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May 2019+

Stirling Coat of Arms

This small village sits at the bottom of the east side of Loch Lomond, which isn't nearly as accessible as the west one, and if you carry on up, you'll be surprised to find that the road soon runs out.

It's probably best known by those familiar with the  West Highland Way, you know, the 100-mile long trek from Milngavie to Fort William? Balmaha's problem is that it's bang in the middle of day two so the backpackers are just passing through and tend not to linger too long.

That's not to say that Balmaha doesn't get any other business since it's popular with day-trippers to its wonderful, lochside location and nature trails.

The Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park have a presence in the form of a Visitor Centre in Balmaha or, to give the village its full name, Balmaha Car Park.

Facilities are few but friendly and include a village shop and a pub although it's being wondered why the ' Oak Tree'? The naming of the coffee shop, however, is much more inventive...

The wife of King Arthur's grandson might well set the alarm bells ringing but on becoming a widow, she went and lived in isolation on the island of Inchcailloch, which you can just about touch from here.

She'd later become patron saint of the parish but, St Kentigerna being a bit of a mouthful, she came to be known by the affectionate, yet inexplicable, nickname 'Mo-Cha'.

  St Mocha Coffee Shop

See what they've done here? That's not the mochaccino that you think but an association with a bit of Early Middle Ages fan-fiction. Not that you'd know it so seriously, some fine work there fellas or lovely work there ladies if applicable.

There's a North American twang to the three middle-aged men sat in the sun today. It's time to play guess the accent but it's not New York, it's not Chicago and it's definitely not Boston. Turns out they're Canadian and they prefer this place to the Rockies even if these mountains are only aboot 3,000 foot.

It's a shame they're not from Boston, they could have been asked... 'Where'd you  paak the caa? Baalmahaa Caa Paak?'

  Oak Tree Inn

Not just their home-brewed beer and ludicrously large selection of Scotch Whiskies but full-on dining and lodgings too. Not that you'll be staying here if you're on the West Highland Way since that would make tomorrow's interminable slog up the east bank of Loch Lomond nigh on impossible. Seriously.

Glasgow-born Tom Weir was brought up in the tenements but came to love the hills via his local boxing club's trips to Ben Lomond in the grimy '30s.

Not just the hills here but the Himalayas, no less, and Tom's subsequent writing and broadcasting made him a household name in Scotland. He's quite rightly remembered here in Balmaha and puts this pair of, quite frankly, rambling amateurs to shame.

Tom was nudging just five foot tall and married Rhona Dickson after her troosers got soggy and she borrowed a pair from him.

Finding they fitted quite nicely, they soon settled in Gartocharn, which isn't too far doon the road, but the Mountain Garden here is a fitting reminder of their mutual love of the rugged outdoors.

Of course there's a stroll to be had here and the path along the loch brings you to the waterbus from Luss.

Pass by the beach, of sorts, and loop back through woodland where, there amongst the bluebells, there's an option up to 'Craigie Fort'.

  Balmaha - Luss - Waterbus

Here's one way to get here and it's run by Sweeney's Cruises who also offer their services in Balloch. There's recorded commentary by go-to Scottish history guy  Neil Oliver but there are only four or five a day so you might want to check the times.

If you find yourselves waiting, try calling the prankster's number that's been scribbled on the warning sign. Idiots!

Not so much a fort, more of a rocky promontory with a small footprint that would have been a lookout point at some point in time.

While it's more strenuous than just wandering in the woods below, Tom would still be shaking his head because the best has been saved until last... Conic Hill.

So-called because of its shape, which when looked at head-on is a bit, well, cone-like, but when viewed from the side, it just looks like a harmless sequence of humps.

West Highland Way'ers come in on this and at just over 100 foot shorter than Sugarloaf, some say it's a bit of a lug although Tom would have been up and down here 10 times a day.

The path up starts at the top of the big car park and lures you in through woodland before a steeper section with steps turns sharp right onto a broader path. It's here that you'll find yourself with at least 1,000 others but persevere with the perspiration and the false summits because the view is well worth the effort.

Despite the relatively modest height, this is largely unsurrounded and there's the sight of something significant, geological-wise.

Here is bang on the  Highland Boundary Fault, you see, with lowlands largely to the south and mountains to the north.

It's the same kind of system that one day will see to San Francisco and where the crust crumples, a line of islands have formed, which are, quite literally, all the earth's fault.

You're advised to take the main path back down although you can descend over the humps but some inelegant sliding down on your backside may be involved.

This terrain would have been no problem to Tom, he'd have scampered down here like a mountain goat.

Meanwhile, back in Balmaha, it's time to head back to the beach for a sit-down and a rest. Awww, wook at the widdle duckies, aren't they cute?

Yes, they are, but here can't be hung around all afternoon, there's a waterbus to catch and the drinks are done with. If only there was a bin around here somewhere?

Ah well, it's thought Tom wouldn't have minded too much? Idiots!