May 15, 2012
We could see blue sky and fluffy clouds outside, so we hoped this would last all day. Our breakfast companions were two young men from Germany and a couple from Buenos Aires. After breakfast we headed out the short drive to join the trail, which passed very close to our B&B.
Once again we were crossing a pasture with sheep and cows, but luckily it was quite dry. But before long we were out of the pastures and into the Garadhban Forest. There were several trees which had been recently blown down near the trail, and we thought it would have been dangerous to be walking through here during the storm on Sunday. Later we came to an area which had been clear-cut, and the logs were neatly stacked and ready for pick-up.
Luckily for us the weather was still fine, even though we had had two minor hailstorms consisting of about ten hailstones each. Our route took us once again along minor lanes, through pastures and small woodlots. Each time we went higher the views were better. The main objective this morning was Conic Hill. The route up the hill was quite steep in places, following a path which was very rocky and sometimes muddy. At times it looked like the old pictures of the Chilkoot Trail, with the large number of walkers. There was even a high school group of about thirty students from Bremen, Germany, who weren’t all that prepared for the muddy track.
The West Highland Way passes over the shoulder of Conic Hill, so in order to reach the summit we had to take a steep trail up to the top. It only took about five minutes and the views were fantastic. To the west we could see the chain of islands across Loch Lomond which are on the Highland Fault, and to the south we could barely see the “skyscrapers” of Glasgow.
The trail down from Conic Hill was much steeper than the trail up, so we plunged quickly down to Balmaha, on the shore of Loch Lomond. We had lunch outside the National Park Centre there, and then went across the road to the pub, to get the passport stamp.
From here on our route would be along Loch Lomond. Sometimes it was along the shore, but several times it climbed steeply up over headlands. These were very tiring, coming late in the day. From Balmaha to Rowardennan it was 7 miles, and we finally reached the hostel there by 5 pm. Just as we arrived a rain shower descended upon us, but by then we were in the reception area. It was jammed with people waiting to check in, but we managed to squeeze in and get the door shut.
The hostel was in a beautiful location on the shore of Loch Lomond. It had been a hunting lodge in an earlier life, and it had stairs and corridors all over the place. Rosemary was in the women’s dorms, and her room was quite full so she ended up with an upper bunk. Paul was luckier and his room was not full, so he was able to get a lower bunk. We had showers and then went for dinner, which we had pre-ordered when we checked in. Rosemary had steak and mushroom casserole with mashed potatoes and salad, and Paul had spinach curry with rice. Both of us had tomato soup to start.