11th May 2022
A cold mist circled the tent at 6am as I quietly made my way towards the hostel on what was to be day 3 of the West Highland Way adventure. Upon arriving at the front door of the great house, I found to my relief that it was unlocked and made my way silently towards the kitchen. The house seemed so very different in that fleeting moment as everyone was sound asleep and it was difficult to imagine the hive of activity that last night had brought. As I sat eating breakfast in the huge dining room alone, I remember thinking to myself about the events of yesterday and how exhausted I had felt upon arrival. I had politely declined the offer of a meal and pint in the Clansman Public House the previous evening for that very reason and now I bitterly regretted that decision. Just what had I missed and what memories could I have made? It still amazes me how feelings change so suddenly after a good nights sleep.
I hadn’t woken once during the night despite the cold breeze which had drifted across the loch and I felt excited and energised about the new day ahead. Although I hadn’t made my desired camping location yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable camping at Rowardennan Youth Hostel had been. The camping spots were placed in a stunning location right on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond itself and it was a lovely feeling to sit in the entrance to the tent looking out over the murky waters early morning as the mist faded in, then out. In the brief, clear moments that passed, I had enjoyed the views of the hills and mountains on the opposite side of the loch with their summits white over containing the last remnants of snow. Then as suddenly as it passed it would be consumed once more by the swirling, circling mists which appeared to be almost alive… An eeriness that was tinged with early morning drizzle and awash with beauty.
Overview: Day 3 walk route
The aim of today was to reach Beinglas Farm in Inverarnan where there were camping facilities and hot showers. Beginning at Rowardennan Youth Hostel, the route would take me further along the West Highland Way through attractive woodland at Ptarmigan Woods following Loch Lomond right through to the Inversnaid Hotel where I planned to stop for lunch. During this first stage, there were interesting landmarks that I was looking forward to seeing such as the Tom Wheldon memorial bench, the Bill Lobban memorial and Inversnaid Falls. After lunch, the second stage would see me take on the more challenging aspects of the day as I follow the trail along the shore of Loch Lomond towards Ardleish. From there, I would continue on towards Doune Byre Bothy which I was so looking forward to before heading down the long path into Inverarnan and finally Beinglas Camping. The hike today would be just over 15 miles from the Youth Hostel to Beinglas so not a short walk but I was spurred on by knowing that at the end of today I would be rewarded with a pub dinner, freshly washed hiking clothes and well deserved pint of cider.
Leave No Trace
As always, I packed away hastily after breakfast and left the site exactly as I’d found it the day before.
Rowardennan to Inversnaid (high route)
It was approximately 9am when I set out from the youth hostel and began heading over a tiny grassy path towards the trail. Before long, I had rejoined it and was soon walking the West Highland Way again. I had considered for a brief moment whether I should retrace my steps from the previous day and visit the war memorial in Rowardennan that I had unfortunately missed but quickly decided against it. After much thought, I decided to save it for a future visit and considering time was of the essence, I continued along the trail. After what only seemed like minutes, I spotted Ben’s Bakes approaching on my right.
Ben’s Bakes is a well known and generously stocked honesty box on the West Highland Way Trail and what a treasure trove of goodies it was. I love honesty boxes and all of them that I had seen on the trail so far had been fabulous, however this one has to be my favourite of the whole hike. In its wishing well style appearance with pastel pink cupboard doors, it is stocked regularly with items such as freshly made sandwiches, homemade cakes, buns and tiffin and an array of other snacks such as crisps and chocolate as well as soft drinks and bottled water. The box is located right on the trail outside a gated property and people can help themselves to whatever goods they fancy.
I was so impressed by what was on offer here that I purchased a cheese sandwich made with fresh bread roll and a coconut tiffin for around £4.50. I didn’t eat them now however, choosing to pack them in my rucksack for lunch. I didn’t realise at the time just how wise my decision here had been until later.
The wide track beyond Rowardennan begins a gradual uphill climb from here on and leads through attractive looking woodland as it follows the loch down below. As I walked, I could see the water as I gazed over the treetops and made my way higher up the trail. It only seemed that I had been walking a matter of minutes before I reached a signpost at a sharp bend in the track which signified an alternative route. I realised in that moment that I had reached the path split just north of Ptarmigan Lodge and the woodland where I should have wild camped the previous night. I remember feeling a little disappointed in that moment that I hadn’t just pressed on and braved the short distance to this point, especially when I checked my GPS and saw that it wasn’t even 2 miles from the youth hostel. Despite the darkness drawing in, in hindsight I feel that I could’ve just made it in time if only I had realised how close it actually was.
One thing that did brighten my thoughts was knowing that this spot marked the end of the camping management zone along Loch Lomond and from here on, there would be no penalty for wild camping should the need arise. At this stage of the way, things start to become interesting, with hikers now getting a choice of higher or lower route. If choosing the low route, the narrow mud path leads downhill through the woods where it then follows the shoreline of Loch Lomond, whilst the high route remains on the main wide track and climbs higher through the forestry. Although both routes offer stunning scenery, there are differences in terrain and walk effort.
LOW ROUTE: This path is the original route of the West Highland Way when it first opened as an official trail on October 6th 1980. It closely follows the waters edge of Loch Lomond but is quite hard going, often requiring the need to scramble over large boulders and has steep dips in the pathway with lots of rocks and tree roots. Hikers who have walked this section of trail say that it is a more challenging route which requires concentration on the slippery surfaces and takes considerably longer to complete. This is made more difficult if carrying heavier loads such as a full rucksack and camping gear.
HIGH ROUTE: This route continues along the wide track and was made an official route to the West Highland Way at a later date. The decision to do this was to create an easier alternative for people who found the low route too challenging. The track is considerably easier underfoot with no real scrambling or obstacles. Hikers are advised to choose this route if they have unstable footing or are backpacking and therefore carrying heavy loads. Taking the higher path on average will shorten the time taken to complete this section by approximately 1.5 hours.
Heads up: It is important to bare in mind here that the section of trail along Loch Lomond past the Inversnaid Hotel takes hikers on a much longer but very similar scramble to the low route here at Ptarmigan Woods which is unavoidable. That, together with this lower route option does make for a very long and tiring day 3 indeed and careful consideration is advised.
I settled upon the higher route for my first journey along the West Highland Way. As tempted as I was to brave the low path, I had heard first hand that it was a mean feat. My load definitely wasn’t the lightest with all my camping gear and I wanted to give myself the best chance of success so I believe the high route for me worked best on this occasion. I have to say that the route is stunning and it gave me the opportunity to view the interesting sights which I would’ve missed otherwise. Unfortunately it did mean missing out on a visit to Rowchoish Bothy which is a popular stop off spot on the low path.
The forest track as it climbs above the loch around Ptarmigan Woods is perhaps one of the most tranquil parts of todays walk. The forest on either side of the trail here is very dense and the pine trees so big that the branches in places completely cover the pathway, in affect creating a tunnel with very little light. On the right side of me was a high gritstone crag which ran a considerable distance and every few hundred yards were beautiful waterfalls which tumbled down from the high tops.
As I reached the highest section of trail on the approach to Kinlochard, I found myself in another dazzling location made up of stunning silver birch trees and lots of green grass with the most perfect lookout spot over the imposing loch. Gazing down an open space, there stood a solitary wooden bench which I recognised straight away. It was none other than the Tom Wheldon memorial bench, another well known landmark of the high route. I decided to sit awhile and gather my thoughts whilst thinking of Tom and who he might have been. Despite searching the internet for information about him, my efforts have been unsuccessful. Maybe he wasn’t a well recognised person like Tom Wier in Balmaha but his memorial plaque certainly touched many a hiker’s heart and has featured in many blogs and YouTube videos about the West Highland Way.
The following photograph is of the scene in which I enjoyed as I sat thoughtfully on Tom’s bench. Despite the intermittent rain which came upon me several times as I was there, I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful setting this really was. There were also several really good potential wild camping spots around here too and this continues right the way along this section of trail. Another thing to bare in mind if considering this location as an overnight stop off.
I have to admit that this section at Kinlochard was probably one of my favourite parts of today. The sights all around were breathtaking and it wasn’t a difficult hike at all. As much as I love rugged open mountain terrain, I’m a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to scenery, also preferring the locations where I am closed in on all sides by trees and lush greenery. Thick mosses line the pathways and banks around these parts giving the ground that smooth fairytale glen appearance. That together with the light through the trees added to the charm and beauty I experienced. I felt completely relaxed as I ambled along the path heading closer towards Inversnaid.
Approximately 2 miles along the high route from where the path splits at Ptarmigan Lodge, the trail eventually meets back up with the lower route. Glancing down the path which leads off to the left towards it, I thought it looked an equally attractive walk and made up my mind that this route must be explored further on my next visit. Yet pressing onwards I couldn’t fail in being blown away by the surprises which befell me at every opportunity.
Lots of beautiful waterfalls continue to adorn this magnificent section of trail, some small trickle whilst others are high, thunderous and well established cascades. There are certain points in the path where the water rushes over and continues its journey down the opposite side. These parts do require a small bit of scrambling and river crossing but usually there are good rocks to make use of and no difficulty in crossing. Care should be taken however on the rocks in question as there are steep drops down some of the waterfalls and the rocks can become very slippery in the wet and mud.
The approach to Inversnaid drew closer with every step and eventually I came to an open space where the forestry falls away down the hillside to reveal a landscape that was awash with colour and a blaze of early spring blue which was impressive. Never before had I ever seen so many bluebells all together and it made a beautiful scene which I stopped to soak in at the first opportunity. The spring season was often late to arrive in Scotland due to the prolonged winter weather resulting in many plants being later to bloom than down south. The bluebells here were no exception, yet it was a pleasant feeling to finally see the warmer months coming into play.
The rain began falling again at this stage of the walk which wasn’t a surprise seen as it had been intermittent all morning. So far my waterproof clothing was doing an excellent job of keeping me dry. My only desire really was that it would’ve been bliss to be able to remove them and allow some air to my skin. It was now day 3 of walking in outer shell waterproofs and it wasn’t quite how I imagined it would be. Yet I knew that if I removed them I would end up soaking and therefore be more uncomfortable later in the day. Heading along the shoreline of the loch it was amazing to see brief shafts of sunlight beaming down in short bursts in between the low, dark clouds and every now and then, low, sweeping mists past me on the loch as I ambled on.
Before reaching Inversnaid, I found myself entering pretty woodland once again following a narrow mud path with lots of tiny streams and waterfall crossings to navigate. This part of the way is made up of gradual elevation and descent for the remainder of this section.
Check out the gallery below for an idea of what I experienced here.
However shortly before arriving at the Inversnaid Hotel, I came across this random pile of rocks and branches which appeared to have been dumped at the side of the path. It was an unusual sight and not what one would expect in such a location. It looked out of place somehow. On closer inspection of the accompanying plaque, I found it was none other than the Bill Lobban memorial which I had heard about prior to my walk.
On the 23rd of November 1975 Bill Lobban made the ultimate sacrifice in saving the life of a friend. Bill, a teacher, tragically drowned in Loch Lomond on this date whilst attempting to save the lives of 2 fellow teachers and a pupil who had slipped and fallen into the ice cold Loch whilst out on a trip. He managed to rescue the pupil and bring him to safety but unfortunately, lost his life in the process.
The story of Bill Lobban is a sad one of the West Highland Way and it certainly gave me food for thought as I completed the final hurdle towards the hotel. It certainly highlights the lengths in which people will go to save another’s life and acts as a subtle reminder that despite its beauty which we can become so easily absorbed in, Loch Lomond and any great stretch of water has obvious yet hidden dangers. No doubt there are others who have died around the location or are remembered in a similar way to Bill Lobban yet it has become a prominent landmark and is now customary for passing hikers of the West Highland Way to add stones, rocks, leaves, flowers and branches to the ever growing pile as a mark of respect for the ultimate sacrifice he made.
Continuing on from the memorial, I followed the trail onwards through similar attractive woodland and eventually came to this beautiful waterfall….
The Inversnaid Falls are located in a beautiful clearing close to the path edge on the approach close to the Inversnaid Hotel and are a succession of stunning cascades over large boulders before becoming one large fall down into Loch Lomond. I remember feeling mesmerised here as I stopped to watch the water flow in many parts. The clearing would’ve made a wonderful spot to stop and eat lunch especially on a warm summers day, however, unfortunately it was raining and wet underfoot at the time I passed through. There are beautiful flowers and woodland plants here in this location and with the path edge and clearing being high up above the loch, there are clear views to be had of the waterfall all around.
After a brief stop here to take in the beautiful scene, it was onwards I pressed along the trail leading over the top of the waterfall before heading alongside the hotel towards the Inversnaid Walkers Bar.
The time was now approximately 12.30pm and I had now reached my first real milestone of the day to break for lunch. However upon entering the Walkers Bar, I learned that all that was being served were cakes and hot drinks. I have to admit that initially I was disappointed as I had previously heard great things about the bar and had looked forward to paying it a visit and enjoying a proper hot meal but the impression I got was that there were staffing issues at many establishments in these parts of the highlands and due to this, the Walkers Bar was currently unable to function as it once did. The recent Covid 19 pandemic had not helped matters. Many businesses in secluded parts of Britain were struggling to resume services with lots closing permanently.
Although I was unable to get lunch here, I was able to sit outside on the table and chairs there and eat the sandwich and tiffin that I had bought earlier from Ben’s Bakes honesty box in Rowardennan. As I waited for my stove to heat water for an instant latte from my own supply, I gazed out across the loch which had a clear view from such a high vantage point. I also managed to chat to an American family I met who had flown over to Britain to hike the West Highland Way with their daughter. They had asked her what she would like as her treat for graduating and she had chosen to hike the way. Now they were here and they couldn’t believe how much it had rained so far. Their final statement before we said our goodbyes was that the next foreign long distance trail she longed to embark on would be paid for and attended by only her. I smiled inwardly to myself as they prepared for the next leg of the adventure.
Inversnaid to the end of Loch Lomond
The Inversnaid Hotel is a grand establishment and stands proudly at the edge of Loch Lomond at Inversnaid right on the West Highland Way trail. Although the hotel has catered for walkers of the way it is a typical hotel setting and its facilities are aimed at the residents who pay to stay there. The walkers bar is where hikers are directed when passing through as opposed to the main hotel entrance but visitors are allowed to use the hotel toilets located on the ground floor. When entering the hotel via the walkers bar entrance, a sign clearly states that footwear, coats, rucksacks and walking poles should be left in the entrance room and not brought beyond this into the bar in order to protect the floors and furniture. Outside the walkers bar entrance there is also a clean water tap where bottles can be replenished.
Leaving the walkers bar a little over an hour later, I ambled across the car park to where the trail continues on along the narrow path which skirts Loch Lomond. It was raining heavily as I fastened my outer shell jacket around me and psyched myself up for what I understood to be the most challenging part of today’s hike.
The path, I have to say begins fairly straightforward with flat, level terrain which is hardly challenging at all. I found myself walking with ease which seemed to me like a gentle stroll along the loch on the narrow woodland footpath.
Yet no sooner had I begun to relax when the route began to throw some challenging shapes into the mix. It all started with the steep incline in the upcoming path which involved avoiding a steep drop down into the waters of the loch below. The climb is as much that as it is a scramble due to slippery bank sides and very wet mud! At the best of times the pathway is a mud path which can really narrow down in parts and there are all the usual obstacles such as boulders, large rocks, tree roots of which many have become exposed due to landslides and general wear and tear of the walkway. For very long periods of this section, I felt that it was a constant game of stepping stones and forever trying to remain upright.
Then came the part where I, by my own admission, almost slipped down an embankment in extremely deep mud. The ground underfoot was very slippery making the rocks and smaller boulders almost polished. It is definitely a section where I needed my wits about me at all times. The footpath continues for quite a few miles like this as it winds around steep crags and rock faces yet all the while, as much as it was hard going and time consuming from the need to use full concentration, it was still an attractive walking location. I found it difficult at times even as I stood in the pouring rain throughout this section, to tear myself away from various spots of interest or to refrain from taking photographs. How I didn’t manage just one small fall still amazes me to this day especially when the scrambles became so tricky that they required full hands free navigation. This was made all the more difficult that day due to the density of the rainfall which is common around Loch Lomond resulting in almost permanently wet and treacherously slippery surfaces.
It was around here that I met 2 women who were walking the way together. One of them had already walked the West Highland Way some years before this and had knowledge of the route. It ended up becoming a very pleasant walk along this section with them and we kept passing each other and catching each other up at various stages. I consider myself a rather slow going hiker in comparison to many others I met and it was nice to walk with people who were of a similar walking speed to myself. I guess being an adventure blogger does have its downsides in the area of speed as it is time consuming to keep stopping to take in the scenery and capture images. It is always worth it though when I look back through them especially if I have missed something.
As seen in the gallery below, the terrain at this stage is very different to what I had so far experienced.
One thing I noticed along the journey was that many had opted for the use of an outdoors poncho as opposed to a waterproof overcoat. It was surprising the number of people that did this and it made me consider purchasing one myself for my future adventures. The people I saw wearing one appeared far more comfortable and the ponchos look efficient for the weather conditions. We had experienced a massive amount of rain in the last 3 days alone which had left me soaking despite wearing a down jacket which was supposed to be waterproof. Maybe the poncho is the way forward on these long distance hikes?
The following photograph shows the famous ‘pinch’ on the West Highland Way trail which everyone talks about and has at least one photo of. This is a place where the path runs between a large tree and huge boulder with no safe alternative route around. It was rather a tight squeeze getting myself and the rucksack through.
I’ll let the photos do the talking here.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally reached a stage where there was a little respite from the hard slog when I hit a flat and relatively easy section at a clearing close to the waters edge. Up ahead I could see the Island I’Vow, a tiny island in the middle of Loch Lomond covered with trees and lush vegetation. When reaching this location, it is not far from the end of the challenging Loch Lomond section but as a word of warning, it is certainly not without leaving a sting in its tail, for the upcoming path is probably the most difficult part. It involves lots of scrambling and climbing including that of a very high ladder leading up to the top of a high bridge overlooking the loch.
Although a fun section, I had to laugh when I spotted the ladder looming up on my approach. It came at a stage when I was beginning to ask myself if this section would ever actually end and this was like someone’s idea of a joke just to make the route extra tiring. Other people were also feeling the same by now and I fully understood what people had meant by challenging. Glancing further down the Loch from here, it was impossible to know exactly how much further it went on for but little did I realise that I was so close to the end.
It is difficult to describe exactly the relief I felt upon reaching the end of Loch Lomond. The most noticeable aspect that sprung to mind as I stood on the soft sand of the lochside beach was the surprise of suddenly feeling rejuvenated with energy rather than drained. It was quite a switch in emotion as just minutes before, I had almost given up hope. Now, the hardest work was over.
Onward it was through Ardleish towards the second bothy of the West Highland Way which would be a proper rest stop.
Doune Byre Bothy
After a short walk across some long grassy marshland and an even shorter but sharp climb up a rocky limestone path through woodland, I eventually reached the top of the hill from which I could see the bothy with the beautiful loch beyond it. The path in this section felt familiar despite me never visiting here before and the fact it couldn’t be more further from my home in Sheffield but I soon realised why. Limestone is very prominent within the White Peak of my local national park of the Peak District and the sight of the limestone pathway reminded me in lots of ways of the crags and dry stone walls which are commonplace in those parts. In saying that, it was still unusual to see such a small patch of it here and not what I would’ve expected at all.
Doune Byre Bothy is one of many free bothies owned and maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA) and is a well known rest stop of the West Highland Way. It is in itself, a simple dwelling made of stone with basic furniture, a fireplace and 4 raised wooden platforms in which to place sleeping equipment. In modern times, bothies are used as a valuable shelter and can be saviours to any weary hiker from the harsh weather conditions which can befall us. They can be used by anyone and there is no limit to how many people may shelter in a bothy at any given time. Conditions inside are often basic with people providing their own food, cooking and sleeping equipment. Firewood to make a fire if there is a fireplace may be provided but it is not guaranteed, in which case people will need to gather their own wood or carry it in. Quite often there is no lighting inside a bothy and in most cases, no toilet facilities.
Yet once upon a time these buildings were properly used properties and usually belonged to farmers who rented them out to shepherds who worked the land. As time went on and they fell into disrepair, they often stood unused and desolate, never being used or loved by anyone. Over time, they have become maintained by the MBA to be used as shelters to provide a safe rest stop usually in isolated, secluded spots.
I didn’t stay overnight at Doune Byre Bothy on this occasion although the temptation at the time was definitely present but due to my planning of the amount of miles I intended to hike each day, I didn’t deem it to be quite far enough. Instead I opted to enjoy a long break here to recuperate before the final stretch towards Beinglas. I have to mention here however, that I have seen the bothy put to fantastic use as an overnight stop off point and in the winter of 2021, a friend of mine stayed overnight here when he hiked his winter West Highland Way expedition in harsh conditions in December of that year.
On entering the bothy I was greeted by Alex, an ex Armed Forces soldier who had travelled from near Devon to hike the way. As I sat drinking my self prepared latte I found myself listening to Alex’s interesting story of his hike so far. He told me that he hadn’t started at the very beginning but had joined the trail at Rowardennan after a long and eventful paddle across Loch Lomond in a dingy! Whilst guiding the dingy over the water, it had the added challenges of the choppy undercurrent and rainfall which had made some of his equipment wet. After safely reaching the opposite side, he had then buried his dingy in the banks of the loch with the intention of retrieving it upon completion of the hike and made his way to Rowchoish Bothy where he had stayed the night before heading here the following day. A fire was going nicely in the bothy and even as I sat, his clothing was nicely drying on the overhead washing lines which were suspended from the ceiling.
Below is a gallery of the interior of Doune Byre Bothy which gives some idea of the conditions inside and what to expect if planning to stay here.
Before leaving after approximately an hour of rest I had a quick thumb through the new bothy book. Sadly I couldn’t read my friends entry from his December hike as the old book had been replaced only 3 days prior to my visit but it was still great nonetheless to read the adventures of strangers who had passed through recently. After writing my entry, I shouldered my Sherpa and began heading further towards Inverarnan and Beinglas Campsite.
Doune Byre Bothy to Beinglas Camping
It was now approximately 5.30pm and I was conscious of the time getting on at this point of the day. The scenery here I have to say was absolutely stunning on the downhill plod towards Inverarnan. I had the pleasure of being gifted to the open landscape with clear views down into the valley, with the river Falloch running right through the centre. It was was my first proper taste in days of complete openness with everything recently being so closed in on both sides by valleys, loch side crags and heavily wooded area and was refreshing to the mind to enjoy a snippet of what was yet to come in the latter half of this adventure. I was just beginning to sense the beginning of dusk when I first spotted Beinglas Farm ahead down in the valley.
However the best is definitely saved while last for a reason, as I scaled the final hill of my day and took one last look over my shoulder just after leaving Ardleish. The photo at the end of this paragraph was the wonderful view behind me of the long stretch of east Loch Lomond which I had just trekked leading back past the Island I’Vow towards Inversnaid. When staring at this scene from afar, it is hard to envision its challenging secrets which lie hidden within its heart and just the very sight of it draws you in, almost blinding you in an instant. Yet any weary wanderer who has ever trodden this path will never again be fooled by its clandestine. For beauty although easy on the eye, is merely only a distraction.., its true nature is found deep within.
Beinglas Farm Campsite
The walk down the valley towards Beinglas Camping took slightly longer than I imagined but eventually and at long last, I found myself treading the wooden slats of the neat wooden footbridge located just in the entrance of the farm. Glancing across the valley before my arrival, I had been glad to spot the Drovers Inn at the side of the lane and looking prominent against the open landscape in the early fading light. The first thing I did was set up my tent after check in before freshening up and changing my clothing. After purchasing some washing and drying tokens from the pub restaurant and setting my used clothes in the wash, I made my way to the pub for a well earned evening meal and my first pint of the hike.
Once in the pub, I spotted a few hikers I had met over the last few days on the adventure, these included the 2 women that I had hiked the difficult section of Loch Lomond with earlier today and 2 girls I had initially met briefly in the Beech Tree Inn at Dungoyne on day 1. Whilst there, I ordered the Beinglas steak and ale pie with chips and vegetables and a pint of local cider.
Facilities at Beinglas Camping were excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent here. It came at just the right time on day 3 of my long distance hike to be able to wash my clothing, take a hot shower, replenish food and be able to properly relax whilst in the company of fellow hikers. The pitches for camping were located in a large open space with lots of room for tents and the ground was in perfect condition. There were also the option to rent pods and cabins if camping isn’t your thing. On site there were well maintained toilets and showers and a farm shop which sold most convenient supplies. The onsite bar and restaurant was a most welcome sight and proved very popular when staying at Beinglas. There were also washing and drying facilities where tokens could be purchased to operate the machines at a reasonable price. These were located in the self catering shelter at the side of the pub where there were ample seating, tables and facilities to prepare food in a sheltered environment alongside a sink to wash cooking equipment. Taps to refill water bottles were also available.
UPDATE! As of September 2022, Beinglas Farm and camping is no longer open to the public and is therefore no longer an option for accommodation whilst on the West Highland Way Trail. Sadly, the owners could not renew their lease on the property with Glen Falloch Estates and there is talk in the pipeline that the land is being sold. Beinglas Farm finally closed its doors on the 30th September 2022 and currently stands desolate after 25 years of service. The nearby Drovers Inn, another popular stop off on the West Highland Way is also closed.
Finally settling down in my sleeping bag within the safe confines of Beinglas Camping, I found myself thinking about the day that had passed and all that I had seen throughout it. What an action packed day it had been! It seemed that as the days went on, the West Highland Way just got more interesting and fulfilling. Despite being challenging, I had been mesmerised by the scenery whenever there was a break in the dense foliage and greenery. Even the difficult struggle of the Loch Lomond stretch past Inversnaid was already beginning to fade and be replaced by beautiful memories. To sit in the pub at the end of such a trek with the most amazing people I had met so far whilst on the way, really made me realise just what this walk is about. It isn’t just a walk or a trail even, the people who embark on the journey with you are what really make it. It truly was a fabulous end to a hard day of hiking to be able to sit together in the pub and relive our adventures and share some of the magic that we had each experienced so far on the trail. This one moment remains one of my most treasured of the West Highland Way.
The last thought that flickered through my mind before sleep consumed me was Alex who I had met that day at Doune Byre Bothy and his dingy story. He wasn’t staying at Beinglas unfortunately as he had a bivvy as opposed to a tent and sadly, a rule of Beinglas was tents only in the camping section. The last I had seen of him was when he overtook me on the long plod down the valley from Ardleish to Beinglas. I couldn’t help but wonder where exactly his day had taken him and if he was comfortable in his bivvy and tarp. It was a strange realisation that came over me as I laid as still as a mouse in my sleeping bag that night, listening to the wind as it rushed over the mountains surrounding us, the faint roar of a nearby large waterfall and the light rain as it patted down on the tent. A friend had once said of his experiences of the West Highland Way that the people you meet whilst on it never leave you… and that is so true on many levels. I now knew exactly where he had been coming from. You form a bond unconsciously and although you know that it might only be temporary, that all good things must come to an end.., in the phase of infatuation, they become like the family you never knew you had…
Distance walked: 15.25 miles
Elevation gain: 1,620 feet
To summarise day 3 of my West Highland Way walk, I’d like to begin by saying that I felt less tired today than I did yesterday on day 2. Yes that’s right, less tired! The stretch along Loch Lomond past the Inversnaid Hotel I’m not going lie, wasn’t easy and I had definitely had enough come the end but I still had energy to walk the remaining miles to Inverarnan and then pitch a tent, do laundry and spend time in the pub. After finishing day 2 I couldn’t have done hardly any of those things due to severe fatigue. The route is challenging due to the obstacles such as rocks, boulders, raised tree roots, steep sloping pathways, river crossings, waterfalls and climbing. This makes the walk very time consuming and so the day is much longer. On the day I hiked it had been raining most of the day which made the pathway muddy and slippery which in turn made the walk extra hard going. I definitely recommend good grip hiking boots especially on this section.
Ensuring you have packed enough food for day 3 is definitely something I cannot stress enough. Apart from the honesty box at Ben’s Bakes in Rowardennan and the Walkers Bar at the Inversnaid Hotel, there were no other food outlets on this section of trail. The Walkers Bar although pleasant enough, has seen massive changes since the Covid 19 pandemic and what could once be purchased there now cannot. If I hadn’t stocked up for lunch at Ben’s Bakes I would’ve had to rely on my evening dehydrated meals in which I only carried enough for 1 meal every evening.
One aspect that wore me down throughout the day was the almost constant rainfall. So far I had experienced not one dry day on the trail and today had definitely been the wettest. In a way, I had kind of accepted beforehand that day 3 along Loch Lomond might bring rain, this being due to how vast the loch actually is. Many other hikers of the way have commented that it is common for increased rain around these parts and so it didn’t really come as a surprise. It just meant that there was less opportunity to sit and relax outdoors at rest stops which would’ve been great.
In regards to local history, this section of the West Highland Way threw lots of surprises especially when I came across the Tom Wheldron memorial bench and the Bill Lobban memorial. Although simple touches along the way, I felt they gave the trail a little character and made it more interesting nonetheless. Being able to sit in Doune Byre Bothy with a hot drink and relax was a highlight of my day and it set my curiosity for bothy camping a notch higher on my adventure ladder. Maybe I will plan a bothy adventure at some stage in the future. The beauty of doing these sorts of adventures are that they can be created and made up in many different ways to reach the same ending.
So now that the widely believed most challenging day was complete, I have to admit that it felt good to know I had made it. I had been nervous about this section and wondered if I would still feel ok at the end of it. Despite feeling tired, my feet still didn’t yet have a blister and my kit was holding out well in the mud and rain. Overall, I really enjoyed day 3.
Special thanks and acknowledgements are very many throughout the journey of my West Highland Way adventure as I met so many amazing people everyday. It is impossible to mention everyone, however I feel it necessary to offer my extended thanks to the following for their support, hospitality and for making day 3 an epic milestone to tick off my list.
Rowardennan Youth Hostel: For accommodating me on night 2 despite turning up unannounced and without a prior booking. Great facilities were available and I couldn’t have wished for a more pleasant experience. Thankyou.
Ben’s Bakes: For providing the most lushest coconut tiffin I have ever tasted! This is definitely my favourite honesty box of the whole hike.
Shay Boyfield: For the support you gave me throughout the time I spent with you on days 1 and 2 of the trail. Also never forgetting your kindness on the morning of day 3 just shortly before I left the hostel. You know what I mean by that. Once again Thankyou.
The American family at Inversnaid: Sadly I do not know the names of this awesome family but Thankyou for the chat and lighthearted humour whilst we sat drinking coffee in the drizzle outside the walker’s bar. You brought some cheer to the difficult day and definitely brightened my morning.
Andrea Williams and her lovely friend who I sadly cannot remember the name of. You both ended up playing a larger part in my journey having seeing you after this on every remaining day of this hike. To think I met you during the most challenging section of the Loch Lomond trek still makes me laugh to this very day. What a great day it was scrambling all that section together. I even climbed the ladder with you near the end! Thankyou once again for your positive comments when you saw I’d used photographs with you in them on my Instagram blog. Although they do not do the trail it’s true justice as you make it look so much easier, I felt the photographs give a small insight into what to expect as a typical hiker of the way. Thankyou for sharing the trail with me and making my time with you enjoyable.
Alex Dean at Doune Byre Bothy: What an intriguing person you are! Just when I thought I’d seen and heard it all before, out you popped from the woodwork. I loved hearing about your adventures and especially your dingy story whilst crossing Loch Lomond. You were a light at the point where the world had gone a little dark especially just after leaving Loch Lomond. Never change Alex, you’re a gem!
Ruby Cleal and Anjali Punn at Beinglas: Meeting you once again after our initial meeting at the Beech Tree Inn was lovely and I’d wondered as I picked myself along the shores of Loch Lomond exactly how far along the trail you were. Thankyou for joining me for tea at the pub and for rescuing me from that creepy man in the bar. I can laugh about it now it’s safely behind me but it does highlight how careful you do have to be on these backpacking trails. Again, never change. You are an amazing pair of girls with a real passion for travel and adventure. Thankyou for making my time on the trail fun.
Beinglas Farm and Camping: A massive Thankyou to the people of Beinglas Farm who went above and beyond to provide a clean, welcoming and pleasant environment for hikers of the West Highland Way for many years. I’m saddened that this accommodation is nolonger available as it is the perfect stop off on the end of day 3. The way will not be the same without you.
Carl Johnson: Once again and without a second thought is my hiker friend and fellow blogger Carl. The endless support you gave everyday on this trail was incredible. Despite not being with me, you put me at ease with your knowledge of the route ahead and warned me of obstacles, diversions and terrain in various sections to keep me prepared. I can almost picture you laughing to yourself at the thought of what was coming up whenever I told you my location. No wonder you went quiet on me when I asked if I was near the end of Loch Lomond and I hadn’t even passed the Island I’Vow! I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry to this day. Thankyou so much for being you though Carl and it’s great to see you back on YouTube.
Finally, a massive thank you to my readers. You are what makes this site possible and who I write these blogs for. Thankyou for continuing to support me and my adventures. Much love guys, see you in day 4. Xxx
Sources of information
Saunders, P (2022) Rowardennan to Inversnaid. See Loch Lomond. http://www.seelochlomond.co.uk last accessed on the 26/01/23.
Smith, R & Aitken, B (2013) The West Highland Way: The Official Guide. Accessed on 28/01/23. www. books.google.co.uk
The Mountain Bothies Association (2022) http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk
West Highland Way Official Tour Guide http://www.westhighlandway.org
All photographs used in the creation of this blog post are my own and have been captured using an iPhone 12 camera device. They have been sourced and edited by myself Lucy Bailey from my Instagram account found at SoloExplorer23 using Instagram editor tool to enhance clarity and quality of the image. All distance and elevation images as tracked on Strava GPS app are my own and were live recorded on the day in question.
4 thoughts on “West Highland Way – Day 3: Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm”
for such an interesting and insightful read about the WHW. I can’t wait to hear more!
I’m a senior citizen living in Florida but Scottish and I’ve only done a small part of the Way but want to come over in 24 to do more( Loch Lomond is out for me )
I wish you many happy trails and adventures to come,
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Thankyou for your comment. It means a lot that you enjoyed it and that it was helpful in some way. Also, great stuff that you are considering the WHW soon. Honestly, I bet you won’t believe it but I’m already thinking of redoing it. It’s a trail that gets into your blood. Within a week of returning home, I was dying to go back it’s that addictive!
I agree that perhaps the Loch Lomond stretch past Inversnaid might be a bit much for you, it’s a hard slog and lots gave up after that but I’m sure that if you planned right you could get off the trail at the Inversnaid Hotel and travel to Inverarnan or Crianlarich and pick back up there so that you don’t miss too much of it. I loved the WHW. Take care and Thankyou for stopping by. Lucy
Another brilliant blog post Lucy! Reading it through was like being on the trail with you. Thanks as always for the mention. So glad I could be of help. Looking forward to part 4 now.
All the best, Carl
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Hey Carl, Thankyou so much for the kind comment. I really enjoyed this one. I’m sorry about how long it took. I’ve had a lot going off these last couple of months but I’ll tell you about that soon. Unfortunately it meant I had to put blogging on the back burner for a while but I’m glad I picked it back up. Day 3 wasn’t just hard work it was also action packed, so as you know only too well there was such a lot to talk about. Probably more on that day than some of the others. I also wanted to try and describe the Loch Lomond stretch past Inversnaid as accurately as I possibly could although I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate its difficulty until they walk it themselves.
Of course you are always a massive help to me and despite you not being with me on my hikes, you nearly always have played a part in them in some way or another. I’m already sorting through the images for day 4 and hope to get on with it pretty soon. Once again, Thankyou Carl.