Walk 67 – The Three Lochs Way Part 2 (Garelochhead to Balloch) – 17.5 miles

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Starting in the village of Garelochhead and ending at Balloch Tourist Information Office, this part of The Three Lochs Way is much flatter than the first half and definitely the easier of the two days. You will walk along minor roads, clay footpaths, through forests and woodlands and on an open hillside. You will also pass through the pretty town of Helensburgh. Despite the walk’s name, you leave the lochs behind for much of the way, meeting back up with Loch Lomond in the final stages. 

  We parked a car in Balloch on day 1 and took the Citylink bus to Sloy Power Station, Inveruglas to start the walk from that end. It is service 916 and picks you up just after the roundabout on A82. We then walked The Three Lochs Way to Balloch over two days, where the car was waiting for us.

route image  Route: From Station Road, Garelochhead follow the surfaced cycle path NE to the A814 near a roundabout. Cross over carefully and pick up a grassy track on the other side of the road. Look out for a tall wooden finger post “American Road 0.8kms“. Follow a faint footpath through a small woodland area then uphill beside a dry stone wall. The path continues along a fence to a gate (you need to climb over it), leading to the official Three Lochs Way route. Turn right (SE) to walk along the track. After approx 1.5km cross over the A817. The track continues at the other side of the road. Turn left (E) and walk along Glen Fruin Road for 6.5km to a fork. Turn right (SW) onto Drumfad Road. After approx 250m, turn right (SW) onto a way-marked track heading up the hillside. Continue in a SW direction for approx 2.5km. Shortly after passing beneath some overhead cables, turn left (E) at a fork to enter a pleasant woodland. When you reach a small car park turn right (SW) onto Upper Colquhoun Street, passing Hill House, a National Trust for Scotland property. At the end of Upper Colquhoun Street turn left (E) onto Munro Drive West. At the end of Munro Drive West turn right (SW) onto A818/Sinclair Street which continues for approx 1km down to the A814/East Clyde Street by the water’s edge. Turn left (E) to walk along the busy A814/East Clyde Street. After 1.8km move over to quieter Cardross Road on the left. Towards the end of Cardross Road the way markers direct you left (NE) onto Drumfork Road, a minor road leading into a woodland area. Continue in a general NE direction uphill for 1.4km to a crossroads. Continue ahead (E) towards a forest. Keep left (E) at a fork 300m along. A further 70m along keep right (SE) at another fork. Follow the track in a general NE direction for 2.3km to a path junction – turn right (E). At this point the Three Lochs Way joins up with the John Muir Way. [It is worthwhile taking a short de-tour to a well signposted viewpoint in the forest – beautiful views of Loch Lomond. Turn left (N) off the path when you reach the signpost and follow the trail along to the viewpoint. Return to the main path via the same route.] Keep right (SE) at a fork a short distance along from the viewpoint. The forestry road bends to the right and starts to head downhill, emerging out onto a wide track at the bottom. Keep left (E) at two forks along this track and you will come out onto Stoneymollan Road. The path starts to head downhill with fabulous views down into Balloch. It leads you through a lovely tree-lined passage and onto Upper Stoneymollan Road. Close to the bottom of the hill turn left (NE) to cross a footbridge over A82 and along Lower Stoneymollan Road. At the end of Lower Stoneymollan Road, turn left (NW) onto Old Luss Road. Look out for a path on your right 280m along heading NE towards Loch Lomond Shores. Walk along the main path around Loch Lomond Shores, past the shops and towards the pier, turning right (NE) to cross Ben Lomond Way. Follow the footpath at the other side of the road which bends to the right and runs parallel to the River Leven. The river should be on your left-hand side. Balloch Tourist Information office is at the end of the path next to the car park.

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WALK REPORT: 12th June 2016

We were in good spirits starting off day 2. We were of course feeling achy after our +18 mile hike yesterday but there was plenty to laugh about over breakfast, particularly as G decided to eat his dehydrated chicken curry at 9am 🙂 My sister and I had heaved a small supermarket worth of food in our rucksacks yesterday and barely touched any of it so we were determined to eat through as much as we could today to take some weight off our backs. Both of us envied G’s small lightweight backpack, we had definitely overpacked. Typical girls or being sensibly prepared for any outcome? You decide! Quote of the morning from my sister, “I feel OK, but quite tired and sore pretty much everywhere” 😀

The walk uphill to rejoin the American Road seemed so much steeper today than it had coming down yesterday. Relentless as well, testing the blister on my heel which did not enjoy uphill stretches. It wasn’t long until we were into new territory and excited for what lay ahead.  The next section was easy going on a tarmac minor road. The cloud was lower toady and the weather more drizzly. I am not sure if it was the rain or the long and seemingly unending road but we found this section pretty boring after a while and were anxious to move onto something different. One funny incident did occur here though: My sister – convinced that she was dehydrated and therefore drinking A LOT of water before we left the hostel – was by now (already) in need of a toilet stop. There wasnt much cover at the roadside but when you need to go you need to go…. and of course the very first car to pass us did so about now!

Seemed quiet enough to stop for a pee-break at the side of the road… until it was too late.

The Three Lochs Way app tells you that at this point you are likely to hear some noisy peacocks – this one seemed to be wandering around separate from the rest and was indeed noisy. Great photo sis! Such colourful creatures.

Noisy peacock. Photo credit: Louise McLean

When we eventually reached the right turn and the road became a footpath we had a little celebratory ‘horray!’ The path took us uphill and for the first time we got a glimpse of Loch Lomond and the Clyde. Helensburgh would be our next port of call and as we continued the view started to open up more and more.

We stopped in at The Hill House for refreshments. As it is a National Trust for Scotland property you are supposed to pay to enter however G managed to negotiate with the receptionist to allow us ‘entrance to tearoom and toilets only’ without paying. I am actually a member but of course hadn’t thought to bring my membership card along. The lady did frown upon our attire and questioned how muddy our boots were before agreeing to let us pass. We did look very odd sat in the tearoom with hiking gear and rucksacks surrounded by prim and proper, well-to-do pensioners in for a scone and tea after a morning browsing the house built by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. We gave a donation on the way out 😉

I was a little disappointed that so much of the walk went through Helensburgh town centre itself, I much prefer walking through woodland or along a beach to avoid any hustle and bustle. It has some pretty areas though. I particularly liked the first part we walked through which had grassy, buttercup filled pavements.

My memories from Helensburgh also include 2 pit stops: the first for my sister to re-apply her Compeed (yes right in the centre of town with people walking past) and the second to eat my packed lunch. We were all tired by now and a little drained from the walk through town. I still remember the look on my sister’s face when the realisation hit that we still had another 4.5hrs or so to walk before reaching Balloch!

Buttercups in Helensburgh

I absolutely loved the hill path between Helensburgh and Balloch. I would actually do again as a shorter walk, it was like a mini hill walk. The terrain was varied and because it was on a higher level we were rewarded with lovely views back down into Helensburgh and across the Clyde.

Views from the hill path between Helensburgh and Balloch

We passed through some forest, a section which technically was closed due to forestry works however we decided since it was a Sunday it was unlikely any work was happening so we took a risk and went in anyway. We were right, the machinery and equipment was all there but no workers. The clouds were really low and a mist was coming in over the trees, an indication that we were pretty high up. It gave an almost spooky atmosphere to the place, that and the fact we were the only ones there!

Spooky forest steeped in mist

I learned what these things are for! Had seen them a few times along the way and will admit that I innocently thought they were for shoveling snow in the winter haha. Nope! The signs obviously didn’t give me a big enough clue…

For putting out fires!

There was a viewpoint we chose to climb up to in the forest and I’m so glad we did because the views down onto Loch Lomond were simply stunning. After walking so many miles we did hesitate about doing this de-tour because we weren’t sure how far it was or whether it was worth it. It definitely was, 100%.

Viewpoint – looking over Loch Lomond

Inside the forest we came to the end of the wide track and suddenly the path in front of us descended into a deep dark forest. If I’d had a torch with me I would have used it! As though that wasn’t scary enough, someone somewhere close by was buzzing around on a motorbike, that or it was a chainsaw I don’t know. We pretty much jogged our way out of there as fast as we could and it was a relief to come out onto the open hillside at the other side.

Deep, dark forest

The final section started off sore underfoot due to a track made of broken stones. However the views of Loch Lomond continued and reminded us that we were almost there! I loved these upturned trees we passed – I was unsure whether the wind had blown them over or a forestry vehicle had shoved them down but in any case the effect was enough for me to stop and take a photo!

From here it was a gentle walk down into Balloch. There wasn’t much conversation flowing by this point, we were just pressing on imagining the moment we would take our hiking boots off and put fresh socks on!  But arriving at the end put a huge smile on our faces and even G agreed to a celebratory photo. Say cheeeeeese!

Almost there!
DONE! The Three Lochs Way has been ticked off the ‘to do’ list 😀

Go to > The Three Lochs Way Part 1 (Inveruglas to Garelochhead)

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