Exciting day on the trail: I get to change my socks for the first time. I mean, obviously, I am still wearing the same pants and T-shirt, but if I packed too many of those, I wouldn’t be able to bring my solar panel. Having said that, and this isn’t a criticism because, if you want good weather on your holiday don’t go to Scotland in April, but I do think the sun has completely forgotten the country exists!
It is essential in that when you have a tough walk, scramble and slip and slide along the banks of Loch Lomond ahead, you fuel up on a full Scottish Breakfast (this is the same as a Full English, but with haggis and a potato cake). Unfortunately, as I managed to find yet another dorm in a youth hostel full of men who all sound like they are dying in their sleep, I gave up at 6 am so had to wait an hour and a half in the lounge before before I could partake of such delights.
This wasn’t without its simple pleasures: I had found a stash of Earl Grey tea last night so, having made another raid on those, I sat staring out the huge picture windows overlooking the Loch, and even though the tops of the mountains were shrouded in clouds and the sky was grey and wet looking, I could help but being a tad impressed.
A retired Canadian lady, who could clearly tell I was in desperate need of my promised breakfast, gave me me a pumpkin seed Rivita to tide me over and we shared stories, anecdotes and plans for walking the West Highland Way (her’s is much more civilised: shorter hikes, baggage transfers and intact personal hygiene routines).
And then 7.30 came and breakfast which seems a fitting point to introduce Ash. Ash and I, apart from being roomies the previous night, go way back, well, at least to yesterday morning when he held a gate open for me, ahh great times. But we spent breakfast swapping blister stories, having well and truly broken the subject’s ice whilst in the food queue, by informing him that my largest one, with seemingly as much water in it as Loch Lomond itself, had just, at that, moment burst its banks.
Breakfast finished, I headed up to the room, in my icky flip flop to get ready for the day’s hike and through some witchcraft, even though I checked out before him, I overtook Ash after five minutes on the trail. And that’s how it was for the first half of the day: I would speed ahead, take my 10 minutes off with Gigantor taking time to enjoy the scenery by itself without me berating it for its weight (just ‘holiday weight’ apparently), only for Ash to stroll by once more.
This morning’s section varied from wide paths cutting through ancient moss covered woodland, hiding fallen trees and decaying buildings left abandoned since the West Highland Clearances, to slippery, narrow, granite ‘walkways’ with the three exits of forward, backward and lochward (which if Gigantor had decided that was preferable, we’d still be there). It finished with Ash and I taking a sneaky peak at the super hiker friendly, drying room providing, beer and cheesy chip selling Inversnaid Hotel who would have made it to the status of legendary if I didn’t have to wait ten minutes until 12pm before they’d serve me a pint!
After feeding time was over, around an hour later, we reverted to our leapfrogging, questioning each time we passed whether we were on the right path considering the almost impossible geological features we were having to scramble over (I appreciate the features weren’t impossible in themselves, but it did make difficult trekking). I did miss Rob Roy’s cave on account of concentrating too much on my footing and not falling into the Loch, but apparently, I didn’t miss much, with subsequent reviews coming back as underwhelming. Considering, though, it had his name painted on it, I am not quite sure how I missed it.
We waved goodbye to Loch Lomond for good around two miles from Beinglas Farm Camping at Inverarnan, walking the remaining section together. Granite precipises had given way to open meadows and hilly things which, under normal circumstances would have been less demanding, but with drained batteries, only a pub and a pint would be suitable terrain for our legs. With only a few hundred metres to go we happened to stumble on Rich the Marine who was taking a pack break from Godzilla (Gigantor was no longer the alpha of the pack world). When we told Rich the Marine our plans with the pub, he took all of five minutes to be persuaded to stop off for a pint or two, and while we enjoyed conversation ranging from the Northern Lights to why everything in honesty boxes, from cookies to Scottish Tablets (a hard fudge like thing) to single bananas, are always a pound, Gigantor and Godzilla had their backs to each other on the bench outside.
With Rich the Marine off to find a wild camping spot, my tent pitched and dried out using the Jetboil (stupid, but Really effective), it was time to turn in, unfortunately over the racket of the all night party people!
Rowardennan Youth Hostel to Inverarnan
13.4 miles / 41.6 miles