Day Three – Rowardennan to Crainlarich- 20 Miles
Day three was going to be my longest day, that much I knew, clocking in at 20 miles. What I didn’t know, was that the trail along Loch Lomond was going to be the slowest hiking of the whole trail.
(NOTE: Please excuse the blurry photos on this page. The lighting was bad and I didn’t use my flash. Sorry!)
I left as soon as I was done with my breakfast and got on the trail. The first part is on easy, but on a very hard packed service road that wanders higher and higher up from Rowardennan. You get some nice views over the Loch now and again, but for the most part, this was pretty boring section of trail. Check out the pictures below for some examples.
There is a “low” path I had wanted to take instead of this easier road but it was closed off for construction. Instead, I was forced to keep pressing on down this boring stretch until the low ground was finally accessible. I was glad that I made it down to the lower trail when I could because it was much more scenic and there were even some old ruins along the way which were pretty cool.
As the trail continued, I started to get into some of the sections where the trail starts to get more demanding. These parts aren’t hard, but you really have to watch where you are stepping. It is up and down large rock steps and there are tree roots that can get in the way. If the roots are wet, which they probably will be, this gets really slippery. This was the section that I was really happy to have brought along a pair of treking poles for. They gave me the balance I needed in several spots to get down comfortably.
If you get adventurous and want to do some scrambling, you can go see Rob Roy’s supposed cave. I walked back far enough to see the large “CAVE” painted on the side, but I didn’t want to have to drop my gear to scramble over rocks to get inside. I doubt this was really his cave anyway. There are all kinds of rock shelters along the way that people could have used as a cave to hide out in whether on the run or for shelter from the rain. This seemed more of a way to make the hikers and people on the boat feel like they were seeing something special from history. Whatever the reason, its fun to think he hung out there so what the hell, right?
I kept trudging along, up and down the rocks and over the stumps and finally came to a really cool waterfall that empties out into Loch Lomond. The water was pouring down pretty steadily and it was nice to see something new after the many miles along the loch. There is a nice bridge you cross which allows for some nice views of the falls from above.
The falls are right by the Inversnaid Hotel which sits right on the water and on a nice little port where to boats come in from the loch. I took advantage of the picnic tables with great views and ate my lunch. There are a lot of tour boats which stop here so if you have time and aren’t rushed, it might be a good spot to catch the ferry for a boat tour of the area.
I reviewed my distance and checked my watch and saw that I was running behind my original schedule. I had planned on my normal 3mph average but with all the ups and downs I was going at about the 1.5 – 2 mph pace for the last 3 1/2 hours and I was behind schedule. In order to complete the 20 miles by 6 PM or so, I was going to have to keep up a pretty solid pace for the remainder of the day.
I left the hotel and continued along the loch trails which were pretty similar to the earlier path. It eventually opens up into a wide grassy expanse where the loch starts to taper down into its northern shores. It was a welcome change of scenery and before I went further north, I stopped for a moment to look back down the long loch that I had just walked almost the entire length of. It was a beautiful view and it would be the last moments of sun I would enjoy for the day as the Scottish clouds settled in and cast the lighting of dusk on me the rest of the day.
The next several miles of trail start to present a more highland feel to them as I was more exposed than I was along Loch Lomond. There was a lot of up and down, small hill climbing and visually it was OK, but it wasn’t particularly amazing. I did get to see some feral goats along the trail but I never smelled them as some others said. There were also a lot of small little toads that would run out into the trail from time to time. I had to keep an eye down on the trail for several miles so I didn’t smash any of the cute little fellas with my boot.
Several miles away from the loch, I made it to the Beinglas Farm Campsite. It was a nice break and they have a nice pub / restaurant on the site which is super cool and cozy inside. It was a heavily wooded establishment and there were cool swords hanging on the wall. My feet were hurting a bit by this point so I decided to kick off my boots and have myself a pint.
While enjoying my pint, I took a look at the map and saw I still had a good 6 mile hike up to Crainlarich. I didn’t have a lot of time to dilly dally and I needed to get back on the road. I threw my boots back on, hit the trail and powered through the next miles under the dark Scottish skies.
This part of the trail was a mixed bag for me because it has some great scenery on it. The highlands are around you, a river runs along the trail for several stretches with some nice falls and you get to visit with the local sheep who share the trail. You also get to enjoy a lot of traffic from the road that runs right along the trail. There are also big power lines that break up the great views. All the modern “progress” made me miss the dirt trails and seclusion of the forest, now that I was being thrust back into civilization.
The worst part for me though, was the type of trail you are walking on. It is the flat, stony, old military roads that do nothing but make your feet hurt, mile after mile. This was my first real experience on the trail with this surface, but I had to get used to it because I was going to be on it for a lot of upcoming miles. This is where I started to get my first and only blisters of the trail as well which I covered that night and didn’t worry about again.
Six miles later, I reached the turnoff sign for Crainlarigh and my feet had had enough for the day. I followed the sign to the East and took the trail, finally dirt, down into town. It’s not a gentle decent and I knew the next morning I was going to be treated with an uphill climb to even reach the West Highland Way trail again. My knees were getting a bit sore during this decent so I was happy to almost be done for the day.
I wandered through town on my way to the Inverardran House at the far eastern end. It was a cute little town and there is a grocery store with a post office to stock up in. Other than that, there are a few B&B’s and a hostel for lodging, and I think only two restaurants in town to get a bite to eat.
The Iverardran House which was a great place to stay that night and it was very cozy. The owner was very welcoming and he even brought my bag up to my room which Travel Lite magically made appear earlier in the day. It was a nice gesture and it allowed me to start relaxing as quickly as possible. I would recommend staying here to anyone. The rooms are very nice and the breakfast in the morning was one of the best I had on the trail.
After I got a shower, I went across the street and crushed some really delicious dinner at the Ben More Lodge. The fish and chips were awesome after the long day and I got to enjoy the cozy, old school atmosphere of the place. There were paintings above the bar of the legends of Scottish history and each of the bar stools were wearing their own kilt. It was pretty awesome.
The night I was there was the evening of the Scottish referendum vote so it was a bit lively with political talk and discussions about what was going to happen. My favorite thing about the night was a guy walking around in a jacket displaying a “YES” pin for independence. The pin was just the warmup as underneath he had on a Braveheart T-shirt with Mel Gibson raising his sword above his head, covered in face paint and above him, in old celtic font, “Freedom!” was proudly displayed. It was exactly what I had hoped to see on such an evening and it was the perfect ending to the third day on the trail.
– The trail along Loch Lomond has some nice views and the geology is cool.
– Feral goats.
– Cool waterfall and old ruins along the trail.
– First real highland trails.
– Hard walking on the old, rocky, military roads during the last 6 miles.
– Route between Inverarnan and Crainlarich follows a busy road and you can’t escape the traffic noise.
– Power lines stretch across the beautiful scenery which takes away from the views.
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