Wildcamping the West Highland Way, Day 2

in travelfeed •  7 days ago


In March, I set off from Milngavie near Glasgow to do three days' walking and camping along the West Highland Way, Scotland's most popular trekking trail.

 

Previous posts in this series:

Introduction to the trek
First leg of the trek

WHW symbol tiny.jpg

For this section of the route, there would be no public transport option - the last part of it is well away from public roads, so I wouldn't even be able to hitch a lift!

In summer, a ferry boat crosses the north east end of Loch Lomond to Ardlui, from where you can get a train. But at this time of year, the nearest public transport point would be Inverarnan or Crianlarich. My plan was to take the train back from Crianlarich the morning after my third night of camping.


Map showing my route along Loch Lomond on the second day of my West Highland Way trek. Click here for a more detailed map.

I was surprised at the low numbers of people walking the route at this time of year. I passed two or three couples taking their time to enjoy the route, and two fell runners. One of these runners was going so fast over very rocky ground, while talking to someone in a foreign language on her phone, that I think she must have been a pro-athlete in training.

Solitude


This was the most enjoyable section of the route for me. Parts of it seemed very isolated, and I enjoyed the solitude. There were a few steep gradients and rough sections, but I just took my time and enjoyed the birds, flowers and beautiful views.

My backpack was about a kilogram lighter after eating some of my food. I really should have brought more dehydrated food. I had brought packet rice, packet dahl, tins of mackerel, lunchpots, porridge oats with nuts and dates, some fruity Christmas cake, and tea and coffee bags. I ate all the Christmas cake on the first day!

This was only just enough food for the three days, as I was burning a lot of calories. When I got on the train back to Glasgow, I felt ravenous!


Early morning view from my tent at Conic Hill.

I rose early and packed up my tent without making breakfast, as there was no fresh water source on Conic Hill. Despite my weariness the day before, I felt reinvigorated after a good night's sleep, and my feet were no longer aching.


Some of my neighbours at Conic Hill.

By the time I reached the bottom of Conic Hill, it was not yet 8am, and the facilities at Balmaha car park don't open until 10am. Nothing was open in Balmaha, so I walked to Milarrochy Bay, where there are public toilets and drinking water.


If you're walking the West Highland Way, fresh drinking water and public toilet facilities are available 24 hours at Milarrochy Bay near Balmaha.

Shortly after Milarrochy Bay, the route enters Cashel Forest, and it remains wooded for most of that leg.


There were not too many flowers in bloom at this early time of year, but lots of lovely birdsong. I got quite close to a treecreeper, but it flew off just as I was getting my camera out.


Ben Lomond coming into view (at the right).

At one point I heard some loud music, and two middle-aged women approached me. One was carrying a radio with music playing, which seemed quite an odd thing to do on a country walk – but each to their own!

Apart from that, I was completely alone with nature.


 


A beautiful plant that I don't recognise.

Towards lunchtime, I spotted a signpost indicating that Rowardennan was two miles away. I felt relief, as I was starting to feel tired, but those two miles seemed to go on forever! I'd decided to treat myself to a half pint of Guinness at the Rowardennan Hotel.

I finally reached the hotel shortly after 12 noon. That Guinness tasted great! I also filled up my water bottle. Other people arrived shortly afterwards, and tucked into hearty lunches, but I stuck to my plan of carrying all my food needed for the three days and enjoyed an al fresco lunch later on.


That half pint of Guinness at the Rowardennan Hotel made me feel like a new woman!

Rowardennan is usually busy, as it's the end of the public road, and the departure point for walks up Ben Lomond, a Munro at 974m (3,195 feet). But beyond Rowardennan the crowds disappear, and I don't think I passed more than two people for the rest of the day. I had my lunch at a quiet beach.



Primroses

 


A steep uphill path.


Close up of The Cobbler and Beinn Narnain at the other side of Loch Lomond.


My plan was to camp for the night near Rowchoish Bothy. I've managed to overcome my fear of solo wildcamping, but I thought I would still feel more comfortable knowing that there were other people nearby, and I expected a few people to be staying at Rowchoish.

I wanted to take a dip in the loch. The weather was unusually warm for the time of year, and I could not wait to cool off – and have a wash! Most of all, I was desperate to soak my feet in the water. This thought was going round and round my head as I got closer to Rowchoish.

I spotted some ruins and realised that the bothy must be close at hand.


Rowchoish Bothy was formerly the byre of Rowchoish Cottage, which was inhabited until the late 1930s. Apparently there were nine families living in the area in 1759, and at least three settlements between Rowchoish and Inversnaid, about three miles north.


Rowchoish Bothy.

When I visited, the whole area around Rowchoish was deserted. I walked down to the lochside and found a nice spot to pitch my tent at the edge of the forest.


I wondered if it would feel spooky being so close to the forest, but to be honest, the constant drone of traffic thundering along the A82 on the other side of the loch drowned out any eerieness, and the tall trees seemed comforting rather than sinister.

By the time I'd pitched my tent, it was just 4pm, and still warm. I'd walked 22.8km (14 miles) on this leg, over 8 hours and 23 minutes, including a half-hour break at the hotel – not as far as the previous day, though my pace was considerably slower.

I changed my mind about taking a dip in the freezing waters of the loch, though I did have a wash, and I dipped my tired feet in, before airing them in the sunshine, which felt like bliss.



Relief


I felt relieved that my walk was on schedule and that barring a disaster, I would make it to Crianlarich by Saturday morning – even though the next leg of my trek was reputed to be the toughest of the entire West Highland Way.

The gentle breeze blowing through the trees and the distant sound of lorries delivering goods to northern towns soon lulled me to sleep.


WHW symbol tiny.jpg

Other posts in this series:

Wildcamping the West Highland Way, part 1 (introduction)

Wildcamping the West Highland Way, Day 1

 


Posted from my blog with SteemPress : http://ramblingandscrambling.co.uk/walking/wildcamping-the-west-highland-way-day-2/

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OOo very adventurous, but is it not a tad cold for this yet? I would have been exploring that cottage you found myself.. this could have been the start of a whole new thing for you?

'Guinness at the Rowardennan Hotel' - Did you fill the water bottle with the black frothing stout for the road?

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There was a mild spell and it was t-shirt weather most of the time.
The cottage is long gone - just a few moss-covered walls left. And the interior of the bothy isn't exactly an urbex scoop...
Rowchoish Bothy.jpg
Guinness in my water bottle - that would have been interesting! :D

What a lovely second leg to your journey! Beautiful.

I've been 'creeped out' a time or two when solo camping, though when I'm packing I tend to pass out and stay that way through the night.

One of my very favorite areas to camp has an old Forest Service gate to get into the area. One night I thought I heard the gate creak open. I laid there listening and heard it again. I didn't know if somebody had come and gone or two sombodies had come into the area.

Turns out it was just the very start of rut for the local elk and the noise I heard was a very young bull trying out his voice. When some of the others started bugling I went right back to sleep for a few hours :)

Thanks for sharing your trek so far. I look forward to the conclusion.

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Thanks @bigtom13! So glad you enjoyed my post.
I didn't hear any weird noises on this trek, but the first time I ever solo camped (I had pitched my tent right next to my car, so that if the Bogeyman appeared I could just run into it and drive off) I heard lots of weird noises! It was deer rutting season, so the stags were "bellowing" all night, and there were also owls and some other noises that I couldn't identify. I woke up a few times that night!
I usually download a few podcasts when I'm camping - helps drown out any spooky noises!

WOW what an amazing adventure you set for yourself and shared with us, the solitude with not many others around must have been a great feeling, the couple playing music loud as they walked int total contrast

Kudos for you for just having ht Guinness I don't think I could have been that strong

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Thanks @tattoodjay! It was such a brilliant experience. And the Guinness was so refreshing - it was all I wanted at that moment :)

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I bet it was and with a lot more hiking to do the Guinness was probably the best option and stick with the food you carried which most likely was more what you needed than a full meal I would imagine

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Definitely - in fact a big meal might have made me feel tired and sluggish, so I ate a lot in the evening after the walk instead.

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That makes perfect sense

I would have been tempted to have lunch at the hotel. You are a stronger willed person than me obviously lol. I have never tried sol camping and it must be nice just leaving everything behind and being lost in your thoughts.

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Haha - yes, one advantage of eating my packed lunch was that it made my backpack that little bit lighter :D
Solo camping can be so special, and you see and hear more of nature when you're on your own. I recommend it!

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That area is so beautiful, the soft nature starting to show in Spring. Quite epic that you went solo on a camping/hiking expedition, really finding oneself in nature to ones own thoughts.

An area we stayed in when traveling during 1978 with a Combi camper, going into Autumn end of September, also had some snowfall on the hill tops.

Really enjoyed this outing, it brought back some memories of the North @natubat, congratulations on @curie selection, well deserved.

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Thanks for your lovely comments Joan! Glad you enjoyed it.

really finding oneself in nature to ones own thoughts.

That was it exactly! :)

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What a nice experience you have there and honestly, I am amazed knowing you don't have any companions at all. Some guts you have there and that is quite fascinating. It is such a good activity, trekking for some miles and putting up a camp for the night. You can have some exercise while witnessing the beauty of landscapes and scenery as you walk along. Truly an amazing way to explore your country.

By the next week or two, I will be doing that as well, but together with my friends. Maybe it will take 2 days and 1 night and I am really excited. Hopefully, I can endure long walks and difficult terrains. I am not into long walks for quite some time now, maybe you can give some advice on how to prepare oneself.

Anyway, your post is a wonderful share. Your outdoor activities are really great and I believe you really love it because you are enjoying it. Cheers to you, @natubat!

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Thanks for your lovely comments @edencourage! I enjoy the solitude of a solo trek, but I also enjoy walking and camping with friends.
My advice for a long trek is to wear good quality comfortable walking shoes, bring at least two pairs of socks and wear two pairs at once - this can help to prevent blisters. If you're camping, take some dehydrated food, such as noodles, as it's so much lighter to carry. Drink lots of water. If you start to feel tired, just go slowly, take your time and enjoy the scenery. Don't try to rush it. Bathe your feet at night and do foot exercises after each walk. Just wiggle your feet and toes - you can do it in your bed at night. I hope you enjoy your trek!

Hi @natubat, what a great adventure and experience :) You took lovely pictures - I especially had to laugh about the sheep :P
Was it a day trip with sleeping at the end? - or was it several days? It was not that clear to me O.o
Crazy that you already had such a good weather in March

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Thanks @mcnestler! The sheep were so funny. I think I'd pitched my tent in their special place (going by the amount of sheep poo about...)
It was a three-day trek, with three nights camping. Part 3 coming up soon!

You are so brave! I was traveling solo last year but I would go to such wilderness :) And if I would I think I would have stayed at that hotel. I fully understand that you were motivated to eat your lunch as your backpack would get lighter of course :) I would have done the same :)

I hope that the last part was not as tough as you expected it to be but I guess that I can read about it in the next post...

Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your curie vote!

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Thanks @delishtreats! I don't feel brave - just determined!:)

Now that's what I call living the good life! Great pictures and I love seeing the tent set in the middle of nature :)

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Thanks @gabrielatravels - glad you enjoyed the photos!

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