The West Highland Way is hard!
I woke up bright and early on my third day on the West Highland Way. After eating breakfast by the water and saying goodbye to my new robin friend, I left Sallochy at 7.30AM. From Sallochy the Way takes you uphill and away from Loch Lomond by way of a sharp, steep staircase before dropping back down to the lochside at the village of Rowardennan. Here I was hoping to stop at the Rowardennan Hotel for a second breakfast. I was in good spirits, the views completely blew my mind and again I struggled to find a word to describe it. Of course, there wasn’t one. 1 hour later I found myself severely disappointed by Rowardennan, the hotel was not open for breakfast and the youth hostel was deadly quiet. I filled my water bottle in the public bathrooms and kept walking.
Beyond Rowardennan the Way became a wide path through the middle of a thick forest. The trail was mostly uphill from here but the path was even. The views disappeared for a while, nothing to see but miles of thick pine forest. Not far from Rowardennan the Way gives an option; high route or low route. This isn’t well marked and you could easily find yourself on the low route without intending to. I opted for the high route having read that the lower often gets washed away by heavy rain. While the weather was now glorious, Scotland had had heavy rain the week before. The two trails eventually meet up again a few miles before Inversnaid.
Excuse me Mr. Guidebook, but you are wrong!
Now, my guidebook says, ‘The Way continues on a well-made path along the shore through further stretches of old oak woodland.’ What it should actually say is, ‘The Way continues on a rough, rocky, boulder-strewn path along the shore…’ Waterfalls and bridges are plentiful, be ready to climb and scramble through all kinds of terrain in the hike up to Inversnaid. This section was hard but so, so beautiful! I pushed on hard through this section, enjoying the challenge and keen to get the Invernaid for lunch.
Reaching Inversnaid just before the lunchtime rush, I grabbed a table outside the Inversnaid Hotel. I devoured a sandwich and chips along with a pint of Guinness- a treat well earned! A guy from London gave me advice on how to get a ‘young person’s railcard’, (I’m 32😂) and then a retired Canadian couple spent a good 15 minutes telling me all the reasons that I wouldn’t make my goal of hiking the West Highland Way in 5 days. Why do people love to shit on other people ambitions?
After lunch, I hiked the next 6 miles to Beinglas Farm Campsite in Inverarnan. This section was harder than the morning’s hike and the conversation I’d had with the Canadian couple played on my mind. I started to doubt myself and then got annoyed with myself for letting them get in my head.
The Way runs right along the edge of the loch with huge boulders covering the path. I passed a lot of people on this section and certainly didn’t envy those with big backpacks. I was thankful for my light pack, and once again, my walking poles. The last 2 miles left Loch Lomond behind and continue though heather covered moorland. It was beautiful but I was sore and tired, I longed to see signs for the campsite and toyed with the idea of wild camping. The only thing keeping me going was knowing that tonight’s campsite had a pub and there was, at least, 1 pint of Guinness waiting with my name on it!
Campsite, company and 3 pints of the black stuff!
I finally made it to Beinglas Farm, pitched my tent and found a seat at the bar. Too tired to cook for myself, I was unable to resist to smell of a hot pub dinner. I was exhausted but happy with my progress. A meal and a pint, and life was good again! I treated myself to a shower and hair wash- my first since leaving home. I splashed out on some cereal for breakfast and managed to blag a couple of free tea bags from the nice man at the campsite shop. The evening was spent in the pub chatting with locals, who all seemed impressed that I was hiking the West Highland Way alone. I played it down but was secretly really quite smug!
Oh, the blisters!
The hard going today definitely took its toll on my body; several new blisters, a pain in my knee and aching shoulders. The lunchtime chatter also took its toll on my mind. All in all day 3 was a day of ups and downs, hard and rewarding. I rolled into my tent around 10 pm, slightly drunk and ready for a well-earned sleep.
Day 4 coming soon!