At the Braeside B&B we had our first of many “full Scottish” breakfasts. It’s a good thing we were walking 14 miles a day — it definitely justified our massive breakfasts!

Traditionally, a full Scottish breakfast includes fried eggs, a rasher of bacon, sausage, black pudding, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, toast, and of course, lots of tea. And sometimes you’ll also get porridge, fruit, or tattie scones (more on these scones later!). It’s quite the substantial meal! Fortunately for us, the good folks at Braeside let us preselect what we wanted included in our breakfast, making it a little more manageable for those of us accustomed to just toast or yoghurt in the morning.

Into the hills

The full Scottish served us well on day 2 as we climbed our first major hill and got our first views of Loch Lomond. The trail started out along more fields and pastures and then took a turn into some grazing land, necessitating close attention to where we were placing our feet. We worked our way up into the hills and could see Conic Hill, and the continuation of our trail, in the distance.

Trail up Conic Hill

Conic Hill is widely described as a “sharp little summit”: it’s not super tall, but it is steep. Sitting on the Highland Boundary Fault, Conic Hill is a lookout between the Scottish Lowlands on one side, and the Highlands on the other.

Interestingly, the Highland Boundary Fault runs pretty sharply from Southwest to Northeast, and the Highlands are therefore as much an area of Western Scotland as they are an area of Northern Scotland.

The West Highland Way ascends the back side of Conic Hill, where the slope is a bit more gentle and the trail is better graded with switchbacks. The trail circles around to the front of Conic Hill, facing Loch Lomond, near the triple summit and then takes the more popular and much more heavily traveled route back down to the lakeside hamlet of Balmaha.

All of Conic Hill is in a sheep and cow grazing area, and as the slope increased near the top of the hill, we learned that sheep and cows seem to have a strong preference to poop on a flat area rather than a sharp hillside. Every time the trail flattened out for a stretch, it was riddled with droppings and the odors that accompany them. At least it was flat so we could pick up speed and get through the stinky spots quickly.

Conic Hill actually has three distinct summits, each a little knob on the top of the hill’s elongated peak. We climbed to the middle summit and then out to the northernmost to enjoy the sweeping views of Loch Lomond and its surroundings.

Conic Hill

The trail down was rough. We could tell it saw high traffic — both by the number of other people on the trail and the decrepit state of the trail itself. As more of a straight shot down this side of the hill, the trail was worn down into ruts with large rocks protruding. And as walkers tried to avoid having to step on or over the rocks, they widened the trail substantially, especially in the steeper stretches.

General store and cafe at Balmaha, aka lunch

Our knees and hips complained mightily, but we made it down the hill to Balmaha and a picnic lunch outside the town’s general store. We rewarded ourselves for conquering the sharp little summit with chocolate ice cream, then headed north along the shore of Loch Lomond.

PS – click on any of the photos to see them larger!