The West Highland Way & Great Glen Way

Walked in August 2010

Day 2 - Monday 16th August

Drymen (Easter Drumquhassle Farm) – Rowardennan
16 miles

Once again we woke to a cold, misty morning. A rooster and several chickens were mooching about as we had breakfast and started packing away the tents and the rest of the gear. The rooster crowed every time a rooster on a neighbouring farm did the same, ensuring that no one was asleep after about five minutes of the racket. We were fairly quick getting ourselves organised and managed to leave the farm before anyone else, retracing our steps down the road toward Drymen but turning off through a small stile near a brook. We climbed a small hill with a signpost for the way at the top and then followed the path toward Garadbhan Forest, being overtaken at one point by two retired American guys with whom we’d meet up again later, most significantly on the last day of the Great Glen Way almost two weeks later.

The walk through the forest was easy and pleasant. There were a lot of felled trees and some that seemed to have been uprooted naturally, perhaps during a particularly bad storm. I noticed a tent to our right and saw the foreign couple we’d seen in Milngavie so I gave them a wave. Other people appeared to be wild camping too, in some cases right out in the open. The forest section was quite long, and when we finally emerged it was to begin the long climb to Conic Hill. On the way we had some misty views of Loch Lomond in the distance, and at one point we came across a highland cow that spooked Darryl a bit and looked like it might charge until we just carried on past it, trying to show no fear.

The first part of the ascent of Conic Hill itself was very steep and hard on the feet and even though the gradient eased a little, it was still tough and dragged on longer than we’d have liked. The way bypasses the summit, so we broke off from the path and followed a very steep track to the summit where we had a break and were rewarded with impressive, if misty views of Loch Lomond and the Highland fault line.

Pretty soon we were joined by other walkers, many of whom we’d overtaken earlier. One group of four we hadn’t seen before would show up again on several more occasions over the next few days. They were oddly evasive when we tried to say hello or make eye contact, in fact they seemed downright arrogant which may have been partly due to the fact that we often got ahead of them during the day even though we were carrying heavy packs and they had light day packs. We found their competitiveness quite amusing on several occasions.
Once we felt sufficiently rested and refreshed we left the summit and walked carefully back down to the path, finding the subsequent descent just as punishing as the ascent. We met a Canadian woman on the way down and chatted briefly. We would see her again, as well as her walking partner who would always seem to be dragging his heels behind her, much to her barely disguised consternation. We continued down the steep path which descended through a wooded section before reaching Balmaha, where we stopped at the visitor’s centre for a short while before heading on to the pub for something to eat and drink. Darryl tried the cheese and haggis Panini while I settled for onion rings, not wanting to fill my stomach too much. We bought some more drink and snacks from the shop next door, then pressed on along the way, following the shoreline of Loch Lomond and seeing quite a few people on the beaches, some of whom were camping there.

The path was very up and down now, mainly through wooded sections beside the loch, and with plenty of rises. Eventually we reached Rowardennan, passing the Rowardennan Hotel with its inviting Clansman Bar, and finding the visitor’s car park where we had a look at the information board. We were looking for somewhere to wild camp and had spotted several tents in a promising looking area just before the car park. The Youth Hostel was up ahead however and we would have preferred to have camped outside there with the possibility of using their facilities. Once we reached the start of the drive leading to the hostel we saw a ‘no camping’ sign so turned around, then turned around again and thought we’d try the hostel anyway, in case there was a chance of camping outside after all.

I waited outside and took a few photos while Darryl went in and made enquiries. When he came back he said there was definitely no chance of camping outside, which was a shame since there was a huge, flat area of grass that would have been ideal, and said that to stay at the hostel would have been pretty expensive. Feeling not a little disappointed we left the hostel and decided to walk further along the way to see if we could find our own little spot to wild camp. After five minutes however we decided to turn back as we’d found nowhere suitable, and didn’t want to camp too far away from the hostel as we had bought pack lunches to pick up in the morning. We walked back to the wild camping spot by the Loch that we’d noticed earlier and pitched our tents, swatting away the hungry midges as we did so. The Avon ‘Skin So Soft’ lotion I’d brought along to tackle the midges didn’t seem to work as well as it was supposed to, and again the only way to keep midges away was to actually avoid them altogether, which was impossible. Nevertheless we managed to get the tents up in good time, then left the campsite and headed back toward the Clansman Bar where we met the two American guys we’d seen earlier. We chatted for a while about the walks we’d done, then went off to order drinks and sit down for a chat. It was nice to sit and relax after a hard day. There were several groups of people in the bar, a number of whom we recognised from the path. Darryl said that Yve had checked the weather forecast and had told him that it was going to rain from 7pm to 7am. This was good news in a way as it would keep the midges away from our tents on our way back, but would mean we could get soaked.

Leaving the pub just after seven we walked briskly back to the tents and dived in before the rain really got into its stride. The two or three Scottish guys camped nearby were perhaps put off by the rain and stayed in their tents all night. This probably stopped them from making a noise outside, but it certainly didn’t stop them making a noise inside. We were kept awake for ages by their unique rendition of ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy.’ I couldn’t actually hear the improvised lyrics of the thirty or so verses that punctuated the rainy night, but this was probably a blessing. At some point (late) in the night they finally got bored and gave us some peace. At least this night was warmer than the previous two.


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