WHW Day 0: Glasgow to Milngavie

We decided to call this post Day 0 because, although it was our first day of walking, today’s stretch is not part of the official West Highland Way (WHW) route. So tomorrow will be the official Day 1.

Most people make their way from Glasgow to Milngavie by car or train, but we decided to walk it—about 18 km—because one of the guidebooks had mentioned that option and the fact that it was quite a nice walk, mostly through parks. It was indeed a nice, albeit muddy, walk. The first half wasn’t bad, but on the second half we had to contend with several very muddy stretches. Thank goodness for walking poles!

We’ve been in Scotland 3.5 days now. Last Thursday morning we both arrived within 45 minutes of each other, Roy from Vancouver, me from Amsterdam. We’ve spent our time sightseeing Glasgow, starting Thursday afternoon with a walk along the Clyde river to the Transportation museum to help Roy cope with his jet lag. Friday we toured the City Chambers and Cathedral, followed by a walking tour of Glasgow on Saturday to learn more about the work of the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries. These activities combined with a few pub visits pretty much filled our days.

Old port crane, now preserved as history. Glasgow.
Under the railway bridge over the Clyde. Glasgow.
City Chambers, Glasgow.
Beer to go. Tennent’s brewery,
Glasgow.
Old above new. Glasgow.
Busy pub on a wet Saturday afternoon in Glasgow.
Billy Connelly mural, Glasgow.

Comfy hotel room, end of day 0

 

 

 

WHW Days 1-3: Milngavie to Rowardennan

Today we walked day 3 the official WHW and so far we’ve only had a couple of brief light showers. The skies are grey, as you can see in the photos, but the visibility is good, so we are pretty happy with the conditions.

The walking feels good. It was fun starting in Milngavie (pronounced Mull-guy). When we walked to the start of the trail we saw several other hikers appear. It reminded us of the pilgrims setting out on the Camino in St. Jean Pied de Porte. When we asked another hiker to take our picture at the obelisk it turned out he and his girl friend were Dutch. They’re doing the walk too, but are camping! Brave souls to be backpacking and camping in Scotland, but we’ve met several other (mostly 20-something) folks who are doing the same thing.

The trail has been good and the scenery is lovely, despite the grey skies, and the walking comfortable.

The first night, in Drymen, we met three other hikers at the B&B, a couple from Fairbanks, Alaska and a guy from Spain. There are also several German, Swiss, and French folks on the trail. Along the way we’ve also met several locals walking their dogs and are able to get our “dog fix” in on daily basis.

Yesterday was a cold and windy day. The temperature was around 8 degrees, but with the wind chill it felt like only 1 or 2 degrees, as you can tell from the picture of Roy. The last part of yesterday’s walking was climbing Conic Hill, near Balmaha, and I sometimes had to use my poles to not get blown over. As soon as we got to the top, we saw a crowd of day tourists walking up from the other side. Going up Conic Hill is a popular day trip from Balmaha, which is accessible by road. It was a funny contrast to go from a quiet trail with only 3 or 4 fellow hikers, to being in a swarm of tourists.

After our first day, Milngavie to Drymen, which was 20 km, we’ve had two easy days of only 12 km each. Tomorrow will be 22 km again. It’s been nice to walk at relaxed pace and to take it easy, but we are both looking forward to a longer day again, even if the guide describes the stretch as the most strenuous part of the WHW. We’ll let you know how it works out!

 

Start of the West Highland Way

 

Hikers on the trail.
Oaks
Snow on the hills.
Cute sign approaching the beech tree cafe.
It is lambing season. They are both timid and curious.
Gate—sometimes a dozen a day.
Chatting with a dog-walker
Conic Hill
“It’s cold wet and windy!”
Day hikers ascending Conic Hill
Tourists
Island, Loch Lomond
Waymarker

WHW Days 4 & 5 Rowardennen to Crianlarich

Yesterday was glorious—sunshine and warm. It was a strenuous walk along the slopes of the unpopulated east shore of Loch Lomond. A rocky, muddy trail that was constantly up and down. But the scenery and weather made it a great day. And we had a great lunch at an isolated hotel.

We  spent the night in Inverarnan at the Drovers Inn, in a stone building from 1705.

Today was shorter but cool and wet. We’ve left Loch Lomon and now we are walking in the valley of the River Falloch. Tonight we are in a lovely B&B in a small town.

Early wild flowers
Inge’s shadow
Friendly sheep dog
Lunch stop. Rutal hotel on the loch.
Descending a steep slope
T shirt weather
Loch Lomond
Another steep rocky slope
Crossing a meadow in the afternoon
RiverFalloch
Muddy trail beside an old stone wall

WHW Day 6 and 7 Crianlarich to Glencoe

Two good days. Yesterday we walked to Bridge of Orchy starting in forest, then for the remainder of the day in open country. We crossed from the western UK watershed to the eastern, where water flows into the North Sea rather than the Atlantic. It was an easy climb to the pass dividing west from east, although we shared the route with a motorway and a railroad. But soon we were back in quiet meadows. Cloudy, no rain, some sun in the afternoon. We spent the night in a very good hotel.

Today was one of the best days of the walk. Most of it in the highlands surrounded by mountains and away from roads or villiages. Enough sunshine today to walk in shorts and a T-shirt for part of the day.

Tonight we are in a hostel in the very small town of Glencoe.

Church in Crainlarich
Forst path turned red with fallen tree needles
Brown heather plants which will be full of colour later in the year.
The gate with no fence. Still asking to be shut.
On the way down from the pass over the watershed divide
Stile over a fence on the way to Orchy
Hotel Orchy Bridge
River Orchy
Triail through the highlands
Highlands
Highlands
Lunch and boots off
Mounain peaks and some blue sky

 

WHW Days 8 & 9 Glencoe to Fort William, end of the West Highland Way

Today, Wednesday, we are enjoying a lazy day off after completing the West Highland Way.

Monday we began in rain with an amazing rainbow over the trail. Moments later we were stoped by a film crew doing a promo for Scotrail asking if they could film us setting off, walking on the trail to rainbow. We agreed, signed the model release with the ink smudging in the rain, walked ahead and back again, took a photo of them, then set off to climb the Devil’s Staircase. A good climb, but not as steep as the name suggests. It took us to the highest point of the walk and briefly into snow. The rain quit and the sun appeared. A remote and bueatiful area.

Kinlochleven, our destination for the day, is the site of one of the first aluminum smelters in Britain. The smelter is gone, but the power station still supplies eletricity to the grid.

Tuesday, our last day of the West Highland Way, also began with a climb in rain but like the previous day the rain quit after an hour and the sun returned. Again a day mostly in a remote area with only sheep about. We walked most of the morning with an English couple we had met a few days before.

It has been an excelent walk.

Tomorrow we start the Great Glen Way heading to Inverness.

Thanks to everyone for the comments on our blog posts.

 

Walking to the end of the rainbow…
Scotrail film crew
Devil’s staircase ahead in the mist
Top of the Devil’s Staircase
Snow on the trail
Stepping stones
Walking into Kinlochleven
Wet morning starting out to Fort William
Kinlochleven
Sheep and lamb crossing the trail
Friends we met on the way
Ruins of an old house
End of the walk in Fort William

    End of the walk. No one nearby to ask to take a photo of the two of us.