A Chance Discovery – Three Lochs Way

Hiking a section of the Three Lochs Way 

I was lucky enough to discover a hiking route recently that had been there all along. It’s part of the Three Lochs Way and I’d grown up right beside it, without knowing it was there.

Forestry once covered this hill and my memory of the place resembled a vision of Paschendale, grey scarred earthworks and broken tree trunks. A grotesque image of a battlefield from the Great War I’d seen in schoolbooks as a schoolboy. Not a nice image, but that was a while ago.

On return I was glad to see that the new growth was taking hold. It will be a more natural looking landscape in the years to come.

Visiting my parents at the family home, I decided to take a hike over the hill to Balloch. This trail, the Stoney Mollan, is an old coffin route that I’ve been over on foot and bike many times. Previously this hill had been covered in forest and the path led through these trees before descending towards Loch Lomond.

A Change of Plan

As I crested the hill I noticed a new signpost and a path stretching north-west. I had never noticed this before. The signs pointed towards Helensburgh and the path would take me along the ridge with views of Loch Lomond down to my right.

This new route was part of the Three Lochs Way, but also made up part of the John Muir Way, a relatively new long distance hiking route that stretches from Dunbar on the East Coast of Scotland and finishes on the West coast in Helensburgh. The route is in tribute to John Muir the environmental pioneer who left his native Scotland for the United States.

I decided to explore this new path and not my original intention of going to Balloch.

The Three Lochs Way approaches the edge of the forest

From the top of the hill the path immediately took me through a fragment of old plantation. A steep winding path through old growth pine trees. Despite it being a pleasant bright day, little light makes it through the branches. Some large rocky outcrops nestled among the trees in the gloom, giving some indication of the bedrock below.

It wasn’t long before I emerged out onto a wider path, bathed in light. The path passes a man-made pool, possibly an old quarry. Its filled with algae green water, mirroring the pine tree backdrop.

Quarry Pool

As you move towards Helensburgh, you have great views of the highland boundary in the form of the island chain that crosses Loch Lomond including Conich hill on the far shore.

One little offshoot of the trail lead out to a viewpoint to view the loch and mountains to the north. On this path I came across a solitary pine tree adorned in Christmas decorations. A peculiar sight in the middle of August.

Christmas decorations on lone pine

A Short Diversion

I soon found myself taking a diversion off this short section, due to timber harvesting. This took me on to the Camis Eskan path, which would take me down to Colgrain, and not Helensburgh itself. I didn’t mind this and the views proved to be worthwhile. Looking out over the town to the Clyde Estuary, with Gourock, Roseneath and the mountain of Arran beyond.

A runner descends with the Clyde beyond

The descent was easy and views were pleasant. The path soon linked up with a farm track, eventually coming out near Hermitage Academy. I just crossed the dual carriage way and it was a short walk to Craigendoran train station for the quick train journey back to Cardross.

It was a really pleasant surprise to find this route and it only took a couple of hours, which, for those not faffing about taking photos would probably take half the time!

I didn’t see many people using the route on my travels, but there were runners and dog walkers. I’ll definitely consider doing the Three Lochs Way in the future. Doing short sections of these routes is a great way to get your fix if you don’t have time to commit to complete route.

Gully leading to the Clyde Estuary

Cows in Field

The last post I made in Cardross also involved a childhood playground. You can read about the St. Peter’s / Hinterland installation here.