Archive for the ‘West Highland Way’ Category

Kinlochleven to Fort William – 16 miles (14 with diversion)

The last day

I always feel a little sad at times like these, knowing that it is the last days walking and this was to be no exception.  A stupidly early start, 5.30 am, meant we were doing a fine impression of the seven dwarfs (head torches and all) while walking through the town.  It was so early, in fact, that the local owl population was still in conference somewhere off in the woods to the right of the road.

Eventually the Way heads off to the right along a fairly non-descript path before starting the slow climb out the town.  We must have made a fine sight – twelve zombies, complete with head torches filing slowly up the hill. The only noise (apart form the owls) the heavy breathing.


It was surprisingly still at this point, with very little wind, and very soon it was hot work climbing this seemingly endless hill (I have a vague recollection of swearing at this the last time I walked out of Kinlochleven).  On and on it went, crossing a track that gives access to a hotel, before plunging into the woodland again  to continue up towards the glen. Eventually, after about an hour and a half, we made it to the top in the half light and rested, admiring the view over the town and the Loch.

Eventually we turned our backs on the town and with some special renditions of favourites from “The Sound of Music” ringing in our ears (we had now woken up – either that or it was just nervous energy) and started the long trek up the Glen.

The steep ridge of Mam na Gualainn dominates to the left of the path (the old military road) with the steep path up clearly visible contributing to a fine wind up.  “Yes Linda, we really are walking up that slope….”  Rotten, but funny.

As we continued up the Glen, deer were visible on the lower slopes around us, possibly trying to avoid the bitter winds and snow that were covering the higher ground.  Even more of a surprise was a newborn lamb next to the path – almost a month early (11th March) to the normal lambing time up here.

It was not long after the weather came in, not for the first time a wall of white engulfing us as we pressed on.  The group was fairly silent now and it was heads down just trying to reach the finish.  The place we were aiming for first though was the plantation at Blar a chaorainn which it was hoped would give us some protection from the elements.  It was not to be.  The forestry work that had gone on over the winter had completely cleared the trees from this plantation, with one or two small exceptions.

For us, the way was shut here, the forestry operations still ongoing until April at least (Check the official Website) in Glen Nevis.  Instead we would walk down the road which is accessed at the information point in the forest.  Walking this way is slightly shorter than the official route but not the most inspiring, especially during a blizzard.  The road passes a view-point and it is just after this, and with some surprise that the outskirts of Fort William just appear out of nowhere.

Eventually, the group, completely sodden and looking like drowned rats made it to Fort William and the new official finish point, a nice change from the sign outside Fort William.

The pub beckoned and with small puddles forming round us we had a few celebratory pints!

Congratulations must go to Tony, Gilly, Simon, Pip, Linda, Adam, Al, Debbie, Paul, Steve, Mac, Chris and John.  Well done everyone!

We made it!

Day rating 6/10

Not the best day on the way.  A nice but long climb out of Kinlochleven up to the military road.  The surface up here is rough and quite sore on the feet – so many loose rocks on it.  The diversion was a bit of a dissappointment but needs must and it got us to the finish.

Trail Rating 60/80 (75%)

Despite it being one of the most popular Long Distance Trails there were very few users on the trail at this time of year – a nice change from the usual procession of backpackers.  This is still one of the best, helped in no small way by the availability of accommodation and supplies along the way.  Like every trail it has its more mundane moments but there are many places that more than make up for it.  Traditionally walked South to North I wouldn’t recommend doing any other way – finishing in Milngavie would be a real anticlimax.

If you get the chance – do it!

One of those great moments


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Kingshouse – Kinlochleven – 9 miles

The penultimate day and another short one, albeit over the Devils Staircase.

We had stayed in Kinlocheleven the previous night, and mindful of the weather forecast we were pleasantly surprised to find the town free of snow when we left in the morning.  The problem with Kinlochleven is it is very sheltered – a fact that we soon came to recognise as we travelled back through Glencoe on the way to Kingshouse.  It had snowed overnight and more was coming.

We reached the hotel and disembarked from the van being welcomed by a thin layer of snow on the ground and a chill wind that found its way through to the bone.

Before we would reach the Staircase, the West Highland Way runs parallel to the A82 into the mouth of Glencoe for around three miles.  I’m sure that there are usually fine views down into the Glen from the path but as soon as we had left the hotel whiteout conditions prevailed.  A wall of white approached us from the Glen then swallowed the party whole before spitting us out again at Altnafeadh where the van was waiting for us.  Before that though we passed the imposing bulk of Buachaille Etive Mor, one of the most distinctive peaks next to the way, which was doing its very best to look dramatic and moody.

Etive Mor from the way - amazingly it wasn't snowing at this point

There is a special kind of atmosphere to the hills in this weather, brooding, bleak, almost intimidating, but not at all unwelcoming.  I’m only glad we didn’t have to walk up Etive Mor!

Until the car park is reached at the bottom of the staircase the Way keeps its distance from the road, developing into a pleasant little route at the very foot of Beinn a Chrulaiste, its crags peering down at you moodily from above.

For a short distance we joined the main road and at this point the snow really came down.  At this we retired to the van to make a decision (argue) on going over the staircase (Health and Safety and all that).   After twenty minutes or so the snow stopped and that commodity so rare in Scotland appeared.  A blue sky!

The decision made we lined up in single file and began our assault up the hill.

On the way up the staircase

For those not in the know the Devils Staircase sound much worse than it actually is.  A steady climb, it eventually turns into a series of zig-zags which culminate in a quite astounding view.  The weather, for once had decided to be kind.

Despite the snow on the ground, for virtually everyone this was one of the highlights of the walk.  The views were breathtaking, giving us all a chance to take some snaps at the top, including the obligatory group photo at the top.  The snow was fairly deep over the saddle but the path was still easily visible and passable.

The whole group at the top of the Staircase

In front of us the Mamores were looking splendid in their white livery while surprisingly the lower ground at the reservoir looked relatively clear of snow.

As the path drops steadily it becomes more and more stony –  essentially a slog.  The best part of the day was over and it was a case of head down and stare at the ground in an attempt to avoid becoming the latest casualty of a fall.  A few of the clumsier walkers managed to fall over at least three or four times today (Tony – Steve), much to the amusement of everyone else.

The walk into Kinlochleven is fairly uninspiring – I would describe it as functional, and the day ends on a forest track with a fairly steep descent – complete with signs warning cyclists that they should dismount before attempting the hairpin bends.

Eventually we made it back to the hostel in the town before heading out to the pub for a refreshment or two.  It was at this point we said farewell to friar, who was off to a graduation, unfortunately missing the last days walk.

On a more sobering note it was only later at night that we learned about the devastation caused by the Tsunami in Japan while in the bar at the climbing centre,  the pictures on screen both terrifying and incredible.

Back to the hostel and the next day would be a very early start.

Day Rating – 9/10

One of the best days of the way, the weather made it.  Spectacular views all around, especially coming over the Staircase.  Only let down by the descent into Kinlochleven – no choice though so it is a small price to pay.

The view looking back towards Kingshouse from the Staircase

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Inveroran to Kingshouse – 10 miles

Today was another short day, but it was to be over the exposed Rannoch Moor – a name that has achieved almost legendary status for West Highland Way Walkers.  Rannoch Moor can be easy in fine weather, a leisurely ramble across one of the most spectacular sections of the way.  The path is well surfaced (if a little stony) and easy to follow, leaving you wondering what all the fuss is about when you reach Kingshouse on a good day.

More often than not though the Moor is inhospitable, throwing fire and brimstone at those brave enough to enter its confines – even in the height of summer it can be a challenge getting across.  The Way across the Moor is perilously exposed – there is no shelter from the elements on the route leaving the wind, rain, snow and hail (usually all at once in one form or another) free to attack the walker with impunity.

Ok, so it’s maybe not quite that bad, but you get the idea!

Looking back to Bridge of Orchy over Loch Tulla

This had been the last night staying at the Bunkhouse in Tyndrum, and the group was sad to leave as the next night we would be staying in Kinlochleven.  I would highly recommend the “By the Way” hostel to anyone planning on walking the West Highland Way.  After the short drive to Inverornan we reluctantly left the comfort of the Mini-Bus and braved the tempest that had lain in wait for us opposite the hotel.  This has to be the first time I have experienced horizontal hail.  Brilliant!

Fortunately, even before the cries of “Who are we waiting on?”  (chasing Gilly from his rather frantic attempts to re-pack his rucksack in a gale) had started, a few of the wiser heads took shelter at the rear of the Van which was still providing a useful service as a wind break.

Eventually we set off as a group round the head of Loch Tulla, the wind in our faces.  One of the reasons we had walked South to North was to be walking with the prevailing wind.  Now the wind was Northerly and was taking great delight in spewing the contents of the clouds into our faces.  The section around the head of the Loch is sheltered and just beyond the Inveroran Hotel by the bridge over a river there is a designated campsite.  This can be a midge fest in the summer though and is probably best avoided late in the season.

For the early part of the walk Red Deer were in abundance and even here, quite close to the road was a small group that seemed fairly unconcerned by our presence, continuing to graze away peacefully as we passed.

The road ends at the impressive forest lodge just past Victoria Bridge and it is here that where Rannoch Moor essentially  begins.  It is hard to imagine now, but the path that is being followed here was once the main A82 route over Rannoch Moor (one of Telfords Constructions) until the mid 1930’s when the current road was constructed on a different alignment.  The way climbs gently from here and for a while is sheltered from the elements by the plantations either side and the slope to the West.

The locals were out in force today

Again the deer were about in abundance.  A number of impressive looking stags even posed for some perfect photo opportunities.

At the point where the plantation ends the way suddenly becomes exposed but this has its own rewards giving the walker astounding views over the Moor.  To the North the twin lumps of Meall Beag stand just shy of Ba Bridge, the halfway point of the day.

The hail stayed with us until Ba Bridge and most of the party trudged on in silence lost in their own thoughts, apart from the occasional moans about the surface.  At Ba Bridge, (the river spectacular as it passes under the road) we made for the modest shelter of a small plantation which provided at least a little respite from the elements.

Looking back in the direction of Bridge of Orchy with Ba Bridge in the foreground

The snow was about to hit with a vengeance.

As we prepared to leave, a solid line of snow moved in rapidly from the West.  It was an impressive sight as the white line engulfed everything before it, including us.

The way continued to rise slowly along with the accumulation of snow.  In places a thick covering was now on the path, although much of it was a slushy damp mess, perfect for getting inside boots and soaking feet.  Thank god for gaiters!

As quickly as it had appeared, the snow dissipated even leaving some blue sky for us to enjoy on the way down towards Kingshouse.  The mountains around us were nothing short of breathtaking.  Walking in this weather does have its plus points!

This was snow joke!

Kingshouse lies at the top of Glencoe and the path drops fairly rapidly from the Moor on a weather-beaten and eroded surface – in places the walking is difficult because of the loose stone.  Be prepared for sore feet.

Soon the Hotel came into view in the distance, a welcome sight (assuming that it was open of course), but there was still around 2.5km to walk, first past the Ski Centre (with its “motorway service station” signs encouraging walkers to pay a visit) and then over the A82 for the last time on the Way.

There is a walkers bar to the rear of the Hotel which was not open.  It meant then that we all trooped inside to the main bar, a very pleasant place to linger for a while although very firmly stuck in the 1970’s.  One of the attractions of the place are the deer which feed very close to the front of the Hotel, looking for leftovers from any visitors.

Unless continuing to Kinlochleven (or you are prepared to hitch/bus to Glencoe Village) this is the only available accommodation in the immediate area.  There is a free designated campsite behind the Hotel.

Day Rating – 8/10

A hugely enjoyable day, only spoiled a little by the hard surface which really does hurt the soles of your feet.  Lots of deer, spectacular scenery, some fun weather and a good pint to finish.  Bloody brilliant!

The days exertions had taken their toll on Tony

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Tyndrum – Inverornan – 9 Miles

This was a short one, essentially a rest day.  Because we were walking from the accommodation this meant we could have a lie in and a late start due to the small distance to cover.  Looking out the window in the morning showed the sun shining on a fresh fall of snow, a centimetre or so on the ground.  The weather forecast had said periodic snow flurries –  we were treated to a fine demonstration outside the common room window as we sat having breakfast.  The sun disappeared to be replaced by a howling wind and horizontal snow.  Ten minutes later the sun was out and all was calm.  Scottish weather in Spring!

We left the hostel around ten in the morning with the resounding cries of “Who are we waiting on?” and the anguished reply of “Gilly” already becoming a regular feature of the walk.  Eventually we set off in brilliant sunshine to walk the short distance into Tyndrum itself.  The way crosses the A82 again in the town very close to the Green Welly Stop (this is a major tourist trap on the road North).  However, they do some good food, if a little expensive, here and there is also a small cafe attached to the petrol station shop outside.  The cafe sells some local bottled beer.

On the way from Tyndrum towards Bienn Obhan

If your needs are a little sweeter, or you just want to catch up on the week’s news there is a newsagent (the Trading Post) right on the way where it crosses the A82.  Plenty of options then if you are passing through Tyndrum as a midway point.

As we followed Caulfields Military Road up and out of Tyndrum Beinn Odhan stood clear and proud in front of us, spectacular in the morning light.  There had been a dusting of snow on the path, but it was easy to follow and pleasurable to walk on.  The snow cushioned the feet against the hard surface below.  The road here follows the railway (or vice-versa.  The railway was, after all, a later addition) all the way to Bridge of Orchy, but first it passes along the foot of Beinn Odhan.  As we walked alongside the railway the sky grew darker and the wind picked up.  Soon we were walking into a blizzard, complete with hailstones at one point which were a painful addition.  A long line of abominable snowmen passed over the high point of the day in thick snow.  For some strange reason everyone was enjoying themselves.  The snow didn’t last for long though, and as we passed through a sheep creep under the railway the sun (in the loosest sense) came out again.

Here the Old Military road skirts along the side of the glen quite precariously over the river below which seems to have eroded the revetment away in several places.  A river is crossed by way of a large bridge, and here there is a fine view of the railway loop and viaduct that winds its way from the slopes of Beinn Odhan across the gap to Beinn Dorain and onwards to Fort William.

A train crossing the viaduct on its way North


Around us the giant bulks of Beinn Odhan and Beinn Dorain were looking increasingly spectacular overhead.  These were made even more impressive by the looming cloud which would intermittently drop various concoctions of snow and hail on to us as we battled our way to Bridge of Orchy.

As we progressed the snow seemed to lessen, and by the time we had reached the village most of the snow on the ground had gone.  The path passes under the railway using the passenger access to the station.  The station building itself is now a fantastic independent bunkhouse called the West Highland Sleeper.  Meals and cooked breakfast are available, but the highlight must be the triple bunkbeds, complete with surrounding curtains.

From there it was a short walk down to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, which also has a bunkhouse and some facilities for camping.  We stopped here for a short while to refresh ourselves with some soup, sandwiches and more importantly beer.   Look out for the photos on the wall of the incredible snow from 1984.  The hotel was cut off for a few days – it even made the national news!

Our destination for the day was the small hotel at Inveroran which was some two miles away from bridge of Orchy.

Again the group split with a few making their way on ahead, up the steady climb through the forest and over Mam Carraigh.  The views from the top are second to none here come rain or shine.  Unfortunately for us the sleet had made an appearance again and it was not a place to linger, even though there were now some fine panoramas over Loch Tulla and towards tomorrows destination – Rannoch Moor.

It was a relief to see the minibus on the road below us, although it would still take half an hour or so to get to the bottom of the hill due to the rather rough nature of the trail at this point.  Unfortunately the bar in the hotel was shut, unsurprisingly really as it was early in the season, so it was straight back in the van to Tyndrum and some drying out.


Looking over Loch Tulla to the wild expanse of Rannoch Moor


Day Rating – 8/10

Despite the weather – in fact because of the weather this was a hugely enjoyable day (yes I am a masochist).  The scenery was spectacular, the weather exhilarating and the beer in the pub spot on.


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Day 4 – Beinglas – Tyndrum 12 miles

The weather changed today – for the worse.  The forecast had said rain so it was expected.  It is still a disappointment though when the rain does start falling, and in the journey back down to Beinglas from Tyndrum there was copious amounts of rain falling.  That said, when we got out the van at the campsite things were dry.  Would it be wrong to be optimistic about the dry start?  Damn right it would!

Wiigwams at Beinglas

The first few miles of the day were a pleasure to walk.  The temperature was just right despite the grey sky and rather ominous looking cloud.  The way from the campsite climbs steadily and this time our group was walking a little slower and keeping together fairly well.  We had gained one and lost one – Linda returning to the fold after a day off, and Adam (the youngest member of the group) taking the weight off his rather Way worn feet.

The first half of the day leaves the mouth of Loch Lomond and turns into a very pleasant river walk along Glen Falloch, rising steadily towards Crianlarich.  The Falls of Falloch are passed fairly early on, and it was no surprise that there was quite a lot of water flowing over it, due to the rain that was falling further North.  Around Derrydaroch Farm the way crosses the river, and it was here the weather changed for the worst.  It was now a case of baton down the hatches, so it was out with the waterproofs and warm stuff – the first time this week.

Before it started raining in Glen Falloch

It had been relatively still so far and this could have been the reason that it took a while to walk into the rain, which fortunately was falling onto our backs and not into our faces.  The temperature however had dropped considerably forcing the use of all the equipment in our backpacks.

It was a case of head down and keep moving, with a couple of moments of light relief, especially when trying to negotiate the rather bijou sheep creep under the railway with a full pack on.  There was slightly more shelter further on passing under the newer alignment of the A82, before a very steep climb up to the old military road – the first time we had met it on the walk.

In good weather this would have been a fine walk with good views North up past Crianlarich, but today it was exposed, cold and wet.  There was very little conversation as most people were left with their own thoughts – most probably “what a load of crap”.

There were a few small dots ahead, some of the other walkers in front by at least a mile, and with the rain getting heavier and the exposed nature of the route things were becoming pretty miserable.  It got even worse just above Keilator Farm.  The way, although still quite wide, passes through a bottleneck with a wall on one side and a bank on the other.  The path then passes through a far gate.  Unfortunately the resident cattle had decided to congregate in front of the gate leaving us to wade through the middle of 30 or so beasts while negotiating the delightful mix of mud and manure.  Cue some comical scenes with walking poles.  All good fun!

Just beyond this the way comes to a junction.  You can turn right to drop down into Crianlarich where there are shops and a pub.  The path comes out at the station and just above the Youth Hostel, the only downside being a stiff climb back up the hill for a mile or so to regain the official trail.

Turn left to stay on the trail, and immediately there is a stiff climb up into the Commercial Forest.  It was here the group dispersed into the trees with a sigh of relief, setting up the cookers to at least get a warm lunch.  Although the trees were providing some good shelter from the persistent rain it was not preventing people from getting cold and soon there were a few miserable faces around.  They were enjoying it – honest!

After lunch the weather had not improved.  A short distance beyond where we stopped there is a picnic bench.  On a fine day the views are fantastic over Crianlarich towards Glen Dochart and Ben More.  Today it was a grey drizzle.  On we walked with heads down to the ground.

Debbie and Paul doing fine impressions of drowned rats close to St Fillans Priory

A large footbridge after a long descent marks the half way point through the forest.  This is crossing the Herive Burn which was bubbling away quite happily with the extra rain that had gushed into it since the previous night.  Eventually, after what seemed a never-ending trek through the forest (it is amazing how much difference the weather makes to perception of distance), we arrived out at the A82, the forest ejecting the walker like a swimmer from a water flume.  Here you can rest on a bridge of the old Military Road underneath the slightly more modern viaduct that carries the Oban Railway overhead.  The railway splits at Crianlarich with each branch travelling up either side of the Glen.

We crossed the road looking somewhat bedraggled heading towards St Fillans Priory, reputedly founded in the early 14th Century by Robert I, King of Scots.  The land here belongs to the Scottish Agricultural College and as you go through a gate there is the unusual demand of – “Horses Close the Gate” (sic).

Soon after, the next of the campsites with the wooden wigwams come into view.  This is a fine campsite with a shop, some lodges and plenty of Wigwams to go around.  It has a vast area for backpackers to camp in as well, although there were currently no hardy souls attempting to camp there.

All that was left now was to re-cross the A82 (via a new underpass on the riverbank) and a short river walk along the Fillan to Dalrigh.  Here the walker enters Tyndrum Community Woodland, and again in fine weather there are fine views to be had back down Strath Fillan.  Most were just trudging on to the end, and the last Kilometer or so seemed to last forever.  Eventually the old lead works appear, right on the edge of the town and this is a barren landscape where very little other than the most tolerant of plants can grow.  From there it was only a short distance onto our stop for the night – the By the Way Hostel – which, strangely enough, is right on the path.

This is a fantastic independent hostel and I can thoroughly recommend anyone walking the way to stay there.  They also have a small campsite and other facilities that may interest the way walker.  More importantly they have a fantastic drying room, although this is a tad bijou when the hostel is full!

Day Rating – 6/10

A low score because of the weather.  It shouldn’t really effect the score but the day became a bit of a trudge with not a great deal to enjoy.  This has the potential in fine weather to be a very pleasant walk – possibly an 8/10, but today it wasn’t to be.  A blessed relief to get to the hostel and get dry!

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Day 3 – Rowardennan to Inverarnan – 14 miles

Today was another early start, easier for some and slightly more difficult for others.  To get back to Rowardennan meant around 15 minutes in the van before we were dropped off at the hotel, our starting point for the day.  We were down one walker, Linda, who had sensibly taken the day off to look after her sore back.  There was to be no way out of the walk today – the halfway point at Inversnaid is around a 70 mile round trip from Rowardennan, impractical to get the van there.

A light drizzle met us when we got out of the van, with most people donning waterproofs straight away.  It wasn’t really enough to cause a problem and most had taken their jackets off within the half hour.  Just outside Rowardennan you can find the SYHA Hostel (advisable to book well in advance) and some ground that has been set aside especially for wild camping.

The first half of the day is easy walking along forest track and well maintained footpath.  Our route avoided the official route for a section and instead took the easier alternative.  It is at this point the official route can be followed down to the loch side where it becomes a difficult and at times torturous route to follow.  Tree roots and minor scrambles are the order of the day but this is a far prettier alternative than the upper route.  The forest route climbs high above the Loch and on a good wide surface and, especially at this time of year, can provide some good views through trees without foliage to block it.

It is worth noting here that the lower path passes by the Rowchoish Bothy.  The accomodation is very simple here, but if you are looking for a night out of the rain it is really worth a visit.  It looks as if the roof has been recently replaced and with some lines for hanging wet gear, a fireplace and some tables it makes for rustic, but comfortable accommodation.

Alan, Steve "Old Man" Potter and Simon "the Friar" overlooking Loch Lomond

Soon after the upper and lower paths rejoin and the forest track runs for a few hundred meters to a turning circle.  Here the forest track ends and turns into a narrow but well maintained path.  I recall walking this section around 20 years ago, and it was nothing more than a glorified mud bath all the way to Inversnaid.  Fortunately there has been a lot of time and effort spent here and the result is a good solid surface that seems to be coping with the rigours of 70,000 pairs of boots a year.

Our group had well and truly split by this point with the walkers at the back really taking their time as the Way started to follow the bank of the Loch more closely.  The last 3km into Inversnaid is good fun and a sneak preview of what awaits further up the trail.  The highlight has to be the narrow ledge of rock that waits precariously over the Loch; interesting to negotiate it with a full backpack on.

Eventually the brave pioneers made it to the Inversnaid Hotel, and after a few snaps set up the cookers to boil up some water for lunch.  The rest of the group was obviously enjoying the walk – they finally appeared about an hour after the first lot looking completely knackered!

The hotel here is quite nice, and there is the opportunity to buy lunch here – they even have a vending machine.  There is also a welcoming bar if the intrepid walker is in vital need of some liquid refreshment.


Tony on the bridge just above the Inversnaid Hotel



After a good long break the slower group set off, suitably refreshed with a few of the stronger walkers opting for slightly longer in the bar. Mac was also trying to recover himself after falling over whilst sword fighting Old Man Potter using walking poles.  You wouldn’t think they had a combined age of nearly 90!

The second half of the day is probably the most spectacular of the walk, and quite possible the best day of the Trail.  Although the route is hard the scrambling and hard work is part of the fun, as well as the views over the Loch continuing to take the breath away.  At one point there is even a ladder to be climbed to take the trail up and over a waterfall.  In the summer this whole are is Midge infested, although because the weather had been quite mild, there were still fairly large swarms of mosquitos hovering around the path.


Tony, Chris, Jon and Mac coming down one of the many steep rocky sections of the day



Eventually the path heads away from the Loch Edge for a while and passes the second Bothy of the day at Doune.  This is perhaps in use more frequently than the other, but still gives a good escape point in bad weather.  Be prepared for it to be busy though.

From this point the going was quite easy, with few trees giving an unrestricted view across the Loch, the Hotel and marina at Ardlui telling us that we were tantalisingly close to the finish.  As well as the Hotel there is a campsite at Ardlui and it is possible to get the ferry across during the summer (although again it is advisable to inform the hotel/campsite first).  There is a jetty just set off the path and the ferryman on the other side can be informed that you are waiting by the raising of a flag on the pole provided. Simple but effective.  There is also a sign here that informs you that there are only two miles to go until the Beinglas campsite, complete with wooden wigwams.

Before you get there though, a final climb which skirts Cnap Mor, has to be negotiated, but this is well worth the effort.  The views back down the Loch give you an idea of just how far you have walked in the day and are nothing short of astounding.  There is also a waymarker here that has been donated as a memorial.  A very nice touch!


The view back down the Loch from Cnap Mor



The final stretch of the day drops down through native woodland to the Beinglas Campsite.  At the time of writing it seemed shut and in the middle of a refit – I’m assuming getting ready for the busy season around Easter.  This is a good place to stop though with a Bar/restaurant, cooking facilities, toilets and showers and of course the heated wigmans.  If you are looking for something slightly more eccentric, the Drovers Inn is just over the bridge next to the A82.  It is an experience!

Day rating 10/10

Debatably the best day on the whole Way.  Spectacular scenery coupled with interesting walking made this a thoroughly enjoyable day.  Still bloody knackered though!

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Day 2 – Drymen to Rowardennan – 16 miles

An early(ish) start was the order of the day giving the group plenty of time to negotiate the route to the Rowardennan Hotel.  It was another calm but cold day, a low haze hanging in the air.  There were a few sore feet around, and already the dreaded blisters had appeared for some walkers.  It was not all doom and gloom.  Armed with compeed and surgical tape the offending feet were well taped before jumping in the van for the short trip back to Drymen.

Saturday night in Drymen looked like it had got a bit wild

A short walk back out to the A811 left us with a steady climb up to the Garabhban Forest, much of which had been felled giving fine views back towards Dumgoyne and a first glimpse of the vast expanse of water that is Loch Lomond.

Here the snow over the winter had seriously delayed forestry operations through part of the forest just as we crossed the minor road that rose straight up the hill out of Drymen (which is also the start of the Rob Roy Way).  A diversion was in place, taking us round the outside of the forest.  There were one or two dog walkers around who quite cheerily said hello, but so far there had been no sign of anyone else doing the West Highland Way.  All the sensible people were obviously waiting until a little later in the year!

There had been a little trepidation from some of the group about the climb up Conic Hill, the first real test of the way.  I have walked over this several times in the past few years and it is always busy up there, no matter the weather.  It is also one of the most eroded sections of the walk and in many places the path has been worn right down to the underlying bedrock.  However, I digress.

The top end of the forest on the lead to up to Conic Hill has been completely felled, and as a result there are quite outstanding views over the Loch and towards the hill.   This did lead to a few cries of “Do we really have to go this way?” from a number of less than enthusiastic victims…I mean walkers.

Loch Lomond, Conic Hill and the Highland Boundary Fault

In the end the climb isn’t too bad, although it is fairly long.  The worst part was the steps that have been provided as the Way climbs out from the river crossing which, fortunately, is over pretty quickly.  The views from the top though make it really worth the effort and there were copious amount of photographs being taken after a short rest.

Also, this was the first time on the walk that we could truly call “The Highlands”, Conic Hill forming part of the Highland Boundary Fault which separates the Central Lowlands from the Highlands.

The big bonus though, was that we were only a short distance away from our Bunkhouse (right on the way) in Balmaha, where we would stop for lunch.  A rather stiff descent stood in our way down off the increasingly busy hillside before crossing the large car park.  There is a large visitor centre here (although it tends to be seasonal opening) which is well worth a visit.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?.......

.....It's the Scarlet Paramo

Conic Hill over it was down to the second half of the day along the Loch Side.  So far the weather had held dry, if a little cold, so it was quite pleasant walking at this stage.

Just outside Balmaha a steep climb takes the path up to a spectacular view-point, although by this time there was a running commentary of insults and threats directed towards the person who had taken the group up the hill.

I’m only following the arrows guys!

Once back down at the Loch side this was a very pleasant section, if a little undulating.  The group had split up into smaller, similar paced groups, and eventually we were quite well spread over the route.  There is a lot of evidence of wild camping along this section, and unfortunately most of it seems to be irresponsible day trippers who set up on the beach and have a huge fire.  This has become such a problem in recent years that a new by-law has been passed (this week it seems) stopping camping anywhere other than a designated campsite during the busy season.  Fortunately it looks as if there are one or two new campsites being provided, so it’s not all bad news!

This is a fine mixture of open shore walking and woodland walks, much of which is through native Oak and Birch Forest.  There are a few steep climbs towards the end of this section which seemed to cause some consternation to a few of our slightly tired companions but everybody made it to the end of the day, nearly in one piece.  There were a few sore feet around, but after a pint in the pub it was back to the Bunkhouse at Balmaha and a rather nice meal in the Oak Tree Inn opposite (slightly expensive but the food is very good here).

Day Rating – 8/10

Lucky with the weather today as it stayed dry and cool, perfect walking weather.  As so often happens, this was a day of contrasts, first the climb over Conic Hill then the walk along Loch Lomond side to Rowardennan.  There was a real feeling that the walk had started properly now, and everybody, moans, groans, aches and pains aside at least looked as if they might have enjoyed it.  It always helps when you finish the day at a pub though…

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