This was a deceptively tough run with some good photo opportunities. The terrain is great fun, a mixture of rocky sections interspersed with the ususal forest track and even a little tarmac for good measure but the persistent, albeit gradual, incline in the first half is completely draining (310 meters in 5 miles). This is made up for by the lengthy downhill section in the latter half though where you can make up for lost time, however it can be repetitive. Totally worth it for the views of the various Munros surrounding it.
A 50 minute drive brought me to Arrochar in the early hours of the morning, beating the morning light where I’d hoped to get a nice sunrise run, but the clouds decided that it wasn’t happening on their watch and rained on me instead.
The run began in the car park (bring change) along the edge of Loch Long and after some confusion as to where to actually enter the Glen (hint: it isn’t the entrance next to the camper van site, a formerlly puzzled me can tell you), I found myself on a path headed north. Keep your eyes peeled for signs for marking Cowal Way, the first of which will take you right and up a narrow path with a sharp left at the top.
North again, you’ll come to a gate leading to an opening where the uphill starts, climbing 130 meters in a mile, ending beside an electrical pylon. This bit kicked my ass. It usually takes 2 or 3 miles for me to warm up and being uphill as well only made it tougher. Once the tears have stopped (if you didn’t warm up properly), it eases off for a mile with a short descent along side a row of trees where you can start to make out the Sloy Switching Station at the base of Ben Vorlich. Don’t be surprised if you build speed here – the path is now excellent and the shelter provided by the woods welcome. You’ll pass a boulder as you follow the trail which will shortly begin to veer left (the trail, not the boulder), putting Ben Vorlich on your right. Watch the fallen tree, and soak up the views before it gets harder.
At just over 3 miles the trail begins to drift right and cross a bridge towards a signposted tarmac road, marking the start of the main climb (roughly 180 meters over 2 miles). Follow the road for about a third of a mile before you come to a fork, and turn left to start up the side of Ben Vane. The path will begin to drift to the right until you end up in a valley flanked by Ben Vane on your right, Beinn Ime straight ahead and A’ Chrois on your left. The terrain is generally good, though there are sections of scree and heavily used road that give way to puddles and mud. And sometimes sheep. You’ll pass a clearing on the right about half way up the climb marking the start of the steepest part of the climb. As a reward when you finally get to the end you’ll find a sluice gate, with a ladder (you aren’t supposed to climb) that gives you a great view back down the Glen. But I didn’t tell you to climb it…
From here you’ll begin south for a little bit towards a dam, taking a left turn just before it and crossing a burn and turning left into a forest trail. The next 4 miles towards the Succoth are a gentle descent skirting around the base of A’ Chrois along a dirt track. The trees ocassionally open up to give you a view of the surrounding hills, and sometimes even as far as Ben Lomond, but for that you’re really at the mercy of Scottish weather. Other than that, this section is generally quite repetitive, but it does give you a chance to release the legs and speed down the hill.
Just shy of the 10 mile mark, the path you’re on will split into two, left takes you back to Arrochar whereas right takes you towards Creagdhu (which I didn’t cover this time, so you’ll be on your own). Don’t be too disheartened by the fact you look really close to the town but still have a mile and a half to actually run – there are no more uphills and after the next half a mile you get back onto road again. Follow the road and turn right when you get to the end of the street. This will take you out to Loch Long and marks the end of the run. Unless you want to run all the way back to your car, but nobody likes driving sweaty.
Hopefully you see what I mean by deceptively difficult, but if not, let me know in the comments below!