A lovely day with a little bit of a breeze and occasional cloud. Perfect for walking.
The plan was to walk from Arrochar at the head of Loch Long and follow the northern end of the Cowal Way up to Loch Sloy
Leaving Appletree Cottage we drove to Balloch and then up the western shore of Loch Lomond. At Tarbert, about half way up Loch Lomond we continued straight on towards Arrochar and Invararay.
Arrochar was only a couple of miles further on and we drove through the village and parked in the car park immediately before the bridge at the head of the loch.
There was a sign saying there was a charge of £1 per day for parking at the time of our visit (although the machines were still being installed and were wrapped in plastic bags - hooray!)
Walking out from Arrochar
From the car park we crossed the main road and followed a narrow road up the south side of the river (we did not ever cross the river) After about quarter of a mile (1/2km) there was a sign to the right saying “Cowal Way” . We followed the track up about 100 yards and turned left, away from the loch and continued along this for about a mile when it eventually became a path.
The walk was relatively easy, very peaceful and unspoilt. Mostly on the level there was the occasional small hill or mound which the path would contour up. It was easy to see where we were going and the path, though rutted in places with some loose rocks on the inclines, was generally well maintained.
After about 4 miles (6.5 km we skirted round the side of and entered a wood of tall handsome trees. Emerging eventually in open country and through a gate at the end of the path.
We had a choice to turn left or right (as signposted) across a small wooden bridge and up onto there dam service road (tarmac) where we turned left.
It was only about another mile to Loch Sloy Dam as the road climbed gently up the hillside.
About Loch Sloy Dam
Loch Sloy is the largest conventional hydroelectric plant in Britain. Its water flows from Loch Sloy along 3km tunnels cut through Ben Vorlich, to power the station on the shore of Loch Lomond below. Four huge pipes are clearly visible from the Loch Lomond shore carrying the water on its final journey to the generating station next to the main road.
Construction on the Dam commenced in May 1945 and was completed in 1949, the official opening ceremony being on 18 Oct 1950. Initially prisoners worked on the construction but when the war finished workers came from as far away as Cornwall to join the project. At its
peak the workforce exceed 2,200 men. The tunnelling was hard and 21 men lost their lives during construction.
The dam doubled the lengh of Loch Sloy and raised its water level by 47 meters.
The complex is used as stand-by power to the national grid and can be at full capacity (152mw) from a standing start in only five minutes.
For more detailed information about Loch Sloy Dam visit http://www.engineering-timelines.com/scripts/engineeringItem.asp?id=1014
At the Dam
The road had been gently climbing since we joined it and after about half a mile we got our first glimpses of the dam. Looking dark, menacing and somewhat satanic in the day’s light.
It grew larger and larger as we approached and the bold designs of architect Harold Ogle Tarbolton’s now A listed structure became clearer.
As we arrived at the foot of the dam the stillness of the air and the silence in the hills, with not another person in sight served to exaggerate the presence of this enormous structure.
We walked up the road to the west end of the top of the dam and through the short tunnel which obviously serves as a shelter for sheep on the wilder days. We were free to walk across the top of the dam and through the gate at the eastern end. From there led a set of stones set in the hillside as a staircase. The interesting thing about this staircase was that it could only be seen from above as not clue to its existence could be discerned from below.
End of a great day
After exploring the dam and taking in the surrounding views we made our way back along the route from which we’d come to return to our car.
As an alternative we did consider walking up to the dam from Inveruglas (where the four huge pipes come out the hill down to the generating station on the shore of Loch Lomond.
We decided not to do this as the parking in Inveruglas car park was £4 and there was quite a long walk (about ½ mile) beside the main road before beginning to ascend the service road to
Our route was moderate, about 10.5miles in lengh (17km) and thoroughly enjoyable.
Car journey – about 50 minutes from Appletree Cottage
Walking duration – about 5 hours with lots of stops.
One of the best walks we’ve had this year!