After the strains of the previous day, it was a pleasure to make faster progress along less taxing paths, even if the weather wasn’t in our favour.
We stocked up with essential supplies at the little shops at Beinglas Farm and set off beside the river Falloch in good spirits. We had 12 miles to go before Tyndrum and our legs felt surprisingly willing after yesterday’s endeavours, with just a little muscle tightness, but nothing to worry about.
The climb out of Inverarnan provided us with spectacular views of the river as it narrowed in places and crashed through white water rapids and cascades, with amazing power.
We followed the glen with the constant roar of the water vying for attention with the sound of traffic on the busy A82. Back at Loch Lomond, the road had been visible across the loch and the traffic noise had been a minor background sound. Now it was more dominant. The path took us under the adjacent railway line by way of a sheep-creep; a tunnel which was too low to stand under and which required considerable stooping to successfully negotiate. Not the most elegant of walking styles with backpacks!
We then climbed to join the old military road towards Crianlarich.
All the time as we walked through Keilator Farm, the rain clouds gathered and the track became frequently ankle deep in mud and, there’s no polite way to put it, cow poop. A lovely mixture which made the timing of Col’s lace becoming untied all the more magical.
Adverse conditions always bring walkers closer and camaraderie increases. There became quite a throng of pedestrian traffic as walkers picked their way daintily through the quagmire.
We were walking with a group of Americans, with whom we had exchanged greetings since Balmaha some days ago. In one particularly squelchy part, one of the Americans pointed to a plaque by the path, projecting out of the mud/poop which read “These improvements have been funded by...” We didn’t read any further. “Is this what you call Scottish humour?” asked the American, with mud stains reaching beyond his knees.
We presses on and the mud soon cleared, as we arrived at the Crianlarich crossroads. This was a hugely significant moment as it represents the half way point of the West Highland Way. We were halfway to Fort William.
We decided not to venture off the way to visit Crianlarich but instead followed the way as it turned left through the forest. We paused under the shelter of a tree to enjoy our lunch as the rain didn’t seem to be too far away.
The path eventually roughy us across the main road and to a bridge spanning the wide river Fillan, with the Crianlarich Hills, dominated by Ben More, forming a beautiful, snow-dusted backdrop.
The path took us through Kirkton Farm which contains the site of St Fillan’s priory. St Fillan was an Irish monk who was the son of St Kentigerna (remember Inchcailloch Island?) who lived in the area during the 8th century.
Soon, the path leads past the Holy Pool, which is thought to closer to the original site of St Fillan’s priory. It was in the pool that people considered to be insane were bathed before being tied to the font in the chapel overnight, with a bell placed over their head.
I can’t help thinking that modern mental healthcare has improved leaps and bounds.
By this time, as you can see in the picture of the Holy Pool above, the rain was pouring down.
We trudged along to pass the site known as Dal Righ; the King’s Field.
It was here that it is said Robert the Bruce engaged in battle against the MacDougalls of Lorne in 1306. Following his defeat, he is said to have taken to the hills and cast his sword into a small loch which we passed a little further on. The wonderfully named Loch of the Legend of the Lost Sword.
From there, the path continues to a derelict piece of land which was the site of the former lead foundry, where lead ore would be crushed before being transported to Alloa. Very little remains but it is a clue to the ancient industry in the area.
From there it was a short hop to our finishing point for the day, the village of Tyndrum (‘the house on the ridge ‘). Our accommodation was a delightful B&B in the heart of the village, called Kilbride Lodge. Our host was the charming Kate who wasn’t fazed by the sight of two soaking wet, bedraggled hikers turning up on her doorstep. She couldn’t have been more welcoming or helpful -and I’m not just saying that because we forgot to hand the key in when we left and had to send it back from Inveroran the following day.
So, there we were in Tyndrum. 54 miles completed and feeling in good shape. Surely it would be downhill all the way to Fort William now?!
Mark Sweeney is a hiker, mountain-biker, picture-taker and keen coffee drinker, living on the doorstep of the Peak District's finest walks