This post describes the middle section of the Three Lochs Way (TLW) and will be pretty short because it wasn’t that great a walk from a scenic point of view, although walking through an active military training area provided for some unusual walking.
The start is at the car park at Hill House above Helensburgh: I wasn’t impressed the last time I saw it and apparently it is in a bad way as it leaks like a sieve. We head for Glen Fruin crossing the hill via the route of the old coffin road. The open ground has livestock but they kept their distance and didn’t bother us. We cross the Fruin Water onto a very quiet byway down the glen: we only saw one car and four cyclists in over an hour. You can see why it is so quiet: its dull. But things were about to get interesting after we cross the main road: as we get a view of Faslane on the Gare Loch (loch 2) we meet the army.
The TLW now enters a military training area following the “Yankee Road”: built by the Americans during the war and now the smoothest piece of tarmac I’ve ever seen. It’s entrance is protected by a barrier and sentry box, but with no red flags flying we can proceed. It’s all very quiet until we meet some large army trucks speeding towards us: they just fit on the road – Jazz and I decide it best not to get under their wheels. After a few km the tarmac turns into a landrover track, then a solid path built by the Gurkhas (the Gurkha Bato), then a muddy path. We now get our first view of Loch Long: its pretty narrow here but a big oil tanker is berthed feeding the navy.
Along the path we see signs of army activity: wooden huts with heavy packs lined up outside; discarded ammunition boxes; signs advising not to pick up unusual objects. I was having a bit of a moan about how muddy the path had become when we cross a bridge with a memorial to Warrant Officer Dave Markland who helped build the TLW and who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. That put my muddy inconvenience into perspective, and reminded me that this area isn’t for soldiers to play in but to train. Sobering.
We rejoin a main forest track for the last few km to the pick up point in Glen Douglas. As we turn a corner we walk into an army patrol of around 8 in full kit carrying big weapons. Jazz and I were on best behaviour in case they were looking for targets. Now my experience of the world’s military isn’t great but this bunch must win prizes for politeness: everyone said “hello” or “good afternoon” – incongruous when they are carrying automatic weapons. Two other things struck me: a good third were women, and how young they were – my daughter’s age.
So the walk wasn’t scenic – and the poor weather had a hand in that. But it was certainly interesting and thought-provoking.
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