Doune Bothy Hike

Inspired by Country Walking Magazine

The Since the snow has decided to make a fashionably late entrance this winter, I decided to make the most of a clear forecast and get out for a hike. Nothing big, as its been a pretty sedentary year, so a low level walk was ideal. Coincidentally I’d been contacted to do an Instagram post supporting Country Walking Magazine’s #Walk100miles campaign. This would encourage people to walk a mile a day, towards a 1000 mile goal. In the first issue of my new subscription, it also suggested a range of walks. Luckily there was one I new well and it wasn’t too far away.
The walk would start at the Drovers Inn, Inverarnan and follow a section of the West Highland Way, south to Doune Bothy on the east bank at the northern end of Loch Lomond. P.S. I just Googled, “Should cardinal points be capitalised?” Anyone else wondered that?

Crainlarich hills
Looking north

Inverarnan

I arrived in darkness at the Drovers. It was a frosty morning and I sat in the car, making the most of residual heat until the sky in the south west stated lighting up.
I crossed the bridge leading to Benglas Farm and campsite, turning right, along the track that makes up this section of the West Highland Way.
The mountains behind me, to the north had a smattering of snow on the peaks, but nothing substantial. If there had been, you know this writer would have been on his snowboard instead.

The sky to the north was turning a deeper cobalt blue. In the direction I was traveling, bright gold was spilling over Ben Lomond’s neighbouring hills and illumination the far side of the loch.

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond to the south

I continued south, stepping lightly and listening. It was quiet, just the odd high pitches of great tits and wren. The forest is hazel and oak, the latter often draped in moss as is typical of the Celtic Rainforest biome.

A dark shaggy shape moved amongst the trees, it lifted its head, showing off an impressive set of horns. In this festive season, it looked a bit like a questionable Krampus from Germanic folklore. The feral goat had a friend, neither seemed to mind that I was imposing on their breakfast. They continued to browse and I moved on.

Dubh Lochan & Cnap Mòr

My walk continued past Dubh Lochan where the feathered reed heads were backlit, catching the warm golden light. With the Lochan now behind me, I turned around to see a young deer hind bouncing through the long grass, her white rump disappearing into the forest higher up the hillside.
This is a fairly low level walk, however as the raised ridge of Cnap Mòr passed to my right, I found myself presented with Loch Lomond stretching itself southwards below me.

golden light
Dubh Lochan

Through s farm gate, there was a rocky outcrop where I took advantage of the relatively higher aspect to take in the view. The mountains either side, dropping steeply towards each other with the ribbon of Loch Lomond running between. I closed the gate and returned to the main path.

The strengthening sun was doing its work on the frost as I descended the boulder strewn route down. A small footbridge in the shade of the trees held on to its frosty coating as I crossed.

Loch Lomond
Golden Light

There were few signs of habitation on this side of the loch, but the ones I did see left me wondering what life would be like living there. Not remote as the crow flies, but definitely difficult to reach if you needed in or out in hurry, especially if you didn’t have access to a boat.

hidden habitation
Remote Access

Doune Bothy

It had been a quiet morning, I only saw a handful of fellow walkers. A group of three passed as I was taking pictures. They asked if I was doing the West Highland Way. “No!” I informed them. “Just heading to Doune Bothy”. They told me they were doing the same, they overtook me and I continued with my composition.

Doune Bothy
Doune Bothy

Three and a half miles in and I reached my destination. Doune Bothy faces south with a single green door and small windows either side. There are also a couple of ruined buildings between the bothy and the loch that lies a distance below.

Doune Bothy Interior
Doune Bothy Interior

The steep tree covered hills sweep upwards to a ridge line where I spotted a golden eagle quartering its territory.

Another group were staying in the bothy exited the building for a hike, followed by the three men I had met earlier. They stopped and we chatted about the eagle, the deer that had also just materialised on the ridge. Then we moved on to the subject of the buildings we had passed en route. How one had belonged to an old woman who had recently passed away. Whether true or not, the next story told that the neighbouring ruin once belonged to a member of the band U2. Im sure this is apocryphal, but I couldn’t help imagining Bono zooming about the property on a U2 Argo Cat. The property itself is apparently on the market once more.

Doune Bothy neighbours
Neighbouring buildings

Stories also alluded to the poor treatment that summer visitors had dealt the ageing bothy. Allegedly the visitors tried to saw the timbers that held the ceiling in place so they could burn then in their fire. This type of behaviour beggars belief and explained the need for the change in bylaws regarding camping in the national park. If only there was a way to enforce these rules in our precious bothies. That populate the wilder places around Scotland.
I chatted to the group a while longer before saying goodbye and retracing my way back towards Inverarnan.

Return trip

Some clouds developed in the sky to the south, but the low winter sun continued to shine through, lighting up the hillside and mountains ahead of me.

More goats lined the way as I got closer to Benglas where a scabby old ram welcomed me back.

Scabby old ram
Old Ram

It was a great wee walk with perfect weather. Ideal, since it had been a while since my last excursion.

Thanks to the suggestion in Country Walking Magazine. Going out to get a shot for Instagram was the incentive I needed as I await the snow to get this snowboarding season underway.

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