West Highland Way

Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm - 19th April 2014

We awoke to another glorious day and sunshine and clear skies were forecast. But before we could get going we needed to fuel up and so headed for the kitchen and breakfast.

All the guests appeared to be having breakfast at the same time so it gave us a chance to compare notes. There were 4 other guests all German. A couple of guys that we hadn't seen before and the older German couple we had seen in the Clachan and on top of Conic Hill. Their English was very good so I didn't have to resort to my schoolboy German, which is rusty to say the least. After a while the Germans started talking amongst themselves and we spoke at length to Neil about various things, culminating with him offering us a malt from his extensive collection. We reluctantly declined although I still wished we had. It would have been interesting to see the effect of drinking scotch at 8.30 in the morning and then walking 14 miles! Alternatively, we could have just stayed there all day sampling his whole collection, and that (I must confess) had its attractions too!

We were the only ones getting a lift back to the hotel as the 4 Germans hadn't done the leg from the B&B to the hotel the day before. Fiona was adamant that they would have to walk it, or it was cheating. Mind you, the younger Germans had only started at Drymen, believing that the first stage from Milngavie was likely to be too boring, and so they had bypassed it altogether. The older Germans had already said that they were staying at Beinglas Farm and staying in similar accommodation to us, so we fully expected to see them later on in the day. But for now we parted company.

Loch Lomond near Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel

Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel

The water in the Loch was as still as a mill pond. The sun was out and it promised to be a wonderful day again. I had started out in a T shirt but as the sun was struggling to get above the mountains, on the east shore, it was quite chilly in the shadows and so I stopped to pop on a fleece. My toe was very painful to walk on but I had taken some painkillers and after a while the pain was tolerable. We met up with a single man who was camping who we christened Ben the Camper, at that point we didn't know his real name. Rachel just thought he looked like a Ben - nothing to do with all the mountains being called Ben then! We walked with him for a while before we slowly separated and walked at our own pace. His pack weighed 45 pounds when he started off so ours were tiddlers by comparison. He also was heading to Beinglas, so again we thought we might have some company later in the day.

We had decided to take the higher path when planning the walk as the lower path just seemed pointless. In fact it is now closed and incredibly difficult to find anyway. The authorities don't want people to use it and that speaks volumes to me.

The wide track was easy walking and undulated giving a range of views and photo opportunities around every corner. We caught up with the Belgians who had stayed at the Rowardennan Youth Hostel but they had stopped at a good viewpoint so we did the same and they set off once more.

The path high above the loch

Looking down to the loch

We arrived at Cailness and stopped for our own break. Being out of the trees it was very pleasant and warm. It seemed incredible that we had had to put fleeces on only such a short while previously. Starting off again brought more pain to my toe but once into my rhythm it wasn't too bad.

Cailness Bridge

Cottage at Cailness

Path through the woods

After more ups and downs we arrived at Inversnaid. It was quite busy with trippers looking at the falls but we managed to bag ourselves an outside table. The Belgians were already there at another seat and were taking the opportunity to have a rest stop. Shortly afterwards the 2 younger Germans arrived and Rachel had a chat with them. We felt duty bound to buy a couple of pints and proceeded to eat some of our supplies while soaking up the warm sunshine. Boots and socks were discarded and it was just great to sit and relax. We felt that the first half of the day had been quite easy, with the much spoken about undulations, not being too bad. We did feel that all the hype about it being the hardest day was a bit over the top, but, we did still have the second half to contend with.


We shouldered our packs and left the little haven of restfulness and re-joined the path, the other side of the car park. The path started off in much the same vein as it had all day, twisting and turning, up and down. But, we detected that there was a subtle change, and it wasn't long before the path was much steeper and cut out of the rock face in places.

The rocky path

The rocky path

Loch Lomond

On occasions it required a more hands on approach to steady ourselves but it was nice to have the change. We could see Island I Vow in the distance but the tortuous route meant that it didn't seem to get much nearer. It was very hot again and we stopped just briefly to cool down and have a biscuit. The feral goats were nowhere to be seen and the oft remarked smell was missing on our day. The path continued in the same way until we arrived at a steep section with a near vertical set of ladder steps up a rock face which led to a bridge high above the water. A tumble here would have been rather interesting. We eventually passed the island and felt that we were almost at the end of the loch. But as always, things were deceptive and there was still quite a lot of loch to go.

Don't look down!

We arrived at Doune Bothy and took the opportunity to have a look inside. It was all very neat and tidy along with some enterprising alterations to the few pieces of furniture. We continued down to where a convenient grass area was calling for us to sit on it. We sat in the sun and ate some more supplies, at the same time as giving our feet an airing. As we sat looking at the view, a group of about half a dozen men passed by at about 100mph, head down sweating buckets, each with tiny day packs. Before we could say anything to each other, two hippyish couples walked by, going the other way, to the bothy we assumed. They had quite a few supplies with them, along with a guitar, so it seemed they were banking on having a good time.

Doune Bothy

Inside the bothy

We still had some loch to tick off and so we pressed on and then there it finally was, the path that would lead us uphill to the last vantage point of the loch. Having reached the top of this short but steepish pull, we looked down on what would be our parting view of Loch Lomond. We were sweating and trying to catch our breath. We didn't say much, the view said it all. The steepness of the hillside running down directly into the loch made us realise just how and why it was such a tiring experience. We could also appreciate just how far we had come that day, picking out the odd area we had passed through earlier. The young Germans had just made it to the bottom of the hillock and so we decided to keep ahead of them and started off once more. As we went over the rise, we were greeted with a view of mountains; the Highlands proper were to be our playmates from now on until we reached Fort William.

Final view of Loch Lomond

The mountains beckon

We rounded a corner and just near Dubh Lachan we were met with the biggest, hairiest but loveliest bunch of goats we had ever seen. On closer inspection they were nearly all billys but as we approached they slowly moved out of the way and they weren't threatening in any way.

Feral goat

The final couple of miles into Beinglas seemed to take longer than we expected, probably due to being quite tired and just wanting to get there. As it was Easter weekend we assumed the campsite would be packed but it wasn't too bad. We had a look in the shop and bought a couple of things for the following morning and then went into the pub to get booked in.

Beinglas pub

Everything was well organised and they were expecting us, which is always a bonus. After paying our key deposit we headed out to find our chalet which was just opposite the pub. The chalet was very good indeed and spotlessly clean, certainly worth upgrading from a wigwam! We sorted ourselves out and rinsed through a couple of items before heading back to the pub for our evening meal. We could have gone to The Drovers, but we were within 30 yards of a pub and the long walk to the Drovers and back didn't appeal. The negative reputation of The Drovers clinched it for us; however we understand that there have been improvements.

There were still quite a lot of people about but we managed to get a table. It certainly was lively but there was no trouble and everyone just seemed intent on having a good time. Our meals arrived and were large, which was just what we needed and although very hungry it was a little bit of a struggle to finish all of my steak pie - it was big!

The older Germans arrived and sat at a table just across from us, so we had a chat and compared notes. Their names were Sigi and Ulle and they were farmers from Bavaria. He didn't speak any English really, whereas Sigi had an admin job dealing with overseas clients and so had to use it both orally and written, and she was almost fluent. There were a few other familiar faces lurking about but no one that we had really spoken to. We hadn't seen Ben since parting company in the morning but we knew he was headed our way. We returned to the chalet and made a brew before retiring to the verandah to drink it. The temperature dropped and the odd midge was floating about so we retreated to the warmth and safety of the room. Soon after we looked out of the window and saw Ben walk into town. He was walking very slowly and gingerly and looked a little lost. It was also getting near dusk and the thought of putting a tent up at that hour wouldn't have appealed to us. We also remembered a few of the places we had passed through during the day and how it would have been quite interesting carrying a pack the size of Ben's. So we closed the curtains, turned the heating up and snuggled down into our very comfortable beds and promptly forgot all about Ben in his tent, in the dark, cold and knackered. How fickle are we!

Our chalet

The day had been good but it had also been tiring. It was the most tiring day of the walk but not drastically so. Although scenically very beautiful, the constant companion of the loch for most of the day made us feel that that we weren't really getting anywhere, particularly fast. In many ways it was the best day for my blister as the different terrain meant different foot movements, so in a strange way it had some respite. We didn't pack anything that evening as we were aiming to leave late in the morning, as we were only going to Crianlarich

Accommodation: Beinglas Farm - Score 10/10

We had decided to have a chalet on a B&B basis. The chalet itself was extremely good and comfortable. Everything was clean and a good selection of refreshments in the welcome tray. Although our chalet was directly opposite the pub, and there was a little noise to be heard, even with the door closed, it didn't bother us. The table and chairs on the verandah was a nice touch. The bathroom had a shower rather than a bath and there were plenty of towels. The breakfast was served in the pub and was fine with all the normal choices on offer.

Evening meal: Beinglas Farm - Score 10/10

The pub was smaller than I thought it would be, and was very busy. However, the staff were very good and attentive and the place obviously have systems that work. Our order was taken quickly at the bar and the food arrived in good time. The quality of the food and drink was excellent and the food portion sizes were very good, for a reasonable price, just what walkers and campers need. There was a great atmosphere which was quite often lacking at most of the pubs we visited.

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