Saturday 7 August
When I walked the first three days of the Ridgeway back in May, I was confident I could walk for two days in a row but I wasn’t too sure about the third day. The third day turned about to be exhausting at around eighteen or nineteen miles. So when I planned my West Highland Way schedule, I deliberately organised a seven miler in order to have a half day.
After a lot of faffing I finally managed to leave Rowardennan around 10am. I spent what seemed like ages looking for the turning back onto the way, before realising it was more or less right next to the youth hostel in the first place.
The route starts with a steady uphill climb. There’s an alternative path nearer the shore, but everyone says it’s more difficult so I chose the easier option. I carried on up hill, but as I already discovered the previous day, it’s easy to lose your sense of distance on this path. About an hour in, I started to panic and had to sit down for about twenty minutes to sort myself out. I realised I hadn’t had enough breakfast, so I pulled out the almonds and the biscuits and eventually managed to calm myself down.
It’s worth taking the upper path because there are lovely views of the loch.
Eventually the path started to descend again. A little while later I was taking a lunch break on a bench at shore level.
The weather that day felt uncomfortably hot, so I was glad to eventually go through a forest path. After another little while I eventually arrived at a huge waterfall below a bridge, and arrived at Inversnaid on a scorching hot afternoon. I raced over to the public loo by the car park, and then spent an entire hour sitting with my feet in the loch which was rather cold; just what I needed. This was accompanied by a gorgeous view.
My accommodation for the night was the Inversnaid Bunkhouse, which is the most fantastic bunkhouse/hostel I have ever stayed at. Upon arriving at Inversnaid, you can phone them and they will drive down and give you a lift up the hill. It’s easy to look at the map and think that it’s only a little hill and not too far away, but when you go on the journey you realise it’s much longer and steeper than anticipated. Believe me, you really do want a lift up that hill.
The bunkhouse itself used to be a church. Here it is from the outside.
And here is the top floor from the inside!
It’s run by really friendly people and there’s a very sociable atmosphere. There is also a fantastic restaurant on the top floor, which is so good that local people often drop in for an evening meal. There’s a separate vegetarian menu which is amazing – definitely amazing food in its’ own right, with strictly no token veggie options – and I had a delicious cheesecake. Oh, and there’s Zack, the resident cat!
That night, the local Mountain Rescue team had all come over for some food. I was asking one of them about safety on the hills (without mentioning yesterday’s disaster) and he said that the majority of incidents involve sensible people with respect for nature who genuinely get into trouble through no fault of their own. Many of us will have read the occasional stories about silly things like people walking up Ben Nevis in stilettos and he said that in his experience, those sorts of people have been quite rare.
Three other things that need mentioning about the bunkhouse: firstly, their drying room is a real drying room which actually gets things dry (which is unfortunately not the case everywhere). Secondly, they have a few camping pitches in the garden and anyone who camps there gets to use all the facilities of the building. Thirdly, they have a hot tub outside! I didn’t get to use it, but if you’re planning to have a go, make sure you bring some swimwear along.
This week I have met people of many different nationalities. For some reason most people this week seem to be from Germany, but I was talking to a couple of Spanish people at the same time as the Mountain Rescue team. I was amused to end up acting as an interpreter: English to English, or should I say Scottish to English. All throughout the week, a lot of Europeans have told me that they find it difficult to understand Scottish accents and there have been several occasions where I’ve had to help out.