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photo of Ranoch Moor
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Lochs and Rivers

Lochs and Rivers

On the West Highland Way, you are never far from water. This can take the form of sea lochs, freshwater lochs, fast flowing rivers or tiny streams.

Immediately after leaving Milngavie, at the start of the Way, the path follows Allander Water, passes between Craigallion Loch and Carbeth Loch and then picks up Blane Water and then Endrick Water which, in turn, flows into Loch Lomond. As the terrain through which these rivers flow is relatively flat, the rivers are usually flow quite gently although they can be in spate after periods of heavy rainfall.

Loch Lomond is an area close to everyone's heart. It is 23 miles long, 5 miles wide, more than 600ft deep, lies 22ft above sea level and covers 18,000 acres.

The larger islands on Loch Lomond are:
Inchmurrin - Named after Saint Mirren - the largest inland island in Britain. Serviced by private ferry and owned by the Scott family for over half a century. Inchmurrin is the only island offering hotel accommodation and facilities. Ruins of ancient monastery.
Creinch - Tree island.
Torrinch
Clairinch - Battlecry of the Buchanans. Possible Iron age settlement with crannog. Managed by Scottish Natural Heritage.
Inchcailloch - Close to Balmaha is part of the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve and supports self-guided nature trail, picnic and barbecue facilities. Inchcailloch is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage, who should be contacted with regards to booking the islands facilities.
Inchfad -The Long Island. Private island.
Inchmoan - Isle of Peat. Managed by Luss Estates.
Inchcruin - Private island.
Inchtavannach - Managed by Luss Estates and has a tenant on the island.
Inconnachan - Home to 41 wallabies (at the last count) which were introduced on the island in 1980 by Lady Arran.
Inchlonaig - Island of Yews. Planted with yew trees for the archers of Robert the Bruce.

At several locations along the shore of Loch Lomond can be seen remains of crannogs, these are artificial islands made from boulders, logs and brushwood built offshore, usually to provide a safe place from attack.

The Way follows the eastern shore of Loch Lomond to its northern extremity at Ardlui, where it joins the River Falloch. This is a fast flowing river with many waterfalls and rapids, the most spectacular of which are the Falls of Falloch about 3km (2miles) beyond Inverarnan.

The Way leaves the River Falloch just before reaching Crianlarich after which it follows the course of the River Fillan until about 2km before Tyndrum. Leaving Tyndrum, the Way follows the A82 for 3km before leaving the road and following the course of Allt Kinglass to Bridge of Orchy.

From Bridge of Orchy the way crosses open moorland to the Inveroran Hotel where it crosses Allt Tolaghan and Linne nam Beathach which join and run into Loch Tulla.

For the next 15km the Way is mostly on open moorland occasionally crossing small burns. The only notable waterway on this stretch is the River Ba which feeds a group of small lochs in the area known as Black Mount. The Way crosses the river at Ba Bridge.

At Kingshouse Hotel, the Way crosses the River Etive after which walkers are offered two alternatives; either to follow a higher route above the A82 or a lower route following the River Coupall, a tributary of the River Etive, as far as Altnafeadh at the Southern end of Glen Coe. From here the Way climbs the Devil's Staircase onto a military road and heads toward Kinlochleven.

To the east can be seen the Blackwater Reservoir.  This is man-made and was created to supply water to the hydro-electric generating station supplying power to the aluminium smelter in Kinlochleven.  In periods of dry weather, with the level of the water low, it is possible to make out the three, smaller, natural lochs which occupied the glen before the building of the dam. The smelter closed in June 2000, but the generating station is still supplying power to the UK’s electricity transmission system.

As the Way approaches Kinlochleven and Kinlochmore, it picks up the River Leven which runs into Loch Leven.  Loch Leven is a saltwater loch which connects to the Atlantic, through the narrows between North and South Ballachulish, via Loch Linnhe and the Firth of Lorn.  

From Kinlochmore, the Way again takes to open countryside sometimes following and sometimes crossing a selection of small rivers and streams until it meets the Water of Nevis. The last 2km of the walk follow the Water of Nevis to Fort William where the West Highland Way terminates.