Stage 2 – Along Loch Lomond

Days 3 and 4. Millarochy to Inverarnan

After enjoying the showers for a little longer than usual, reorganising the packs (again) and a final go on the swings, we left camp at Millarochy with a wonderful send off from the camp wardens and pockets full of sweets. With a promise of breakfast pastries at the next campsite we made good time along to Cashell where we stopped for a cheeky brunch of sausage rolls and some toast. We bumped into Emma (previously mentioned yesterday), who was wondering about the weather. (My weather app told us it would dry until around 4 when all hell would be let loose) She was starting the day later than planned as she’d had a rough and windy night which surprised us as we hadn’t felt a breath of wind. We headed out about 20 minutes afterwards, deciding to stride out a bit to make some distance before the weather hit later that afternoon.

We were so wrong

 “For the first time I was unsure if this trip was going work or if it was just too much!”

It took us 5 hours to get to Rowardennan, about 4 miles up the trail. We don’t know what happened but things just weren’t working and Isaac especially did not want to play. To say we ambled along would be an understatement and for the first time I was unsure if this trip was going work or if it was just too much. Honestly, he would walk for about 10 minutes then just stop and it would take about 20 minutes to coax him into moving again. So it was with relief when we arrived at the hotel/bar at Rowardennan. As the children walked ahead with the promise of hot chocolate we discussed the possibility of blowing our budget and just trying for a room at the hotel. We still had a couple of miles to go before we could legitimately wildcamp and both the weather and the light were against us.

Walking into the bar we spotted Emma again who by now was really struggling with blisters and in tears with each step. I ordered drinks and that helped us decide to push on. (£11 for 2 coffees and 3 cokes, how much must a room be?) The drinks arrived as Emma left, we chatted about possible camps and she said she would try to reach the bothy at Rowcoish. After she went we discussed our options but Hazel mentioned that Emma had told her that we were inspiring her to push on through the pain of her blisters so how could we wimp out now. The children decided we should launch a rescue mission, of sorts, to provide Emma with blister plasters and moral support. After all, she was only 20 minutes ahead of us now so if we rocked we might catch her up.

We left the warmth of the hotel at 5 and headed into the rain. We did indeed rock. We blazed along the trail (compared to the morning) and after taking the low road just past Ptarmigan Lodge the trail became a bit harder going. This is where we found out how the mind of a 5 year old works. On the easier trail of the morning, Isa really struggled. Now on trickier terrain we could barely keep up. We were aiming for the bothy to find Emma but after hiking past 3 or 4 perfect camping spots and with the light fading we decided to stop and pitch up for our first wildcamp of the trip about a mile short of that destination. We didn’t see Emma again but we appreciated her kind words and hope she got off the trail in one piece. Blisters are the worst!

With rain pouring and wind blowing we got in the tent, ate some tortilla wraps with squirty cheese and went to bed. Where I found my neck was resting on the hardest lump of something EVER.

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After an awful night during which the winds blew, the rain fell and the lump pushed vertebrae out of place we had a very light breakfast and everyone else left me to pack away the tent and catch them up. This was our earliest start but we were pretty worn out now and were hoping for a better day than the one just passed. The signs were good as the kids were back to their usual enthusiastic best and then, just past Rob Roy’s Prison we spotted a herd of deer grazing between the trees. We almost tripped over some guys who had practically camped ON the trail and then we saw the first rainbow of what would turn out to be a SEVEN rainbow day but the best was yet to come.

Coming over a little wooden bridge at Cailness we saw an old cottage and just by a the fence an honesty box stall. TRAIL MAGIC!!! On closer inspection, it was offering a delightful selection of fresh fruit, homemade granola cookies, Nana’s recipe Scottish Tablet and lemon infused water. I turned to Hazel, who was in tears at the kindness of the gesture. It was just what we needed. We grabbed the children some goodies and I left a £10 note and a little note saying thank you. It was worth every penny!

We arrived at Inversnaid about 11.30ish having had a lovely morning and it was here I was once again surprised. We perched ourselves on the benches outside the hotel and having seen the waiters through the window with their bow ties and finery, was ready to push on. Hazel took Lil in to make use of the facilities and to my surprise she came out all excited about the tea and cake being cheap as chips and how the back bar was set up for hikers and they had a room set aside where we could have our lunch.  I’m delighted to say my first impressions (too posh for us) were wrong and we had a wonderful 45 minutes dirt-baggin at the poshest hotel I’ve ever been in!

We headed on out to Inverarnan with the guidebook ringing in our ears. This was apparently the toughest section of the whole trail.

We headed on out to Inverarnan with the guidebook ringing in our ears. This was apparently the toughest section of the whole trail. Once again the children practically ran along the trail. Scrambling over boulders, navigating boggy bits like acrobats and always looking for the hardest route along the track. We stopped to throw stones into Loch Lomond for the last time and navigated our way through some goats. Evan was called a hero by an American or Canadian couple (apologies for being unable to tell the difference) We had so much fun on this section and looking back, it might my favourite day on the West Highland Way. It was certainly our longest as we arrived at Beinglas Farm about 8pm and the kids headed straight for the playpark.  We found Liz from Millarochy who was astounded that we had made it so far but who was leaving the trail the following day. We completed a relay to the toilets as the kids shoes were drying out. I had to carry each across a boggy camp field, in turn without slipping in the mud. In the dark. With a spotlight from the office in my eyes! Having invested £6 on an extra camp mat from the little but well stocked shop, we ended the day well. Best day so far!!!

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