Day 1: A Blustery Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers
Heading off on our holidays, this was a perfect walk on the way to Tyndrum. Having last visited the Ben Lawers car park for Bruce’s final munro, Meall nan Tarmachan, it was good to be back, aside from the fact that there were no parking spaces left. Having manoeuvred onto the grassy area at the ‘wrong’ side of the cattle grid, we paid our £3 parking fee, loaded ourselves up with rucksacks and headed off.
I was unsure how my legs would be. Having done parkrun yesterday and found my quads still a bit sore I was concerned I might suffer. As it transpired, they actually felt okay. Walking was definitely easier than running and I even managed a wee jog back from the car when we realised we’d forgotten something!
In terms of munros, this was a gift. With the car park not far off halfway up the hill and a clear path all the way up it really doesn’t get much better! My only complaint was the wind at the top, but that was pretty much inevitable based on the forecast!
Beinn Ghlas was a busy hill. Lots of people on the way up, including one big group with many young lads (Scouts?) and lots of other smaller groups. Some were also headed back down having done the one munro, including one wee girl who had just completed her very first! As the route guide suggested, had it not been for knowing there were two munros on our walk I could happily have passed by without realising the little cairn was of any significance.
Heading off Beinn Ghlas, we dropped slightly before climbing gradually up into the cloud and onto the small summit of Ben Lawers. This had two trig points making it easily identifiable. I was glad of these as the wind had picked up a lot and was buffeting us quite severely. Alongside the rain that had blown in, it didn’t make for a pleasant experience. I plonked myself down on the cairn to ensure I didn’t get blown over; I don’t think that would have happened, but moving around was uncomfortable. Having touched the tops and taken the obligatory summit pictures, we were happy to start our descent.
Initially we retraced our steps back towards the dip between the two hills, then heading off to skirt around Beinn Ghlas rather than going up and over again. It was amazing how quickly the wind dropped and the weather changed for the better.
The descent route was easy and we made good time returning to the car. As often seems to be our way, the return to the car was timed to perfection, the rain just starting to spit as we arrived back at the car park.
Day 2: West Highland Way from Inverarnan to Tyndrum
The forecast suggesting we’d be getting very wet from early afternoon if we went high, we made the decision was to stay low instead. After checking timetables for buses and trains, we opted to catch the Citylink bus to Inverarnan in order to walk back to Tyndrum, a small section of the West Highland Way.
Well timed, we arrived at the bus stop just a couple of minutes ahead of the bus. Safely onboard, we had a wee stop at Crianlarich (where those on the bus for longer had a ‘5 minutes’ shout, allowing a comfort break at the facilities, before reaching our destination. Getting off just outside the Drovers Inn, we plodded along the roadside to reach the bridge across to Beinn Glas Farm. There we had our first blether stop of the day, chatting to a young couple who were on the Way.
Leaving Beinn Glas, the path climbed gradually. As with all of the route, this path is well built and well signposted.
On leaving our B & B we’d seen a military plane flying very low over our heads. We saw this again flying along our route – very exciting!
The path crossed under the railway line further on and then climbed again.
After the turn off for Crianlarich, the route climbed up to the forest and was then very undulating. This was far longer than we remembered; with his dodgy hip and my aching quads, we made a right pair! We enjoyed a stop at one of the higher points, sitting at the picnic table for a snack.
Up and down, up and down, it became a bit monotonous. We finally reach the Strathfillan wigwams and were glad to stop for a seat and a coffee. Beyond this, the Strathfillan graveyard and a beautiful bench on which to have a moment of contemplation.
Then it was the last lap into Tyndrum itself. We cut off at the caravan park as by this point the rain had arrived in the form of a heavy drizzle. We figured we’d done well getting that far!
Day 3: Ben Vane
My legs suffered after yesterday’s walk and I felt like I had the beginning of shin splints. Ibuprofen in the wee small hours seemed to have taken the edge off it and I got my yoga mat out and did some stretches after my shower. Legs eased slightly, we set off for Ben Vane, Ben Vorlich, or both.
Parking up at Inveruglas, I commented that it seemed familiar; I was reliably informed that I’d been here before and gone halfway up before bailing. I do recall that day (not very fondly); I’d gotten so far being buffeted by strong winds and decided it was a step too far. Bruce meanwhile continued on solo and ticked off another munro.
Today was to be very different! Conditions were good with mild temperatures and a real stillness in the air; the only issue was the mist, atmospherically shrouding the munro tops.
We walked along the roadside before turning up the hydro road. There we were greeted by a friendly chap manning the traffic and ensuring the safety of everyone heading up. We blethered for a bit before heading on our way, following the road briefly before cutting off through a muddy, rooty section, and popping back out on the road a little higher up. From there until nearer the head of the dam we met various vehicles heading up or down, all very courteous towards the pedestrian traffic of which there were a few of us spread out along the path.
Ahead of the Sloy Dam, we crossed a bridge before the climb of the day began. It was around here that Bruce recalled how little height was reached at this point, removing from the table the option of a quick jaunt up Ben Vorlich later.
The path was good, climbing steadily up stone steps, allowing us to gain height fairly quickly. At some point up this section we met a family and stopped to chat to them. There was another chap ahead and this, in combination with the drop, seemed to knock my sense of balance a little. After standing chatting for some time I felt a bit wobbly and less than confident about continuing. However, the path was good and I felt more steady again as we got moving.
We continued to climb upwards, some parts quite steep, the path zig-zagging a little. There appeared to be multiple paths at times, the routes converging regularly. There was nothing too tricky, but with multiple false tops we were grateful of the Garmin to give an indication of height.
There was a tiny wee scramble, and at this point I opted to put my walking poles into my rucksack. I later wished I’d also put gloves on as my fingernails got dirty! With the mist surrounding the hill, each rise looked tantalisingly like the top, but was just another false summit. with more than one path we opted to head left.
We encountered more of a scramble, and I was grateful of the chap ahead who went up and retraced his steps, showing the way after hitting a dead end. It was only on reaching the top of this ascent and seeing someone heading down the ‘wrong’ way that I realised there was the option of another clear path. Chatting to the chap we’d ‘followed’ at the top, he advised that the other path was better quality; we’d followed the more direct route!
We finally reached the last haul up and the true summit. Having visited both summit cairns, it appeared that the sun was trying to break through the mist. Eternal optimists, we sat at the back of a cairn, sheltered from the very slight breeze that was chilling the damp air, my rucksack tucked in close for extra warmth.
The sun didn’t come, so we retraced our steps after lunch, this time following the ‘good’ path down which was indeed better defined and easier.
Heading down, the obvious path was clearly visible and we made steady progress, stopping at points to admire the views down to Loch Lomond and the Sloy Dam.
It took a while to lose the height, the decision to call it a day at one munro definitely a good one!
Reaching the energy development we were back amongst vehicles again, often being passed by a van, lorry or tractor, all exchanging a friendly wave, sadly none offering a lift! When we finally did reach the bottom of the road, Bruce advised the friendly chap that he should have someone with a shuttle bus charging a fiver for a ride up or down. If only we’d known, anyone struggling will be picked up for free, such is the kindness that prevails. Another day!
Aware that this evening in Tyndrum sees the onslaught of West Highland Way walkers in addition to the Scotland game, we opted to stop off at the Drovers Inn for an early dinner. Outstanding food, a great decision!