The Great British Walk

A personal record of my three month walk of the full length of Great Britain from north to south with written journal and photographs. Tracklogs for GPS units and for use with Google Earth are available for download for each stage.


Stage 24: Inversnaid Hotel to Milton of Buchanan

Statistics and Files
Start: Inversnaid Hotel Finish: Milton of Buchanan Distance: 16.5 miles (26.6 km)
Time: 7-9 hours Climbing: 872 metres Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Inversnaid
Statistics
Start: Inversnaid Hotel Finish: Milton of Buchanan
Distance: 16.5 miles (26.6 km) Time: 7-9 hours
Climbing: 872 metres Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

Summary

A wonderful easy and picturesque stage of the walk. Despite walking over 16 miles and climbing nearly 900 metres I never really felt it as no climb was too long or severe. The walk was undulating all the way along the centre and southern east side of Loch Lomond like a children's roller coaster. The day was spent on woodland tracks apart from a short section of roadside at Milarrochy and another short section of road after Balmaha. All day the weather was good and when the views of Loch Lomond opened out they were just brilliant. A really special day walking in sunny Scotland!

(Note: My walk of the West Highland Way was a part of my Great British Walk from the north coast of Scotland to south coast of England)

Stage Report

Another beautiful morning welcomed me as I opened the curtains in the comfort of my room at the Buchanan Arms Hotel in Drymen and after a quiet night in the hotel with Lil we had breakfast and booked out after our three night stay. In planning the walk I had booked hotels close to where I would be walking during the 10 days while Lil supported me on my journey through central Scotland but the injury in Fort William had scuppered that plan. Lil had been forced to drive miles over what we had expected to. Still, this lovely late Spring morning had me starting from Inversnaid Hotel on the east shore of Loch Lomond so Lil had only a 24 mile drive from Drymen. The really big distances to drive to my starting and finishing points were over.

Craigrostan WoodsCraigrostan Woods
View of Loch Lomond looking southView of Loch Lomond looking south

After we arrived at Inversnaid Hotel I prepared for my walk in which I would head south following close to the east shore of Loch Lomond. I felt good once again, well recovered from the strenuous efforts over difficult terrain on the final four miles from Inverarnan to Inversnaid yesterday. After arranging with Lil on a meeting place further into the day I set off walking and hoped for better paths than those just behind me. The first mile was an interesting walk on undulating paths through Craigrostan Woods, a site of special scientific interest with centuries old ancient Oak woodland preserved within the younger Birch in was walking through. After the interest of Craigrostan Woods I emerged into light at Cailness. Here I was at water level and stood on a small patch of shingle beach while looking over the loch. Pleasure boats were already tramping up and down the loch.

Following the path near Craig RoystonFollowing the path near Craig Royston
A beautiful view of Loch LomondA beautiful view of Loch Lomond

As I carried on walking in utter delight the sun continued to rise into the blue sky and everything warmed. Birds enthusiastically heralded the good weather and possibly my arrival in their vicinity by singing exquisite bird song. I sometimes stopped in my tracks to listen. Without noticing the progress I was making I reached Rowchoish and looked across the loch to Tarbet where Lil and I had stayed for three nights earlier in the week. Looking across to the hotel made me realise "I should have passed this point two days ago" I still had some ground to make up.

Continuing on the lovely woodland pathsContinuing on the lovely woodland paths
Beauty near Allt DoireanBeauty near Allt Doirean

The realisation that I was still some way behind my itinerary did not daunt me. I was now full of walking and the plan for today was fluid, I would keep walking until I felt tired for after Rowardennan I would have the use of Lil to pick me up wherever I felt fit. Although I would not be walking on them, roads were not too far ahead of me. But for now I still had the solitude of quiet tracks beside Loch Lomond and I continued my superlative journey along the eastern edge of the loch. I followed through more superb scenery on good but narrow paths though by now they were markedly beginning to widen; a sign of vehicular access tracks for land management.

Moss covered stumps of felled birch treesMoss covered stumps of felled birch trees
Tom Wheldon's seat of rest at Rubha CurraichdTom Wheldon's seat of rest at Rubha Curraichd

The path continued on a good straight course south along the edge of Loch Lomond. I could not contain my utter delight at being so lucky to be walking in relative solitude along the West Highland Way and after walking from Inversnaid for five miles without a break I saw a seat in a clearing at Rubha Curraich. Realising I had not stopped my progress and on seeing the seat was deserted I headed towards it to take a short break. On the seat was a plaque which read "Tom Wheldon 1944-2000. Someone like you only happens once in a lifetime. Thanks for happening in ours" What a tribute; I was privileged to sit in a seat to his memory.

The view at Rubha CurraichdThe view at Rubha Curraichd
Rhododendron at RowardennanRhododendron at Rowardennan

The view from the seat was superb. I sat for quite a while soaking it in, all in the best of conditions. I was so lucky to be there at such a beautiful and quite moment. In fact I recall having a tinge of reluctance to leave but leave I must, I still had a long way to go. Maybe not so much today but the south coast of England some 800 miles down the way was waiting for me. And so I walked off from Rubha Curraichd and attempted to maintain the spring in my step with which I had arrived. Infuriatingly it was not there. I sensed a bit of lethargy which tightened its grip for the immediate walk to Rowardennan. I could not explain it but before I sat down on the seat I had felt great and full of energy. After I rose from the seat I felt flat and drained. All I had between arriving and leaving was a rest, a Banana and some fluid. It was strange but the lack of energy persisted while I walked for two miles past Ptarmigan Lodge and into Rowardennan where I met up with Lil. Suddenly I needed a prolonged rest.

Looking across Loch Lomond to InverbegLooking across Loch Lomond to Inverbeg
Walking through woodland near CarraigWalking through woodland near Carraig

Rowardennan is a small hamlet on the east shore of Loch Lomond. It is at the northern end of the public road from Drymen and the extreme point for which traffic can access this part of the loch. Luckily for me I could now use Lil as a support for the remaining four days she would be in Scotland and now I needed her, first as a voice of encouragement. I sat with Lil in the car, chatted about the wonderful walk just done while removing my boots to let me feet breath. My body sighed too, I was doing extra miles and longer days to catch up the loss of time in north to mid Scotland and the strain was telling. But counterbalanced that was the urge and determination to prevail. I was going to catch up all lost before and I knew I must do that while I had Lil with me to carry the extra weight as I racked up the miles. So after a decent break, a good drink and the vain attempt to complete a sandwich which was half left I put my boots back on. Then on agreeing to meet by the roadside a few miles on at Sallochy I set off. I walked off tentatively but soon after I regained the spring in my step. It was going to be OK.

The path near Mill of RossThe path near Mill of Ross
Looking across Loch Lomond from Mill of RossLooking across Loch Lomond from Mill of Ross

The three and a half miles from Rowardennan to Sallochy were exceptionally good. First I walked through more lovely avenues of trees in Ross Wood and then on elevated loch side paths on the Mill of Ross. I came across a tower beside the path on the peninsula and soon after a boathouse. From there the path led me to a parking area and picnic area which took me back to the Drymen to Rowardennan Road. I followed the loch side path running parallel to the road in a south east direction for one mile until the gap between road and path narrowed to a point at Sallochy where I reassuringly saw Lil parked up in the car a few yards ahead. I walked up to the car, tapped on the window, smiled and said "Give me a drink please, then I am good to go". All signs of the earlier lethargy had passed and I had my second wind.

Conic HillConic Hill
How are you doing Wee BeastieHow are you doing Wee Beastie

From Sallochy I was obliged to follow the road for almost a mile to Cashell Farm. At the farm the West Highland Way path took me into Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and on a small climb through Lag an Amair Wood to the summit of Cnoc Buidhe at a heady 54 metres. It was a fun climb. Then after a short descent I left the forest park and continued following the road to Millarochy. Looking to my left I saw the distinct profile of Conic Hill which attracted me towards its inviting ridge line. However enticing it was though, I had a plan and Conic Hill would have to accede to it. Reluctantly I decided to bypass Conic Hill and make up a slice of deficit by following the roadside from Balmaha to Drymen. The question was, how much could I do today? From Millarochy I continued by the road for a half mile and then left it to follow the West Highland Way path to a small outlying point on Loch Lomond. I walked to Arrochymore Point and then after looking out over Loch Lomond for the penultimate time I walked back to the road where Lil was waiting once more. Here a remarkable thing happened. As I approached the car I saw a couple talking to Lil. As I approached one of them said "Yes it is, it's him. Hi ya Mike!" I was taken aback for a moment before realising it was Tom and Gail Mills from Dundee who I had met on Victoria Bridge on the edge of Rannoch Moor two days ago. They had spotted me walking off into the forest park and wanting to be sure it was me they asked Lil if indeed it was me. Reassured it was by asking Lil and then on seeing me again we chatted for a good while. I was heartened by the second meeting and the feeling endured as I walked on to Balmaha.

Fallen tree near BalmahaFallen tree near Balmaha
BalmahaBalmaha

The short walk from the road by Arrochymore Point to Balmaha was done at a very sedate pace. I was physically tiring but in good heart mentally. On reaching Balmaha where Lil was parked up she could see that I had visibly slowed and said "Call it a day, you're clearly tired now". I asked her to allow me just a little more time. I agreed to take a short rest in Balmaha and we both stepped away from the car to enjoy the view from Balmaha Jetty where lots of small pleasure boats were moored in the protected waters. After sitting watching the tranquil scene and while the sun started to lower in the sky I asked Lil to drive on for just a mile to where I would call it a day. And so I continued to walk on the path beside the road out of Balmaha and towards the small hamlet of Milton of Buchanan. Having made the decision I walked along the road. A mile and a little more later Lil was parked up in a convenient spot and on reaching it I collapsed into the car. Now to Glasgow and to our hotel which was to be home for the next four nights. According to my original plan I should have walked to Glasgow already. Tomorrow, after a good rest I will try to get there just one day behind plan.


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