The Victorians were the first to really see this as a place to visit for pleasure, rather than just rear sheep. They were followed by early 20th century workers from the Clyde. When they managed to get time away from the shipyards and factories of Glasgow it was the Arrochar Alps for which they headed – some on bicycles. Many slept in bivouacs under the rocks, such as the Narnain Boulders passed on the way up.
There is more than one way to reach the top of The Cobbler from the head of Loch Long. The harder, more traditional way goes left after the Narnain Boulders to ascend the steep face ahead. Nowadays, man-made steps installed from a bealach between the mountain and Beinn Narnain are increasing in popularity.
The last section is a bit of a slog but it allows easier access to one of the finest little ridges in the southern Highlands.
DISTANCE 6 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 2,950ft.
TIME 4 to 6 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 56.
PARK There is a car park at the top of Loch Long. Turn left off the A83 about three-quarters of a mile west of Arrochar.
IN SUMMARY Leave the car park and cross the A83. On the other side, follow a Forestry Commission path as it zigzags up to a track. Turn left and then right after about 50 yards, just before a telecommunications mast, on to another path. This continues up the wooded slopes, eventually passing the tree line and reaching a small dam on the left as a path joins from the right.
The path follows a burn on a more gentle gradient than the start and after about three-quarters of a mile reaches the Narnain Boulders.
A little further on the path forks. To the left is the direct, harder ascent. This route goes right at the fork and continues to a wide bealach between The Cobbler and Beinn Narnain. At a junction, go left up a steep path which is stepped most of the way. Near the top the gradient eases and the path bears left to reach the main ridge.
The ridge is well worth exploring. The North Peak (to the left as you reach the ridge) looks the most dramatic at first glance and you can quite easily gain its top. The Central Peak has the highest point – a pinnacle at 2,891ft. To reach the top of this you need to crawl through a hole in the pinnacle and scramble up the other side. The views are just as good if you avoid this, however. The easiest return is to retrace your steps.
REFRESH There is a good choice in Arrochar. For something a little special head for the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar further along the A83, beyond Cairndow.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA Loch Lomond, with its boat trips and picnic areas, is passed by most aiming for Arrochar, but is well worth a stop. Further west, along the A83, lies Inveraray with its jail, which houses an exhibition and museum.