Monday, 9 June 2014

Milngavie to Drymen

Yesterday was the trip back up to Glasgow with John Poulter. John is an old friend from Orford, and had always wanted to join me for part of the walk, but hadn’t been able to beforehand. He and I are almost exactly the same age, so it’ll be steady progress by the 70 pluses rather than fast track performances. He was at Oxford reading Chemistry at the same time I was (rather unsuccessfully) reading physics at Cambridge. He’s still quite busy, as Chairman of two quoted companies, including RM where I remember John Leighfield as a previous Chairman.
The train was absolutely solid, so having booked separately we weren’t able to get together until Preston. The last part of the journey, once in Scotland, was along the Annan and then along the upper Clyde. From the train I could make out the spot where I had parked a couple of weeks earlier for a largely fruitless day’s fishing on the Annan; later it travelled along part of the course I had taken on Day 61 the previous year.

My train - 100 feet away after a half-mile walk!
We stayed at Jury’s Inn in Glasgow, just a few yards from Glasgow Central station. But at least we got some exercise that evening. It was a two mile walk to Bukhara, the outstanding Indian restaurant I had discovered on Day 65 last year, and we walked back again after an excellent dinner.

The hotel was comfortable, though it was rather ironic that my view was of the platform in Glasgow Central where we had arrived the previous afternoon. I can’t have been much more than 200ft from the point where I had alighted the previous day. Doubly ironic, I suppose, in that after leaving Euston the train had been about the same distance from home.

After an indifferent breakfast it was back to Glasgow Central for some last-minute shopping (sunscreen, which proved rather optimistic, and a notebook), a visit to a cash machine, and down to the lower level platforms for the train to Milngavie. The only problem was the need to wrestle my large bag, at closer to the 20kg weight limit, as it overturned from its wheels on the irregular Glasgow pavements.

The intrepid ones - Tom and John Poulter
Then it was a slow, tedious train journey to Milngavie. It isn’t much more than ten miles, but takes a good half hour. Once at Milngavie it was five minutes more bag-wrestling to get to the so-called obelisk (a mere two metres tall) marking the beginning of the West Highland Way, where we left our bags with Travel Lite, who provide baggage transfer for the entire Way.  And so, ten months or more since last year’s final day, it was time to resume the Land’s End to John O’Groats odyssey.

The first stage was up through Mugdock Country Park, initially along the banks of Allander Water, and then a steady climb up past Craigallan Loch to reach a minor road, which the Way follows for a few hundred metres. This is largely deciduous woodland, quite pleasant, with a couple of deer to prove that it’s almost real country. However, it’s fairly tame, and popular with dog walkers.

The view from the top: Dumgoyne in the Campsie Fells

After leaving the minor road the country opens out, and becomes more rugged, with a striking wooded hill standing clear of the Campsie Fells, which are almost proper highlands, rising to close to 500m. This was the most picturesque part of the first day’s walking, with curlews and cuckoos calling across the moorland.

The weather had been pretty good to start, but it started to rain just before we reached the dismantled railway track along which the Way progresses for the next five miles or so. It passes close to Dumgoyne Distillery (temptation resisted) before the welcome sign advertising the Beech Tree Inn.
More than just rest, food and drinks!
The sign just before the pub offers more than food and drink, but there was no obvious sign of the extras offered. The addition to the sign was properly painted, even though the font was different. By now we were pretty wet, so the pints and soup were very welcome.

John proved to be excellent company, with wide-ranging conversation helping to pass the boring miles of the old railway. This now carries the main water supply from Loch Lomond to Glasgow, so at least it continues to provide a useful service.

The last part of the walk into Drymen was all on minor roads. (Given the weather, we felt that Wetchaps would be a more appropriate name for our destination.) There is an attractive crossing of a series of waterfalls on the Ettrick Water soon after leaving the old railway, where we saw a dipper and grey wagtails flying around the rocks. The guide to the West Highland Way has a beautiful picture of Ettrick Water, but this is poetic licence: the Way doesn’t really follow the valley at all. After the bridge it climbs to follow a ridge across farmland, with the contorted ground in an old quarry off to the side to provide the only minor interest.

Falls on Ettrick Water
After crossing the main road to Stirling we reached our destination for the day. Drymen itself is an attractive small village largely built around a square. The Drymen Inn was a welcome end to the day. Reasonable food, too.

Partly cloudy to start, but fairly persistent rain from the half-way point. 15-17C. Good path all the way, though occasionally water covered. Max altitude 163m, minimum 20m. 19.2 km. 249m of ascent, 217 descent. Midge factor 1 on  a scale of 1 to 5: only an occasional minor nuisance.

No comments:

Post a Comment