on the way up the mountain, except for a small stall outside of someone's home.
It’s located at the end of the Orange route, and they were selling water, some cakes, crisps and other snacks.
All you had to do was leave money in the box on the wall; I’m not sure if they offer this all year round so don’t rely on it.
The night we stayed we decided to get dinner from the pub located right next to the car park.
Unfortunately for us, this was during the period when the whole region was under some lockdown restrictions so we couldn’t eat in (pretty gutting as they had a log fire in there!!!!).
Either way, the food was great (we went for the battered halloumi and chips) and they have lots of options.
They also have outdoor seating so in the summer this would be a great spot to relax and unwind after a good old climb up Ben Lomond.
That’s about it from me, I just hope some of these tips could be of help!
I definitely recommend taking the time to walk up Ben Lomond if you find yourself in the area, if nothing else it definitely feels like an achievement getting back to the car park!
If you have any other tips or questions to ask, just leave a comment below ...
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