One of the most popular hills in Scotland, and one climbed on for well over a century, as the West Highland Railway, stopping at Tarbet, made it fairly accessible from the rapidly growing urban sprawl of Glasgow. The usual way up begins at the car park just round the head of Loch Long from the small village of Arrochar. The start is a good warm up, taking a brutally direct line up the line of what was a rack and pinion railway used to construct part of the Loch Sloy catchment area for a hydro-electric scheme.
Once up the steep part, a hard turn left provides a welcome respite, along with fine views down Loch Long. The path eventually turns up just before a dam on the Allt a'Bhalachain (the Buttermilk Burn). A short way up the path and two large boulders, the Narnain Boulders, are reached. These schist rocks have tumbled down from Beinn Narnain, and provide many interesting climbing problems. The lower one also has a very rudimentary shelter for one person, and although I have used it in fine weather, I would hesitate at recommending it!
Not far above the boulders the path crosses the burn then heads up towards the coire between the Centre (highest) and North Peaks, keeping rather nearer to the North Peak. The rock scenery is impressive, and even more so when you learn that just about every face, wall and overhang can, and has been, climbed! Many a Scottish climber's reputation, if not competence, has been earned on the ripply schistose rocks of the Cobbler.
The path suddenly lands on the small col between the Centre and North Peaks. The North Peak is easily gained, with spectacularly exposed views over the coire edge. Returning to the col and walking up to the Centre Peak you are faced with one of the most unusual summits of any Scottish peak. A massive block makes up the summit, but to gain the top you have to pass through a window, which then takes you to a very exposed ledge leading after a few moves to the actual summit of this Corbett. Many decide not to make the last few metres, and who could blame them?
Looking out from the rounded grassy knoll below the actual summit the view is reward enough, with neighbouring Munros Narnain and Ime, the Brack and its companion hills over Glen Croe, Ben Lomond to the east, the Firth of Clyde a quiet glimmer to the south. There is also the South Peak, but it's perhaps more suited to a hard scrambler or rock climber's abilities, and can be left for another day.
The return is most conveniently by the approach route, unless transport is arranged, in which case you can descend from the Centre Peak to the col, go down into the coire, traverse under the South Peak and so reach the SE ridge. Descend this then turn south to reach the A83 road at the foot of Glen Croe, This route is also convenient for those staying at the Youth Hostel at Ardgartan, or camping there.