August 7 – After yesterday’s exciting post, today’s may be less so.
We met Angela, a lovely lady from Nova Scotia doing a solo hike, at our B and B. We set out together after breakfast, and walked together for a while.
After a while the trail became an open track, with mountains to the left and mountains to the right. Our book says this is an old military road, used to keep the Jacobites in their place.
And so it remained for the rest of the day.
In the middle of nowhere was a solitary little house, with a sign saying it belonged to the Mc Dougals . They must really like their privacy.
Before we knew it, we’d reached Bridge of Orchy, which was our stop for the day. There is a bridge here:
There is one hotel / restaurant here:
The restaurant was all booked for tonight, so we accepted our B and B host’s gracious offer to fix us dinner. She made pasta and veg and salad and apple pie for dessert, and rolled the feast into our room on a little cart. It was lovely – and no chips!
Our room also contained a drying closet, which is a much sought-after amenity here in the highlands. You hang your damp things in it, push a button, and four hours later, you have dry clothes! It also dries your boots, but makes the whole room smell like dirty feet. Better than squelching around all day in wet boots!
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!
July 28 – Our West Highland Way hike starts in three days, in a little town just north of Glasgow, so this morning we made our way to the ScotRail station in Haymarket, and caught the train for the forty five minute ride west to Glasgow. Once again, the train was super clean, with cheerful personnel and stations clearly marked. What a pleasure!
We stepped out of the Glasgow Queen St. station right onto historic George Square, laid out in 1781 and named in honor of King George III. The first thing we saw was a row of statues, some with traffic cones on their heads – how curious!
Around the corner, in front of the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, stood a statue of the First Duke of Wellington with a cone on his head colored in pink and blue to support the Ukraine!
My Google search revealed that a traffic cone first appeared on the Duke’s statue back in the 1980s, and as fast as city workers removed it, it would reappear the next evening. The city threatened action against anyone defacing the statue, but the people of Glasgow rallied round the cause, and now the statue with cone (sometimes the horse has a cone too) appears on Glasgow tee shirts and post cards as a symbol of the city. I like a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
As we were there at the Gallery of Modern Art, we checked it out. There was lots of space, and not much art. We watched some videos, like a woman riding on a snowmobile for twelve minutes. Other offerings:
There was one Andy Warhol, and here it is:
At 3pm we were able to check into our hotel, one of a UK chain called Point A. When we opened the door to our room, I thought we were on the lowest deck of a ship. The room is just slightly larger than the bed, with no furniture, no seating, no doorknobs, no amenities of any sort, and no windows. A little pull-out tray may hold a few of your things, but if the tray is pulled out, you can’t walk around the bed. The hotel is highly rated. Oh dear.
July 29 – As there was no coffee maker in our room, Jim got out his camp stove, placed it in the shower, cooked us a lovely oatmeal and coffee breakfast, and served it on the bed. Some day, we’re going to get in trouble.
Glasgow, known as the Merchant City, is a working class city that doesn’t offer the range of touristy attractions that we had in Edinburgh. Don’t worry, we’ll find things to do. We set out this morning for a walk to the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis.
The cathedral is dedicated to St. Mungo, the founder and patron saint of Glasgow. He was a missionary in the sixth century, and named Glasgow, which means ‘beloved green place’.
The cathedral was dark and austere. Outlander fans will be interested to know that the cathedral served as Claire’s French hospital in season 2.
The 37 acre cemetery behind the cathedral is called the Necropolis, containing the bodies of 50,000 Victorian souls, including a memorial to John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian church in the 1500s.
It also contains a memorial to William Wallace, who you will remember from Braveheart. Freedom!
We wandered up and down many rows of monuments, but we didn’t find a single Hay or Blair (my ancestral clans) even though my forebears hailed from Lanarkshire, just a half hour’s drive south of here. I guess a half hour was pretty far, back in the day.
Many of the monuments were topped with statues of caskets or urns, which seemed a little odd to me.
Down at the bottom of the hill was a small, fenced-off area where the Victorian Jews were interred. There was a sign with a tally of the number of men, women, children and babies buried there.
After lunch we walked across town to the Glasgow Botanic Garedens. Lots of Glaswegians strolling the walkways or lying in the sunshine – the weather got up to a balmy 72 degrees.
There were rows of connected greenhouses displaying tropical plants that Scots might not typically see – ferns, cacti, and some teensy orchids.
The largest greenhouse, the Kibble Palace, also held a group of Victorian marble statues:
The main lawn was landscaped with identical plants in rows like soldiers. I kept thinking, ‘Eliese would not approve!’
One of the parks benches was covered in colorful crochet. When we stopped to admire it, a local woman stopped to ask if we knew the story. She told us that after the death of a local artist, her daughters decorated her favorite bench as a memorial. Another nice person, stopping to share.
We walked all afternoon, admiring the plants and enjoying the sunshine. A good day!
July 26 – Boy, did we sleep last night! Still a bit groggy this morning, but feeling human again. Today is a recovery day, with no itinerary planned. After a breakfast of oatmeal (Scots call it porridge and prefer it salted, not sweet), coffee and hot crossed buns, we’re feeling almost energetic! As the weather promises to be lovely – mid 60s with no precipitation – we put on our boots and set out to see some Edinburgh.
Our place is not far from The Royal Mile, home to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and a mile of shops, restaurants and tourist madness in between.
As we walked toward the city, I spotted a colorful giraffe, and stopped to grab a photo. A local mom explained that there were 70 uniquely painted giraffes all around Edinburgh, and if I found every one, I’d get a free ice cream! A nice person of Scotland, stopping to share with strangers. Here’s all I found today:
(Remember that you can click or touch any photo to make it larger)
For some reason, there were also a couple of cows. Do you think I can count them toward my prize?
Churches and buildings that used to be churches:
We went into St. Giles Cathedral:
We and many others stood outside and gazed at Edinburgh Castle, but tickets for the entire week were sold out. It is built on an old volcano called Castle Rock, and served as a royal residence from the reign of King David in the 1100s to the 1600s. It is one of the most often attacked castles in the world. We’ll just have to imagine what the Scottish Crown Jewels inside must look like.
The national flower of Scotland is the thistle. This tourist shop captures the spirit:
Lots of statues, of course:
Below is the statue commemorating Wojtek, a brown bear that served with the Polish troops who fought alongside the Brits in WWII, carrying 100 pound boxes of ammunition. After the war he was brought to Scotland, where he lived the rest of his life at the Edinburgh Zoo.
At the end of the Royal Mile stands the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen’s official residence when she visits Scotland. It’s most famous inhabitant was Mary, Queen of Scots.
A little history, and lots of walking. A great day. More tomorrow!