Predictably the rain stopped last night just as we were finishing our walking, and we woke up this morning at the old Balmaha Bunkhouse Lodge to glorious sunshine, with fluffy white clouds dotted about a clear blue sky. Feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep, we headed down to Balmaha‘s harbour where we stopped for the first time, 5 minutes into our second day!
And it wasn’t long before we made our second stop, at the fort of Craigie. There are amazing views over Loch Lomond and it’s islands, including nearby Inchcailloch.
Setting out again, we walked back down to loch level, following the water’s edge through the forest and then down around Sallochy Bay.
The path turns back into the trees as it crosses Arrochymore Point.
Then it follows the road for a while before reaching Millarrochy Bay.
After Millarochy we turned back towards the loch, but rather than being rewarded with more great views, we were now in Lag an Amair Wood climbing the not inconsiderable hill of Cnoc Buidhe above Strathcashell Point.
Back out of the woods and looking across Loch Lomond we could see ominously dark clouds gathering above the hills on the opposite shore. But the impending downpour was soon taken off our minds by a terrible smell – we’d encountered the infamous wild goats of Loch Lomond. In actual fact we were over a kilometre away when we first smelt them, and finally passed them close to Glasgow University‘s boat house as we climbed up over Teac a’ Mhinisteir and back inland.
As the heavens opened, we were afforded some protection from above by the tree cover, but underfoot it was getting wetter and muddier as we squelched our way along the forest tracks with Loch Lomond now invisible due to the trees. The sight of the Rowardennan Hotel was more than welcome, and we sat looking out of the conservatory eating toasted ciabatta sandwiches and supping pints of Guinness.
Eventually we managed to drag ourselves away from the warm, dry environment we’d got used to over the past hour, strapped on our sodden backpacks and continued north along the edge of the loch. The rain was getting steadily worse, and even the trees overhead weren’t stopping us from getting wet. On the way to Inversnaid streams running down from Ben Lomond cross the path and have to be forded – something that’s not a problem when the weather’s dry, but these were now raging torrents and slowed our progress considerably.
We gingerly made our way through each one, wary of slipping or being knocked down by the current, as there was a rocky 20 metre drop over the edge to the loch below. We later found out that several people behind us had turned back rather than take the risk of crossing the streams. By the time we reached Inversnaid we were well behind schedule. But we still had to stop to take some photos of the very impressive waterfall that was raging down to the loch.
We had planned to stay at McGregors Landing tonight, but we knew we wouldn’t make it in time to get the last ferry across at 7 o’clock, and with the light fading already we didn’t think it would be wise to press on through the forest in the dark to the bridge at Inverarnan, as having to cross more streams in the pitch black wouldn’t be the most sensible of ideas.
So we called into the Inversnaid Hotel to see if their boat was running across the loch, as we thought we could walk up the road on the other side to McGregors Landing. But the rain was so heavy and the wind was so strong that they had stopped the boat at lunchtime.
The bar manager in the Inversnaid Hotel offered to ‘phone up to the Inversnaid Bunkhouse to see if there were any beds available.
Luckily there were, and after a quick drink in the bar, watching a coach party from the north of England getting incredibly drunk, Scott came down from the bunkhouse and drove us up the (very steep) hill. The Inversnaid Bunkhouse is a brilliant place for so many reasons.
The building itself is an old converted church, with dormitories downstairs and an open plan living and dining space upstairs, complete with sound system, TV and DVD, games console and comfy sofas. There’s even an outdoor hot tub, although it wasn’t really the right weather for it while we were here! As soon as we were in the door, Marion showed us the drying room where we could leave our soaked clothes and boots, showed us to our room and then gave us a guided tour.
She was just about to start cooking the evening meal (spaghetti bolognese) and when I told her I was a vegetarian it was no problem and she made me some pasta with fresh vegetables in a tomato sauce. One of our fellow guests fared less well, as he didn’t like “foreign food”!
After dinner upstairs, we started sampling a few ales from the licensed coffee shop and got talking to a Canadian guy who was walking the West Highland Way with his 70+ year-old mother, while other guests started watching a film. As our eyelids started dropping we retired to the dormitory for a very welcome sleep.