I’m not sure what is possible on foot, but on a road-ish bike it doesn’t seem to be possible to cycle close to the shoreline all the way around Loch Lomond. This meant that instead of continuing up the Eastern short of Loch Lomond and then on, we had to start our day by doubling back on ourselves, going beyond the Southern point of the Loch to an inland town called Drymen, before heading back to Balloch and up the western shore of the largest loch in mainland Britain.
In a village shop in Drymen we bought snacks for breakfast, millionaires shortbread and a shared bottle of Tropicana made a good start to the day. I also managed to find postcards, which I wrote and sent home a lot more efficiently than my normal standards. (The postcard a day for Nana idea while I did LEJOG was a good one, but I really need to do something with the stack of written postcards sitting in my bedside table drawer now!)
Making our way back to Loch Lomond with some cycling on a busy A road, we entered the busy and touristy town of Balloch and did several laps of the bumpy bike path and streets teaming with oblivious tourists as we looked for a shop selling food, rather than just novelty tartan and tickets to the large aquarium. After our small sample of ‘not suitable for road bikes’ cycle path, I wasn’t holding out much hope for the round Loch Lomond cycle path, and sadly I was proved right. While the cars sped along on a smooth A road to our left, we bumped along a pavement. Perhaps the path was designed for family day out bike rides? While it would certainly be preferable to a speedy road for a family day out, cycling along with the cars roaring past could hardly be counted as enjoyable! At some points the path did dip away from the road, down steep slopes between trees blocking out some of the road noise and the hedges and walls surrounding properties that lead down to the lake. At one point the path left the road for some time close by the lake and views across were beautiful, the lake water shining in the sun and the layers of mountains fading into the distance.
Eventually as it started to rain we ditched the cycle path and enjoyed the smooth tarmac of the A road and dipping into pretty villages like Luss where we stopped for a photo by the beach and ferry jetty. As we cycled on the road was becoming increasingly familiar and I started telling Jessie about how I’d had a puncture last year on a road like this, bordered by cliffs on one side and the metal barrier enclosed undergrowth on the other, while busloads of tourists careered past. (Thank goodness for our speedy team puncture fixing that day!) As we reached our destination, I was quite sure that I’d cycled past the campsite across the fields last year and confirmed it by checking on Strava that evening. Scotland is such a large and unexplored country by me so it seems odd to have cycled a road there twice (and now three times by the time of writing!)
All day I had been looking at the beautiful Loch in the sun and looking forward to my swim. As we went on we decided we’d take our stuff to the campsite, pitch the tent and then cycle back unladen to find our swim spot. However when we reached the campsite entrance, there was a sign saying that the entrance was closed and that we’d need to cycle a mile further up the road to get in. The next entrance lead to a bumpy off road trail that climbed and then descended steeply to the campsite. I think it would have been good fun on my CX bike normally, but hearing the panniers rattle on every bump and dragging me back on the uphill and down faster than I’d like on the downhill, it didn’t make for a fun end to the day. We weren’t going to cycle that way again until we had to and I really wished I’d gone for a swim in the morning while Jessie fiddled around with her ever-troublesome bike gears!
The campsite was close to Crainlarich where I’d been first introduced to midgies last year, and that evening we were firmly in midgie territory again. They somehow manage to be everywhere while you’re pitching the tent, standing still for a moment they start to settle. Horrible! Instead of a swim we walked down alongside the stream by the campsite and had a paddle – probably right in midgie territory but the cold water was lovely!
We enjoyed the luxury of a hot shower, a chance to wash out some of our clothes and the campsite restaurant serving hot food (not cooked on a Trangia), wine and live music! Less enjoyable was the noise throughout the night at the campsite, making me look forward to wild camping again!