West Highland Way: Rowardennan to Inversnaid


General Data

This is a superb - if strenuous - stretch of trail that heads northwards along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. Initially it follows a good track that slowly climbs the wooded hillside, with occasional superb views down over the loch. The track soon ends and a wild path continues on across rough ground, slowly falling to reach the little cottage at Cailness. The path becomes rougher as it winds between trees to reach the Inversnaid Hotel.

Distance  7.5 miles
Ascent  2067 feet
Descent  2106 feet
Est. time  4 hours 35 minutes
Difficulty  medium

Map of the leg

Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.


From the car park near Rowardennan Pier at NS358986, head along a good track that runs behind the visitorís centre. This heads northwards through woodland towards the Youth Hotel. Before the track enters the grounds of the hostel turn right to remain on the track. When the track forks a few yards later, take the left-hand branch to continue on through the woodland.

The track passes a couple of buildings on the right before rejoining the shoreline once more as it heads northwards. When it forks after three-quarters of a mile at NN355006 take the right-hand branch (the left branch leads to Ptarmigan Lodge). Immediately go through a metal vehicle barrier and continue along the track uphill. A couple of hundred yards further on the trail itself forks.

The right-hand fork follows an obvious track northwards up and along the hill; the going is easy as it continues to climb to a summit with a bench on the left before starting to descend. About 2.5 miles after Ptarmigan Lodge it reaches a bridge over the Allt Doirean at NN338038; here the track loops around to the left in a horseshoe before curving to the right. It becomes a path that quickly degenerates underfoot; after another half-mile of uneven terrain it rejoins the low-level route near Rowchoish bothy at NS338047.

From here a path hugs the shoreline northwards through woodland. It crosses the Cailness Burn on a footbridge and immediately passes a beautiful whitewashed cottage on the right. The next 1.7 miles northwards are very rough; the ascents and descents are never too high, but the path underfoot is rocky. Eventually the path crosses the magnificent Arklet Water via a couple of footbridges to reach the Inversnaid Hotel; immediately after the second footbridge turn left down a long flight of steps to reach the front of the hotel at NN337088.

Alternative routes

The left-hand fork takes you down stone steps to the foreshore, which it follows northwards. In places the going is hard and it would be unwise to follow it if carrying a large backpack. After two miles the path heads away from the shoreline slightly, passing Rowchoish Bothy and meeting with the high-level route at NS338047; this junction can be hard to find from the high-level route.


Places of interest


Rowardennan is a small hamlet at the northern end of the road that leads up the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. It is dominated by the Rowardennan Hotel, which has a bar available for walkers, a large car park and a visitorís centre. A ferry operates over the loch to Tarbet on the western shore, run by Cruise Loch Lomond.

There is also a youth hostel, Rowardennan Lodge, two-thirds of a mile north of the hotel.

location UID #231

Loch Lomond bothies

There are two bothies on the shores of Loch Lomond. Rowchoish bothy is situated opposite Tarbet on the western shore of the loch; it can be hard to find. Many thanks to Forest Enterprise for providing this excellent resource, and the MBA and others for maintaining it. Apparently nine families lived near the bothy in 1750; the bothy itself was the byre of Rowcoish Cottage. This shows just how much the clearances affected these remote areas of Scotland.

Doune Bothy is a small stone hut situated at the northern end of Loch Lomond. It is a typically rustic bothy, with little more than a sleeping platform and a fireplace within. Again, many thanks to the MBA for maintain the bothy.

location UID #232

Loch Lomond and Rob Roy

A quick glance of the 1:25,000 OS map shows two references to one of Scotlandís most famous sons - Rob Roy. Robert Roy MacGregor was born in 1671 by Loch Katrine, a short distance to the east of Loch Lomond. He fought in the Jacobite Rebellion (which hoped to bring a Stuart to the throne), and was injured in the Battle of Loch Shiel in 1719.

Later he became a cattleman, but was evicted from his home in Inversnaid when he was left penniless after a cattle deal went wrong. His lands were seized by the Duke of Montrose, with whom he fought a bloody feud before finally being caught and imprisoned. A fictionalised book, The Highland Rogue, was written about him and popularised his story. The popularity of the book led to his pardon and release from prison. He was further popularised when Sir Walter Scott wrote Rob Roy in 1817.

Rob Royís prison is situated on the coast between Rowardennan and Inversnaid. Rob Roy captured the Sheriff-Substitute of Dunbartonshire and kept him a prisoner for a week within the cave.

Rob Royís cave nestles on the shoreline about a mile north of Inversnaid; it is alleged that he occasionally hid out there during his adventures. It is well waymarked from the West Highland Way.

location UID #233

Inversnaid and the ferry

Inversnaid is a tiny settlement nestled about two-thirds the way up the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. It consists of little more than a hotel which sits at the shoreline, its only road access coming east from Loch Arklet.

The hotelís clientele is invariably fairly well-dressed, but there is hope for walkers - the hotel operates a bunkhouse in a converted chapel about half a mile up the hill. Fortunately they often offer a pick-up from the hotel for tired walkers, saving a long haul uphill. A jetty outside the hotel marks the landing for a ferry across the loch.

There is a wild-camp site a few yards north of the hotel near a little boathouse.

location UID #234


Public transport on this leg is very difficult; the problem is how to get across the loch from the start and end points. Cruise Loch Lomond operate ferries between Inversnaid and Tarbet and Tarbet and Rowardennan, but the services are infrequent and does not operate all year round.

As usual, Traveline Scotland is an excellent resource for planning public transport journeys.

Map information

Landranger (1:50,000)   Explorer (1:25,000)
Landranger 56 (Loch Lomond & Inveraray)
Explorer 364 (Loch Lomond North)

Photos of this leg

The track heading north from Rowardennan.A viewpoint over the loch.A waterfall beside the track.The track heading north from Rowardennan.Looking down over Loch Lomond.A stream at Cailness.Cailness cottage.The shores of Loch Lomond.The rough path leading north towards Inversnaid.A cyclist passing me.A stream near Inversnaid.Inversnaid.Inversnaid Hotel.

Accommodation information

Inversnaid bunkhouse and bistro
P: 01877 386249
W: http://www.inversnaid.com/
E: hostel@inversnaid.com

Grid ref: NN346092 (56.246375,-4.671426)
Inversnaid hotel

Grid ref: NN338089 (56.243082,-4.684274)
Inversnaid wildcamp

Grid ref: NN336094 (56.24794,-4.687439)
Rowchoish bothy

Grid ref: NN336043 (56.202545,-4.683899)
Coille Mhor Cottage
East Loch Lomondside
G63 0AR

Grid ref: NS361993 (56.15783,-4.640908)
Rowardennan Lodge SYHA
By Drymen
G63 0AR
P: 01360 870259
W: www.syha.org.uk

Grid ref: NS359993 (56.157991,-4.643784)
Rowardennan hotel
Loch Lomond
G63 0AR
P: 01360 870273
W: www.rowardennanhotel.co.uk
E: overnight@rowardennanhotel.co.uk

Grid ref: NS360983 (56.149372,-4.641335)
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