Starting at Sloy Power Station and finishing in Garelochhead, this half of The Three Lochs Way is strenuous but the scenery makes every blister worthwhile! Loch Long is your companion for the majority of the route however you also get glimpses of Loch Lomond and The Gareloch, the three lochs which give this long distance walk it’s name.
We parked the car in Balloch and took the Citylink bus to Sloy Power Station to start the walk from that end, returning into Balloch on day 2. It is service 916 and picks you up just after the roundabout on A82.
Click HERE to view or follow a map of the route
Route: The Three Lochs Way is very well way-marked in both directions so navigation is easy the majority of the time. Starting at Sloy Power Station, walk along A82 and take the marked track on your right heading uphill and away from the village. You will soon reach a fork with a narrower path leading off to the left to cross Inveruglas Water and enter some forest and then some woodland high above Arrochar. If you wish to do a short de-tour into Arrochar look out for a marked track on your right at Glenloin House and return to the same point to continue the walk. The track descends out of the woodland at Arrochar & Tarbet Railway Station and then along A83 for a short distance before you cross over and start heading uphill on a stoney footpath on your right hand side, turning right again to follow the track which runs behind a dry stone wall. Continue along this elevated path which will take you along probably the most scenic part of the walk, with Loch Long on your right for most of the way. It is also quite a challenging part of the walk, with regular short but steep uphill sections. When you reach a crossroads, turn right to cross the railway then left onto the start of a wide forestry road. This makes for pleasant and easy hiking for a short time. Look out for a marked footpath leading off this track downhill to the left. After passing under the railway the track widens and becomes a broken stone road until it joins up with the tarmac ‘American Road’, within the Garelochhead military training area. To reach Garelochhead to end this walk, look out for a way-marker on your right just as The Gareloch comes into view far below. It leads you over a gate (you need to climb it), alongside a fence and then descends down beside a dry stone wall to reach a small woodland area. There is only a very faint footpath and it can be very wet underfoot. You will emerge out onto A814 and the path continues at the other side, this time being a tarmac cycle track all the way onto Station Road, Garelochhead.
11th June 2016
When my friend G shared a link with me about The Three Lochs Way a few months ago, I right away added it to my ‘to walk’ list. He suggested that we could manage it over a weekend and the wheels were set in motion to get it planned. When the day arrived to start the 2-day hike, my sister and I met in Balloch after a 5am rise and joined up with G on the Citylink coach to head up to Sloy Power Station. We had decided for logistical reasons to do the walk backwards and have the cars waiting for us in Balloch on our return. The adrenaline was pumping and I was ready to go! I wasn’t quite sure what was in store as this would be the first time I would walk 18 miles in one day and I knew we were planning to do that two days in a row…..all for fun 🙂
The first thing to greet us as we came off the bus were midges, millions of them! I laughed out loud at the sight of G wearing his midge net! Two minutes later I was more than happy to put my own on – what a relief! My net and some Smidge became my two best friends: two essentials for hiking in Scotland!
I really enjoyed all the wildflowers growing along the way – foxgloves, bog cotton, rhododendrons, thistles….. At the time I was 10 days in to the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild challenge which I am sure was responsible for my heightened love for these flowers: sadly Britain’s wild flower species are being lost at a very high rate and a lot of work is currently being done to try and preserve them.
The first village you come do doing the walk this way round is Arrochar. The route itself passes above however a short de-tour takes you in to the village and we went in search of coffee and filled rolls. I can highly recommend Viv’s tearoom – a seemingly insignificant little hut sitting just off the roadside but with very reasonable prices and delicious fresh filled rolls. It was busy too which is always a good sign. There is also a nice campsite at back if you are looking for somewhere to stay. While waiting for our rolls we got chatting to some railway workers who were in the area and their midge protection was impressive indeed, a full midge jacket with hood worn over their work gear! Just shows you how bad they get.
My favourite part of the walk would have to be hiking along the footpath high above Loch Long – the views were stunning (even on a cloudy day), the terrain kept us on our toes with lots of steep uphill and downhill sections. “Who said this was a flat walk?!” became the joke of the day.
I love this photo of my walking buddies looking out over Garelochhead, taken in the final minutes of the walk. It looks like they were minding their own business but actually 2 minutes before this Gleb was telling me off for photographing the naval submarine base, Faslane down below us 🙂
At the end of day 1 we all had aches and pains and were looking forward to getting the boots off and seeing what damage had been done. I knew I had a blister on my heel – my first ever blister! My sister and G did not believe me but it is true! I was a little annoyed by it as I knew it would cause me problems the next day but what can you expect from an 18 mile hike, you are certain to feel it somewhere. Compeed was a godsend and I was so relieved that I had remembered to pack some! My heart went out to the group of people we had met doing the entire 34 miles in one day for charity!
We spent the night at Three Lochs Hostel in Garelochhead which I would recommend. We had twin rooms with private facilities and the whole hostel was very clean and well equipped. The Anchor Inn is great for pub food (and a glass of wine). Definitely important for refueling ready for day 2!