A Walk on the side


21st November 2014, by Norman

Are you looking for a walk in the Helensburgh area which gets you out and gives you a really good bit of exercise? Then look no further than the fine circular route which goes up Ben Bouie and connects with the newest and best path in the area, the Three Lochs Way. You perhaps need to be lucky to see the local wildlife (roe deer and buzzards are worth looking out for) but you’ll be guaranteed outstanding views, providing of course you’ve chosen one of those, all too rare, beautiful days with clear blue skies. From the centre of town it takes about three and a half to four hours to complete – three if you’re a young buck looking for bragging rights and maybe five if you dodder along taking photographs and drinking in the soul food (my style).

The first climb is always the most difficult and it’s a bit of a slog straight up Sinclair Street to connect with the cycle path over to Loch Lomondside. However the first of the views of Glen Fruin is over the reservoirs as you pass by, then mercifully the path heads along the level and downhill for much of the way until the Ben Bouie forest track is reached after just over an hour. Head over the stile and up the hill with the bulk of the wee Ben looming above. The coniferous forest obscures views most of the way up but there are a couple of fire breaks which provide tantalising peeks at Loch Lomond. After about three quarters of an hour, and just when you think you’ll never make it, the track bends round a couple of times and levels out.

As you stop and get your breath back you may notice on your right a small tree with a couple of round Three Lochs Way signs seemingly pointing through the heather in the direction of the Clyde. To your left you will notice a small high point of ground reached from slightly further along the forest track you’re standing on. This leads to the marvellous little Gouk Hill Muir promontory and takes only five minutes to reach but cannot be missed for anything. It’s here that you have the most wonderful views over Loch Lomond with the islands and Ben Lomond in one direction and Balloch Park and the Campsie Fells in the other. And up here you may also catch a fleeting sight of Santa’s Little Helpers who have taken to decorating a Christmas tree which is on the summit! Even if you don’t see them it’s a good place to treat yourself to lunch.

Retrace your steps and follow the unmade track through the heather in the direction of the Clyde for a hundred yards. This is you now on the Three Lochs Way and when you pass through the new access gate you’ll see the made up path which leads down the flank of Ben Bouie. All the weariness of getting to this point fades away as you take in the panoramic views of the Clyde estuary, the distant peaks of Arran, Ardmore Point, Rhu Narrows and Helensburgh spread out before you. Now is the time to contemplate the meaning of life and consider how lucky you are to be in this part of the world.

Head downhill with a spring in your step, crossing the new forestry road where you’ll then find yourself on an unmade path heading through the woods to eventually come out just above Camis Eskan farm. Join the farm track, go past the large green shed, through another new access gate and continue down through the lower Drumfork Wood with the new Hermitage Academy on your left and emerge on to the dual carriageway at Colgrain, tired but triumphant. This descent takes about an hour. Now comes the hardest bit, a twenty minute walk into the centre of town (you could cheat by using bus, train or taxi from this point!).

The walk described is a full round trip starting and finishing in the town centre. By completing the walk described perhaps you’ll be inspired to tackle the full length of the Three Lochs Way from Balloch to Inveruglas and view all three lochs. Or maybe you’ll rest on your laurels and tell your grandchildren of the great adventure that awaits them just above the town. Go on do it again with the kids!

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How you can help

Helensburgh and District Access TrustThe Three Lochs Way is managed and maintained by the voluntary efforts of members of Helensburgh & District Access Trust which urgently requires funding for improvements to the route. Find out more on how you can help.