Fun fact: I keep misspelling Scotland as Stocland. Do you have any idea how many times that is now? But I digress. After a great week in Stirling, I headed to Garelochhead, a tiny village on Gare Loch, near Loch Lomond and the Trossach national park. The journey from Stirling was not too bad, about an hour from the lovely Stirling train station to Glasgow, and less than an hour from there to Garelochhead. Arriving to the GareL station (not typing the full name any more!) was not that fun, however. There is no station building and the platform is covered in red gravel. Drag your luggage through that. In the rain. Without knowing exactly where you’re going and with no one there to ask. Googlemaps to the rescue! It was a bit over 10 min walk in the end, as I faintly remembered, so that was alright.
There is not much to GareL itself. There’s a rather nice cafe, two take away food spots (Indian and Chinese, but the latter was closed for holidays) and an inn/pub with not a single vegetarian option. Two grocery stores and a post office. The village is at the bottom end of Gare Loch and unfortunately the views are marred by a naval base on the eastern shore. Walking past that takes forever, I’ll have you know, as it goes on and on.
My walk in the other direction, to the west shore, was cut short by a note that the footpath along the road would end and not resume for a kilometer. As I’m sure to have mentioned before, I don’t feel safe walking on a hard shoulder. My first bus ride the next day proved I made the right choice as the bus driver clearly thought he was driving for Formula 1, so walking on the narrow shoulder of the roads would most definitely end badly.
The second full day I took a bus to nearby Kilcreggan, to walk from there to Cove, along the neighboring Loch, Loch Long. You might think that the name means “rather lengthy loch” but actually it comes from gaelic and means “ship lake”. This was a much more satisfactory walk! The loch gave wonderful views of the sky, the hills and the ocean loch, the weather was fabulous, the stretch of coast was peppered with lovely grand manors and birdlife.
I also stopped by a fun overgrown little garden, the Linn garden, that was just a 100 meters from the coastal road. There were helpful leaflets with maps at the entrance, but some of the paths were so overgrown that I didn’t venture there. I doubt that I saw all the gardens had to offer, but I did happen on a building in the middle where I met a very old, kind and craggly caretaker who perhaps lived in the building? Even though the gardens were public, I was not sure if I was supposed to be there so beat a hasty retreat.
The only problem with my walk was that I skipped going at the cafe in Kilcreggan, and the next toilet was not going to be until when I would return back to Kilcreggan hours later. The distance between the two villages was only about 3 km, but the wonderful views planted my butt firmly on every bench along the way to admire them. On my way back I begged the lady at a corner store in Cove for use of their bathroom, which was in a part of the building that was being renovated, so she provided me with a portable electric light and words of warning that it would be dangerous. I survived, and much relieved, walked back to Kilcreggan. I meant to go have something to eat at the cafe there, but the bus back to GareL, which only went once an hour, arrived just in time for me to catch it. Sure, I could have avoided the whole toilet debacle by hopping on the bus from Cove, but where would have the fun been in that?
There was a ferry across the stretch of ocean to a town called Gourock, which I might do another day.
After the first few relaxed days nearby, I was ready to venture a little further afield, to Loch Lomond next!