Balmaha is a small village on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond. It’s an essential stop for West Highland Way walkers, home to our National Park Visitor Centre and a great base for climbing Conic Hill and exploring the island of Inchcailloch. The Highland Boundary fault runs through Balmaha and across Loch Lomond, and this can best be appreciated from the summit of Conic Hill. The name Balmaha derives from the Gaelic Bealach Mo-Cha, ‘the pass of Saint Mo-Cha’. This is now named The Pass of Balmaha, a narrow route between the hills at the north end of the village, carrying the road north along Loch Lomond.
Arguably it is the island of Inchcailloch which first put Balmaha on the map. The small bay at Balmaha provides the closest starting point for any crossing to the island which has been an important site after the arrival of the Christian missionary St Kentigerna in 717 AD. She was already an old woman when she settled on the island and is said to have died there several years later. The island is named after her, Inchcailloch meaning ‘the island of the old woman/cowled woman’. Later, a church was built on the island and was to be the focal point of the local parish. Every Sunday for around 500 years, parishioners would row over from Balmaha’s bay for worship. Inchcailloch was also a local burial site and being the parish of the MacGregors, it became their sacred burial site. It is here that the famous Rob Roy’s ancestors are buried, including Gregor Macgregor (d.1623), Rob Roy’s uncle. Although the church was abandoned in 1670 the burial ground continued being used until 1947.
There are plenty of walks and routes to explore including the famous Conic Hill which offers fantastic views of Loch Lomond and its islands as well as the wider surrounding area. If you are in the mood to learn, discover wildlife, geology or local history with a National Park Ranger at the Balmaha Visitor Centre. If you would like to explore nearby Inchcailloch you can catch a waterbus from MacFarlane’s Boatyard in a traditional post boat. There’s so much to explore on the island, you may choose to camp there overnight at the National Park run campsite. Other waterbus services from Balmaha can take you to Luss on the western shore of Loch Lomond (avoiding the traffic on the roads).
The National Park’s flagship centre is situated in Balmaha. On site Rangers are able to provide all the information you need to enjoy your trip.