Rowardennan to Inverarnan
I slept as well as ever and as some of the guys in the hostel room were moving about early I got myself up and had breakfast nice and early. I wasn’t in the biggest of rushes but I knew that the section ahead has the reputation for being the hardest part of the West Highland Way so I didn’t want to hang around too long.
After breakfast I got my stuff ready and as I was getting set to leave John came in to the room and we had another little chat – really nice guy and I really do wish him all the best for his walk.
Even though I was up early I left the hostel at 8:40am which wasn’t too much of a problem. Even if the terrain was harder than normal, with just under fourteen miles to go I was confident I’d get there within seven hours plus breaks.
It wasn’t raining when I left the hostel so I had my fingers firmly crossed that it would stay like that for the rest of the day. One can hope can’t one?
The first part of the walk was pretty simple, deciding a long time ago that on this section, where there is a choice of paths to take, I’d take the high road, not the low road. By that I mean I decided not to take the shoreline path of the West Highland Way which split from the main path about a mile from the hostel; this was supposed to be a much tougher walk and to be honest, I wasn’t in the mood for that.
As it happens, I never spotted the intersection where the shoreline path left the main path so I guess it’s a good job I didn’t intend on taking that route as I’d have been disappointed.
It’d started to rain a bit now, only a fine drizzle, so I put my coat and hat on. I didn’t put my waterproof trousers on as it was too humid to be completely cocooned in the full waterproof layer..
One bonus for taking the high road route was the abundance of waterfalls I walked past. Yes, there were a few climbs but coming across one wonderful waterfall after another made for some lovely walking. I counted myself extremely lucky to be walking after all the rain of the previous day and last night as it made the waterfalls absolutely stunning. There was a lot of water coming off the top of the hills down to the loch.
Although stunning, one waterfall I came across needed to be traversed as it ran straight across the path. On a normal day this probably wouldn’t have been much of a problem but due to the rain, things got a little bit more tricky. The water was shooting over the stones and rocks and I was a little concerned about slipping over. Once again my walking poles came to the rescue and, getting pretty wet boots, I made my way across the rushing water.
A little further up the path, while on the phone having a chat, Sven caught up with me. I finished the call and we decided to walk together for a bit.
The path, after missing out the shoreline bit earlier, now headed back to the shore so there was no choice but to walk it. Things started to get a little trickier with lots of roots and rocks across the path. If that wasn’t bad enough there were bits where we had to climb up or down rocks, no path, just rocks and boulders. It was all a bit worrying seeing as everything was soaking wet and the chances of slipping were greatly increased.
We struggled along the path – if that’s what you can call it – at one point almost being blocked by a tree and a very large boulder. The tree had grown leaning over towards the boulder, which wouldn’t have been a problem with a small day pack, but with the gear we were carrying (Sven was carrying 10kg more than I was!) it was a bit of a tight squeeze. I got through without too many problems but it was a good job I was there as Sven needed a hand to get his pack through.
Soaking wet and a little tired from the slog along the shore, we came to the most impressive waterfall by the hotel at Inversnaid. This was a sight to behold but the best way to see it would be from a boat on the loch as you only got a limited view crossing the river on the bridge. It was pretty stunning though, and the power of the water flowing down the falls was something else.
I decided to head in to the hotel for a drink and to get out of the rain for a bit. I thought Sven was going to follow me but after getting a drink and sitting down he was nowhere to be seen.
I had my drink, put my gear back on – wishing I’d not taken my fleece off as I now put on a cold wet fleece which wasn’t nice – and headed back outside, shocked to find that the rain had stopped. I didn’t bother taking my waterproofs off as I knew it’d only start to rain again if I did.
I headed off up the track again, passing by Rob Roy’s cave. I thought about dropping my pack and going to investigate but in the end I just wanted to get the walk over with and adding extra time to look at a cave wasn’t going to help that happen.
A little way up the path I caught up with Sven again. He’d decided not to stop as his knee was beginning to give him some trouble so he decided to continue walking for fear of it seizing up if he stopped at the hotel.
The going didn’t get any easier and Sven was feeling it a bit, as was I if I’m totally honest. Every now and then I’d head away from Sven but as I took a breather he’d catch me up again. I felt bad when it happened but we’d already spoke about walking with other people, naturally hitting different paces, yesterday so I think he was ok with me striding off…I hope so anyway.
With a couple of miles to go it was time to say goodbye to Loch Lomond as the path headed over and around some hills, taking us in to Glen Falloch. It was a sad moment as I’d really been taken with the astounding beauty of Loch Lomond. But, as with all the other nice places I’ve walked through over the last couple of months, they were all only a means to an ends but there was always the possibility of returning another day.
The hills started to take it out of Sven but I was determined not to fall apart today so I changed gear and headed off. The path wasn’t too bad so I managed to get up a good pace for the last section of the day’s walk and after overtaking three other walkings I rolled in to the Beinglass campsite at 3:35pm. This wasn’t where I was staying but after seeing a sign that said “Bar Open” it would have been rude not to have a drink and wait to say goodbye to Sven properly.
To say the pint was nice would be an understatement. I sat outside, trying to ignore the midges, and waited for Sven to arrive. I had a patchy signal on my phone and gave Matt a quick ring to let him know that I’d made it ok to th day’s destination, well, all bar the final few hundred yards to my B & B that is.
It wasn’t long before Sven made it to the campsite and we sat and chatted a little bit more before we shook hands and I headed off to find my bed for the night at the Chlisham Cottage B & B.
I had a lovely shower and headed over the road to the Drovers Inn for dinner, first using their payphone to phone the girls as I had zero signal this side of the river. It’s always special to talk to them but after a hard day it’s even better as it always puts a smile on my face.
When I looked at the dinner menu I couldn’t resist the haggis, neeps and tatties this time which, I’m pleased to say, was really good. I followed that with a slice of Dutch apple crumble and icecream – yummy! They also had Deutchars IPA on too so I treated myself to a couple of pints of that as well after a hard day on the trail.
Fed and watered I headed back to my room to chill out for the rest of the evening, not wanting to stay and drink too much again. Tomorrow’s walk is a shorter one by a couple of miles but having briefly checked it on my GPS it looks as though it might get a little on the hilly side, hopefully with a better path than today though.
This was a demanding day but compared to the rest of the walk it definitely wasn’t the hardest that’s for sure. I had a good day, definitely helped by having some company. If that was the worst the West Highland Way’s got to offer then I think I’ll be ok getting to Fort William over the coming days.
It was sad to leave the Loch, the short lived holiday romance now over, but it is most definitely a place I will be returning to that I can promise you.