The West Highland Way (Rowardennan to Ardleish)

The West Highland Way is one of Britain's principal long-distance footpaths. It starts in Milngavie (pronounced "Millguy") on the outskirts of Glasgow, and runs for over 90 miles among the Grampian mountains to Fort William, on the coast at the western end of the Great Glen.

Section 3 of the West Highland Way, from Rowardennan to Ardleish, lies along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond in its entirety. It's generally regarded as the most gruelling part of the walk, and includes some sections which could be regarded as mild scrambles. Each end of the route can be reached by ferry from the main road along the western side of Loch Lomond.

This walk was my last section of the west Highland Way. I walked it on Friday 26th May 2000, from a base in Arrochar.

These images are duplicated from the Rowardennan to Ardleish page of the West Highland Way section of my End-to-End Walk site. Extra images and a fuller narrative can be found there.

I took the morning Glasgow bus from Arrochar, alighting at Inverbeg about 5 miles away. From here I took the first of the day's three ferry crossings across to Rowardennan. The hotel owner was piloting the ferry. Ben Lomond filled the view as I began the walk north from the Rowardennan ferry pier.
Looking along the length of Loch Lomond from the bay north of Rowardennan.
The West Highland Way runs along this pleasant drive north of Rowardennan, passing a handful of scattered houses.
The drive runs out and the route fords a stream to enter forest once again.
This area is known as the "Yet of Ptarmigan", a headland formed from the western slopes of Ben Lomond. The Way forks into two alternatives, a low level route through the wood near the loch shore, and this high level route along a forest ride some 200 ft above the loch.
From up here there's a good view back across the loch to Inverbeg...
...and northwest across the loch to Tarbet. Beinn Narnain is left of centre, Beinn Ime to the right. Part of Ben Arthur (also known as the Cobbler) is seen to the left of Narnain.
The forest ride continues for about 2 miles and gives good walking or cycling.
This is the low level route. I didn't enjoy it very much. This is mature forest and you experience a "shut-in" feeling. The terrain is poor also, as evidenced by these sections of planking to carry the path over boggy bits.
After the high and low level routes merge, the forest ride comes to an end and the Way continues along this recently improved "made" path fashioned from shingle.
The made path is rather more challenging than the forest ride and involves some quite steep rises and falls. Cyclists would need to take great care here. I found it significant that the sun had disappeared now that the walking was harder.
It takes a while, but the path eventually emerges into this open area south of Cailness.
Cailness, when you reach it, turns out to be no more than a single cottage off to the right. It's reached by a rough track over the hill. As the WHW crosses the footbridge ahead it leaves the environs of the Queen Elizabeth Forest.
The "made" path has ended and for the first time the WHW is on a simple woodland path.
The woodland path is arduous in places, involving lots of rocky ascents and descents across outcrops. But for the tree cover this is much more like a mountain ascent route than a lakeshore hike. At least the sun has come out again.
The path meanders towards and away from the waters' edge as well as rising and falling.
Now and again the path fords the streams falling from the hills to the east. This one forms a pretty little waterfall.
The path nears the lochside... give this lovely view northwest across the loch towards Inveruglas. You can see the pipelines of the hydroelectric power station from here.
From the same point. the view across the loch to the southwest.
Slightly further north, and from the site of my morning refreshment break this is another view across the loch.
The view to the southwest again.
Almost without warning the West Highland Way emerges from the woods at the Inversnaid hotel.
Inversnaid lies at the western end of the Trossachs road coming over from Callander. It's almost incongruous finding an ostentatious hotel here in what, after the last few miles of forest path, feels like the back of beyond. 
The Way bridges the burn coming down from Loch Arklet....
....seen here.
Specimen conifers in the grounds of the Inversnaid Hotel. The Munros of Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich are seen across the loch; between them lies Loch Sloy, the lake that feeds Inveruglas power station.
Just below the footbridge the Arklet burn crashes over a waterfall to the loch below.
The waterfall seen from the loch shore.
The hotel gardens and waterfall.
The West Highland Way loops around the front of the hotel
...past the ferry pier, and into the woods beyond.
Civilization is left behind almost immediately and once again the path resumes its somewhat arduous rises and falls.
A mile north of the hotel is one of the Way's trickiest sections, the headland of Sron Uaidh.
The path beginning a relentless rise over a particularly rocky section
Still going up...
...and up... reach the high point of the path, a couple of hundred feet above a massive jumble of rocks known as Rob Roy's Cave.
Looking back across the loch towards Beinn Narnain.
Rob Roy McGregor, an eighteenth-century folk hero, reputedly lived rough in this area during his outlaw years. The rocks in this boulder field approach the size of family cars and the route across and down is a tricky scramble requiring care.
As the Way descends the north side of the boulder field, a side trail heads south into the jumble of rocks towards Rob Roy's Cave itself.
It's a scenic gem, but a walking nightmare.
Deciding that I'd rather have both ankles intact I abandoned all efforts to find the cave and scrambled back to the route of the WHW
Reaching the end of the boulder field
The northern extent of the rocks and a view back across the loch.
The route continues northwards, sometimes in benign mood like this...
...but more often continuing to rise, fall and twist to avoid rock outcrops. The going is tedious. 
The sun was continuing to play hide-and-seek, and it was notable that it always disappeared during the more difficult bits. Here the path is in the locality of Pollochro. There's nothing there, not even a ruined cottage.
At this footbridge the Way crosses from Stirlingshire into Argyllshire.
Some of the trickiest terrain of the day is found in the Argyllshire section. This is one of the more benign bits. There was quite a spectacular wooden viaduct constructed across the face of a near vertical waterslide, that I wasn't able to photograph. It's not at all evident how hikers could have tackled this part before the walkway was constructed.
Suddenly the difficulties end and the Way emerges onto this flat pastureland just south of the knoll of Creag a Mhadaidh, seen ahead.
The route of the Way veers to the right (east) of the knoll and loses sight of Loch Lomond.
A pleasant woodland path crosses the col between Creag a Mhadaidh and Maol an Fhithich, to the right.
The path descend from the col and emerges north of the Creag a Mhadaidh to reach the isolated farmstead of Doune, seen here.
North of Doune is a world of water meadows and intermittent tree cover.
Just north of a wood the Way emerges into this pasture. I left the Way here to catch the Ardlui ferry, which leaves from the shoreline at this point. The ferry is summoned by raising a red ball to the top of the mast seen near the waters' edge.
The view back across the loch from Ardlui (this image strictly belongs in the Arrochar section, but who's quibbling?). From here I caught the train one stop back to Arrochar, though I had a wait of nearly two hours.

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This page last updated 30th March 2001