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John Muir Way Day 1 - Helensburgh to Balloch
by StevieC » Wed Apr 03, 2019 4:10 pm
Date walked: 28/03/2019
Time taken: 3.35 hours
Distance: 15.1 km
Ascent: 360mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I bought a new pair of boots the other week (Scarpa Mistral if you must know!) so decided to break them in with a relatively straightforward walk. Doing the entire John Muir Way doesn't really feel likely at this stage...maybe once my hillwalking days are over. Anyway, I set out from the end of the pier at Helensburgh and headed straight up Colquhoun St. There is free parking at the pier, which if I'd known would have saved me a five minute walk from the outskirts of Helensburgh...
Looking up Colquhoun Street
There are some sculptures in Colquhoun Square, including this quite informative one....
It is a bit odd that a long distance footpath should begin by directing you up a street with no footpath, but that's what happens. It's a nice quiet street though, with plenty of property porn to ogle if you're into that sort of thing. There's a slight detour to cross the West Highland Line at Helensburgh Upper station, but otherwise it is just a matter of trudging up the hill until you come to the biggest property porn star round these parts...Mackintosh's Hill House. Although she's looking a bit the worse for wear at the moment and will soon be completely enclosed by a weatherproof shelter for the foreseeable future..
At the back of the Hill House car park, the sign points the way through a pleasant stretch of woodland. There are plenty of these signs all the way to Balloch, most just the round purple arrows pointing you in the right direction where there is a choice.
Woods behind Hill House
Unfortunately, the pleasant woodland only lasts a few minutes before you emerge onto the main road to Luss. Turn left and this quite busy road is your route for the next few kilometres. There's a decent wide path running alongside it, but it's pretty uninspiring and mostly looks like this:
The turn off from this road is well signposted, taking you on to a forestry track that climbs gradually towards Ben Bowie.
Into the forest
As you approach the high point of the track, views of Loch Lomond begin to emerge...probably the visual highlight of the walk.
View of Loch Lomond
Just before you start to descend at Gouk Hill there is a sign promising you a "view point" - to be honest the view isn't much better than you've already seen on the way up, but there is a decorated Christmas Tree if that takes your fancy. I've seen a few of these around in my wanderings over the last few years...must be a thing these days. Probably something to do with Instagram!
Christmas Tree at Gouk Hill
The descent into Balloch is definitely more pleasant than the climb out of Helensburgh. It is mostly on what hillwalkers would recognise as "proper" paths rather than forestry tracks or main roads, and there's a few pleasant sections through the woods.
Descent through the woods
The path crosses the A82 via a footbridge and soon you are in Balloch and the delights of Lomond Shores Retail Extravaganza. I was just in time to catch the train back to Helensburgh (change at Dalreoch - £3.20 single).
View of Ben Lomond from Lomond Shores
To be honest most of this walk is pretty tedious...it's about 60% main road or forestry track. But there are highlights and if you're local it's worth considering. Will I try the next stage on the John Muir Way...the schlep from Balloch to Strathblane? I'm not sure yet...
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