New day, new trail - the Three Lochs Way and the best start to a new hike anybody could hope for; a Mcdonald's breakfast!
Today the predominant feeling was one of tiredness. I don’t know what’s going on with all three of us, but we are all feel genuinely exhausted.
Eve and I were obviously excited about starting a new trail, especially one we haven’t hiked before. But for some reason that I can not justify I was secretly feeling pessimistic about the Three Lochs Way. As the day went on, I was definitely proved wrong. The route between Balloch and Helensburgh is delightful.
We got dropped off by Sarah at 8am as she had to be at work by 9. We didn't have many miles to hike today to reach Helensburgh. However, it ended up being a over 2 miles further than we had expected.
We set up camp in McDonalds. Literally. We were in no rush this morning, as I had expected to get into Helensburgh at least 1 hour before Sarah. This morning was going to be a slow start.
In McDonalds we found a plug, I put my phone on charge, propped it up and put a film on Netflix for Eve to watch. We ate our breakfast, had a hot drink and used the toilets. We didn’t leave 9.30am!
Thank you to everybody who has been donating to us on Buy Me a Coffee as we used some of the generous donations we have received to buy our breakfasts. Thank you!
We had a short distance to walk to the start of the Three Lochs Way. Like a lot of long distance trails it doesn’t have a formal start or end point. The generally accepted starting point is outside the Balloch tourist information office. So that’s where we headed.
Once at the start we took a few pictures before we attempted to set off. There were no signs at the start to tell you way to go, so I checked on our GPS with a route that I had downloaded. It was wrong!
After much messing around and telling Eve to ‘just stand there’ we found what I thought to be the start so we headed off. A few minutes later we saw our first Three Lochs Way plaque.
The plaques are round but don’t contain any arrows to give you a clue which way to go. I worked out in the end that the Three Lochs Way followed the John Muir Way, or at least for this part.
The weather today was beautiful. Clear blue sky for most of the day with a warm sun. Perfect!
The trail to start off with was, in all honestly, not great. It followed a tarmac path with dog poo everywhere. It was like hopscotch. I was starting to feel quite uneasy about the route as we walked but I can’t tell you why, as I don’t know. Eve was loving it! There were lots of dog walkers out this morning so Eve was dog spotting and telling me what they all looked like and then asking me what breeds they were My dog knowledge is limited so I couldn’t identify many.
I don’t want to sound too negative about the Three Lochs Way, as it’s get considerably better. The start of the West Highland Way isn’t exactly glamorous!
We walked through Loch Lomond Shores, a small shopping complex at the base of Loch Lomond with a sea life centre. Absolutely every single tourist coach trip to Loch Lomond stops here, and in my opinion it’s the most unscottish place there is in the whole national park. It amazes me to see it so busy with tourists when there are so many places to visit that are spectacularly more beautiful.
Following a road uphill for about a mile, we passed loads of people walking, jogging and cycling. We even met a man who was litter picking and another who was foraging for wild edibles. The road felt like it went on forever. Eve slowed down to a snails pace. I didn’t encourage her on as we were not in any rush.
At the top of the road we reached a gate that lead out onto the moors.
The trail from here felt totally different and it was a pleasure to hike on.
The path was rocky but easy to follow before levelling out into a grassy path. I guessed it got grassy as more people stop and turned around, reducing the footfall and erosion.
The trail was busy and Eve and I were playing games and talking all the way. We had some strange looks from people as they passed as we were saying some odd things to each other.
We had a brief break near the top to admire the spectacular views over Loch Lomond and Conic Hill on the West Highland Way.
From here the path turned to forestry tracks and trails through an area of recent felling. Then we saw a hill that we had to climb!
Looking at the hill from a distance it looked vertical! I started to thing that bringing a climbing harness would have been a better choice than hiking poles. Eve checked the GPS several times as she doubted my navigation. I was correct, and I was quite relieved. As most parents know if a child has a victory, they like to remind you of it for a least the next 10 years!
To our delight the trail wasn’t as steep as it could have been. The trail disappeared into the forest to follow a much easier gradient. There was even some steps to help walkers.
We had agreed that once at the top we would stop for our lunch. However at the top there was a large group of people with the same idea as us, but had already set up camp. Eve didn’t want to stay so we walked on a few extra hundred metres, finding a small area to stop for lunch.
We got our sit mats out and got comfortable. Whilst we were eating our lunch people were walking passed and it surprised me how many people were wearing shorts. I was freezing! But I was also tired which can have an effect.
We sat for about an hour before heading off again. By now it was about 2.30pm and I was starting to feel rough. Eve had picked up that I was feeling bad and kept on asking me if I was okay. I had every item of clothing on (except waterproofs) and I was still cold. It wasn’t cold. Eve was fine and warm. She kept taking my hands to try and warm them up! I love my daughter so much!
It wasn’t long before we could see the Firth of Clyde and Gare Loch which are salt water, unlike the fresh water of Loch Lomond. The views were spectacular and the trail easy to follow.
Descending towards Helensburgh the trail was still good, but wet and muddy making the walking slippy. It was whilst we were walking down this part of the trail we got a text from Sarah telling us she had left off work and was on her way! The thought of seeing Sarah energised both of us and we sped up.
Once at sea level and on the outskirts of Helensburgh I started to feel warmer and ‘better’. The road into Helensburgh was wide and noisy. We had several police cars come passed us with sirens blaring. Eve has issues with loud noises, so every time they came passed she would stand still and put her hands over her ears. I think the noise actually hurts her. Being hypersensitive to noises is a quintessential autistic trait.
We walked into the town with Eve desperate for the toilet. Once we had got into the town, we walked to Costa Coffee to make use of their facilities. Eve was very grateful, thank you Costa!
Sarah had arrived in Helensburgh just in time as it also started to rain. She drove to Costa and all got in the car for the drive home.
Today has been a good day, tiring but good. I am pleasantly surprised by the trail, which so far has been delightful to follow.
Tomorrow is supposed to be less kind with an afternoon of torrential rain and I think the wind is predicted to be bad as well! We will have to wait and see.
Once good thing, Eve has new waterproof trousers tomorrow! Thank you to everyone who donated on our Go Fund Me page as this money is used to buy new equipment and clothes during our walk.
That’s it for this evening folks
Have a great night and we will see you all in the morning.
Ian, Sarah and Eve