The West Highland Way – Drymen to Sallochy

DRYMEN CAMPING TO SALLOCHY CAMPING (11.5 miles)

On our second day on the Way, M and I woke up after for the last time well after the sun had risen. The campers around us were starting to roll over in their bags and to emerge slowly from their tents. We packed up our things, shook the dew from our tent, stuffed everything in to our still-too-heavy packs, and hit the road. (And it was a road all the way to the town of Drymen.)

Drymen is a small town, with lovely houses and colorful gardens. The town center is dominated by a large bed and breakfast, and there is also a grocery, a cafe, and a few restaurants. (Until recently there was an outdoors store for hikers, but this appeared to have closed permanently.) I was hoping for a cup of coffee and M had read that the butcher sold pies to-go, but it turns out that Drymen is impossible to get to [on public transit] on Sundays and just no fun to get to on Mondays. The butcher and the cafe were both closed for the day.

From, Drymen, the Way passes through a few pastures before entering land owned by Forestry Commission Scotland (Comisean na Coiltearachd Alba). Our guidebook (2013) described this section, as “…a shaded track through mature conifer forest”. Apparently since 2013, someone in the Commission decided that the forest was a bit too mature, and went about clear cutting the entire hillside.DSC_0028eNow, I am aware that clear-cutting, especially when slash is left in place, can be part of a responsible forest management strategy. This scene, however, was painful, disappointing, and confusing for us. According to the Forestry Commission’s Cowal and Trossachs Distric Strategic Plan (PDF), forests make up only 9% of Scotland’s total land area. Is clear-cutting the little forest that there is truly the best approach?

From the Forestry land, the Way continues toward Loch Lomond, taking a turn through sheep pasture, and then up over the shoulder of Conic Hill…

P1010941Views of Loch Lomond

DSC_0030 (2)A managed burn, visible from Conic Hill

…before descending through plantation forest…

DSC_0035Primrose (Primula vulgaris) growing in the forest understory

and to the loch-side town of Balmaha.

Balmaha is home to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Centre. M and I have visited dozens of National Parks together, and we always go to the Visitors Centers to read the interpretive panels, speak with the staff, and, if possible, become Junior Rangers. (OK, this last one only applies to me.)

National Parks are new additions to Scotland; Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park was the first in 2002. We go the impression that Scots are still figuring out just what having a National Park means for them. (There were survey questions for visitors to answer. Should the main road through the National Park be expanded? Miles of forest would be affected, but the local people would have a safer route to and from their homes. Should a popular trail be closed in order to save an endangered species of flower?)

M and I bought ice cream at a cafe, stopped for a photo with Tom WeirDSC_0040 …and followed the paved path out of town.

We reached Loch Lomond’s most famous tree in the afternoon…DSC_0047e…and took time to play on the rocks.

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The rest of day was spent on sidewalks and paths through the woods along the road…DSC_0056We reached Sallochy Camping late in the afternoon, with sore feet and crabby additudes. Enough of this walking on pavement!

Fortunately, out campsite was beautiful and quiet…DSC_0057

and right on the loch. We made tea and drank it with our toes in the cool loch water…

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before eating a simple dinner as the light faded…DSC_0062

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