Fairly early on in the second day, you are presented with two alternatives: a shorter walk along the paved Loch shore, or the higher, more strenuous route over Conic Hill with the reward of excellent views. Our B&B hosts recommended Conic Hill as one of the highlights of the West Highland Way. We took it and it was everything it was claimed to be: tiring, quite strenuous but very rewarding on a sunny day with our first real views of Loch Lommond. Beautiful.
We had gotten off to a late start in the morning, and after climbing Conic Hill way too slowly, we didn’t arrive at our lunch spot for the day until well after 1.30pm. After a little food and a half an hour break, it meant we weren’t starting the second half of our fourteen mile day until after 2pm. The walk was mainly along the Lochside, but very long. There were plenty of ups and downs, and steep crags to tackle with their sharp climbs and vertical descents. Very hard on the legs after so many hours. Once we finally arrived at Rowardennan, we still had another 15 minutes of walking to the Rowardennan Youth Hostel, our destination for the night. It felt like 15 more miles. It fact, it was just 14 miles total for the day under our belt.
The YHA was fine, but after a long, strenuous day like that you want someone else to take your suitcases for you, and being asked for a five pound deposit for your key is, well, wrong. We both decided that we were getting to old for youth hostels as we dragged our suitcases from the outside shed to our rooms. We were too tired to walk to the Rowardennan Hotel and decided to eat at the YHA, and it was actually a pretty good meal.
The YHA is located on the banks of Loch Lommond in a lovely setting. We picked it to throw a little low-end stay with some of our pricer picks (coming later) and for the beautiful views. After dinner we decided to try the front lawns and brave the midges a little. Sprayed all over with Bog Myrtle and wearing very attractive head nets, we sat and tried to enjoy the view. The little bastards descended in minutes. I must have had several hundred in a swarm around my head, sitting on the netting, looking at me.
Aside from looking silly, the netting obscured the loveliness of the lake very effectively, and the looming menace of the midges just inches from my face made the attempt to enjoy the location pretty futile. We went back inside. However, do the Scots live with them? And why would anyone ever camp next to the lake if it takes military-like protection to keep you away from the wee beasties?
I fell asleep almost instantly around 10pm, my third night of going to bed while the sun still shone. It was starting to feel normal.