Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
The mistress of The Drymen Inn is lovely woman.
There were three busy tables having breakfast early, two couples and me. Mine, next to the windows. I was absent watching as it rained when he brought me the scrambled eggs. It’s raining, he told me. She grabbed a chair, and began to tell me that they opened a few months ago, that it was a very warm March and April, that she had done the entire West Highland Way a couple of times … Travelling alone makes people offer you a little more closeness, a little more sympathy, a little more kindness. All in all, a little more humanity.
It took me, but I had to leave the warmth of The Drymen Inn because of the rain and the Scottish wind.
Beginning the second stage, from Drymen to Rowardennan
Leaving Drymen towards Rowardennan it is time to take the road, being completely within reach of the gusts of wind. After a few minutes, the road breaks to the right, bordering the High Wood Forest, which you will later fully enter, then continue through the Garadhban Forest. Wood is extracted from the first forest, sometimes giving it a total apocalyptic air. Here, sheltered from the wind, the rain has hardly bothered us, and the path has passed along a paved forest track that has been covered with a very thin layer of mud that has been sculpting by walkers. Finally, the path reaches a fork: to the left who goes with a dog or does not want to border Conic Hill (an ascent of about 300 meters), and straight who wants to follow the authentic path.
The English girl who was walking with her hands in her pockets and had passed, so as not to get muddy, over the wall of a bridge as if nothing had happened, has decided to take the easy way. I went straight on, until I found a fence like this for the herd, but that also seems to stop the wind: just out of the woods crossing the fence, the landscape has suddenly changed, the trees and the green have disappeared, and everything has turned brown, arid, and dry, though the last two adjectives are utterly erroneous. The weather has also hardened, the wind has come back very strong, bringing the famous Scottish side rain.
Connic Hill & Loch Lommond
From this point, the route borders Conic Hill, a hill of 350 meters that the rain, and especially the strong wind, have become quite hard: when it was blowing on the side, it unbalanced you, and when it was on the face, it forced you to take a step or two back. Just before the path begins the descent, there is the summit’s attack route, which only did those who were running with or without a little backpack.
The descent is smooth, and soon I have forgotten the abductor of the right thigh, the left foot blister, the water-filled boots, and the backpack that was once again in spite: seeing Loch Lomond appear behind Conic Hill heals everything. Even if it’s in black and white.
The view of Loch Lomond is relatively short-lived, and soon the path enters a protected area, the Millennium Forest, which is a spectacular forest. Just coming into the woods, it’s no longer raining, so I’ve taken advantage of removing my hood, cap, gloves, reflex, taking pictures and yawning while it was going to go wrong. While I was yawning, I’ve been approached by a group of four old people (it’s difficult to know the age of the people when they’re wearing a hood) and the woman asked me if I was lost. Bit by bit, I have arrived at the Visitor Centre in Balmaha, regaining the vision of Loch Lomond, which I will not leave until two days.
From Balmaha, half of today’s route, the path proceeds along the lake gently, until it reaches Rowardennan Forest. This is where a really hard stretch begins: after 15 kilometers, you add the fact that you go up and down a series of hills that are the best way to crush your thighs. In addition, many have sections of stairs, which make the situation even worse. In one, I found a couple, he in a cap and long hair, and she with gray hair and sitting on the stairs, burst. About five miles away, he told me.
I didn’t believe her, but she wasn’t too wrong. Almost an hour later, I arrived at Rowardennan Lodge, a great Youth Hostel. It was full of people I met in Milngavie, in Drymen, and with whom we have been moving forward for a while. There are also many compeeds, compressor bandages, ankle boots, thighs and knee pads. It’s been a tough day, we all say, in English, even if it’s not the language of many.
Map & Profile
T. distance (km)
T. ascent (m)
T. descending (m)