Kilsyth to Drymen
After dropping off a little earlier than normal last night, without fail I woke up early! Why oh why can’t I have more sleep instead of just waking up after the usual five and a half hours? Very frustrating.
I dozed for a bit longer but knowing I had a long day’s walking ahead – almost twenty three miles – I got up and started to get myself ready even before my alarm went off. Everything was ready and I was sat eating breakfast before 8am, almost unheard of!
Full to the brim with a rather large breakfast I grabbed my gear and checked out. It wasn’t raining but it wasn’t too hot either, which was great. I just hoped that it lasted like this for the rest of the day as it would make the walking a lot more comfortable.
First job before starting the walk proper was to find somewhere to get some bits on for lunch. I completely forgot that it was Sunday yesterday which meant that by the time I made it in to Kilsyth everything was shut. I couldn’t run the risk of not coming across somewhere en route and going the rest of the day hungry. Fortunately I found a garage and stocked up on pork pies and crisps.
The start of the walk was yet again on the Forth and Clyde Canal. I’m so bored of walking along canals you wouldn’t believe it. Fortunately I didn’t have too long to walk along it today.
When I reached Kirkintilloch I said goodbye, and good riddance, to the canal and picked up a path along a disused railway. This was a welcome change of scenery and by the time I’d reached Milton of Campsie I wad really enjoying myself.
A couple of miles down the track I went through Lennoxtown. I took a minor diversion from the path to go down the high street as I fancied a little snack and everything I had in my pack just wouldn’t hit the mark. I found a little bakery and grabbed myself a slab of caramel shortbread and a bottle of Ribena and sat on a bench outside, thoroughly enjoying the sugar rush.
Snack eaten I headed up the road to pick up the path again and headed out to Strathblane. Unfortunately, after the nice cool morning the sun decided to come out in full force and things really started to heat up. Just what I needed, not! I still had quite a way to go yet and just to rub salt in to the wounds, the tree cover I’d been enjoying so much ran out. Oh joy!
The couple of miles out in the open to Strathblane were pretty tough but there was one saving grace: the scenery had definitely taken a turn for the better. After the last couple of days walking along mile after mile on the canal, every step of the way looking exactly like the last, I was now greeted with sweeping hills, some of which were pretty big.
This was the Scotland I’d been enjoying so much last week and I was very happy to see it again. Ok, I knew that at some point in the not too distant future I’d be Jill walking again after all the flatness of late, but I didn’t care. I was just happy to see the stunning Scottish landscape again.
About half a mile from Strathblane I walked past a very impressive craggy hill called Dunglass. It wasn’t big as far as some of the hills around but it certainly had a lot of character.
From Strathblane the route took a turn for the worse. To get to the West Highland Way I had to walk up the A81 for about three miles. This was quite a busy road and once out of Strathblane itself the path disappeared. I hated every single step of that road but it wasn’t too long before I came to the lane that would lead me down to the West Highland Way, away from the traffic.
Before getting to the path I decided to take a rest on a gate. Yet again, places to sit down had been difficult, if not impossible, to find so this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’d not had lunch yet even though it was mid-afternoon and I was beginning to finally feel a little hungry.
Fed and rested I finally stepped foot on the West Highland Way, a definite milestone I could mow tick off the list.
My feet were beginning to be a bit of a pain, literally, but I was hopeful that the lunch stop would be good enough to get me through the final four miles that were left.
A little way up the path I noticed a distillery marked on the map and there in front of me was a rather big sign for said distillery – the Glengoyne Distillery. It made me laugh because it was clearly aimed at the people just walking the West Highland Way ad it said “7 miles done, only 88 to go”. Oh if only there were only 88 miles left to go!
It started to rain shortly after that, which was a welcome change from the heat of the sun. I put my coat on and ignored it as best I could. I’d seen it coming over the hills and I’d hoped I’d out-walk it. Clearly not.
As I got closer to Drymen my feet got worse and worse and making my way to Gartness my right heel decided that it had had enough of all this walking malarkey. It made walking extremely difficult indeed and by the time I’d hobbled over the bridge at Gartness I had to stop and take my boots off. This was not a good sign. I guess walking twenty one miles two days on the trot and then attempt the best part of twenty three miles was just too big an ask?
I found a spot on the wall by the bridge, dropped my pack and took my boots off. I didn’t sit there for too long, just long enough to get some blood pumping through my sore feet. I was only a couple of miles from the end of the day’s walk and all I could think about was getting to my room and taking my boots off for the rest of the day.
I didn’t manage too badly after the rest until about half a mile away from the hotel I was staying at. At this point every step felt like I was walking on broken glass! This was a new level of pain I’d felt so far on this walk, even back at the beginning when my other boots were ripping my feet apart. I was not happy. I was so close to the end but I could hardly move.
I found a wall and sat there, head in hands, totally frustrated with it all. I was determined to make it to the hotel so I stood up and started to take one painful step after another, eventually making it to my room. And what dis I find in the bathroom? A bath! I couldn’t have been happier. It’s been showers only for day’s now and to actually be able to have a soak in the bath to try and ease the pain in my feet, well, it was amazing!
Pains eased slightly I made my way downstairs to the restaurant for dinner. After looking at the menu I just had to try the haggis pakora with spiced mint yoghurt dip for a starter – how could I not?! It was lovely and I’m really glad I chose it. Unfortunately though it was a lot more filling than I thought it would be and I just couldn’t finish my chorizo meatballs and spaghetti, not helped by the fact that they were cricket ball sized meatballs!
I guess it was a day for milestones today? After getting to the West Highland Way today, I also broke the 800 mile mark…800 miles?! Actually, by the end of today I’d hit 820 miles but who’s counting?
On top of that, I’ve now completed 75% of the walk. All in all, even with the pain, I’m proud that I managed to complete the last three days. It was a big ask but I made it!
I’m hoping my mood’s now taking a turn for the better after the last couple of days. The change in scenery and getting to the West Highland Way have definitely put a smile on my face. Let’s hope it lasts.