Day 52

Drymen to Inversnaid – 19.6 miles (803 total)

Having done this walk twice before, we knew that today would require a lot of stamina. The walk up Loch Lomond, on the West Highland Way, is accepted as being one of the hardest sections of the whole walk. The route runs along the whole length of the loch following the more remote eastern side. At times the path is narrow, rocky and uneven. Conscious of how arduous the day was going to be I decided to start by taking the easier – and shorter – road route to Balmaha rather than scaling Conic Hill.

Conic Hill

We set out just after 9am for the 4 mile walk along the B837, through Buchanan Smithy and Milton of Buchanan, to Balmaha. The road had a pavement all the way so it was a good, fast start to the walk. When we first tackled this walk 30 years ago I remember Balmaha having a cafeteria which was being extended to offer more facilities. Now the village has been tastefully developed and looks quite charming. A small park with a statue commemorating the Scottish TV outdoors enthusiast, Tom Weir, offered us an opportunity for a short break.

Tom Weir

Joining Loch Lomond here we now headed north, following the shoreline at first then walking through Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. We had a pleasant chat with two wardens picking up litter from the shingle, all of us agreeing that if people were more considerate that job wouldn’t be necessary.

Our path

Although the day was warm the sun hadn’t yet burned through the cloud so we were unable to see the summit of Ben Lomond. After 11 miles the Rowardennan Hotel was our target for a lunchtime stop. This is a popular watering hole because, not only does the road end here, but it is the car park for those attempting the very popular ascent of Ben Lomond – the most southerly Munro. After Rowardennan our views were somewhat restricted by the forest, both above and below. Occasional tantalising glimpses of the loch would appear through the trees. The constant sound of traffic using the main road on the far side of the loch became louder as our track climbed to over 400 feet in places. By now we were well inside Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The summit of Ptarmigan was above us but not visible because of the trees.
As we approached our destination, Inversnaid, the path became much more difficult to traverse. You had to pick your way slowly up, down and sideways. I haven’t come this far to end up with a twisted ankle because I wasn’t paying attention to where I was placing my feet.

Loch Lomond

The sun had broken through by this point and the temperature was rising fast. As I approached the waterfall at the Inversnaid Hotel my eyes started to sting with sweat – something I don’t recall happening since Devon.

Waterfall at Inversnaid
Inversnaid Hotel

I had another Kerching, No.14, at Drymen, the Rob Roy Way. Today’s walk also eased me past 800 miles since I started. My guess is that there can only be around 300 miles left to do. Pete did the whole 19 miles today and is optimistic about repeating that distance tomorrow when we walk to Tyndrum.