August 2 – We shared breakfast with our B and B companions – a couple from Holland and a young couple from Paris. We all practiced saying Balmaha (Bal-muh-HAAA). They are all walking 14 miles today, but we are only walking seven. Some people walk 21!
After yesterday’s long but fairly flat walk, today’s route will be more challenging, requiring a steep climb to get over Conic Hill. The weather is overcast and gray, but the promised rain isn’t falling yet. Off we go.
We met a couple from Calgary, and walked together until the trail started to get steep. Everybody is faster than me when going uphill.
We saw our first glimpse of Loch Lomond. Remember the old song?
You take the high road and I’ll take the low road And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye For me and my true love will never meet again On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond.
Loch Lomond is a great long lake and we will be walking beside it for days. Gaelic for Dummies advised to always pronounce Loch as though clearing one’s throat. Lochhhh LOW-mun .
As we climbed, the rain started, and the trail was busy with hikers ascending the narrow path. The trail became a stream, with water cascading down as we went up. I was going really slowly, and looking for a place to rest, but there was none. No pix of the uphill slog – you’ll have to use your imagination! Finally, we got to the top.
What goes up, must come down, and so we did. The rain stopped, and the views were gorgeous.
We walked triumphantly into Balmaha, and found our B and B. Our hostess invited us to use her hot tub – what luxury!
Balmaha is a lakeside tourist town, with lots of boats in the harbor and families on holiday.
Their hometown hero, Tom Weir, has a statue at the waterside. I wonder what he did to deserve it?
July 31 – This morning we packed our stuff and bid adieu to our tiny room in Glasgow. It is time to hop on the bus and move on to the town where we will begin our hike tomorrow.
Before leaving home, I looked up Scottish Gaelic for Dummies, and learned several things. First, unlike Irish Gaelic (GAY-lick), in Scotland it’s pronounced GAL-lick. Second, I have no hope of mastering the rules of this confounding language. Since arriving here, we’ve found it challenging enough to try to understand folks when they are speaking English!
Our guidebook cautioned that we need to learn to pronounce the name of this town if we have any hope of getting there successfully. Any guesses on which letters to pronounce and which to skip over? I won’t keep you in suspense. Milngavie is Mell-GUY. Who needs all those extra vowels and consonants? And just in case, we started in ED-in-burra, then visited GLAZ-go. Now you’re all caught up.
We checked into our lovely hotel (windows! coffee maker!), set down our packs, and went out to explore the town.
I liked the speed limit signs for the residential areas – twenty is plenty!
I liked that they have signs for people like us:
There was a shopping street for pedestrians, with lots of folks out enjoying the afternoon sunshine. There was a busker singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and a carved bench to bring a tear to your eye.
Mostly, there were signs for the West Highland Way.
We had a scrumptious three course supper at the local restaurant (I had prawns, not shrimp) and rolled back to our room to figure out what to carry in our daypacks and what to send ahead in our big packs. Will it be too chilly in the morning for my sweatshirt? Should I bring my fleece jacket? No rain is forecast until late afternoon – should we chance not carrying raincoats? Momentous decisions before our first day – you’d think we’d never done this before!
August 1 – 12 miles planned. We were up at 5:30 and and anxious to start our hike, but the restaurant didn’t open for another hour. It was 39 degrees, although the sun had been up for an hour. Guess I’m wearing my fleece!
The trail started in the middle of Milngavie, descending to a shady path along a babbling brook.
There were several sculptures topped with polished rocks – when we asked one of the local dog walkers what they were for, she said the town had installed them because this area of the Way was so boring. Not so!
Then things became more interesting:
The West Highland Way trail marker is supposed to be a thistle. You really have to use your imagination:
There’s a mountain in the distance. I wonder when we’ll reach it?
We talked to lots of fellow hikers as they passed us by – two couples from Holland, a group of 10 from Ottawa, a couple from Paris and several who came from different parts of Scotland. Lots of young girls hiking on their own, including a Muslim woman fully covered and in a headscarf.
Never saw this plant before:
As we approached Drymen, we saw a small waterfall, and some interesting signs.
So now we’ve arrived in Drymen (pronounced DREM-men, rhymes with lemon) at Kip in the Kirk, a B and B that used to be a church.
We’re clean and warm, with bellies full of good supper. Our total mileage today was 13.5. The rain is pouring down outside our window, and the weather forecast is for rain for the rest of the week. This may be my last happy post!