13 miles of roots, rocks and rain.
This turned out to be our hardest day with the path and weather conspiring against us. Our whole day was spent walking along a tree lined track by the side of Loch Lomond.
Shortly after leaving Rowardennan the Way becomes rougher, undulating over tree roots and rocks made slippy by rain and wet leaves. We wondered how the runners in the West Highland Race coped with this section of path as we edged passed yet another rocky edge and step. Heavy packs and heavy rain slowed our progress along these lumpy shores. It was now that we really appreciated the benefit of the extra distance we did yesterday, giving us a head start completing today’s section which was going to be a tougher challenge. Half way along the day’s section was the large Inversnaid Hotel. The Way approaches the hotel via a bridge over the impressive Falls of Inversnaid, a large waterfall which crashed down to Loch by the Hotel’s private pier. Dramatic, swollen waterfalls were to become a theme from here on and were one of the few benefits of the heavy rain.
The hotel looked very smart, too smart for dripping wet and muddy booted walkers like us however a sign outside welcomed walkers so we called in. Inside the hotel, we recognised two other walkers who we met earlier along the way. One of them warned us the path didn’t get much better until the end of the Loch; his companion had decided to end the walk at the hotel as his feet were badly blistered. Spending the rest of the week relaxing in the hotel, enjoying the views from warm dry comfort was appealing. Large, comfortable chairs were hard to leave after consuming the second lunch of the day and the weather did nothing to encourage us to push on in the limited time and daylight we had. A mile after the hotel, a small track leads to a cave, used as a hiding place by Rob Roy.
We were concerned about getting to the campsite before darkness fell, as the path would be hard to walk by torchlight. One option was to get to Doune bothy and stay the nigh there if time was short. Doune bothy is situated over the crest of a small hill which the Way crosses. When we approached the bothy a small heard of deer bounded from the water’s edge across our path to hide close by in the trees. Aches and rains were forgotten for a moment as we scrambled to photograph Rudolf’s friends in the dark trees.
Three buildings exist at Doune bothy, the first had been ransacked, our situation would have to be bad to persuade us to stay there. The second building is a locked shed and the third is the bothy itself which looked pretty good as bothies go. The path by the bothy had improved, leaving us with the dilemma of whether to rush the last four miles to the campsite in the hour of daylight we had left or to finish early and behind schedule. We decided to forgo the shelter of the bothy and make a dash for Inverarnan, spurred on by the improvement in the path which would help speed progress. Generally, the path north of Doune proved to be much better than the Rowardennan to Inversnaid to Doune sections and we only needed torches for the last half hour when the dense trees made dusk even darker.
Passing through the trees, we were relieved to see lights in the distance suggesting we were getting close to the farm campsite. By 6:35 PM we crossed a wooden bridge onto the campsite arriving soaked, smelly and tired. Here we booked a cosy wigwam for the night to provide a little comfort to sleep in and try and dry our gear out a little. Only Helen finished the day with dry socks, our wet ones were hung up, adding to the atmosphere in the wigwam. By now all our gear that wasn't store in thick polyethylene bags was soaked. Use of the site's hot showers and covered cooking area provided a welcome end to today’s thirteen mile walk before we collapsed into bed feeling more comfortable and happier than when we first arrived.