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MTB route: Milngavie to Helensburgh via West Highland Way and John Muir Way

Written by Fiona

April 23 2019

This blog describes a Scottish mountain biking route from Milngavie, via the West Highland Way and the John Muir Way to reach Helensburgh on the west coast.

Living only a couple of miles from the start of the West Highland Way at Milngavie and within easy cycling distance of the John Muir Way, I have a wealth of great country trails for mountain biking (and running) on my doorstep. They are both waymarked.

The route.
The elevation.
One of the many fantastic views on this route.

40km route and 750m of ascent

This route of approximately 40km follows a section of the West Highland Way (WHW) from Milngavie to the Carbeth huts and then jumps on to the John Muir Way (JMW) to reach Balloch and then Helensburgh.

I added extra distance by starting from my home and also riding around Balloch in search of a reasonably priced ice-cream (I did not find one.).

To reach the start, you could ride a mostly traffic-free route from Glasgow to Milngavie, using the Kelvin Way, or take the train with your bike to Milngavie railway station.

There are two main ascent and descents, and plenty of ups and downs, which give a total climb of around 750m.

Singletrack winds through the forest on the climb up a hill from Balloch to Helensburgh

The terrain is a mix of wide forest tracks, singletrack, rocky paths and tarmac. I rode most of it although a short section in the forest heading up the hill to a high point above Helensburgh beat me. It’s steep and windy and my bike skills and muscle power could not cope. I bike-hiked this for about five minutes.

The views are ever changing and wonderful. It was a warm and calm day and I enjoyed fabulous vistas of hills, forest, fields and Loch Lomond and its many islands.

I contemplated caching the train home at Balloch but decided to continue in search of my ice cream at the seaside town of Helensburgh. A regular rail service allows for a return trip to Milngavie or Glasgow.  

Burncrooks Reservoir.
Hill views and no people.
Forest stop for lunch.
A lovely vista with Ben Lomond in the distance.
Loch Lomond at Balloch.
The sea at Helensburgh.

Tips for the route

This sign shows the way to the JMW from the WHW.

Look out for the split in the routes from the WHW to the JMW, just past Craigallion Loch on the WHW.

I missed a section of the JMW at Burncrooks Reservoir. Instead of a loop around the undulating southside of the reservoir I cycled the shorter north shore.

A signpost just past Loch Lomond Shores at Balloch.

Keep a keen eye out for some of the JMW signposts because they can be easy to miss.

Make sure you choose the right direction, eats or west. Some of the signposts cross over and it can be too easy to turn the wrong way. My route follows the west pointers.

The JMW website details a separate sections of walking and cycling routes. I chose to ride the walking route because I prefer to stay away from the tarmac on my MTB.

See the route on the OS Map app.

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