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The Out About Scotland complete guide to The John Muir Way – Helensburgh to Balloch
Category: Landscape, Loch, Walk or cycle route
Suitable for ages: 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 7 out of 10
About The John Muir Way – Helensburgh to Balloch
If you’re looking for a relaxing walk that takes in some of the nicest countryside in Scotland’s central belt you won’t go far wrong with The John Muir Way, and the section from the pretty coastal village of Helensburgh to the enchanting village of Balloch on the south-west shores of Loch Lomond has to be one of the best sections on the entire route.
The start and finish point of the John Muir Way at Helensburgh is indicated by a seat made from Scottish oak and a circular stone plinth with engraved footprints and a John Muir quote, and this route marker is a perfect opportunity to appreciate Helensburgh with its lovely beach and numerous cafes.
The walk takes a little while to get going as it heads through the town, but at least you’ll get the chance to view the impressive Hill House, built in 1904 and managed today by the National Trust for Scotland.
After following the A818 you finally get to immerse yourself in the beauty of The Trossachs, with the majority of the route giving superb views of Loch Lomond and the surrounding mountains.
Your final destination at Balloch is equally rewarding with the pier at Loch Lomond allowing you to view the famous Maid of The Loch, the steamship that has sailed the loch since 1953. There’s a lot more to see in the village though and as it’s frequently referred to as the gateway to The Trossachs you can easily incorporate a visit with a trip into that famous national park.
Things to do at The John Muir Way – Helensburgh to Balloch
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.
Across 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 trail 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.
This section offers lovely views from start to finish but you need to be aware that although it starts and finishes in urban areas the walk between them can be quite unforgiving, so as always with hiking in Scotland make sure you take ample wet weather gear, wear good quality boots, and pack plenty of food and water.
You’ll find a guide to the second section of the route – Balloch to Strathblane – here.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s a lovely walk, especially in summer
- The views are great once you get into the countryside
- Helensburgh is a nice wee coastal town and Balloch has a surprisingly good aquarium
My top tips
- There’s a great shopping centre at Balloch called Loch Lomond Shores that’s got several cafes if you fancy a cuppa after your walk
- Don’t want to get lost? Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Address and map
Argyll and Bute,
This 9-mile section of the John Muir Way takes around 4 hours to walk for someone of average fitness.
Easy-medium. This first section of the John Muir Way uses pavements, gravel & grassy paths and quiet roads. The section that runs through the national park can be muddy in places, especially in winter.
From the route marker on the sea-front at Helensburgh, head north along the roadside paths until you reach the junction of Kennedy Drive. You can head a little way further north if you like to take a look at The Hill House, before heading back to Kennedy Drive and on to the A818.
As you approach the signs for The Trossachs National Park, turn east onto the John Muir Way and follow the track all the way to Balloch. The trail finishes in Balloch centre, but since you’re so close to Loch Lomond you can take the time to view the Loch Lomond Sea Life centre and Balloch Pier.
Prices and opening times
The John Muir Way is open 24/7, 365 days a year and is free to visit.
Getting there: Car parking in Helensburgh and Balloch
Getting around: Uneven paths
On-site conveniences: Conveniences available in Helensburgh and Balloch