Day 81: Drymen to Inversnaid (22.40m)

Today turned out to be one of the most beautiful, the most gruelling and certainly the wettest of my walk. Having packed up my tent in the shelter of a barn at my campsite I trudged off in the rain on the way to Loch Lomond.

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Almost four miles brings me into sight of the loch. It's been slow work and I don't arrive at Balmaha until past lunchtime.

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Tom Weir - climber, author and broadcaster.

Tom Weir - climber, author and broadcaster.

From Balmaha I leave the road and take the path along the misty loch.

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I have massively underestimated the difficulty of today's walk. What I mistook on my map to be a simple path running along the water  actually turns out to be a path which jumps up and down the contour lines, with frequent periods of scrabbling over wet rock. The constant rain has swollen the streams that tumble down from the Ben Lomond so that even the stepping stones are covered by white water.

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I stop to chat to Tony - who is coming down the path in the opposite direction. Tony is near the start of his end-to-end journey - the first person I have met on the walk doing John O'Groats to Land's End!

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At stages the path becomes easier but by this point it's past 18.00 and I truly know what it means to be soaked to the skin. I can feel the water between every layer of clothing and my boats (which have ceased to be waterproof somewhere south of Edinburgh) keep my feet sodden.

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For the first time on my journey it is getting dark and I'm still walking. I eat a welcome treat from a remote help-yourself stall - miles from any roads.

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Another couple of miles finds me crossing the dramatic falls at Inversnaid, although I'm probably too fed up to appreciate them at this point. A mile walking away from the loch takes me to the warmth and shelter of the Inversnaid Bunkhouse for the time, just after 20.00.

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This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
— Inversnaid by Gerard Manley Hopkins