I woke today at 5am and knew this day was going to be another brutal day after listening to all the talk from other walkers the night before, but I didn’t know exactly how challenging it was really going to be. Thankfully the wind was up when I woke, so no impending midge attack, and the tent and flysheet were dry as a bone and ready to pack up. After a freezing bird bath in the loch I was ready to go.
So, the best way to describe the next 4 hours was like Indiana Jones searching for the Temple of Doom, but never quite finding it. Instead I found Rob Roy’s cave, but that in itself was a remarkable disovery as it is only marked by a simple wooden directional sign that is buried amongst a bed of overgrown ferns. In fact, during the first leg of my jungle adventure from Inverarnan to Inversnaid there was very little walking. Instead it was more like scrambling over giant tree roots, fording streams, sidestepping perilous rock outcropings, squeezing through tangled bushes and bracken, and mountaineering up steep stone stairs. So, I could probably liken it more to an army assault course.
The remainder of the trail after Inversnaid, after a short breather outside a posh turn-of-the-century hotel, was pretty much the same, but fortunately it fanned out somewhat into longer flat stretches in order to catch your breath. It became obvious why so many who walk the West Highland Way send their bags with a transfer service ahead to their next destination along the route. I must say, though, as tough as it was I enjoyed every minute. It was like a new challenge around every corner, especially with a big bag on your bag. My walking poles were indeed a life saver aong the loch trail. They really help you keep your stability and momentum.
As I neared the end of the route at Loch Lomond a number of campsites had sprung up, one after another, so I thought it ideal to pitch my tent as black clouds were forming and the wind was growing more fierce by the minute. I have regular updates scheduled on my phone from the Met Office and there was a storm warning in the area for the evening. What I failed to realise is that in the National Park area the ‘wild camping’ regulations of Scotland do not apply, so you have to buy a permit online. Well, it seemed everyone else had the same idea as I, and unfortunately all the permits were sold out.
Balhama, a village at the south end of the loch, had been my original destination so I pressed on. The route now was fairly flat and snaked through the forest so I was able to pick up the pace a bit. As soon as I arrived in the village centre the rain started, thankfully it was only the edge of the storm that was heading north, so I ducked into the first B&B I could find called the Oak Tree Inn. Fortune was on my side and I nabbed the last loft room. Usually it is next to impossible to get hotel rooms in Scotland this time of year. Let it be said Scotland is open for business and it is BUSY.