The Three Lochs Way: stage 1

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright June 2012, Lairich Rig; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
Images also under a similar Creative Commons Licence.


NS3382 : Path and signpost by Lairich RigSignpost for the Three Lochs Way

The Three Lochs Way is a 32-mile (52-kilometre) route that begins at BallochExternal link, and which leads through HelensburghExternal link, GarelochheadExternal link and ArrocharExternal link, to finish at InveruglasExternal link. It is described in detail at the official Three Lochs Way websiteExternal link.

The present article is a collection of photographs illustrating the first stage of the walk, namely, the 9-mile-long (14.5 km) section between Balloch and Helensburgh. A full description and mapExternal link of this section of the Three Lochs Way can be found at the official website; walkers should refer to that site for details of the route, and for any updates.

As for the present article, it should not be used as a guide to the Three Lochs Way; it is simply a photographic record of the walk, intended to complement the map and description given at the official site.

There has been a change to this leg of the Three Lochs Way since the present article was first written in 2012: the route still crosses Darleith Muir, and later follows the north-western side of the glen of the Red Burn. What has changed is the way of getting from the muir to the glen: this was originally by means of the fairly steep wooded side of the ridge of Killoeter, but it is now by means of a different path, part of which is shared by the John Muir WayExternal link (which opened in 2014). Also, by 2014, there was a newly-made path from Goukhill Muir to Quarry Wood, alongside the glen of the Red Burn; that part of the route had previously been indicated only by some marker sticks with coloured tape, set at intervals along the way. The article will illustrate the current (as of 2014) route, with its newly-made path, and also, for comparison and for interest, the original route (2012).

As noted above, readers should always refer to the official site, rather than the present article, for details of the current route.

Balloch to Helensburgh

In Balloch

The Three Lochs Way begins at the tourist information centre in Balloch; the following pictures show the route from there to the start of the Stoneymollan Road.

NS3881 : Balloch Tourist Information Centre by Eddie MackinnonNS3981 : Path to Loch Lomond Shores by Lairich RigNS3882 : Path to Loch Lomond Shores by Lairich Rig(left) Starting point: Tourist Information Centre in Balloch
(middle) Start of the riverside walkway
(right) The riverside walkway
NS3882 : Path to Loch Lomond Shores by Lairich RigNS3882 : Loch Lomond Shores by Lairich RigNS3882 : The National Park Gateway Centre by Lairich Rig(left) Path to Loch Lomond Shores
(middle) The Retail Crescent (note: viewed from off the route)
(right) The National Park Gateway Centre
NS3882 : Path to Luss Road by Lairich RigNS3881 : Old Luss Road by Lairich RigNS3881 : Lower Stoneymollan Road by Thomas Nugent(left) The path to Old Luss Road
(middle) Old Luss Road
(right) The start of Lower Stoneymollan Road

The Stoneymollan Road

From the start of Lower Stoneymollan Road, the next 2.8 km or so of the Three Lochs Way is also part of the Stoneymollan RoadExternal link, an old coffin road that is now a heritage pathExternal link.

Not all of the photographs below are views along the direction of travel from Balloch to Helensburgh. Here, and in subsequent sections, views in the opposite direction are, when it is not otherwise obvious, captioned "view back", or similar..

NS3881 : Lower Stoneymollan Road by Lairich RigNS3881 : Footbridge over the A82 by Lairich RigNS3781 : Upper Stoneymollan Road by Lairich RigThree views back along the route:
(left) Lower Stoneymollan Road
(middle) Footbridge over the A82
(right) Upper Stoneymollan Road
NS3681 : Stoneymollan Road by Lairich RigNS3681 : Gate on the Stoneymollan Road footpath by Lairich RigNS3581 : A junction of paths by Lairich Rig(left) View back along the path called "the Stoneymollan Road"
(middle) Entering the woods
(right) A crossroads; turn right here

Darleith Muir to Red Burn

From the crossroads, the Three Lochs Way and the Stoneymollan Road go their separate ways. This part of the Three Lochs Way crosses Darleith Muir, where much of the forestry land has been cleared. Part of the route had changed by 2014; below, I first show the current route, and then, for comparison, the original route.

Current route (2014)

Most of this part of the Three Lochs Way is now shared with the John Muir WayExternal link, which was officially opened in 2014:

NS3581 : Forest track on Darleith Muir by Lairich RigNS3582 : Path junction on Darleith Muir by Lairich RigNS3582 : Signpost on Darleith Muir by Lairich Rig(left) This track leads to a T-junction
(middle) The T-junction; the route currently takes the right branch
(right) The signpost at the junction
NS3582 : Path to Goukhill Muir by Lairich RigNS3582 : Path to Goukhill Muir by Lairich RigNS3582 : Path to Gouk Hill by Lairich Rig(left) The right branch, from the signpost
(middle) Further on, approaching the edge of Auchendennan Muir
(right) Following the path at the edge of the muir
NS3482 : Path to Goukhill Muir by Lairich RigNS3482 : Path to Darleith Muir by Lairich RigNS3482 : Route through the woods by Lairich Rig(left) Further on, past the angle of the woodland edge
(middle) Looking back along the same section
(right) Ascending the slope obliquely (this short section would later be improved)
NS3482 : Start of forestry track by Lairich RigNS3482 : Forest track near Gouk Hill by Lairich RigNS3482 : Path junction at Goukhill Muir by Lairich Rig(left) Emerging into a clearing, the start of a forestry track
(middle) Further along that track, rounding a bend
(right) The Three Lochs Way turns left at the signpost, taking the new path; the John Muir Way stays on the forestry track
NS3482 : Path to Craigendoran by Lairich RigNS3482 : Path to Craigendoran by Lairich RigNS3482 : Path to Goukhill Muir by Lairich Rig(left) At the signpost: the start of the newly-made path
(middle) Approaching a gate on that path
(right) A view back from the far side of that gate; Ben BowieExternal link is in the background

Original route (2012)

At the T-junction, the route used to take the left branch; it also involved ascending the side of the wooded ridge of Killoeter:

NS3582 : Path junction on Darleith Muir by Lairich RigNS3481 : Gate at edge of the woods by Lairich RigNS3481 : Fire beaters beside gate by Lairich Rig(left) The T-junction; the route used to take the left branch
(middle) The track leads to this gate
(right) Some fire-beaters beside the gate
NS3481 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich RigNS3481 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich RigNS3481 : Dry-stone wall by Lairich Rig(left) At the gate, the route turned right, and followed the gap between the fence and the woods
(middle) Further along the same path
(right) View back: the path made some turns here, like the old dry-stone dyke beside it
NS3481 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich RigNS3481 : Forestry track by Lairich RigNS3482 : The edge of the woods by Lairich Rig(left) Ascent of Killoeter: heading uphill through the trees
(middle) Side view: the route followed the line of the fence, cutting across this forestry track
(right) It emerged into the open again, here on the Killoeter plateau

The Killoeter plateau

Current route (2014)

As shown above, there is a newly-made path from Goukhill Muir. That path can be followed all the way to Quarry wood, as shown below.

NS3482 : Path to Craigendoran by Lairich RigNS3382 : Path to Goukhill Muir by Lairich RigNS3382 : Path to Craigendoran by Lairich Rig(left) New path, and drainage channel
(middle) Further on, looking back along the path
(right) Helensburgh begins to come into view
NS3382 : The glen of the Red Burn by Lairich RigNS3382 : Path to Craigendoran by Lairich RigNS3382 : Path and signpost by Lairich Rig(left) The glen of the Red Burn is well seen from the path
(middle) Further on; from this part of the path, Ben BowieExternal link rises to the right
(right) This signpost stands beside the point where the path crosses a forestry track
NS3382 : Path and boardwalk by Lairich RigNS3281 : Path and boardwalk by Lairich RigNS3381 : The Red Burn by Lairich Rig(left) View back along improved path, with boardwalk (compare earlier appearance, below)
(middle) Further along the path
(right) The nearby Red Burn (picture taken from a short distance off the route)

Original route (2012)

The route originally led up the side of the wooded ridge of Killoeter: a fairly steep climb on ground that could become muddy. After leaving those woods, at the top of the ridge, the route then involved walking an unmarked path over the open moor to the Red Burn, and then crossing to the north-western side of the burn. It is easy to do so in this area, where the burn's course is shallow; downstream, the glen of the burn rapidly becomes much deeper.

From then on, the route, alongside the glen of the Red Burn, was the same as at present, but it looked very different, because the made path from Goukhill Muir to Quarry Wood did not then exist. As a temporary measure, the route had been marked out by means of sticks with tape on them. Below, I show some pictures of the route as it looked back then, for comparison with the later pictures.

NS3482 : Drainage ditches by Lairich RigNS3382 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich RigNS3382 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich Rig(left) Forestry drainage ditches, best avoided
(middle) Path above the north-western side of the deep glen of the Red Burn
(right) Looking back along the same route
NS3382 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich RigNS3382 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich RigNS3382 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich RigThree views back:
(left) Passing Northfield Wood
(middle) After crossing a new forestry track
(right) On the approach to Quarry Wood; compare later appearance (previous subsection)

At Camis Eskan

After leaving Quarry Wood, the route once again follows well-defined tracks and roads.

NS3281 : Gate at edge of Quarry Wood by Lairich RigNS3281 : Path through Quarry Wood by Lairich RigNS3281 : Old quarry by Lairich Rig(left) Entering Quarry Wood
(middle) Path through Quarry Wood
(right) One of the old quarries that give the wood its name
NS3281 : Leaving Quarry Wood by Lairich RigNS3281 : Sheep fank by Lairich RigNS3281 : Track to Craigendoran by Lairich Rig(left) Leaving Quarry Wood
(middle) Looking back, after passing a sheep fank
(right) Colourful farm track near Camis Eskan
NS3282 : Passing farm buildings by Lairich RigNS3282 : The Three Lochs Way by Lairich RigNS3181 : Road from Camis Eskan Farm by Lairich Rig(left) Passing large barns
(middle) A view back, in the same area
(right) The road leading to Craigendoran

Craigendoran to Helensburgh

The Three Lochs Way next follows the main road through Craigendoran to Helensburgh. In Helensburgh, the route heads uphill along Colquhoun Street. The course of that street is interrupted by Helensburgh Upper Station, and it is necessary to go around the station. The route then resumes its uphill course by means of Upper Colquhoun Street, which leads to the Hill HouseExternal link, where this first stage of the Three Lochs Way ends.

NS3181 : Cardross Road, Craigendoran by Lairich RigNS3181 : Old milestone in Craigendoran by Lairich RigNS3081 : Railway bridge at Craigendoran by Lairich Rig(left) The main road through Craigendoran
(middle) An old milestone
(right) View back: the main road enters Helensburgh
NS2982 : West Clyde Street, Helensburgh by David DixonNS2982 : West Kirk, Colquhoun Square by Tom SargentNS2982 : Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh by Lairich Rig(left) West Clyde Street
(middle) Colquhoun Square
(right) Colquhoun Street
NS2983 : Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh by Lairich RigNS2983 : West Rossdhu Drive, Helensburgh by Lairich RigNS2983 : Helensburgh Upper Station by George Rankin(left) The top of Colquhoun Street
(middle) A small detour around the railway station
(right) Passing the entrance of Helensburgh Upper Station, on Sinclair Street
NS2983 : Munro Drive West, Helensburgh by Lairich RigNS2983 : Upper Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh by Lairich RigNS3083 : The Hill House, Helensburgh by Lairich Rig(left) Munro Drive West leads to the start of Upper Colquhoun Street
(middle) Resuming the uphill course: Upper Colquhoun Street
(right) The end point: the Hill House



For a similar article about the second stage of the walk, see The Three Lochs Way: stage 2External link.


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