Balmaha is a village in the county of Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire in central Scotland. With a population of maybe 60, it's the only village along the scenic east bank of Loch Lomond. A minor road continues north of Balmaha for 7 miles to dead-end at Rowardennan, and facilities there are also described on this page. The main reason to visit is to explore the east side of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, and especially to climb Ben Lomond, walk the West Highland Way, and get out onto the loch.
The visitor centre in Balmaha is open daily 09:30-17:00.
Get in Edit
With your own car, the usual approach is past Glasgow onto M8, cross Erskine Bridge to A82 past Dumbarton to Balloch, follow A811 east to Drymen, then turn onto B837 for Balmaha and Loch Lomond east bank.
From Edinburgh and the east of the country, head for Stirling then join A811 west to Drymen for the turn-off for Balmaha.
Water buses - foot-passenger ferries - ply across Loch Lomond: between Balmaha and Luss four times a day, and between Tarbet and Rowardennan once a day. See also Tarbet for the water bus between Ardlui and the east bank trail.
See below for getting here by hiking the West Highland Way.
Get around Edit
You need your own wheels to get between Balmaha and Rowardennan. There is no parking along this narrow lane until you reach the overflow car park (free) half a mile before Rowardennan. By all means continue to try your luck at the main car park (charges), but be prepared if that's full to offload the rest of your group and return here.
- Tom Weir Statue on Main Street opposite the Bunkhouse commemorates the Scottish climber, author and broadcaster Tom Weir (1914-2006). It's often adorned with strange hats.
- 1 Inchcailloch is the wooded island in Loch Lomond just 200 yards off Balmaha. There are walking trails, and in early summer the woods are carpeted with bluebells. Its name means "Isle of the Cowled Woman", probably Saint Kentigerna (d 734) who may have founded a nunnery here; the ruined church is named for her. (She's not to be confused with the earlier Saint Kentigern or Mungo, founder of the city of Glasgow.) There's a basic campsite at Port Bawn at the south end of the island, open March-Sept. There's no piped water supply on the island (the loch is fresh water) and no trash collection. Little boats ply to Inchcailloch on demand from Balmaha, adult £5 return. Water buses also run from Luss April-Oct four times a day; some continue to Balmaha but their timetables don't enable a day-trip from there.
- 2 Inchfad means "long island". It's just private farmland with no ferry, but of old had a whisky distillery. From 1944 Frank and Ann Davidson re-established the farm. They were keen sailors; Frank was drowned off Portland Bill but in 1953 Ann became the first woman to sail across the Atlantic single-handed.
- 3 Milarrochy Bay is the first beach and camping area encountered north of Balmaha along the lane.
- The West Highland Way is usually done south to north, with the easier sections first and the sun and weather at your back. Stage 1 is Milngavie to Drymen, 12 miles / 19 km of fairly level going. Stage 2 climbs over Conic Hill then descends into Balmaha; you then follow the bank of Loch Lomond north to Rowardennan, total 14 miles 22.5 km. Stage 3 is the same length but rougher going along the loch side and beyond to Inverarnan, or you can take the ferry to accommodation in Ardlui and resume next morning. That's 40 miles done, 56 much tougher miles ahead of you.
- 1 Conic Hill can be climbed by itself, an easy hike from Balmaha. At 361 m / 1184 ft it's a "Marilyn", with a secondary summit at 358 m. It does look conical, a sharp little summit on the Highland Boundary Fault Line, but that's coincidental: the name is Gaelic coinneach, "moss", so be ready for soggy conditions.
- 2 Ben Lomond is a "Munro" of 974 metres / 3196 feet. The usual ascent is up the track from Rowardennan car park, which fills up early on fine weekends. There's nothing technical involved, it's just a steady grind along a well-worn trail. Reckon 3 hours up and 2 hours down, compatible with a day-trip from Tarbet to Rowardennan on the water bus.
You can buy gifts and snacks from Balmaha village shop, open daily 07:30-20:30. There's an ATM inside.
- Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha G63 0JQ, ☏ . Food daily 12:00-21:00. Balmaha's only inn, with friendly staff and good food. Traditional en suite bedrooms and unique, rustic pub/bar plus B&B accommodation in nearby cottages. Dog-friendly. B&B double £90.
- Head for the Oak Tree.
- Campsites line the shore between Balmaha and Rowardennan, at Milarrochy Bay, Cashel, Sallochy and Lochan Maoil Dhuinne. March-Sept you may only camp in these designated areas.
- 1 [dead link] Balmaha Bunkhouse, Main Street, Balmaha G63 0JQ, ☏ . Open all year, has a bunkhouse with one 6-bedded room, one 4 and two twins; B&B in a double and a twin bedded room; and a self-catering chalet, sleeps 4. Dogs permitted in bunkhouse and chalet. Closed, expected to reopen in 2023. Bunkhouse £25 ppn, B&B double £80, chalet £90.
- There's B&B at Arrochoile opposite Loch Lomond Waterfront.
- 2 Loch Lomond Waterfront, Main Rd, Balmaha G63 0JQ, ☏ . Upscale self-catering lodges and chalets with hot tubs, sleep 2-6, dogs welcome in several. Doubles from £250.
- 3 Rowardennan Hotel, Rowardennan G63 0AR, ☏ . You'll be more than ready for a meal or a bed here if you've scaled the Ben or lumped along the WHW. Also has self-catering lodges, water activities and bike hire. B&B double £100.
- 4 Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel, Rowardennan G63 0AR (Half a mile beyond end of public road), ☏ . Open March–October, a handy base for climbing Ben Lomond. Meals if pre-booked, dog-friendly. B&B single £32.
As of Dec 2022, Balmaha has 4G from EE, O2 and Vodafone, though it's patchy on the approach road from Drymen, and worse on the lane beyond to Rowardennan. There's no signal from Three. 5G has not reached this area.
Go next Edit
- Drymen has more accommodation, and is on the earlier stage of West Highland Way.
- Turn north up A81 at Drymen for Inversnaid further up Loch Lomond, and for the Trossachs and Callander.
- Ardlui on the west bank of Loch Lomond can be reached by waterbus from Ardleish.