|Day 56 – June 4||Drymen to Rowardenan|
|Weather: Hazy Sunshine, Warm and Breezy||B&B: Northwood Cottage B&B (£45)|
|Departed: 8:40 Arrived: 14:30||Walked: 4h 53m Rested: 0 hr 54m|
|Distance Today: 14.8 mi / 23.81 km||Total Distance: 888.7 mi / 1430.22 km|
|% Complete: ~ 77.14%||Pint of the Day: Belhaven Best|
|GPS Track for: Day 56|
Today’s walk along the southern shores of Loch Lomand ranks as one of the best of the journey, and the stunning weather didn’t hurt either.
The Clachan Inn provides a kitchen which guests can use to prepare their own continental breakfast. This is necessary because it is completely un-staffed until 9am, a fact I didn’t realize until I went to pay my bill. It seems an odd way to run an Inn but it appears that for many pubs in Britain accommodation is an after-thought. I had no intention of leaving cash so I left a note and said I would phone later in the day to pay by credit card.
With all the walkers in Drymen I expected to find the route heaving with them but as I made my way north I saw no one. It wasn’t until I reached the Garadhban Forest that I spotted half a dozen walkers from Spain. I passed them as they were posing for a photo and didn’t see them again until they drifted in to the Clansman Pub much later in the day.
The walking conditions were good as it was bright but the light cloud and strong breeze kept it from getting too hot. I’d been slowly climbing for over an hour so when I reached the end of the forest I had some great views of Loch Lomond and my next big thing to climb, Conic Hill. The footpath up the side of Conic Hill was visible from a long way away and it promised great views from the top. It was a pretty good climb, certainly the steepest since the Pennine Way, but before long I rounded its western slope and was rewarded with some spectacular panoramas. The descent was just as steep but ended with a pleasant stroll through a forest and into the tourist town of Balmaha.
There were no shortage of benches in Balmaha so I took a break next to the shores of Loch Lomond and munched on an apple. It was a pretty idyllic scene and there were a lot of visitors around to take it in. I then continued my journey north along the West Highland Way as it hugged the shores of Loch Lomond. The path was excellent under foot and I thoroughly enjoyed the frequent views over the Loch. The scenery will appear amazingly familiar to readers from British Columbia (hopefully my photos will attest to that).
Shortly after leaving Balmaha I passed a group of walkers who I think were French-Canadian. They were definitely French and I thought I heard one of them mention Canada, therefore they must be French-Canadian, right? The only other explanation is that they knew I was from Canada but I don‘t believe I‘m that well known in Quebec. Regardless of their ethnicity one of them receives my “Dumbass Walker of the Year Award” for jumping a barbed wire fence in order to take a close-up photo of some Highland Cattle (those are the large shaggy ones with the big pointy horns). I thought this was merely stupid until I noticed he was approaching a large female with a very young calf. I mentioned this to one of his friends but they all seemed too amused to pay any attention. Having played my good Samaritan card my thoughts turned to capturing the goring in HD quality video and selling it to the tabloids. Instead I carried on my merry West Highland way and let natural selection deal with the French.
What followed was a wonderful 8 mile walk to the Rowardennan Hotel, with the occasional less wonderful shoreline diversion up a very steep hill. The temperatures soared during the afternoon so it was hot going at times but shortly before my arrival at the hotel I caught my first glimpse of Ben Lomond (978 m) towering over the Loch. I stumbled in to the very fine Clansman Bar at 2:30pm and enjoyed a refreshing beer on their sunny patio while gazing out on both the Loch and Ben Lomand. The views were so fine in fact that I spent over two hours admiring them over a second pint of Belhaven Best and a pretty decent Cajun Chicken Burger. For a brief moment it was like I was, dare I say it, on vacation!
As nice as the Rowardennan Hotel was I couldn’t afford the £95 price tag so I opted for Northwood Cottage several miles away. Their rate includes pick up and drop off at the Clansman Pub and so that’s where I will start my walk to Inverarnan tomorrow. This will be another short day but it will be followed by two long ones so I will enjoy it while I can.