West Highland Way, Day 1. 30th April 2012

The start of the West Highland Way, Milngavie

I woke up to a wet morning in Edinburgh so didn’t feel inclined to rush off. Leisurely breakfast and then made my way to Haymarket station where I looked a bit incongrous amongst the commuter with poles, Paramo and pack. As we travelled west, the weather improved and by the time I arrived in Milngavie, the start of the way the rain had gone off. The WHW starts in a rather down at heel shopping centre in Milngavie – the start is marked by an obelisk.

Some people say that the first day of the WHW is not really worth doing – a lowland walk – but I enjoyed it.  It starts through Mugdock woods and eventually you get to Craigallian Loch – the site of the Craigallian fire.

This is a bit of social history – in the 1930’s unemployed men from Glasgow who loved the outdoors gathered here to get away from the grime and poverty of the city. They did some epic walks and climbs with what is, by today’s standards, primitive gear.

The site of the Craigallian fire

A great book about these times is ‘Always a Little Further’ by Alastair Borthwick. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to find.

Shortly after this, there’s another bit of social history – the Carbeth huts. These were set up between the first and second world wars when an enlightened landlord allowed people the opportunity to get out of Glasgow and establish a simple holiday hut in the country. They are still a vibrant community.

Hut at Carbeth

Dumgoyne, the hill at the end of the Campsies was ahead and the weather was still pretty dull (so no pics). However, by the time I got to the Beech Tree Inn at Dumgoyne village, the weather was looking up.  After a pint and a burger in the pub, I left about half-past two to make my way to Drymen.

Just as I was crossing the car park, a white van pulled in and nearly ran me down. There was a cry of ‘I don’t f…ing believe it’ – the driver was my old pal Woodcarver Ian – the only man I know who has made his own toilet seat. I’d said to Ian I was doing the walk and he had suggested we might meet up somewhere but nothing had been arranged. But meeting here was a complete fluke  – if either of us had been a couple of minutes later or earlier, we would have missed each other.

We arranged to meet up again in Drymen and I walked the path beside the pipeline taking Glasgow’s water supply from the Trossachs. Now I was looking back at Dumgoyne and the sun was shining. Drymen was rather sleepy but we had a beer in the Clachan – reputedly the oldest pub in Scotland.

Clouds clearing over Dumgoyne

Cooking in the Garadhban Forest

I then made my way up to Garadhban Forest, where Ian had parked and set up his cooking tarp – we had spicy vegetable stew and a dram. I set up my tent under a tree.

The first leg of the Way is easy walking. If camping, there is a camp site just before Drymen at Easter Drumquhassie Farm but if you start in the morning, I think this makes it too short a day.

I camped under the trees in the car park in the Garadhban Forest – reasonably level site or you can go on to the end of the forest where there are some sites before Conic Hill.  The Loch Lomond camping ban does not apply here.

Camping under the trees

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