West Highland Way 2: Drymen - Rowardennan Walking

Stage two offers the first real highlight of the WHW with the ascent of Conic Hill. This little knobbly summit is located on the Highland Boundary Fault, so both symbolically and officially it represents the trail's entry to the mountains. Conic Hill has a great outlook on Loch Lomond, and back over the lowlands. The descent from here marks the start of one of the most enjoyable stretches of the WHW, the long and winding trail up the east shore of Loch Lomond, where the surroundings just seem to get more idyllic the further north you go. This is the largest natural freshwater loch in Scotland, wide and island-studded in the south and tapering as it runs north into a narrow ribbon of water hemmed in by steep mountains. The banks are thick with trees, among Scotland's most extensive remnants of native woodland.

Loch Lomond, early morning  © Dan Bailey -
Loch Lomond, early morning
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Detailed description

NS4743388618 Drymen village centre is actually a short detour from the WHW proper, and initially this stage of the trail makes a big slightly illogical loop. One obvious shortcut takes the minor road north from the village; alternatively take the B837 to pick up the trail near Milton of Buchanan (or even Balmaha, come to that). If you're not keen on shortcuts however, go out to the A811, then turn left onto the first of a series of forest tracks that lead for several kilometres through the pines of Garadhban Forest. The WHW is marked at every track junction.

NS4512591999 Beyond the woodland boundary the WHW enters open pastures (possible issues for dog owners during lambing season) with a view towards Loch Lomond. Cross the Burn of Mar to make the steady climb onto Conic Hill. This little summit gives the trail's first really decent view over Loch Lomond and towards the Highlands proper. The WHW skirts north of the actual summit of Conic Hill, but it's only a short detour from the trail to the top. The path descends across the northern flank of the hill to a trail junction on the Bealach Ard. Here there's a choice of route: 1. Straight on down the well defined ridge of Druim na Buraich to the shore of Loch Lomond north of Balmaha; or 2. The official route which cuts left, descending into woods to reach Balmaha village.

NS4207490840 Go right onto the road, past the little harbour (boat hire available if you want to check out some of the nearby islands). When the road cuts steeply uphill stay with the loch shore to follow the WHW over the little headland of Craigie Fort. The route now more or less follows the east side of the loch for the rest of the day (and much of tomorrow as well), in places wiggling along the shoreline, sometimes following the road and sometimes deep in the woods.

NS3894995034 Near the Forestry Commission campsite at Sallochy turn left off the road, climbing over a little knoll and then following the wooded shore around a bay with a boathouse. Beyond this there's an ascent on stone steps to a high point in Ross Wood. The gradual descent from here includes some boggy ground and a couple of short boardwalks. Beyond a cottage on the shore the path twists through more idyllic waterside woods, rejoining the road just south of Rowardennan Hotel; the Youth Hostel is just over 1km north along the shore, beyond the popular loch side car park at the end of the public road.

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