The West Highland Waaaay!!

The rain battered off the windscreen, it had been raining all day and didn’t look as if it was going to stop.

11am but it already felt like a long day with the logistics involved.

We’d set off at early–o-clock and driven from Glasgow to The Drovers Inn at Inverarnan, over an hour of a drive and the worst part negotiating the sharp twisty bends around Loch Lomond north of Tarbert where the A road comes to an end and the road winds around the loch.

Usually I love driving on this kind of road, it’s great fun on a summers day with the top down but not on a wet windy February with limited visibility while avoiding the large puddles and the lorries and coaches which greedily hog the middle of the road.

We looked at each and asked the question simultaneously ..

“Are we mad?”

Actually it was Gerry who asked the question, mines was more of a statement ..

“We must be fecking mad!”

Was it madness or gritty determination?

The desire to overcome the elements and walk the land our forefathers had walked or was it just plain stupidity?

Men trying to be men and refusing to back down for a little bit of weather?

Maybe we should have thought about that before we set off at 9am, or before we dropped the other car in Inverarnan before driving back to the far side of the loch at Drymen.

The time to back out had long past and this was happening.

“Lets just get out there, it’ll be great!” he says!

I was already doubting it!

Gerry is a walker, a proper walker, not just a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other occasional walker like me. He’s been trying to get me on the Cairngorms for years, even as recently as 2 weeks ago he wanted us up in the snow, staying for 2 nights in a bothy ..he’d provide the wine and cheese he says … naaah you’re awrite there cuz .. says I.

Last year Gerry was up there with some other friend ( aka unsuspecting victim ) of his Matthew, they were walking through the snow and across a frozen river which cracked and poor Matthew ended up having a sudden chilled bath.

Fortunately they were well prepared and had an unplanned overnight stay in a bothy while Matthew dried out. There was no phone signal but Gerry being a gadget guy sent a message on his satellite phone to let his missus know they were okay.

The police and mountain rescue were called after someone saw the car there overnight.

The rescue team weren’t too bothered as he met them on the way down in the morning and he’d done all the right things, left a note in the log-book at the bothy, contacted his missus and was well prepared for the worst case.

It didn’t stop the police from giving him a rollicking ..but have you ever known a cop to have a different approach? Even although they had called his wife and she’d already told them what had happened and that they were okay.

That’s strictly not my idea of fun. A walk in the rain or snow is fine, I’m up for that .. but if I’m away overnight I want a hot meal, a shower and a cosy bed and preferably a pub with a roaring fire and a band on a Saturday night.

This was Saturday, so the hotel was booked, The Drovers Inn, a right good old fashioned Scottish hostelry, “Pub Of The Year 1705” it claims on the blurb and probably not been done up since then, but it has a fine character.

The walk from Drymen along the West Highland Way to Balmaha takes in one of my favourite parts of the world, Conic Hill, it’s only a climb of 1000 feet and is easily reachable in under an hour from the car-park at Balmaha and can be done after work on a summers night, watching the sunset over Loch Lomond and down to The Oak Tree Inn for dinner and the proverbial roaring fire .. oh yes!

Conic Hill, named because of its conical shapes along its main ridge was formed some 365 million years when the tectonic plates of The Highland Fault Line came together forming the boundary between the central lowlands and the highlands of Scotland.

365 million years ago? Can you imagine!

We walked through the forest from Drymen, over the fields at back of the hill in about 2 hours, the hill is easier to climb from this side although the walk in is further than from the car-park in the link below.

But the sight of the loch once it comes into view is absolutely magnificent, even with the rain pouring it is simply majestic.

Standing at the top of the ridge, you can see the stark differences in the geography of the land to either side. Looking south towards Glasgow and the central lowlands is largely flat, but on your right, to the north, the snow covered mountains of the highlands are now in view, Ben Lomond, Ben Vane and The Arrochar Alps of Ben Ime, Ben Narnian and The Cobbler are visible across the far side of the loch.

This is one of my favourite spots in the world, no doubts, I’ve been many places, Rome, Paris, London, The Maldives but this is the raw beauty of nature at its most powerful and less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow.

Should I share this? But when I ( eventually) kick the bucket, I’d like to be buried there.

Not sure how that would work but that’s where I want to be.

The walk along the side of the Loch from Balmaha to Inverarnan was long and enjoyable, it’s mainly pathed and is not difficult underfoot.

The official route gives this section as 21 miles and 10 hours duration, but I think its slightly less than that as it only took us 2 hours to walk from Drymen where the guide says 4.

We arrived at The Drovers at 8pm, tired legs and looking forward to our food and beer. The Drovers didn’t disappoint.

2 hours later at 10pm we were showered, fed, changed and ready for the band to come on.

The Minogue Brothers, no relation to Kylie or Danni they assured us, 2 guys, one singing and one on guitar but the backing tracks were good and the place was jumping as the boys belted out hits from the past few decades.

Drinking and dancing with the girls of some hen night, good fun had by all .. ye canny beat it!! J

I can’t recommend The Drovers enough, okay sure, so it’s not 5 star, its probably not even 3 stars, but its clean, the food’s great and the atmosphere is fantastic.

Sunday, Gerry got me up at 9 for breakfast, my head was fuzzy and my legs were screaming NO!!!!!

Bur breakfast it was and the 11:23 bus to Tyndrum .. not to be missed because there isn’t another one!!

But why the bus I hear you ask?

Because we got the bus up the next 14 miles and walked back. We didn’t want to walk up and wait on a bus back as there’s a very scant service on a Sunday if at all.

Sunday, it rained all day .. even heavier than Saturday and walking along the old military road was treacherous, full of mud and cattle-shit.

I lost my boot at some point stepping into something that looked an inch deep but was more like 10.

The joys!!

Had to step back into the boot and lean against a fence to pull it out, fecked if I was putting my hands in that!

By the last mile, the legs were getting tired, although that dancing the night before was obviously taking effect.

Would you like to know the not-so-strangest –thing?

How many people did we see on this “popular” route bearing in mind we were going the opposite direction and likely to walk into any fellow traveller heading in the official direction.

Not another soul .. I knew we were mental.

But I’d do it again … Next year!!



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