Saturday, May 31, 2014

West Highland Way Day 1 - Milngavie to Drymen

Moonrise Over Drymen.jpg.pngIf you stay at the Buchanan Arms hotel (a Best Western) in Drymen there is a lookout point across the road about a tenth of a mile distant. For away to the west you can just see Loch Lomond but looking east, like here, you are treated to a lovely near full moonrise over Drymen.
It's been a rather long day and I don't think that is going to change. We have completed our first day of hiking and it was a good day ending on a real high note. In pretty much all ways that matter things worked out wonderfully. I hope that doesn't mean down the line some form of karmic joke is played on us by rendering a truly lousy day. But I won't dwell on that because it's pointless.
Dad at the Start.jpgIts time to start our 8-day trek along the West Highland Way. This pylon marks the start in the town of Milngavie ("Mel-guy" is how I think it's said) and winds generally northward 96 odd miles to Fort William.
Ken at the Start.jpgIt's actually warm enough to be hiking in shorts like Dad. I did change later and though I didn't shed the shirt I certainly rolled the sleeves up.
DSCN0968.jpgHere is our group of 11 hikers and the leader getting ready to sally forth on the West Highland Way.

We started our trek in Milngavie (Mel-guy) around 10:00 under mostly sunny skies and surprisingly warm temperature. We thought we could expect some showers to creep in a bit after noon but we were prepared for that. It was already a bit warmer than expected so we , or at least I, were hoping things would turn out better than forecast. We left the village strolling through park land by the Allender Water (River?). The going was easy at this point and marred only by the fact that this close to the town and the official southern terminus this is a popular stretch of trail. I can't begin to tell you how many people and dogs, large and small, we saw. The dogs, by the way, were petty much all off leash. if you are nervous around dogs perhaps you should keep that in mind if you decide to hike here.

IMG_5829.JPGWhile we aren't on the official West Highland Way right now I think this diversion is well worth it as we get to see this old castle. Mugdock Castle was built in 1372 and the 59 foot southwest tower remains.
We would have to take an alternate route, mostly on the John Muir Way I believe, but this was hardly a bad thing. It let us discover Mugdock Castle which was quite a find and well worth several minutes of exploration. From there we would continue on our way through rolling valleys and through sheep grazing lands. Usually we followed country two-tracks and now and then a stretch of macadam road. The bit of what you would call "trail" had really only been underfoot early on. But the scenery was wonderful and the weather was still treating us gently with generally deep blue skies dotted with puffy cumulus clouds and a modest breeze that kept us cool.
IMG_5851.JPGWe've returned to the official West Highland Way and will soon be walking along an old narrow gauge (I think) railway bed. As I understand it a huge number of railways were dismantled back in the 60s (70s?) in an attempt to save money. Done under the auspices of a minister named Beaching. I suspect that it may have been necessary but it certainly wasn't welcomed. But right now we are near the Dumgoyach Standing Stones. They're a few hundred feet off the trail (east) in a field. I wish we'd taken the time to slog through the scrub and heather to get a better look. This is interesting pastureland to walk through surrounded by tall rocky hills (Fells).
Passing by the standing stone at Dumgoyach was interesting even though we couldn't get all that close to this set of 4 stones that date back to somewhere around 3650BC. What always strikes me about astronomical observatories like these is the amount of perseverance , keen observation, and careful thought must go into the creation process. To be sure standing stone that can help you know when the equinoxes are as well as summer solstice must be quite useful in so many respects but the actual raising of the stone, no mean feat, is the least of the challenges amongst many seriously big tasks. I wish we had had time to plod through the field, though maybe a bit tough going, to get a better look. The afternoon wore on and the weather remained superb as we walked several miles of old railroad grade. It may not be terribly exciting trail but again the expansive views weren't bad and we enjoyed ourselves as we strolled. The last couple miles again on paved roads were a bit of a drag but that is due, at least in part, to the fact that we were walking on paved roads. To be sure they were not that heavily trafficked but they're still paved roads and that means a bit tiring on the feet. At about 16:30 we returned to the Buchanan Arms here in the very small village of Drymen and after a suitably fattening dinner most of us wandered the 0.1 miles to a viewpoint that looks out over Loch Lomond in the far western distance. It was a wonderful day with a quite clear sky that had only managed to produce a couple quite measly sun-showers a few hours earlier - barely enough to even notice. Watching the nearly full moon slowly rise as the sun set was a fine way to end this first 13 mile (1,000 feet of ascent/descent more or less) day of hiking. Tomorrow we deal with a 15 mile day of hiking that'll feature about 1,500 feet of ascent and descent if you accept the data from one source (more like 2,200 and 2,600 according to the official website). I know I am a bit tired now but I think I will be more than up to the challenge tomorrow brings. I am looking forward to it.

To see all 10 photos, at a much greater size, for this day visit the Flickr photo album here.

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