Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

November 2020

Highland Fling (part 1)

Conic Hill, West Highland Way, Snowdonia

When I first wrote up the West Highland Way, my text ran to 6 pages Ė there was just so much to fit it! Donít worry, I will edit it down.

The West Highland Way is Scotland's first officially designated Long Distance Route and was opened on 6 October 1980, making this the 40th anniversary. Most years about 36,000 walk the entire route, but with Covid restrictions in place this is probably going to be one of the quieter years. Our trip started (walking) on 17 September, with most of us finishing on 26 September. We were mostly walking in small groups and often with different people each day. We were extraordinarily lucky with the weather and only had one rainy afternoon. Apparently we have to thank Fergus for this, as he asked God very nicely to smile on us, which it seemed he did!

There was no avoiding the Covid restrictions. The walking was alright, but the shifting rules both before and during our trip made accommodation and eating out complicated in the extreme.

The trip can be split into three parts: the first lowland part, the middle part alongside Loch Lomond, and the last heading into the highlands. Now the lowlands arenít flat, but they are relatively gentle. You are walking through woodland and alongside rivers and you can see the bigger hills beckoning on the horizon. The route officially starts in the centre of Milngavie at an obelisk situated just outside Greggs. We all took commemorative photos whilst hi-vis clad workers looked on tucking into their breakfast pasties. On this first day we pass Craigallain Loch and a small memorial to the Craigallian Fire, a beacon for the outdoors movement, during the depression of the 1930s. Many, warmed by tea and stories by the fire, went on to become pioneers in opening up Scotlandís wild places. Something we can all thank them for. On this day we also coincided for a distance with the John Muir trail, commemorating another pioneer, although he did go to the US to become Father of the National Parks.

We finished day one in Drymen, a gorgeous village with lovely pubs/hotels and a little Spar, which we promptly picked clean of sandwiches and snacks. There is the most glorious sunset, surely a portent for a successful trip to come!

Day two is a long one: fifteen miles, including a climb to the viewpoint on Conic Hill. At last nightís sunset we could see the profile of Conic Hill rippling on the horizon, but this morning it had disappeared, wreathed in fog. I get the impression from the guidebook that this is a common occurrence, due to the cold water and marshland just south of Loch Lomond causing condensation in the moist air. We set off in the hope that the warmth of the sun would burn it off before we got to the viewpoint. Still, the cold air and morning dew conspired to provide us with an uncommon treat: as we walked out of Drymen into the Queen Elizabeth Forest park, the trees and gorse were festooned with sparkling cobwebs like Christmas tinsel - each catching the light and flashing rainbows as you walked past. At the bottom of Conic Hill the official route divides, giving you the option of whether to go up or round. As it is a long day anyway there had been some mutterings about going round, but as the weather was shaping up nicely in the end everyone elected to go up the hill. And it was worth it. By the time we got there the cloud had retreated to the horizon and we had spectacular views across the southern end of Loch Lomond, complete with hairy highland cows in the foreground.

Traditionally Conic Hill is the end of the lowland section of the trail, but we still had a fair way to go to get to Rowardennan Lodge YH, our stop for the night. Rowardennan Lodge is a magnificent building in a superb setting, and itís hard to believe itís a hostel and not the country house for some multi-millionaire. This is the perfect jumping off point for the next leg of our journey where we will be walking up the western bank of Loch Lomond.


Zooming in to the AGM

Our AGM was held on 14 October and, for the first time, online. To obtain the full minutes, please contact the Secretary, Dave J, but the edited highlights were:

         Approval of the 2019 minutes.

         Approval of the accounts

         Appointment of new Chairman (Mike)

         Appointment of a new Committee Member (John M)

         Reappointment of existing Committee Members.

Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer