Trails and trials of the writer who walks
Drymen is a pretty village with several pubs, but none are open at 6:45 am (drat, missed paying the campsite fee again), althought the Spar shop is.
I stop for breakfast on a bench just outside Drymen. The midges have already had theirs (still not dawned on me to get that midge jacket on – why on earth did I buy it?). Without my reading glasses on, I can’t actually see the midges but itchy lumps are appearing all over my scalp and neck.
The views of Loch Lomond from Conic Hill begin the real Highlands experience but the trail itself continues to be hard surface which makes the actual walking a dull trudge which is tough on the feet. I was later to find out that the 94 mile trek utilises, for the most part, old military and drover roads, so hard surface was to be the norm. Many fellow walkers who have never before had foot problems, suffer blisters.
The Oak Tree Inn at Balmaha provides the elevenses pit stop. This pub has expanded usefully to include a coffee bar and shop. After coffee and cake (which sets me back £6.10 but is very good), I investigate the pub and find just one hand pump serving a Kessog Stout. There is also a Belhaven Stout on tap, and a Belhaven Best which is a bracken-coloured beer, creamy with plenty of body, but a little too honey flavoured for my taste.
The rest of the day, until 5 pm, follows the east shore of Loch Lomond to Rowardennan where many walkers have booked their accommodation, either at the hotel or the youth hostel. My tea-time rest stop at the hotel is beginning to cost me more per hour than is appropriate for a pensioner. For example:
“Could I have the haggis starter please?” (£5.95, can’t afford any of the mains)
“Would you like the whisky sauce with it?”
“That would be nice.”
And a standard glass of wine is £3.90, beer £4.05 per pint. I suppose if you were a German or a Londoner, you’d think it was happy hour, but we have a different mind-set in rural Lancashire.
One of the joys of Scotland is being able to camp anywhere you like, but they’ve had to introduce by-laws to ban it along most of the shores of Loch Lomond because of sheer numbers and environmental abuse.
Despite protests from my legs, I continue another two miles or so to get past a place called Ptarmigan Lodge, where the camping ban ends. So too, do any sightings of decent pitches, so I end up scrambling up the wooded hillside to find any flattish patch between trees. The midges have their supper while I get the tent up.