West Highland Way

A Walk That Even Offers a Surprise!

by

Chris Ambrose

It was the summer of 2016, and an exceptional year for walking a sensational and even outstanding trail. The walking path in this area is so extraordinary I decided to bring it to you in two parts. The first part of this walk is from Milngavie to Rowardennan and a total of 26 miles/34.5 km. Simon, (my son) and I are out with friends for this walk which we all felt was heaven sent in nature. However, before we begin our walk together, let me remind you of one crucial point about hiking.

  

No one, no matter what your age, nor your experience, should ever begin your walk without the essentials. A certified pair of walking boots is a must, accompanied with a compass, a bottle of water or two, a map, a backpack and telescoping hiking stick if even a bit off balance. These items will provide your safety and comfort. If concerned about carrying so much, remember a walking stick can be a folding hiking rod, and everything can easily fit inside of a backpack. My last book titled, My Boots Are Made For Walking, My First 3,000 Miles, is available and shares with you not only walking paths but also advice for your safety and adventure.

Okay, enough with the lecture and on with our walk!

Milngavie to Drymen is our starting and ending place for our first day. This day is a long one of twelve miles, so I do hope you have warmed up with your stretching exercises and taken time out the day before to see the area where your first day begins. You do not want to miss out on any delicious find along the walk, so let’s look at Milngavie! 

Photograph Source: Andrew Hendo  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Andrew_Hendo

Milngavie is a town located in East Dunbartonshire, Scotland, with most of its population traveling to Glasgow for either work or study. However, Milngavie is a popular retirement town with a large part of its population being of the senior age.

In spite of the unusually large older population, Milngavie is a popular vacation site due to it being the start of the West Highland Way footpath which runs northwards for 95 miles and ends in Fort William. This path is marked by the presence of a granite obelisk in the town center as the official starting point for the walk to begin. (An Obelisk, is a tapered monolithic pillar, initially erected in pairs at the entrances of ancient Egyptian temples. The Egyptian obelisk was carved from a single piece of stone, usually red granite from the quarries at Aswān

Now, this is some site! As you look up, you may feel as though you could touch the sky if only at the top of the original size! The one in Milngavie is a miniature version.

Milngavie is your best location for picking up all the supplies you will need before walking onward to Mugdock Country Park, which is the first leg of your West Highland Way adventure. It is the more accessible part of the walk being flat but, you will enjoy walking this path with natures beauty on either side of you. So, actually, it can be used as your warm-up part of the adventure for the days to follow. Mugdock Country Park is a country park and historical site which covers an area of 260 hectares. (642 acres Wikipedia) Here at the park, you will discover the remains of the Mugdock Castle and the ruins of the Craigend Castle., a former Gothic Revival and zoo. One could spend a lot of time in this natural landscape setting in natures accompaniment like a painting on canvas, all while enjoying a part of history.

The colors of the landscape are consistently changing but were always breathtaking. As you walk the length of the Loch Lomond, the scenery only intensifies. It is the most massive freshwater lock by surface area in all of Great Britain. This walk takes you into the Scottish Highlands, which in itself is a highlight of the trail. The route will take you along historic and ancient Drove Roads, 18th Century Military Roads and even abandoned railroad tracks.

Now, speaking of seeing or being in unusual settings, it brings to mind a memory I simply must share with you. But, you’ll likely find it as strange as we did. In the middle of nowhere, and I do mean nowhere, there stood a curious looking character and his friends. Not the usual either! His friends consisted of a golden eagle, a wolf, and two Scottish wild cats! I must admit, we were undoubtedly surprised to come upon such a sight. 

Meet Lynne Alldritt, Proprietor, and host.

Another grand surprise was a restaurant called The Beech Tree Cafe Bar, located just before the Glengoyne Distillery. It was lunchtime, and we were indeed hungry. This quaint restaurant hosted both outdoor and indoor seating, a bar, and a gift shop. It was ideal for a meal! I have always been a  daredevil so that day, my adventuresome self decided to try Grasshopper appetizers. Not bad, indeed! You had better be hungry, but if you walk away from there not stuffed, it is your own fault as the portions for every meal we saw was enormous, with exquisite presentation and the owner upbeat and determined to  make your meal the best. Be sure if you dare, to take the FB Burger challenge (not pictured-this hamburger is a regular meal!). Curious? Check out their web site at www.thebeechtreeinn.co.uk for further details. Surprise…your bonus-tell Lynne hello and receive a 10% discount just for having read about it here. Oh, did I tell you the restaurant offers special seating for your dog? 

Back to walking again, and another memory I found that was so touching! It was when we entered a small hamlet and where a house sat selling sweets…biscuits, etc outside. After browsing, you took what you wanted and left. Pay? Yes, an honesty box. You drop the money and go. How touching in a world where no one trust anyone yet on a path where thousands walk was a store of sorts and no clerk…just your honesty!

 Well, we enjoyed ourselves, but back to our walk! And onward to Drymen. Next up  but on the way to the restaurant is the Glengoyne Distillery, which sits at the foot of Dumgoyne Hill near Loch Lomond.

This distillery won a prestigious award for environmental best practice in January 2019. It was there nearly 200 years ago in 1820, where single malt scotch whiskey began. The rating is 83/100 and a respected liquor in Scotland. These fine whiskeys range in price from 37 GBP to over 300 GBP. This is a place a tour would be in order and most surely a sample to taste! 

Now we are on our way to Drymen, our final stop for the first day. It is located in in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. This is the path used on the West Highland Way for walkers and cyclist

Photography: Richard Webb https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/reactionary 

Photograph by KennethAllen

The Clachan Pub in Drymen is the oldest pub in Scotland and has a connection with the family of Rob Roy.

Drymen sits in the hills at the western end of the Campsie Fells and overlooks the Endrick Water as it gets closer to Loch Lomond. Drymen is a town filled with history for your exploration so you may consider spending time here. Drymen is a good base to explore Loch Lomond, whose tranquil eastern shore offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the National Park. It is often used as an overnight stop for hikers on the West Highland Way, and forms the western end of the Rob Roy Way.

Departing from Drymen to Balmaha on our second day. we discovered was by far harder days walk. Simon was having difficulty with an old injury of an old fractured toe and suffering from discomfort but hung in there for the meantime. But, his pain was exacerbated when walking over Conic Hill. Although his pain was miserable, the view over Conic Hill gave way with extraordinary opportunities to enjoy nature. The magnificent view was breathtaking and so worth the climb!

The following photograph was taken from the gallery of West Highland Way web site which we thank Tom Denesyk for the use of for which I highly recommend their tour.

 https://www.westhighlandway.org/image-gallery/

 Now we have arrived at the small village of Balmaha, just in time for a meal in the Oak Tree restaurant. (https://www.theoaktreeinn.co.uk/food-drink/) I wish to also thank them for the images shared here.

I am one hiker as with my son that enjoys a good meal. The two restaurants on this walk path have fulfilled the desire that any hiker would have and they should be energized about stopping in for a bite. Heck, even today, three years later the site of food of these two web site menus make me hungry all over again!

Balmaha is a village on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. Day walkers and picnickers love this area and it is a very popular tourist destination from this in Glasgow as well as this path way. The island of Inchcailloch, which is part of Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve, can be reached from Balmaha via boat trips. 

Time is running out for our day and we must move on to Rowardennan, following the shores of Loch Loman. We found a youth hostel which by its name appealed to the older members of our group.

We had a great rest in preparation for the following days walk heading towards Inveraman. Many interesting facts happened along the walk coming along so tune in, July 15th, for the continuing story of our walk.

 

If there is anything you want to suggest as a topic, for my blog, then please share those ideas with me, by E-mailing them to: C.Ambrose.MamieAuthors@gmail.com  

Until We Meet Again!,

Chris

Chris Ambrose, Author 

70 is the new 50`

My Boots Are Made For Walkin

No matter what Life throws at you, 

it’s where Giving Up, is Never an Option!

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