You may (or may not) have seen my tweet this morning. I was on my exercise bike, in my room, sweat seeping through my clothes. It was HOT. Admittedly, it doesn’t help to have your ‘home gym’ stationed in the attic. Even less during a heatwave.
By 10am this morning it must have been thirty degrees in my bedroom. I took a quick glance at Twitter and discovered my fellow Brits had been struck by the same sweaty shock. “25C at 7am!” one tweeter bemoaned. The Guardian’s Glasgow columnist noted that it wasn’t quite yet “pure taps aff” but we were pretty close.
So in spirit of this heavy heatwave, I’ve chosen three places to visit near Helensburgh and Loch Lomond. And — nae stress — they’re all close to ice cream supplies.
BALMAHA, EAST LOCH LOMOND
Sitting at the foot of Ben Lomond and Conic Hill, Balmaha village is a safe haven for hillwalkers taking on the West Highland Way. But over the last few years it’s also become a fashionable countryside escape, thanks to the unstoppable expansion of the Oak Tree Inn. Along with their holiday cottage empire, the owners recently added St Mocha Coffee Shop to their books. You might not think much of hot tea on a summer’s day, but St Mocha also offers a variety of homemade ice creams to cool your fevered brow. A scoop of Banoffee or Snickers, anyone? You’ll be quick-marching the trails to burn off those tasty calories.
ARDMORE POINT, NEAR HELENSBURGH
If you like sea breezes and watching boats slide past, this might be the place for you. Ardmore is a tiny peninsula that juts out into the Clyde estuary, facing the coastal towns of Dunoon and Helensburgh. Park just off the A814 and there is a short, circular walk around the point, parts of which overflow with bright yellow blooms. It’s muddier near the northern rocky outcrop, where you can watch cruise ships and submarines make their way along the Clyde. Nearby, sustenance awaits at Ardardan Estate, a two-minute drive from the point’s car park. There are gardens, a tearoom and shop which is stocked with multiple stomach fillers including Walls ice lollies and the famous Stewart Towers’ dairy ice cream (try the cookies and cream flavour, it’s heavenly).
LOCH LOMOND SHORES, BALLOCH
This may not be the most original addition to an ‘escapist’ post, but my goodness isn’t it pretty! Although the Lomond Shores shopping outlet is quieter than when it first opened, it still offers a good base for further trails around the southern edge of the loch. There is free parking near the entrance, where the shops face onto a man-made inlet as pedalos circle in the shadow of Ben Lomond. We grabbed an ice cream at the small newsagents before following the path into Balloch Country Park. With a good old fashioned Twister for company, you’ll soon forget you’re ten minutes from a bustling Scottish town. The castle now lies derelict; the park’s blooming plants pushing away the echoes of Oasis, Runrig and R.E.M., who all played here in the 90s.
Where else would you recommend around the Lomond area? Tweet me @laretour