Milngavie to Drymen. 19km, or 11.75 miles if you want to do it the old fashioned way.
“There must be somewhere in Milngavie that sells porridge.”
We’d just dropped our bags with our bag transfer company, Ginger Routes, and were about to set off on the hike of a lifetime. But first: breakfast. Having been on a diet for the past three months (THREE. FRICKING. MONTHS) I was quite in the mood for something involving white bread, fried meats, and lashings of sauce ala broon. James, however, had other ideas.
“There must be somewhere other than Greggs.”
Unfortunately for him, the good people of Milngavie seem to have the same idea about what constitutes a good breakfast as I do. After adding about 5 miles onto our walk by trekking back and forth up the high street a few times looking for porridge, we eventually wandered into a greasy spoon for a couple of morning rolls and some caffeine. That out of the way, we were ready to go! Well, almost.
We stopped to take the obligatory photos of ourselves setting off, and we were approached by a chap with two wee laddies. He offered to take our picture, and I returned the favour. He asked us how long we were doing the walk for. “Oh seven days” I said. “We’re doing it in five” he replied. Cue me no longer feeling like an intrepid adventurer, but feeling like a big ol’ wimp instead.
Still, it was hard to stop me from feeling excited. It was a sunny morning, we’d met a few friendly faces, and to top it off a mariachi band had set up beside the arch leading to the West Highland Way path and were playing a jaunty wee tune to see us on our way. It was definitely enough to put a spring in my step!
The first section of the West Highland Way is a bit like the Water of Leith path in Edinburgh. It’s quite foresty and you bump into a lot of people walking their dogs. It’s pretty easy going at this point, but I think for most of the first day I was pretty apprehensive expecting things to get suddenly difficult.
I think we were walking for about an hour when we were overtaken for the first time: by a group of rowdy young walkers we’d seen in the greasy spoon that morning. We’d taken to calling them the “Yes Campaign” because I overheard them talking about Scottish Independence to their English friends, trying to convince them to vote yes. We got chatting to them for a wee bit, but nothing too deep. We didn’t get round to exchanging names or anything. They asked if we were stopping in at Glengoyne Distillery for lunch: we weren’t. If I’d done my research and known there was a distillery I’d have definitely popped in for a dram (or five).
Soon after that the terrain opened up, and we got our first wee taste of Scottish countryside. Hills all around, sheep frolicking in the fields, and beautiful blue skies and sunshine. It’s funny: a few months before we’d been practicing walking in the Algarve. We used to joke about how walking in Scotland would be exactly the same weather wise. Turns out we were right!
I was pretty surprised at how well we were doing by the time we reached the Beech Tree, a wee restaurant just off the main drag. I had to stop and snap a picture of their sign, as they’d written a cute little poem to tempt passers by to come in for a rest. It worked! In we went to order a big plate of chilli nachos to share, and a can of Irn Bru for me. The weather was glorious, so we settled ourselves down in the beer garden and made friends with the cute animals in the petting zoo.
Ahh I could have sat there all day! Sadly that wasn’t an option, so on we toddled towards our next stop: Drymen. We got overtaken again, by the chap with the two kiddywinks (who passed us while James was taking his fortieth photograph of a baby lamb getting some milk from its mum) and by one of the English girls from the Yes Campaign. She was on her own: I think she was keen to get on to Drymen while the others were quite happy getting stuck into into the drams, man.
Unfortunately we managed to get off the main path a little bit. Everything was fine: until we decided to follow the John Muir Way along a trail road instead of continuing along the motor road. It was an easy mistake to make, so if you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure any time soon make sure you don’t. Thankfully I was tracking our walk with MapMyFitness (and also feeling a bit paranoid) so I noticed that we’d gone a bit off track. We were able to turn right at the next road and get to Drymen without too many problems, and it didn’t add too much extra on to our day’s walk.
Half an hour later we were at our B&B, the lovely Kip in the Kirk! It’s an old converted church which the owners have transformed into a big dorm room and two B&B rooms. We were given fresh baked scones with jam and cream on arrival, as well as a big pot of tea (for me) and coffee for James. We sat down and got chatting to three other girls who were staying in the B&B section: Hannah, Anna and Rebecca. They were doing the walk in 7 days too, so I allowed myself to feel like less of a wimp.
We didn’t go too far that night, just to the pub up the road, where I had the first of many two course meals. I can’t actually remember what I ate but I’m sure it involved haggis spring rolls…