The past few days have definitely been a lesson for us about how we really do need to keep our plans flexible on this trip. After leaving the safety of our pitch at the Glentrool campsite, we had two very different experiences with wild camping; one night in an urban area, (neither of us slept a wink) the next night in a beautiful, quiet spot on the side of a small glen where we slept the whole night through. As much as we wanted to carry on being in the wilderness, constant torrential rain and gale force winds had kept us confined inside the van since Galloway. Going out walking was very much off the cards, as we would’ve quickly been soaked to the skin with no way of drying anything out.
After our incredible luck with the weather on our first few days, it felt like the elements were definitely trying to even the score . Needless to say, we were both sick of the rain and eagerly watched the forecasts hoping for promises of improvement. The forecasters all agreed that change was certainly coming, but not what we’d hoped for…it was going to snow. With all this in mind, we decided to visit the city of Glasgow much earlier than we’d planned. The prospect of indoor activities and catching up with friends and relatives was very appealing – and we were very grateful for an offer of a sofa bed to sleep on, meaning we didn’t have to resort to urban camping again. A brief city break had not been on the cards this early on into our tour of Scotland, but it made sense. The following day, we pottered around the city and enjoyed being tourists, before continuing North on to our next destination: Loch Lomand and the Trossachs.
We were aware that earlier this month, a new ban had been brought in against wild camping around the majority of roads and lay-bys within the national park. We were also increasingly aware that the temperature was dropping as we drove through short but intense snow showers. The daylight began to fade and the forecast looked increasingly cold and snowy, our options seemed to be that we could keep driving out of the park towards civilisation, or find a way to stay safely in the area. So, we decided it was a good opportunity for a well-timed (and incredibly discounted) hotel room for the next couple of nights, which were due to be snowy and well below freezing. In hindsight, it really was a good decision, as overnight three inches of snow fell in temperatures around minus six. Our little Big Red van is pretty unpleasant to live in in sub-zero conditions. As well as safety and security, we were paying for the knowledge that we could go out and explore on foot during the day, getting as soggy and cold as we liked, knowing we could get properly warm and dry afterwards. This proved to be completely invaluable and well worth the additional expense, as we had the best days outdoors we have had so far.
We were staying on the banks of Loch Long , a seawater loch to the west of Loch Lomand and the national park area. On our first day we walked an eleven mile circuit from Arrochar through Glen Loin and Coiregrograin. We headed off in good weather, but soon we were walking up the glen in a heavy, thick snow storm. Wearing the right equipment really made a big difference, as neither of us got too cold or wet. Far from being unpleasant, the thick snowfall only served to make our surroundings seem even more magical and awe-inspiring. When it cleared, we enjoyed the first proper sunshine we’d seen in days, the crisp snow all around us made us feel like we were in an alpine paradise. For the rest of the day, we felt so lucky to be in the middle of this incredible scenery, seemingly having it all to ourselves.
The following day was just as good, although we were both in the mood for a slightly shorter walk. We followed a trail through forest to a nearby town on the shores of Loch Lomand itself. The sun was strong and warm throughout our walk, but still there was plenty of snow on the surrounding peaks. We think we might have seen an osprey over the loch, but perhaps we were just being optimistic. As the forecast is due to improve, we are both looking forward to moving on to areas and climates more friendly for wild camping.