Saturday, December 26, 2009

West Highland Way, Day 1: Not Your Best Foot Forward

As soon as I put on my shoes I knew I had brought the wrong hiking boots. These were my old boots from a few years ago before my feet spread from old age. My half size larger boots were back home in the trunk of my car, ready for that spur of the moment hike. What to do? Oh well, suck it up and get out the door for our 95 mile trek up the West Highland Way, plus another 15-20 miles off track at our daily destinations. I was sure plenty of drovers and soldiers had walked the same route in too small shoes, and if they could do it so could I.

The evening before, my three buddies and I took the commuter train a few miles out of Glasgow here to Milngavie (say Mull-guy) to catch the trailhead of the West Highland Way, a footpath northward from Glasgow to Fort William. Already I got us befuddled looking for our first night's accommodation, a bed and breakfast aptly named Best Foot Forward.

This was a luxury trek compared to the 150 mile high altitude, expedition style Himalaya trek Sally, Jan, and I had done two years earlier. We were self guiding up the West Highland Way, but MacsAdventure had provided our maps and arranged local accommodations as well as door to door bag service. All we had to do was carry our day packs, move our feet, and follow the thistles.

Sally and Jan were seasoned long distance hiker-trekkers, don't let the grey hair fool you. Red headed Kathleen was new to the sport but she was Scottish and I knew she would be fine.

Our weather was overcast, drizzly, and cool and we came to love the weather of western Scotland, often rainy, sometimes gloriously sunny, but always unpredictable. We had average mileage today, 12 miles, but it was still lowlands, a nice, easy introduction to the trail.

Soon out of Milngavie into the woods north of town we had a reminder under our feet to give up all those worries and embrace the reason we undertake these walks.

We traveled through woods, across marshy meadows,

into the beautiful Scottish countryside.



the requisite Scottish thistles,

things that can be experienced in this way only on foot.

After lunch at a country pub in Dumgoyne, I took three of my favorite shots of the day.

A farmhouse probably from the 1800's,

a farmhouse door a little farther along,

and this tree turning lime green against a navy sky from light through a coming rain.

Kathleen was loving the whole experience. This smile never left her face the whole way.

Late afternoon we reached the village of Drymen (say Drimmen), sad to be at the end of walking but partly made up by having to walk a mile out of town to our accommodations, a mile back into town for dinner, and another mile back. We had a beautiful secluded bed and breakfast at Bramblewood and dinner in town at the oldest pub in Scotland, The Clachan. I had already grown to love those pubs walking across England.

In the village green was another reminder of the grief of Scotland. 100,000 men lost in World War I alone.

Tomorrow, Loch Lomond and into the Highlands! Taking the low road to the high road!


Anonymous said...

This brings back memories! I walked the Way earlier this year (there's an account of it on my blog if you're interested). I hope you get better weather than we did! Some parts can prove tricky if the Way is flooded. Best of luck.

Pat said...


Katharine said...

Faraz - Patty and I both read your post on the WHW trip. You guys are tough! We followed similar paths this year. I was in Morocco in May.

Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

Such beautiful pictures! Wow. I was there as a kid and did the boat ride on some of the Lochs. We had family living in some of the fishing villages still then.

Katharine said...

Joan - I missed you this year!