A short stretch along the banks of Loch Lomond preceded by a walk around our own private island. Well, sort of...
We needed a day to get back on our feet after Day 2’s illness and our planned route was ideal. We’d planned shorter walking days between Drymen and Rowardennan in order to allow us to explore the area a little. Both legs would easily be walkable in one 14 mile day if needed.
But we needed to build our strength up after our alleged bouts of altitude sickness. We left yesterday’s blog on a cliffhanger as we remembered that we had been booked in for afternoon tea in Balmaha, despite our nausea and complete lack of appetite.
A short walk around Balmaha didn’t take long and didn’t improve our appetite.
We nibbled at cake and scones and made polite excuses, in order to avoid causing offence. Although Col managed to drop jam all over the table, resulting in a roar from our host of “WHO’S THE SLITTER?”
It was Colin. Obviously. He was the slitter. Whatever that is.
So it was another night of very little food, followed by another day of low energy levels. But we felt that we were on the road to recovery.
So, the following morning, we jumped on the a ferry for the short ride to the beautiful island of Inchcailloch, which protects the harbour at Balmaha from the elements.
The name means “Island of the Old Women” but this time there were only 2 old men on land. Us. We had the whole island to ourselves. Apart from some friendly ducks, chaffinches, robins and ospreys, at least. We didn’t see the ospreys but we were told that they had returned to nest around 5 days earlier.
The island contains a network of paths through the woodland that bring you to the ruins of a church dedicated to St Kentigurna, who died on the island in the 8th century. Only the foundations remain but there is also a very atmospheric graveyard on site, including the grave of a cousin of a certain Rob Roy.
After a peaceful lap of the island, it was time to catch the ferry back to Balmaha and to continue on the West Highland Way.
Soon after leaving the village of Balmaha, a short, sharp climb took us up the headland known as Craigie Fort. This outcrop is another result of the Highland Fault line, as is Inchcailloch. It provides a fine view of the loch on one side and Conic Hill on the other. The descent is equally quick, as well as being a bit slippery, before the path takes us around Arrochymore Point and to the tiny visitor centre at Milarrochy.
We soon ended up walking through forest paths again. This time, it was a fringe of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, followed later by Ross Wood.
Trees feature heavily around Loch Lomond and, perversely, they owe their existence partly to industry and the demand for leather. The profileration of oak trees is down to the need for bark to produce sap used to tan leather. Leather was in demand for drive belts in mills, amongst other things. Alongside the oaks, there are birch, pine and alders. Demand included shipbuilding, production of iron ore and even producing charcoal for gunpowder.
The result is a scenic, pleasant landscape to walk through. This stage of the walk has nothing too demanding, which is just as well if you know what is coming the next day.
Ben Lomond begins to dominate the skyline away from the loch as we approach Rowardennan. Some energetic walkers will take an extra day at Rowardennan in order to bag the Munro.
We’re content to amble into the Rowardennan Hotel and finally manage to eat a respectable amount. We would need our energy for day 4, there was no doubt. Plus, we called upon the magnificent restorative powers of Guinness to lend a hand too.
Recovery complete. Thank you Guinness. So, where are we? 28.5 miles done. 70 to go.
Bring on Day 5! The day that Colin had been dreading for months...
Mark Sweeney is a hiker, mountain-biker, picture-taker and keen coffee drinker, living on the doorstep of the Peak District's finest walks