With the busy Loch Lomond road, railway and Inveruglas power station to the east, more electrical works to the south, Loch Sloy to the west and pylons on three sides, the hand of man has had a detrimental impact on Ben Vorlich – or at least on its lower slopes.
Virtually surrounded by water (there is yet more water beneath the hill, diverted by tunnel from Loch Sloy to the generating station at Inveruglas), the compact upper slopes, so typically Arrochar-like with crags and knobbles, may have lost their remoteness. Even on a clear day, however, these rocky undulations should be treated with utmost caution. When the mist comes down, beware. The actual summit area consists of three close-by bumps; but more of that later.
Nevertheless, or maybe because of those difficulties, Ben Vorlich (not to be confused with its namesake overlooking Loch Earn) offers a grand outing with a variety of routes. The western slopes are particularly craggy and steep, whereas the eastern slopes, though still craggy, have more gentle gradients. Rhona and I opted for the latter. NB, map 50 is insufficient for this approach.
Only an 8-mile day, nevertheless there is some 1,000m to be climbed to the 943m/3094ft summit; the many undulations along the way more than offsetting the modest 10m loch-side start. Ben Vorlich probably means “mountain of the sack-shaped bay”, possibly the bay by Advorlich opposite Island I Vow, a bizarre anglicisation of Eilean a’Bho, “island of the cow”.
Start from the Inveruglas (free) car park on the loch side of the A82, opposite Loch Sloy power station. A roadside path/pavement leads to the hydro road at map ref 318093. Head west up the road, passing under the railway to reach the Sloy switching station currently being refurbished. Until July 2014 walkers should be alert to the frequent passing vehicles.
Follow the right hand branch of the road which slants back round the south-eastern slopes, easing the climb to the mapped communications mast. By now at nearly 300m, continue past the mast for a short distance. The track slants left to reach a tunnel entrance, gated and padlocked. A small plaque has been erected in memory of David R Watt (Dave my Boy!) 1st September 2012 Sloy Civil Squad.
From the tunnel follow the wooden fence and continue on the north bank of the burn, with at first a zigzag path. Follow the burn, heading north-west on the east side of the twisting, knobbly south ridge, aiming for the obvious wide grassy area. This ramp then slants westerly to reach higher ground. Once on the ridge, continue NNW, bypassing, if so wished, some of the ups and downs along the way, to reach the confusing summit area. Approaching from the south, the first bump, 941m, has a trig point that lends an air of authority. This is not the highest point. Even though clearly shown on the map, another bump lies 200 yards NNW. This is 2m higher, and the summit.
Quite a few have definitely ventured no further than the trig bump on a misty day. Gulvain and Carn nan Gabhar (Beinn a’Ghlo) are other such examples of hills where trig points are not at the summit – trig points were built for other reasons. Further north from the Munro is the mapped third bump, a 931m subsidiary Top, sadly seldom visited by Munro-only baggers unless traversed on an approach from the north.
The forecast on our day was for an 80 per cent chance of clear tops. Alas, we had the 20 per cent when at the summit, but that’s how it goes. On a cold day of no views, we did not linger, preferring to have lunch on the lower slopes.
Map Ordnance Survey map 56, Loch Lomond
Distance 8 miles
Terrain Tarmac road to 300m, then grassy slopes to knobbly ridge
Start point Inveruglas car park, map ref 322099
Time 5 to 6 hours
Nearest villages Ardlui and Tarbet
Recommended refreshment spot Café Lochan, Inveruglas