West Highland Way... Or a small part of it
The local ferry services called Cruise Loch Lomond offers trips across the loch from Tarbet to a variety of destinations up and down the shorelines. Some routes are customised for hikers and as we wanted to hike a bit of West Highland Way, this was for us as we are only 2 miles away from Tarbet in Arrochar.
This is how we hiked, from Rowardennan to Inversnaid, by taken a ferry to the former town and the same ferry back from the latter town later in the afternoon.
West Highland Way is 95 miles long and apparently both the oldest and the most popular trail in the UK with some 100,000 visitors or hikers every year.
We targetted a 10am ferry departure and while we could have hiked to Tarbet from Arrochar through a small part of the Three Lochs Way, given the morning weather of drizzle and rain, we decided on a leisurely breakfast and then to take the car across to there. Here is Di waiting for 10am to come...
The Cruise Loch Lomond company even had a name for our round trip, West Highland Way Rambler 1 (yes, there was a Rambler 2 route as well).
While we were waiting for the ferry to depart, we started chatting to a couple of Aussies from Armidale and Grafton (in fact, one of them took this photo accompanied by a number of crappy jokes). They were playing in a pipe band and touring Scotland over a couple of weeks. Reasonable photo too.
Here is our boat, the Lomond Chieftain.
We were a total of 5 people on the boat, including 2 crew and us. The captain joked that there was space for 95 people in the life raft and that the 5 of us would probably be able to fit in nicely...
Bye bye Tarbet...
All dressed up...
Ww got some commentary from the captain about Loch Lomond. It is the largest body of fresh water in UK, and at one point is nearly 200 metres deep.
Another day in Scotland where the predominant colour is grey...
Who is that caped crusader stretching there...?
After 45 minutes, we arrived at Rowardennan. There is a youth hostel next to the wharf, and we reckoned that they were pretty tired of hikers asking for where the West Highland Way is, so they preempted further questions by providing this sign.
On the West Highland Way. First half of the trail was pretty much in the condition that you see here although we did gradually climb, and there were more ups and downs later on.
In the woods 1...
In the woods 2...
These tall trees just looked very cool being so straight...but they creaked and groaned as they swayed in the wind. We could see plenty of fallen trees, so much so that the lower trail along the loch edge was closed. We took the high road...(sounds like a song...). In fact it was 8km into a 12km hike before we got to the water's edge.
Right of a sudden, we found this bench next to the trail overlooking Loch Lomond. Perfect for a break.
We got lucky with the weather. It was cold but the rain cleared a little so most of the time it was not sprinkling and we even had occasional glimpses of sun.
This was a bit sad. The rock and wood pile was a memorial for somebody who lost his life while trying to save his friend.
The sign didn't say how the bloke died, but it was a moving memorial, even for us who did not know him.
Fencing suddenly appeared including out in the water a bit. This sign explained it all. They tried to keep deer away from new growth within the woods, a favourite food for the deers.
Yes, across this bridge where Di is, there was even a gate for entering the Craigroastan Woods.
We liked this section of the trail the most as it narrowed from what had been more like a fire trail through the woods to a small track along the edge. Far more interesting to walk, with some challenges.
The non-captain crew lady on our ferry had mentioned this narrow ledge on the track to Di. So when we arrived at it, Di made Hans stand there for..., well, illustrative purposes. Di coped fine so the lady on the boat must be even more chicken than Di when it comes to narrow ledges (hard to believe, we know!)
We were not sure what this was before the forest took over...
Finally, we arrived in Inversnaid, the end of our little hike on the West Highland Way for today, and its main feature which is the Inversnaid Hotel. They know their customers here. Separate entrance for hikers is provided with a large mat inside for wiping your boots.
And as soon as you get in, the first door to the left is set aside for the same hikers or walkers as they call them here. It was not a bad room by the way. Old furniture from presumably the salons for the full paying visitors, but windows on two sides, space for bags, hooks for jackets, a coke machine and lots of space to chill.
We ventured in a bit further into Inversnaid Hotel as we were on the hunt for afternoon tea. We had arrived there around 2.15pm or so, while the ferry would not leave until 4.30pm. There was another ferry that we could have taken that would have departed by 2.15pm, but why rush? The Inversnaid Hotel was very inviting and we soon got very comfortable with tea and slices of lemon cake. Free wifi was an additional benefit.
As 4.30pm approached, we rebelled and walked out from the door instead of using the walkers entrance. Here is Di in the rain outside Hotel Inversnaid. Pretty big place, hey?
And can you believe it? We were shouted a free drink of choice on the ferry back to Tarbet as a reward for completing the hike. The beer for Hans and the wine for Di tasted really good.
The female crew member was very social and we chatted about life in Scotland (tough), her family life (married to an Englishman, tried for kids but no success) and her job prospects once the season was over (slim) despite her being a fully qualified pharmacist.
Back on shore at 5pm, we drove from Tarbet by a grocery store in Arrochar and picked up some sandwich stuff and beer as we believed that we would not venture out in the rain again today once we were back in room.
Lazy evening watching 2 episodes of "Big Bang Theory" after each other on TV. And yes, the rain persisted all evening so dinner was cuppa soup, bread, cheese crackers, chocolate and beer for Hans. Perfect. Good night.