“‘Mountain Bothy Association – To maintain simple shelters in remote locations for the use and benefit of all who love wild and lonely places”
I gaze upon the deep stomach of Loch Lomond. The sun is a flaming wheel, emitting a relentless heat that creates a collage of colour. Sweet bluebells form a blanket beneath us as we trek past crumbling castles, nipping midges and crisp waters. This is Scotland, but not as we know it! It’s hot!
Our plan was to trek part of the West Highland Way from Bothy to Bothy. Leaving on a bank holiday weekend, it’s taking one day off work in exchange for 4 days of adventure! This blog post will explain how to make this happen for the budget conscious traveler.
Day 1 Thursday of Bank Holiday London to Scotland (After work)
With the Highlands situated 450+ miles away, a great way to travel to Scotland is overnight by sleeper train. Train tickets are released 12 weeks in advance of travel and we managed to get tickets for just £36.30! The choice of routes are below:
- London to Crianlarich – One ticket with a change in Edinburgh
- London to Glasgow then onward to Crianlarich (separate tickets) –
the change is at 07:00 instead of 03:57!
Day 2 Friday of Bank Holiday Crianlarich to Doune Byre Bothy
Upon arrival at Crianlarich, the town has a post office, local convenience shop, fire station and hotel. The village of Crianlarich is located in Glen Strathfillan to the north of the Trossachs, some eight miles north of the head of Loch Lomond. The hotel offers a cooked breakfast for £9.95, a great way to start any trek!
On our first day, we set off at approximately 11:00 and arrived at Doune Byre Bothy by 17:00. The loch mirrored the sky above, both of them blue and shimmering. The air was rich with the fragrance of spring and wild garlic whilst the sun beat down on us relentlessly.
Doune Byre Bothy is situated directly on the West Highland Way – a cosy little hut with sleeping platforms, a picnic table, chairs and a view out over the loch.
No other trekkers joined us for the night whilst we cooked up a hearty dinner of pesto pasta, olives and sundried tomatoes. Having found some discarded firewood on route, we lit the logs and watched as the fire flashed in a wash of red and yellow sparks. The fire provided a gentle and all encompassing warmth in the Bothy. We were home!
Day 3 Saturday of Bank Holiday Doune Byre Bothy to Rowchoish Bothy
After breakfast, we set off along the banks of Loch Lomond towards our next Bothy! It was a stunning day trek with caves, secluded beaches, gnarled trees and waterfalls. Our route passes by sites of interest such as Rob Roy’s Cave and the small village of Inversnaid, the perfect pit stop for refreshments mid-way through the trek!
Carpets of flowers lined the loch. We scrambled up and down rocks, crossed tree roots and descended ladders. Towards the end of the trek, we entered an earthy forest where Rowchoish Bothy came into view!
Used as a location for filming Under the Skin (horror/sci-fi) the Bothy guestbook was filled with tales of bumps heard in the night and Aliens hiding out in the forest. The Bothy had no nearby water source and was covered in dust and twigs. We set to work to make our stopover more homely. There were x2 German trekkers in the Bothy sheltering from the rain and we chuckled at the dark humour of the tools available in the haunted Bothy – a hack saw, an axe, hammer and the usual toileting spade!
This was the 4th Bothy I’ve ever stayed in and one of the busiest! A total of 17 trekkers split in 6 different groups stayed the night here. From the 5 of us, to German trekkers, to solo females, to groups of young hikers. It’s a real communal feeling that rung true to the philosophy of Bothies – a simple shelter, a place to hang wet clothing and to rest muddy boots in a truly wild and secluded place.
Day 4 Sunday of Bank Holiday Rowchoish Bothy to Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel
Leaving Rowchoish Bothy at approximately 0900, it was a straightforward and fairly flat route to Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel, situated approx 4 miles away. We took some time to relax on a sandy loch beach, playing on a rope swing that never fails to bring our inner child. We dropped off our rucksacks off at the youth hostel reception – ready for our climb up Ben Lomond!
Walking without backpacks was like wearing slippers made of cloud. There was no dull ache of shoulders or the slight lean-forward to account for pack weight. Ben Lomond was situated right behind our Youth Hostel, an excellent trail online map is available here.
Ben Lomond is the most southerly Munro in Scotland and allows for an incredible 360 degree view of Loch Lomond, Loch Chon and Loch Arklet. It’s a well maintained ascent with some scrambling towards the summit.
We were unwashed for 3 days and having climbed 974m, we were at our most smelliest state atop Ben Lomond. It was a bright and beautiful day for the ascent and a true highlight to finish off our long weekend in Scotland!
Day 5 Monday of Bank Holiday Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel to Luss
From the Youth Hostel, a daily ferry service connects Rowardennan to the little village of Luss. Luss is a picturesque village with slate cottages and climbing roses. There is a watersports centre to enjoy, coffee shops and quaint cafes to wind down after a Bothy weekend. The Scottish CityLink buses take you back to Glasgow Airport in just 30 minutes.
- Accommodation: Bothies are a perfect way to experience the wilderness of Scotland. No reservations can be made and I would recommend for trekkers to carry a bivvy/tent just in case
- Budget: Youth Hostel: £25. Domestic Flight, Bus & Ferry: £44, Train to Scotland: £36. Approximately just £25pp per day for a 4 day getaway,
- Responsible Travel: Bothy responsibly – bring a lighter to burn loo roll and take the toilet spade
- Water – Most Bothies have a nearby water-source for cooking, drinking and washing pots. We brought a UV sterilizer to ensure that the drinking water was safe to drink.
- Midges – BEWARE THE MIDGES! I still have bite marks today, bring a bottle of ‘Avon skin so soft’ (available on Amazon) and the Midges are unable to cling onto your skin.
- Travel – Book far in advance! The UK train system is like a chess game. Buy on the day and a ticket can cost upwards £200+. Diary in 12 weeks in advance and grab the tickets as cheap as possible.
- Food – Due to the secluded nature of Bothies, all food and snacks need to be brought with you. Poundland sell brilliant meatballs/chilli con carne pouches that can be cooked and heated in 2 mins. The brand is called “Look what we Found!”. Avoid the £6 Cotswold powder food and go for normal pastas, risottos and dried meats such as chorizo’s and biltong to keep it cheap.
- I know that 25 days holiday is precious and this itinerary helps you go away for 4 days, with taking off just 1 day off work! If you have any questions, please comment here or email me and I’ll be happy to help! :).