Tom and I had lunch in Edinburgh on the 24th and then caught a train to Milngavie which takes about 1 ½ hours. We checked in at the Premier Inn which looks pretty old on the outside but was very nice inside. We wandered around the village of Milngavie. The town is actually quite large, being a suburb of Glasgow only 7 miles away. They have some larger department stores. But the village area, which has a courtyard with small shops up and down the street, is very quaint. We had dinner at FinnsBay, a relatively new restaurant in the village that was recommended by the Hostess at Premier Inn. I had my first taste of black pudding. It was very good and made me forget that it had something to do with blood. The owner is from Harris which is an island off the west coast. They specialize in gin and some lagers from Harris. You don’t ask for beer I have learned; you ask for ale or lager. I was surprised that it is served cold; I thought it would be warmer as it tends to be in England and some European countries. If you ask for lemonade they give you 7-up. If you ask for coffee you get Americano except when you are Starbucks which is all over the bigger cities.
In the morning of the 25th we had a continental breakfast at the Inn; typical of American motel breakfasts. After we checked out, we went to the village and took pictures at the obelisk which is the official start of the West Highland Trail before setting out on the 12 mile hike to Drymen at a late time of 10:45 am.
The path begins easy enough and uninteresting, passing by several lochs (lakes), disused railroad tracks and footpath out of the suburbs and through a county park. We met several fellow Way hikers along the way from various countries, lots of Germans, a few French, Scots, Hollanders and others. About four miles on the trail we met Drew, a so called trail angel that provides beverages, cookies, etc. There is no charge but he said there was an expected trail donation of two pounds. I was trying to figure out the difference. I had a spot of Scottish tea. I joked that it was probably Lipton’s but he showed me the big box that said Scottish tea on it. We said we were from Seattle and he knew quite a bit about it as well as the Pacific Crest Trail. He asked why we would be coming to Scotland when we had such a fantastic trail system. I didn’t elaborate. I still don’t know if he was legitimate. He said he sees about 150 hikers a day and at 2 pounds each that would be pretty tempting.
We walked past the Glengoyne distillery which apparently is an important one but didn’t stop for a wee dram. A while further we had lunch at the Beach Tree Inn which is literally on the trail. The food, as was every place we have eaten, very good. I had fishcakes and asparagus soup. Tom had salmon. We both were satiated and ready for the rest of the hike.
I had had problems already at 2 miles from Drymen. My right hip was hurting from the weight of the pack. I knew it was not sustainable. I was getting a little nervous that the trip I had been planning for months would end almost before it started. I disconnected the pack harness at my waist and walked a distance with the weight on my shoulders and chest strap which worked pretty well. After a while though, it was bothering my shoulders, so I switched back to using the harness awhile. I also discovered a method of holding my poles behind my back under the pack and lifting the pack to take the weight off or everything. My arms were not stressed because they were straight. I found I could do that for 5 or 10 minutes. Between those techniques (and taking the pack off from time to time), I did fairly well through the rest of the hike. Tom did very well despite having had some knee issues in the past.
After we got through the first miles, we came to rolling hills, cattle, sheep, and the hills of the Highlands teasing us in the distance. There were not any significant hills which was merciful for the first day of the hike. It was raining and continued to rain much of the way. I had a rain jacket on at first but took it off and just wore a long sleeve base layer that has some protection against the rain. Since it was not cold, I preferred this since the rain coat made me sweat.
The last 2 miles involved walking on the road which was quite uncomfortable. Also, we had to practice the important skill of remembering which side of the road drivers are on. Many people have ruined vacations by stepping into the road looking in the wrong direction. The drivers I have seen do not swerve out of the way; they just hug the edge even if you are there, probably because most of the roads are very narrow and hardly accommodate two cars at the same time. We took a wrong turn near Drymen and started walking over a large knoll with stepping stones. We thought we might be off since we felt the town was down the road further. We bumped into a young German girl, Hanna, who was doing the trail from North to South which is not as common because you face the sun (what sun?). We asked her about town and she said she thought it was down and to the right so we walked with her and it turned out to be good advice.
Tom and I checked into the Drymen Inn, one of many small hotels in Drymen. It has a glass enclosed area on the sidewalk for indoor, but feeling like you’re outdoors, dining. The room was sparse but fine. We went out in search of dinner and tried to get into what was billed as a very old pub dating back to the 1700’s. It was too small and too full. On the way back to the Inn we saw our German friend at the bus stop waiting for the rain to stop so she could head down the road a few miles to camp at Drymen campground. We asked her to come to dinner and we had a fine conversation with her. She had hiked the train the usual way from South to North with her brother a few years ago so decided to hike it again but the other direction. After the hike she is due in Edinburgh to participate in an internship for an animal vet. She is studying in, I think she, said Munster Germany.
A band started playing at about the time we ate. I forgot that it was Friday night so there was a lot of action at the Inn. It did not dawn on me until the band started playing at 9:30 and kept playing until about 2:00 am and they sounded like they were in the corner of our room. I hadn’t been getting much sleep since I arrived in Scotland for mysterious reasons, but despite the noise, I might have gotten 5 hours sleep or so.