Cycling the West Highland Way - Part 2

Click here for Part 1

The next morning I got up, but not too early. Unfortunately (fortunately) I had to wait until the pub/reception opened to be able to hand back the key and get a key deposit back. So unfortunately (fortunately) this meant that I may as well have a cooked breakfast in the pub when it opened.

Happy, and full of energy and enthusiasm, I set off towards Loch Lomond which was only a few miles away. It was an overcast morning, but at least it had stopped raining. It was brilliant riding along the paths as they traversed along the hills on one side of a wide valley. The hills opposite had browning trees with waterfalls, full from the rain. Soon enough I reached the end of the loch. So far not too bad.

I set off along the path thinking how brilliant it was to be out in the countryside, experiencing the freedom and calm that comes with powering your own way along on two wheels.

At first the path continued to be at least party rideable. I pushed over a few of the rockier sections. Then as it became rockier I found myself riding less and less. I could ride for a few tens of meters before having to push or carry my bike over large rocks for a similar distance. Then the path became difficult. The rocks became larger at first. Then as the hill heading away from the lochside became extremely steep the path started climbing along craggy rock-faces. Riding was impossible. Carrying was almost impossible. The path climbed steep stone steps as it weaved through thin cracks in the rocky cliffs. Too thin to reasonably get a large backpack through, never mind a bike. I found myself fighting to continue. Lifting my bike above my head. Pushing it up over rocks before following on behind. Holding it with one hand as I perilously clung to the rock-face with my other hand, bike shoes struggling to grip the smooth rock surface of the “path”. After an hour of this I took a look at my GPS. I was hardly any distance along the loch.

I struggled on for the next couple of hours until finally, I reached the Inversnaid hotel. From here the track was still a torment, but slowly started to improve. I could pedal for short sections at least between rock sections. I was making progress down the loch. A section of the WHW that I'd expected to be a highlight had turned out to be the exact opposite. However, when I'd take small moments to stop and look at a view, or think about where I was and what I was doing I found myself still able to enjoy my surroundings. The scene looking out across the water to the snow dusted mountaintops of the Arrochar Alps and Beinn Dubh was truly amazing. The sun was shining from the South, low in the sky, glinting off the quiet waters. The sound of the light wind as it caressed the leaves above. The deafening silence of human activity. Not a boat on the water. I realised I hadn't met a single person since leaving the campsite. This whole loch felt like it mine.

Seemingly forever later, the path turned into a track. I felt like I was flying along at a terrific speed. Then, tarmac. Soon after I followed a lovely path over the hilly section of Ross Wood before rejoining the tarmac for a quick run down to the Rowardennan hotel. I rewarded myself with an expensive bowl of ordinary soup and a nice sandwich.
I said finally said goodbye to the loch a bit further south at Balmaha where the route took me up the steep and impossible to ride side of Conic Hill for 300 meters of ascent. This was pretty much a carry. Obviously a popular Sunday afternoon walk, it was busy. People were looking at me with curiosity as I struggled upwards.

From here there was a less steep and brilliantly rideable downhill continuing down the opposite side of the hill. The end was in sight. The final 25 kilometers of the ride were pleasant enough but fairly unremarkable. The route weaved it's way along old abandoned train routes, through country parks and along rivers as I headed in darkness down to the end of the route in the town of Milngavie.
I'd done it! 70 kilometers had taken me ten and a half hours to cover and I was exhausted.

My GPS was showing that over the 2 days I'd done 3200 meters of climbing and slightly over 160 kilometers.
I took some photos of my bike leaning against column marking the end of the West Highland Way.