Day 1: West Highland Way

The journey starts at Glasgow Queen Street on a Thursday morning.

I’m on a train to Milngavie. It is not pronounced how it’s written though, it’s pronounced “mull-guy”. I’m heading to the outer suburbs or Glasgow to start an eight day walking trail, the West Highland Way.

People are going to work, going to school. Hard to believe this is an ordinary day for some people. It’s day one of my big adventure but no one seems to know this.

Look! The sun is shining!

My stomach is roiling after a greasy hotel breakfast. My stomach was already feeling acidic after a poor nights sleep. My eyes are puffy and I’m grateful for the sun and my sunglasses that will cover up the panda-like dark circles.

Butt none of that matters. We are here. We are going to start walking. All those little things that worried me, all those packing errors (electric toothbrush but no charger?), even a night of poor sleep – none of it matters.

We take photographs by the obelisk that marks the start of the Way, and a few minutes later we are walking. We are on our way, on the Way. The excitement of starting combines with the toxic feeling in my blood of having not slept enough. Soon the need to work my legs on the first incline gives me focus and a way to burn through the chemicals in my bloodstream.

Day 1 is a relatively easy 12m/19km through rolling countryside.

The initial walk is through woodland, opening out into farmland and views of mountains to the north. All around us birds are chirping with the high pitched frequency of a computer games console. The air smells variously of grass, mud, farm animals, and that leafy smell of a forest. I stick my nose into some gorse. The spikes stick into my fingers but I do get to inhale the coconut scent of the flowers. I set an alarm on my phone to remind us to stop and drink water every hour. Overhead the sky is blue, the sun is shining but there is still a strong wind and I keep my rain jacket on.

We are halfway through today’s walk and turn from country walking to a path following a disused railway line, easy flat walking. We pass the Glengoyne whiskey distillery, adding a scent of alcohol to the air.

We stopped for a break just before midday at the charmingly named Turnip the Beet where their onion bhaji wrap was a welcome meal and chance to rest my feet and take my shoes off to give my feet some breathing space.

Not long after our lunch break we realised we were now well more than half way through the day’s walk and when we turned off the old railway path, there were just two miles left to walk.

Through the hamlet of Gartness with the original honesty box and then uphill and uphill and uphill again, overtaking two 70 year old Canadian ladies who we will see again and again over the next eight days, until we catch a tantalising glimpse of blue in the distance – Loch Lomond, where we will walk tomorrow.

Down we roll, out of the countryside and into the small town of Drymen where we are staying the night at Kip in the Kirk B&B. Frances, the host at Kip in the Kirk, offers her guests scones on arrival. I’m not saying that’s why we chose to stay here, but it might have helped sway our decision.

With the famous Clachan Inn heavily booked for dinner, we ate instead at the Winyard Hotel. Husband was happy with his choice of pie; my choice of the Highlander pizza (topped with haggis, black pudding and caramelised onion) was probably prompted more by a sense of novelty.

Day 1 walking done, we were pleased how well our feel and legs felt. Time for a good rest to wake up refreshed and ready to take on Day 2

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