Day Two- Drymen to Rowardennan – 12 Miles
After a noisy night in Drymen, I woke up and ate my first delicious Scottish breakfast. It was quite tasty but boy did I feel like shit afterwords. Way too much food and there weren’t nearly enough carbs in it for my taste. I felt sluggish for the first hour or so from it on the walk until all the grease settled. On later days, I would add a bowl of Scottish porridge to the mix and that was a nice carb heavy dish that gave me way more energy for the day. On this second day, I was just getting in the groove and I didn’t know any better
I hit the road and made my way out of Drymen and got back on the trail where I left off the day before. The first stretch was really quiet and I ran into a few locals on the trail who I stopped and chatted with for a few moments. The people were super friendly and it made for a pleasurable way to start the day.
The early miles of this section takes one through some lumber forests which are still in use. Parts are still growing and other areas are totally barren where a harvest was taken. All the while you start to climb a bit higher and soon you get to some nice views of Loch Lomond and what lies ahead on the adventure.
I kept pressing forward and off in the distance I got my first views of Conic Hill. This is the first real climb of the trail and it isn’t nearly as bad as it may look. Up until then I had been spoiled by pretty easy walking. Now it was time to just suck it up and drive up this bad boy. It was a nice change and I welcomed the ability to get my blood flowing and work off all the food I ate at breakfast.
When you climb Conic Hill, be sure that when you get to the top reaches of the trail that you climb up to the actual summit. It will only take another 2 minutes and it is totally worth it. It’s an awesome view and you can tell all your facebook friends that you summited a mountain. Congratulations! I ate my lunch up on the top too and soaked in the views.
The walk down Conic Hill was great. As I got lower down the slopes, I entered into an old forest. It has some really awesome tall pines with their canopy well above your head and ferns covering the ground below. It is really charming and it is like nothing else on the trail. Enjoy it while you are there because you won’t get to see anything else like it.
After the forest, you will arrive in the small town of Balmaha which sits right on Loch Lomond. This is a big launching off point for boats and many are docked there. There were some cafes in town but I didn’t linger there to check them out. It would be a great place to stop for lunch if you didn’t pack anything along with you. Its also the first time you are really close to the water and it seemed pretty charming.
The next stretch of the trail, all the way to Rowardennan, will take you along the banks of Loch Lomond and up and down the work of ancient glaciers that deposited their harvest. It was very pleasurable once you get off the roads, but again, just like day 1, there is more walking on the road than I would have liked. Once again, I am removed from quiet trails and I am thrust back into civilization. My ears didn’t like it and my feet were never happy on the asphalt.
Speaking of civilization, this was by far the most crowded day of the hike. There are a lot of visitors to Loch Lomond and they hike the same trails as the West Highland Way. I’m not a big fan of walking with a bunch of people so this day was a bit disappointing from that perspective. It wasn’t unmanageable but it definitely would have been a lot more enjoyable if people weren’t talking loudly and they were a bit more considerate of faster walkers behind them.
After several miles through the forest, I easily reached the Rowardennan Youth Hostel where I was staying for the night. I could have kept going and I wish that I would have as day three was a bit on the long side. Regardless, the hostel was nice and I would recommend it to others. I had a private room and unlike hostels in Germany, the beds were made and I didn’t have to bother with anything.
After a shower, I made my way back to the Rowardennan Hotel for dinner and a few pints. The food was OK, nothing special, and a bit pricy since they had the only food for sale other than the hostel in the area. There is a great patio out back where you can get some nice views of the Loch while you eat and enjoy your pints.
After dinner I ventured back in the dark with my head lamp, or torch if you are from Scotland. Midway back I shut it off and was greeted with a clear, star soaked sky which was breathtaking. Being an urban dweller in the US all my life, you don’t get to see a clear night sky like this as because of all the light pollution. I was super lucky to have gotten such a clear night and it is a moment I won’t forget.
After enjoying the universe, I made my way to my room and got ready for my longest day of hiking that laid before me. I would be up early to get breakfast as soon as it was offered and get out on the trail as quick as I could.
– A wide variety of scenery.
– The slightly more challenging walk provided a greater sense of accomplishment than the previous day.
– The top of Conic Hill is a great place to eat lunch and enjoy the scenery.
– The geology along Loch Lomond is fascinating.
– The most crowded day of the hike.
– A bit too much walking on concrete.
– A lot of road noise the last half of the hike.
West Highland Way – Photo Guide and Review by Day
Milngavie – Drymen – 12 miles
Drymen – Rowardennan – 15 miles
Rowardennan – Crainlarich – 20 miles
Crainlarich – Inveroran – 15 miles
Inveroran – Kinlochleven – 19 miles
Kinlochleven – Fort William – 16 miles