West Highland Way

Drymen to Rowardennan - 18th April 2014

We had a good night's sleep and awoke re-charged ready for the next stage northwards. The weather forecast was for wall to wall sunshine and being Good Friday we expected the path to be busy with day trippers. We both felt fit, the previous day's exertions in the wind and rain forgotten. My little toe was still a bit sore but I thought nothing of it and put it down to a bit of wear and tear. I did put a plaster on as a precaution just in case.

Having purchased all our supplies the previous day, there was no need to go to the Spar, so we headed straight back along the same lane we had walked along the day before. Finding the bend in the road at the stone bridge we joined the path across quite a boggy field and met up with the Drymen main road. Just beyond Glenalva we turned off the road and headed for the forest. We stopped to dispense with fleeces as the sun and our endeavours were making us quite warm. As we gently climbed, into the felled Garadhban Forest, we had our first glimpse of Loch Lomond. With clear blue skies and the shimmering deep blue Loch it was a lovely sight. We arrived at the lane that we could have used as a shortcut from Drymen but from what we could see the proper route is preferable.

First view of Loch Lomond

Conic Hill

As we passed through the graveyard of trees, we had great views of Conic Hill in front of us, the first proper climb of the walk. As we walked through this open area it was quite marked as to how still it was. This was a complete contrast to the previous day, where on occasions, we nearly got blown over. We spied a couple further on and realised that they were The Belgians. We soon caught up and had a chat before leaving them in our wake as we got nearer the foot of the climb. There were quite a lot of people coming down the path, mostly in shorts and T shirts so we assumed they had come from Balmaha.

Conic Hill

View of Loch Lomond on the climb

The climb to the top only took about 20 minutes and in mountain terms it is just a baby. For those used to hill walking it holds no fears whatsoever. We had decided to have a rest stop on the top, but as the WHW path passes by over the shoulder, we took the detour and climbed a bit higher and reached the summit after a bit of a scramble. We took our boots off and sat on the turf before eating a fair amount of our lunch. What a fantastic spot. Not a cloud in the sky and looking down onto the blue waters of the Loch with the mountains as a snowy backdrop, it was magical.

View from the summit of Conic Hill

Happy walkers!

Loch Lomond

We realised that The Germans who had been in the Clachan Inn were also on the summit, we would bump into them quite a lot on our journey from now on. The southern false summit gets in the way a little so we walked over to it so as to get uninterrupted views of the Loch. We could have stayed for much longer, but the path was calling, and we set off to re-join it. The descent is not bad or difficult but it is certainly different to the ascent. It is much steeper and in places was quite narrow making it difficult to pass, as the hordes from Balmaha came sweating up towards us.

Looking back up to the summit

Path to Balmaha

Path to Balmaha

We were soon at the car park at Balmaha and deciding we needed the loo it was unanimously decided that we should use the toilets in the Oak Tree. It was a hot day, there was a free table, and well, before we knew it we had somehow managed to order a couple of beers. We were soon joined by The Germans and we also caught sight of The Campers, sitting at another table, as we left.

Enjoying a beer

We had only done half of the day's mileage and time was ticking by and so we pressed on. After passing the little marina and then taking a short sharp climb up and over Craigie Fort we reached the shoreline of the Loch. There were people picnicking on the little beaches and for a moment I envied them, just chilling.

Balmaha marina

View from near Craigie Fort

Loch Lomond picnickers

We got as far as the Tourist Information Centre before we stopped again for a snack stop. We didn't stay long and were soon off hugging the shoreline on a mixture of paths. Soon we were at Anchorage Cottage and stopped for a moment to check my toe that was throbbing a bit. My feet were really hot, the downside of Goretex boots I suppose, but we continued on and were soon climbing some quite steep outcrops. We stopped for a top up of food from our supplies at the Sallochy campsite and took the opportunity to take our boots and socks off and have a paddle. I could have sworn I saw steam coming off the water as I dipped my feet. The water was freezing but once the feet went numb it was fine!

Loch Lomond

After our rest stop, we set off with feet feeling much better. We were then faced with a very steep climb up and over an outcrop of rock near the university field station. The Belgians were in front but we decided not to try and catch them as a 'comfort' break was on the cards. It was here that the path was having some rather major repairs and resurfacing done to it. The work carried on all the way to Rowardennan. We caught up with The Belgians at Mill of Ross where they had decided to have a rest. The path seemed to go on forever. Perhaps it was the undulations or my feet, but it just seemed to go on and on. We saw a sign nailed to a bridge giving directions to Coille Mhor, our bed for the night, but we decided to carry on to the Rowardennan Hotel, eat first and then go to the B&B. It was still very hot, even at 5.20pm, which was when we finally arrived at the Hotel.

Rowardennan Hotel - Clansman bar garden

We sat outside in the glorious sunshine in the garden of the Clansman Bar. At last we were able to relax and unwind. It had been a good but tiring day, with many highlights but we were ready to take the packs off and have a proper break. We struck up a conversation with a couple at an adjoining table who had just spent the day climbing Ben Lomond and they were shattered. They lived in Woking where I used to work and they knew our area as well, so we had plenty to talk about which was nice.

Rowardennan Hotel - Clansman bar and patio

We had already phoned Fiona at Coille Mhor and arranged a pick up at 7pm. All too soon it was time to leave our spot and we waited in the lane for the taxi. Fiona was dropping off some other guests who had had gone straight to the B&B and so it worked very well.

We have never had a problem with the principle of accepting lifts to B&B or pubs, if a significant way from the path, and it does have to be significant, or, we will walk it. Others do, citing doing the walk unsupported, but, then allow a baggage company to carry everything for them from A to B. They might perhaps have a different view if they carried all their own kit! There is no right or wrong way, it's just whatever is best for you.

We arrived at Coille Mhor and settled into our new surroundings. After showering I checked over my feet and sure enough my toe had a blister on the top and bottom of it. The toe itself was quite red and swollen. I took some Ibuprofen and then decided to attack the problem. To burst or not to burst, that is the question. It didn't feel too bad as it was, but as the toe was swollen I was concerned that any more fluid would make it difficult to get a boot on. So I burst it, dressed it and went to bed after some hot chocolate.

Accommodation: Coille Mhor - Score 9/10

We had heard good reports of Coille Mhor and we weren't disappointed. The pick-ups to and from the hotel are free of charge and work really well, others don't provide this service. The room itself was tastefully furnished and very clean and tidy. The room we were allocated was quite large and had a good toilet/ shower room. The wash basin was in the room and inset into a built in unit which was nice. There was a welcome tray. The breakfast was very good indeed with a good selection of hot and cold. It was taken in the very large kitchen where Neil was put to work in helping out. Everyone sits around a large table which gave us the opportunity to talk to the other guests. Fiona is a little more reserved than Neil but they were good hosts and they have got the balance right. They do not open every day so best to check if thinking of going there.

Evening meal: Rowardennan Hotel - Score 8/10

The Clansman Bar doesn't look that great from the outside but once inside it is set out and decorated very nicely. We sat outside as it was such a good day and the garden and terrace was large and well kept. The food was very good and came in a reasonable time and was hot. The menu catered for most tastes and prices were reasonable.

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