After nearly three days pounding tarmac, I woke to find I had developed a comedy hobble, and I was slightly worried that my feet were going to cause problems. A few painkillers and some strong coffee later, however, and I was ready to roll.
It was a gorgeous day today, the sort of day that makes you forget all about horizontal rain and peat bogs – all blue skies, warm sunshine and a gentle breeze. Lovely.
The day’s route starts gently, and it’s not really until you get to Conic Hill that it gets interesting. Having staggered up the surprisingly steep path, mentally congratulating myself on my pace whilst trying to remember that it is of course NOT a competition, I opted to climb to the top of the hill, and was rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of Loch Lomond. It was however quite crowded at the top, and the peace and quiet I had hoped for was largely undermined by a man with a portable radio mast who spent 20 minutes chatting incomprehensibly to everyone he could think of (“This is Conic Hill QZR, final call, QZR, ok thanks Steve”) whilst his small son waited patiently behind him. When he finished two large and noisy middle class families with hundreds of children arrived (“Henry, don’t do that, you chose to wear that jumper!” “Oh, well DONE Freddy”) and I decided to head down for lunch.
Maybe it’s the weather, but I have to say I don’t remember the West Highland Way being so busy when I walked it before. There were people everywhere walking and jogging the path, and after the complete solitude of most of my route so far it’s a bit disconcerting. Hopefully either I will feel more sociable or it will get a bit quieter over the next few days.
The afternoon was spent going up and down in woodland next to the loch, which was very pretty and surprisingly energetic walking. Lots of families were by the lakeside, barbecuing and paddling, and it was generally very busy. A cacophony of barking turned out to be some water rescue dogs being trained; there were jetskiers and motorboats and the odd paddleboarder. The loch sparkled in the sunshine and it was all very pretty.
The hostel turned out not to be as far as I had thought, and was surprisingly nice when I got there, with a huge living room with picture windows looking out over the loch. Plus, the incredibly noisy group of teenaged Dutch scouts who were just ahead of me as I got to the hostel turned out to be heading for the campsite further on and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I spent a nice couple of hours sitting on the lawn outside the hostel, watching the sunlight on the loch whilst sipping locally brewed beer (Bonnie n’ Blonde from the Loch Lomond brewery) before going inside to watch the sunset and catch up on some blogs.
Highlights: being back on the West Highland Way; sunlight sparkling on the loch; happy children everywhere; feet hurting less at the end of the day than the beginning.