Date walked: 05/06/2017
Time taken: 4 days
The Cobbler from The Three Lochs Way
02/06/17 - 05/06/2017
Steve & Karolina, both 29 living in Edinburgh
Day 1 - Balloch - Helensburgh - Garelochhead, stay in the Anchor Inn
Day 2 - Garelochhead - Arrochar, Camping at Glen Loin Campsite
Day 3 - Climb Ben Arthur 'The Cobbler', Camping at Glen Loin Campsite
Day 4 - Arrochar - Inveruglas, lift back to Glasgow
2 days of scorching sun, day 3 was showers turning into a downpour about 7pm that would last for the rest of the trip.
Both active but by no means seasoned walkers.
65L pack 16kg, 35L pack 13kg. Carrying tent, sleeping bags and mats, cooking gear, food for 2 days camping, clothes, trail snacks, and 3-4L of water each.
- The tiny quarry at the top of the first proper assent
- Views over the Clyde, across to Greenock
- The animals in Glen Fruin
- The Anchor Inn! - room bright and sooo comfy with views over the loch and the service was brilliant!
- The trail from Glen Douglas - Arrochar! (Especially looking over and up to the cobbler knowing we would be climbing it the next day)
- Beers with a view in Ben Arthurs Bothy ( ...and not missing the champions league final )
- The scramble up the Cobbler and views back down.
- Proving that the tent could handle a night of pouring rain!
- How green the final section was
- A hot bowl of soup for breakfast to finish back on Loch Lomond!
The 3 Lochs Way was fantastic, the views were incredible and the trail very easy to navigate.
The full route was quiet, much quieter than we expected with the start at balloch being so accessible - we only saw one group going in the opposite direction the whole time, it was great to enjoy the trail, the wildlife, the sounds all to our self and at the end of each day it felt strange coming back to the small villages and feeling like we were back in a bustling town!
If you're looking for an scenic mid-distance walk then this is a cracker!
Day 1: Balloch - Garelochhead
Fresh faced selfie!
We got into Loch Lomond at 8am, there is a public toilet right beside the start of the trail but no real marker other than the map on the info-centre wall.
We started on the trail, which oddly goes in the wrong direction to start, give you a first look at the loch and to take you through the retail precinct with all the gift shops.
Leaving ground level you quickly start to climb out of Balloch, steeply at first but the path soon becomes more gentle when you reach a deforested area. It is then a nice easy walk until you come to an intimidating looking forest on the side of a hill! We were hoping the path skirted the trees but nope, straight up you go (well, in zig zags, but still steep!) until you meet a newly built vehicle track.
Soon after we came to a tiny quarry that had obviously been used to build the forestry roads, the hole is deep and there is a lot of boulders and rubble there which means it makes a good stopping point to rest and make a splash! We met a local further round who told us that we had just missed an excellent viewpoint over loch lomond. It would have been the highpoint on the map just off the track beside the small quarry/pond - top left of the below picture.
No matter how nice the tranquil quarry was I couldn't help but through a few stones in!
We were planning on climbing Ben Bowie but were told the views weren't that great and that by climbing a wee dumpling hill which was just off the track to the left (just after going through the gate) would give us better views! So naturally we took his advice and it saved us half an hour and having to climb a barbed wire fence
The locals view over The Clyde to Greenock
We made it to Helensburgh well before 12 and after a couple of pints and some lunch we started to make our way up to Mackintosh's Hill House. Going through Helensburgh was a slog up hill and the afternoon was hot! We ended up taking a wrong turn (might have been the pints) but enjoyed checking out the nice houses. The path we were aiming for is at the back left of the hill house car park so hard to miss actually!
The afternoon was scorching sun and we enjoyed the walk over the shoulder of a hill, into and through Glen Fruin. Once in the glen itself the road was tarmac all the way which hurt the feet but the animals we saw made up for it; a shetland pony ran across the field to say hello, a peacock was perched on a gate near the military base, a few birds of prey were flying with 2 paragliders, 1 very vocal and loud cow seemed to be shouting at her kids and a little lamb had escaped her field and was running along in front of us for a bit.
Our new pals from Shetland
Although Glen Fruin was nice I couldn't help looking up at the hills on the left - Tom nah-Airidh and The Fruin, thinking that there must be a reasonably comfortable route along the top that would join back with The Way at the military road. The ground did look quite marshy as we crossed the shoulder into the glen and as we were doing the 2 sections in one day didn't fancy getting stuck. If anyone does try this route I would love to see the pictures as the views over the Gare Loch must be awesome!
Start of the road through Glen Fruin and the potential high road on the hills
After joining the military road and following it for what felt like ages we found the route down into Garelochhead which was steep, muddy and pretty wyndey and we both agreed it would be a crap start to the day slogging back up.
In the village we found the Anchor Inn easily enough and as it was a Friday the bar was busy which was nice and we had dinner before an early night. The service in the place was amazing, along with a comfy bed, hot shower and the food was delicious, big portions too so would highly recommend!
View from our room!
At the end of Day 1 we were both a bit pink, this had been my first time drinking out a bladder and I was suffering from a bit of heat stroke not having drank as much water as I would normally, Karolina had 2 fresh blisters on her feet and both of our shoulders were sore from the packs which we should have really done a bit more walking with ladden before the trip. Nothing a good night's sleep and fry-up wouldn't cure though....
Day 2: Garelochhead - Arrochar
In the morning after a hearty cooked breakfast, and some amazing fresh berries we got a lift back up to the start of the Yankee road and in 20mins we were back to where we left the trail. The local taxi doesn't start till the afternoon so I would recommend letting your host know if you plan on doing this the night before so they can contact the guy in advance for you.
Back on the Yankee Road overlooking Garelochhead
Getting underway about 10:30 it was a fresh morning and the Yankee Road quickly changes from flat open road to up and down sections through trees and clearings with the views changing from Gare Loch, to Loch Long and the mouth of Loch Goil.
We never met any of the military in the area or saw anyone out training but the trail is littered with bullet casings which we have taken a few of home to turn into fridge magnets, a small memento of the trip.
When the military zone ends a forestry section begins. After crossing a grassy low point and ascending high back to the vehicle path there is a bit of a slog with no real good resting spots. We managed to just miss various rain clouds along this section and stopped in a clearing before the road at Glen Douglas for lunch. (We both picked up some tiny ticks here so be careful if you are having a seat on the railway sleepers!)
Lunch stop with a view!
From here the trail gets quite hilly and muddy but also pretty majestic when it comes to views! My main advice would be not to forget to look back. As you draw level with the river mouth on the opposite bank there is a large Boulder which signals the last chance to look all the way down the loch before you start turning toward Arrochar.
Remembering to look back
Just after there is also a great vantage point for contemplating tomorrows walk
The Arrochar Alps
Following the trail past a small waterfall we took the turn off for Arrochar (marked for Tighness) and checked out the selection of pubs in the village as we walked past. After getting set up at Glen Loin Camp site and being annoyed by midges, we headed along to Ben Arthurs Bothy where in the Lounge Bar we watched the peaks come and go in the clouds... and the champions league final before heading to our tent for the night.
View from Ben Arthurs Bothy
The campsite was more suited to motor vehicles with only small patches where tent pegs made it into the ground closer to the tree's, there didn't appear to be a drying room or sheltered place to cook so not ideal especially for the Poles we met who didn't have midge nets! There is also a big lit up cross which freaked me out when going to pee in the middle of the night... so maybe not the best place for christianophobics either!
After day 2 Karolina's neck was even more pink and the blisters on her foot were getting pretty big, luckily she is a cool hand with a safety pin while I looked away, talcing my own sores - my common complaint of thigh chafe.
Day 3: The Cobbler
When planning the trip we knew the views of The Cobbler were going to be great and marked the extra day to give us time to climb it. From the 2 summits it was so rewarding to look back down Loch Long and pick out the trail we had been along the previous day.
My brother and his friend joined us in the morning for tea and breakfast bars before we headed off, looking up at it we all agreed it really was going to be an epic hill! Starting up the trail it was amazing how much quicker a fresh pair of legs move, but we managed to keep up - just!
Fresh legs join us - didn't bring us lunch pfft!
I loved how the peaks just became more imposing the closer you got to them, also how the river and the glen gorge itself were just littered with huge boulders that had flowed down from the crags. We climbed up the front path which had you really feeling the height every time you looked back and even though it was tough, we loved the scramble.
Having made the centre cairn which is the lower gap you can see in the caps silhouette we headed off first to the middle summit and ate lunch in a cloud. Looking around you can't help but want to spend a few more days exploring with so many other summits in the sweeping panoramic - if only we hadn't left our tent set up at the bottom!
We checked out the 'Eye' but decided against attempting getting on top of the pinnacle as it was slippy,,, and we were feart!
Love a good cloud
After descending to the centre again we quickly went up towards the north summit before starting our descent taking the back path which was more like a staircase and much friendlier than the way we had come up.
The North Peak from the low center cairn - we're up there but you'd need to zoom in
Surprisingly by the end of day 3 other than a bit more stiffness in the calves neither of us had picked up any new pains! We had emptied the packs other than water, lunch and waterproofs for the climb so it was nice to give the shoulders a bit of a break.
Day 4: Arrochar - Inveruglas
The rain had started at 7pm the night before and having woken still dry at 6am we decided it best just to get up and on the way! It took us a while to get packed up out the rain in the toilet block, might have been due to the lack of breakfast but we got on the road before 8.
Just awake and out into the pouring rain
Leaving the campsite we took the Cowal Way trail at the top of the bend and started heading up to where the two trails join. This was only a short distance and after meeting the 3 Lochs Way it was a reasonably easy gradient on the path through Glen Loin. In the rain everything looked so green and the peaks on all sides were blocked by the low cloud coverage.
So wet and so green
On getting to the highest point on the trail we had a short stop, before continuing through what was becoming a wetter and boggier track. There is a short section through the woods which gave a break from the rain and there was some lovely visuals where trees had fallen on the path and been left in place at either side, just the middle removed, it felt like a different world out of the rain with bluebells springing out of the grass and points deeper in the forest still looking reasonably dry!
During planning the trip we had talked about climbing Ben Vorlich after crossing the bridge at Inveruglas Water as we wanted to see the Loch Sloy Dam anyway, which is roughly where the ascent of the Monro starts - but with the rain, cloud coverage and the fact that our waterproofs weren't as waterproof as we thought decided to power on to the finish.
Low Clouds covering most of Ben Vorlich
I expect that the final road down would have had some lovely views on a nicer day both of Loch Lomond and across to Inversnaid Hotel (A reminder of a more painful day on the West Highland Way). Having pounded on we finished the final section in just over 2 hours and celebrated with a bowl of hot soup in the small Inveruglas Cafe.
All smiles as we finished in time for Breakfast!
There isn't much at Inveruglas other than the finishers sign, the small cafe and an interesting viewpoint structure behind. In front of the viewpoint there is also a rocky bit which gives a sight of the full Loch Sloy works with pipes running down which I look forward to seeing again on a clearer day.
We were getting picked up from here but Citylink buses do run back to Balloch or Glasgow from Sloy power station.
During our wait we filled in the finishers book and enjoyed reading the success stories going back over the past 6 years and were surprised at how few have done the walk! Now back home we look over to the Pentlands which look so small - we can't wait to start planning our next adventure!
Thanks for reading my first post, I have been a long time browser and hope this is of some use to someone as others reports have been really useful for me!
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- Location: Edinburgh
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