This walk on the John Muir Way takes you on a journey through Balloch Castle Country Park, past the fantastic views of Loch Lomond, and over the Kilpatrick Hills to Strathblane. Along the way you’ll get to experience a real sense of the wildness that this part of the country is famous for.
Review of The John Muir Way – Balloch to Strathblane
John Muir was a naturalist and conservationist who was born in Scotland in the 19th-century, and throughout his career he dedicated his life to preserving many of the wilderness areas in the United States – including Yosemite Valley and the Sequoia National Park – after developing a fascination with the East Lothian countryside.
The John Muir Way is a beautiful trail created in his honour that runs through central Scotland for over 134 miles on a path that takes walkers across some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.
Over mile after mile of scenic countryside you’ll discover rivers, beaches, canals, lochs and iconic hills between Helensburgh on the west coast and Dunbar on the east coast.
The entire route is well maintained but some sections are unsuitable for buggies and wheelchairs, but even so many sections feature accessible paths that allow anyone to get outside and enjoy this lovely part of Scotland’s lowland countryside.
The entire route can be either walked or cycled end to end but it’s probably best to break it down into separate sections and complete each one over the course of several days. Rather handily, the John Muir Way website has taken care of this for you and has downloadable maps so you can follow each route at your leisure.
You’ll find a guide to the first section of the route here – Helensburgh to Balloch.
Things to do on The John Muir Way – Balloch to Strathblane
There are several points of interest along this route, with most of the really good photo opportunities featuring at the start and midpoints of the walk.
You’ll initially pass through Balloch Country Park (the only park around Loch Lomond) which is home to the impressive Balloch Castle. The park offers a good couple of hours of walks through it but I’d suggest you leave it for another day and concentrate on this section of The John Muir Way instead.
Balloch Country Park covers over 200 acres and offers superb views of Loch Lomond and the surrounding countryside and includes a great kids adventure playground at the bottom of the hill by the water’s edge, so if you’ve got your wee ones in tow you might struggle to drag them away. Thankfully there’s usually an ice cream van on site for a bit of bribery if required.
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Moving further on you’ll enter the wilderness of the Dunbartonshire countryside and will eventually begin your ascent into the Kilpatrick Hills. This hill-range is probably the highlight of the walk, with amazing panoramic views of the Trossachs and the deep wilderness of Dunbartonshire visible in all directions.
In fact, it’s all too easy to forget you’re only 10 miles outside of Glasgow, but the ascent will allow you to view the city and the River Clyde if the weather’s clear enough.
The end destination is the village of Strathblane in Stirlingshire which will allow you to have a rest and take in some refreshments before either heading back to Balloch or continuing on with the next section of the John Muir Way.
- What a lovely walk, especially in summer. The John Muir Trail is one of the nicest walks in Scotland.
- The views are great once you get into the countryside considering you’re not that far from Glasgow. It’s off the beaten track but not too off the beaten track.
- Balloch is a nice wee place to spend time in. The aquarium is pretty good and the lochside shopping centre is excellent. Balloch Castle Country Park is a great place to explore as well.
- Load the area onto your mobile phone Google Maps app before you leave – or buy an OS paper map (the preferred option). Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
- At Balloch, you’re at the southern-most tip of Loch Lomond. This location makes a great place to explore the loch either by walking or taking an organised cruise boat.
- Part of the John Muir Way runs past Burncrooks Reservoir which is worth visiting as it’s surrounded by woodland and offers lovely views across Glasgow city.
Argyll and Bute,
The walk from Balloch to Strathblane is around 18 miles and will take walkers of average fitness levels around 6 to 7 hours to complete.
Easy-medium difficulty. There are a mixture of forestry tracks, public roads and stone paths on this route, with some steep sections in places, especially as you get into the hills. Note that in winter the natural sections of pathways through the Kilpatrick Hills can get very muddy.
From the centre of Balloch, follow the path into the country park and around the castle until you reach signs pointing towards Mollanbowie Road.
Follow the public footpath east towards Stirling Road, and once at the junction head north until you see signs for Auchincarroch Road. The footpath here will take you towards the Kilpatrick Hills, and there are intermittent signposts to keep you on the John Muir Way once you enter the natural-made sections of pathways.
You will eventually reach Burncrooks Reservoir which you can follow around until you get on the minor road heading towards the small village of Carbeth.
Continue heading east along the various man-made tracks and natural paths until you reach Carbeth, and then head north along the A809 a short way until you reach the next section of off-road path which will eventually take you past Carbeth Loch. Join the West Highland Way as it continues north, before finally walking the last section of the track taking you to Strathblane.
Things to do in Balloch
From the Lomond Shores car park:
- Balloch Castle and Country Park. Loch Lomond, The Highlands, Drymen Rd, Balloch G83 8LX. 9-minute drive. 19th-century castle set in 200 acres of mixed gardens and woodland. There are walking trails around Loch Lomond, formal ornamental gardens, open parkland, wildflower meadows and children’s play parks.
- Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre. Ben Lomond Way, Balloch, Alexandria G83 8QL. 3-minute walk. A visitor attraction that features falconry displays with a varied collection of birds of prey including buzzards, eagles, hawks, vultures and more.
- Sea Life Aquarium. Drumkinnon Tower, Ben Lomond Way, Balloch G83 8QL. 3-minute walk. A highly-rated aquarium opposite the Lomond Shores shopping mall. The aquarium has a number of different animal enclosures with otters, sharks, rays, rockpool creatures and more.
- Maid of The Loch. The Pier, Pier Rd, Balloch G83 8QX. 8-minute walk. One of the best-preserved paddle steamers still in use in Britain. The maid of The Loch provides pleasure cruises up and down Loch Lomond and features an on-board café and terraced outdoors seating. The boat departs from Balloch pier.
- Loch Lomond Shores. Ben Lomond Way, Balloch G83 8QL. 2-minute walk. A chic and modern lochside shopping mall with a variety of upper-market shops, delicatessens and cafés. There is a large car park to the rear.
More places to visit in Strathclyde
- The Arran Coastal Way: Complete Visitor GuideThe Arran Coastal Way is a circular cycling and walking route around the perimeter of the Isle of Arran on Scotland’s west coast. This easy-going trail rewards visitors with stunning views at every section of its 65-mile length and there are plenty of opportunities to deviate onto nearby attractions along the way.
- The Holy Isle – Arran: Complete Visitor GuideHoly Isle is located close to the eastern shore of the Isle of Arran on Scotland’s west coast. This small (one square mile) island has a rich religious history dating back hundreds of years and the tradition of quiet seclusion continues to this day thanks to the Centre for World Peace and Health located on the western edge of the isle.
- Brodick Castle – Arran: Complete Visitor GuideBrodick Castle, former seat of power of the Dukes of Hamilton, is a grand 19th-century castle located a few miles north of the town of Brodick on the Isle of Arran. The castle is surrounded by an exceptionally large and well-maintained garden and country park and is currently managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
- Burncrooks Reservoir – Stirlingshire: Complete Visitor GuideThe John Muir Way is one of Scotland’s greatest trails, running across the country from Helensburgh on the west coast to Dunbar on the east.