Date: 1st April 2012
Route: Milngavie to Drymen
Distance: 12 miles
Accommodation: Premier Inn, MilngavieAfter three months of walking nearly every weekend, trying to eat relatively healthily and hoping that all of this exercise would mean we were fit enough to walk the 95-mile West Highland Way, we finally took our first steps along the route today, on the initial section from Milngavie (pronounced Mullguy) to Drymen (pronounced Drimmen). Just as well that we were following the West Highland way route, as detailed in the Trailblazer Guide and didn’t have to ask anyone for directions!
If our breakfast porridge was anything to go by, Scotland really is the land of milk of honey, and we set out suitably fortified on a glorious spring morning, without a cloud in the sky, leaving Milngavie’s shopping precinct and the unmissable obelisk, gate and benches marking the start of the West Highland Way to quickly join an excellently signposted, fantastically maintained path out of Milngavie and up through woodlands.
The first section of the walk takes you out of Milgavie relatively quickly, with the stream of Allander Water away to your left and leads up to a hilltop with views back over the town and to distant hills. From there it is into Mugdock Wood, alongside Craigallian and Carbeth Lochs – with stunning views of Dumgoyne appearing almost out of nowhere - then past the wooded hump of Dumgoyach before joining the route of the old Blane Valley Railway for 4 miles of straight, flat and admittedly not very exciting walking (although the whisky distillery en route might prove a suitable distraction for those in search of more excitement).
The Beech Tree Inn in Dumgoyne sells pub grub or lets you eat your own food there, but to get there at lunchtime you probably wouldn’t need to leave Milngavie until 10am – we were there too early to really take advantage of their facilities. After the slightly less picturesque sight of the nearby sewage works and some enterprising kids who had set up their own snack stand selling cakes alongside the path, we arrived in the hamlet of Gartness, basically a row of cottages next to the road bridge crossing the weir at Endrick Water.
From this point on to Drymen, the route follows a quiet road, with some gentle climbs rewarded by great views across the hillsides – including Conic (or Conich?) Hill, the big climb of tomorrow - and our first views of Loch Lomond.
So, 12 miles down, only 83 to go! After a straightforward start to the walk in better-than-expected sunshine, we have a few days of relatively short distances and Loch Lomond to look forward to, before the hills really start to dominate. Can’t wait…