Inverarnan to Rowardennan – The West Highland Way – Day 4

Inverarnan to Rowardennan – The West Highland Way – Day 4. 14 miles from the Drovers Hotel down the east side of Loch Lomond to the Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel.

In May, Lady Lynne, our friend Jen and I completed the 96 miles (154Km) West Highland Way walk North to South from Fort William to Milngavie in 6 days. This is our day by day recap of that walk.

Inverarnan to Rowardennan was our fourth day walking The West Highland Way. Make sure you’ve caught up on the previous 3 days first:-

Neil Lockier and Lynne Lockier standing in the doorway of the Drovers Inn at Inverarnan.

Folks, thanks for joining me for today’s recap of the Inverarnan to Rowardennan section of The West Highland Way.

As in the previous 3 days write ups let’s start off by rating the breakfast. 🙂

It was 5*. It was superb. I had the full cooked, full Scottish Breakfast. The Drovers did itself proud.

The full Scottish Breakfast consisted of sausage, bacon, fried egg, mushrooms, beans, grilled tomato, bacon, black pudding and of course haggis! It’s not a full cooked Scottish Breakfast unless it has haggis!

Of course there were many other and much healthier options available on the breakfast menu but sometimes you need substance. So that’s what that breakfast gave us for the day ahead.

Lynne Lockier walking along the West Highland Way from Inverarnan to Rowardennan.

Inverarnan to Rowardennan – Day 4

The previous day’s walk from Inveroran had covered 21 miles. That had been our longest day both in terms of time and distance covered.

Fortunately today, and the next 2 days were shorter in both respects.

We had 14 miles to cover today and planned to arrive at the Rowardennan Youth Hostel at roughly 4pm.

We even allowed ourselves a slighly later start. 8.30am instead of 8.00am!

However, although shorter in distance today, we knew the path would be challenging and quite narrow in places.

The recent heavy rainfall we’d experienced wouldn’t have helped that sitaution either. In Scotland paths can easily be turned into rivers after a good rainfall!

View of the Arrochar Alps from the West Highland Way walking southwards towards Rowardennan.

So we set off from the Drovers Inn. Walked back up the main A82 road. Through Beinglas Campsite and rejoined The West Highland Way walking Southwards.

With the weather forecast for it to be a day of low cloud and rain showers, the waterproof gear was already on.

Even just walking with low cloud at this altitude saturates your clothes.

We knew we only had a couple of miles of walk before we’d hit Loch Lomond and the more tricky path.

Loch Lomond viewed from the knoll Cnap Mhor. West Highland Way path Inverarnan to Rowardennan.

Very soon we came to the head of Loch Lomond. “The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” viewed from the knoll Cnap Mhor.

Maybe not so bonnie on the day we were there. 😉

Anyway Loch Lomond is the largest expanse of fresh water in the whole of Britain. It covers 27.5 square miles and is 5 miles wide at its broadest point.

There’s 2628 cubic metres of water in Loch Lomond which makes it popular for sailing and also swlmming.

It’s also where Central Scotland and Glasgow in particular gets much of it’s water supply.

If you’re thinking about swimming in the Loch, I’d seriously recommend a wet suit! To say it’s close to freezing is an understatement. After all its water comes from snow covered mountains!

Descending from knoll Cnap Mhor on The West Highland Way. Loch Lomond in view.

After descending carefully from the knoll to the lochside we reach the section of the path that isn’t the best part.

Not only is it extremely worn in places but it’s also rocky and slippy. Watch out for those exposed tree roots tripping you up too!

It’s not that The West Highland Way path isn’t well maintained. Repairs frequently take place.

However, with it’s popularity and exposure to the weather parts frequently become eroded and can become tricky to navigate.

Ardlui on the west bank of Loch Lomond seen from The West Highland Way.

The above picture shows Ardlui on the west bank of Loch Lomond.

It’s actually possible to summon a ferry from near here which can take you across the loch to Ardlui.

The way the ferry is summoned isn’t by picking up your mobile phone and calling a number to summon it either. You’d be lucky if you get a good mobile signal here!

No it’s still done by the old fashioned method. You actually raise a ball on a large flag pole to summon the ferry.

Walkers doing the West Highland Way can book overnight accomodation in Ardlui. The ferry will bring you back in the morning so you can rejoin the path.

Crossing over a "burn" or stream on the West Highland Way path walking from Inverarnan to Rowardennan.

There are many Burns (Scots Gaelic which means “fresh water”) like the above which flow into Loch Lomond.

Because of the popularity of Loch Lomond. Many parts of it are protected.

Specific tree areas are protected by TPO’s (Tree Preservation Orders). Specifically areas of ancient woodland.

It’s also worth noting that during the months of March to September it’s only possible to “wild camp” within designated areas.

This only came about recently because of too many fires happening during the dryer summer months.

Wild goat on The West Highland Way.

Both Lynne and Jen were particularly excited when we finally caught site of the famous feral goats of this area. Or Mr Tumnus as Lynne called this one above?

These goats roam the hills around Loch Lomond in small herds. They are the descendants of the domestic goat but now are truly wild.

You can get reasonably close to them to take pictures but they are quite timid and will walk off if you get too near.

Legend has it that the wild goats on Loch Lomond were protected by Robert the Bruce. More on that further down……..

West Highland Way route from Inverarnan to Rowardennan. Doune Bothy.

Continuing on our West Highland Way route from Inverarnan to Rowardennan we pass by Doune Bothy.

What’s a bothy?

OK, so it’s basically a shelter. You can find them all over Scotland.

They’re available for anyone to use free of charge. As long as you adhere to the code of The Mountain Bothies Association.

Doune Bothy is one large room with sleeping platforms for around 10 people. You get your water from the adjacent Burn. Wood for the fire can be obtained from the loch side as drift wood.

That’s it. Free simple accomodation.

I’ve spent a few nights in a bothy. It was further up in the North West Highlands. Suardalan. It’s one you have to hike to. It’s in the middle of nowhere! There was no one else in it except myself and my friend Mike when we stayed. It was an amazing serene and peaceful experience.

Anyway I digress….

Climbing a ladder on the path of The West Highland Way between Inverarnan and Rowardennan.

So as I mentioned earlier. Parts of this section of the path have been repaired.

But there’s still a bit of a scramble and some careful footing required.

This isn’t particuarly easy with sore and blistered feet. We were all suffering from those ailments at this stage of the walk.

I mean it was understandable after all. We’d covered well over 60 miles in 3 days by this point!

Sign pointing to Rob Roy's Cave on The West Highland Way.

At about the 6 mile point of today’s Inverarnan to Rowardennan hike we pass by the signposted short detour path to Rob Roy’s Cave.

So continuing on the theme of the goats, as mentioned above…..

Legend states that before being crowned King, Robert the Bruce was being hunted by soldiers after his defeat at the battle of Dail Righ in 1306. He hid in a cave by Loch Lomond.

A group of goats arrived and started grazing around the entrance to that cave.

When the soldiers arrived they decided that if anyone was in there the goats would not be happily grazing around the cave. So they left.

It’s believed that when he gained power, to show his appreciation he forbade anyone from harming the goats.

The reason why the cave is called “Rob Roy’s Cave” though is because again legend has it that Rob Roy used this cave to hide during his cattle rustling years.

Repaired stone built pathway on The West Highland Way.

Again more repaired path!

I was particularly impressed with this piece of repaired path. What impressed me most was how well it had been built. To blend in and look natural.

After this section of path we stopped to have our packed lunch outside the Inversnaid Hotel.

By then it had started to rain again. More frequently than the showers we’d been experiencing so far today.

Cherry Tree Cafe West Highland Way.

After the Inversnaid Hotel lunch stop we had another 7 miles to go to reach Rowardennan.

This part of the path was much easier. Which was just as well as the rain was quite heavy now. It was a case of pushing on with our heads down to get the day’s walk out of the way.

We did stop briefly for shelter and delicious homemade cake at this “cafe” though.

An enterprising couple have set up this shed cafe just outside their house.

I spoke to the woman who was running it. She was the wife of a forestry commission employee. She said they had been very busy and the business was proving successful having only just started.

It was particularly impressive that they were able to accept debit and credit card payments. And fortunate for me, because I rarely carry cash. Or otherwise there would have been no cake for Neil!

The Rowardennan Youth Hostel.

Just after 4pm (on time for once!) we arrived at The Rowardennan Youth Hostel. Our accomodation for this evening.

The hostel provides excellent budget accomodation. We had booked a family room which contained 6 bunk beds.

Meals are available from a reasonable menu. More importantly beer can be bought from reception. Long gone have the days when Youth Hostels were alcohol free!

I mean we couldn’t go an evening without our traditional end of day beer could we? 🙂

So folks that ends Day 4, Inverarnan to Rowardennan check back soon for Rowardennan to Drymen, Day 5.

If you enjoyed reading this then you might also be interested in reading about our other walking adventures.

Why not check out our 84 miles coast to coast Hadrian’s Wall Path walk across Britain.

10 Comments

  1. David @ Spiced

    So I have to say that I’ve been humming “The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” the entire time I read this post, Neil. Hah! I always love your walk recap posts as I learn so much about the Scottish countryside. The ferry that you call by raising the ball? How cool is that?? It’s a throwback to the old days before cell phones! (Which is good since I’m guessing cell phones don’t work too well out in the middle of the countryside.) And Mr. Tumnus? I googled that one, and now I totally know why Lynne picked that name! Very fitting. Also, that cafe set up on the side of the Way? Genius! I feel like you should move to a house alongside the West Highland Way and open a restaurant. Sounds like fun, right? Plus, you have the experience so you could offer advice to fellow hikers! Either way, thanks for the fun post, my friend!

    • Neil

      Glad you enjoyed the write up David. Two more to go and then there will undoubtedly be another write up after we do Kilimanjaro in September.

      I’m happy to offer my advice and guiding service at any time! But yeah, the whole walk was amazing. I’d do it all over again at anytime. 😀

  2. Ben|Havocinthekitchen

    Once again – the views are so picturesque, and the landscape is beautiful (but quite challenging). And this Scottish Breakfast? I knew it was substantial, but I wasn’t aware of the complete list. I’d certainly love having it during a trip. I’m not sure I would be able to continue walking after it though – this kind of breakfast requires a good nap 🙂

    • Neil

      There are parts of the landscape which require a bit of careful navigation especially in the Inverarnan to Rowardennan section. But that’s because the path is quite erroded in places. The rest of the West Highland Way isn’t too bad Ben.

      Ha ha, yeah. The Great Scottish Breakfast. It’s definitely something I only consider when I know I’m going to be shedding about 2000 extra calories that day. It’s probably double that. Best thing to do is set off straight away after having it. Or yes, it might make you want to nap! 🙂

  3. Jeff the Chef

    This looks like the kind of place one might come across a Hobbit.

    • Neil

      And you wouldn’t be far off the truth Jeff! Great film “The Hobbit” and all those “Lord of the Rings” trilogy ones! Some of the scenery in Scotland is apparantly similar to that of New Zealand (where a lot of those films were made!). 🙂

  4. Shashi at SavorySpin

    Another fantastic day of walking fueled by one heck of a breakfast for you, Neil! I so understand – some days a substantial breakfast is so needed over something healthier! Today I learned about “burns,” “bothy,” the story behind Rob Roy’s Cave and timid feral goats thanks to you! And, speaking of learning – what a smart spot for that cafe! I bet she has tons of hungry walkers stopping by! Thanks so much for sharing such gorgeous views – so thoroughly enjoy these posts and photos you share!

    • Neil

      I must admit Shashi I woke up every morning on this hiking week looking forward enthusiastically to the day’s walk ahead. But first and foremost looking forward enthusiastically to the breakfast. Ha ha!

      I’m delighted that you enjoyed reading about our hike and also the history lesson. The views were not bad. It was a shame that it rained so much that I couldn’t capture the best surrounding mountains as they were shrowded in mist.

  5. Christina Hartnett

    Man, over 60 miles in 3 days? I’m not worthy! I would not be able to keep up but I would sure enjoy trying! I love your pictures! The Loch Lomond reminds me of Columbia River Gorge that separates Oregon from Washington here in the states! It’s insanely gorgeous!

    Hahahaha, so happy you got to eat your cake. That would have stunk if they didn’t accept cards!

    Dude, how cool was your youth hostel? I mean, it looks like a freaking castle! The hostels around here fail in comparison! So happy you got to enjoy this hike again, it seriously looks amazing!

    • Neil

      Thanks Christina. I just wish that the weather had been a little better and the clouds lifted slightly to get some better shots of the mountains surrounding Loch Lomond.

      I like the sound of Columbia River Gorge. I’m away to Google that.

      Yes, the Youth Hostel does like a bit like a castle doesn’t it? It was probably a stately home at one point before becoming a youth hostel. I’ll need to go and check out it’s history now too. I never did when I was there!

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