Walk Day 87 – Tyndrum to Inverornan

Friday 31st August 2018

9.63 miles today. 927.66 miles total.

Back on the military road today between the mountains, but despite the apparent wildness, the road and railway were following the same line. As were many other walkers.

All within ten miles. I’ll let the views tell the story.

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Walk Day 86 – Beinglas, Inverarnen to Tyndrum

Thursday 30th August 2018.

12.01 miles today. 918.03 miles total.

It was a late start this morning after packing a wet tent. But worth it for being able to eat a good breakfast before leaving.

Ed, Sarah and I were able to spend some time chatting before we went on our ways, same direction, different speeds.

Sarah is doing high mileage in order to ‘bank’ a couple of days for later in her trip.

I was the last to leave and was overtaken almost immediately by Kevin and Annie. That was the story of my day as the trail was very busy, and I recognised many of those who came past me. It made it a very sociable day.

Most of the walkers were oversees visitors, and there were two British couples. The first were young fit and confident and all three of us blithely missed a right turn and ended up in the road. Too much chatting. (An Australian woman later confided that her group had made the same mistake.)

The second couple, Peter and Heather were, like me, familiar with a lot of the faces and they were making good progress. They seemed happy to undersell their fitness and achievement. Very British 🙂

I noticed that very few people were carrying anything more than day packs. Most folks said they were staying in B&B and using baggage transfer services, which all sounds very civilised.

Today’s little things included

a field of red mushrooms,

some red moss on the forest floor,

and this little robin redbreast who was defending his bridge against all comers.

The path varied between

old military road,

forest trail,

mud, stones, up, down, quite a variety.

Honesty boxes for refreshments are more common on this trail, and the chair was a good idea.

The scenery is big with lots of water,

moody mountains visible in the distance.

The route crosses the Killan river and passes the deserted site of St Killan Priory, an Augustinian order.

These are cattle with big horns.

There’s an Arthurian style legend about a lost battle sword close to Tyndrum. The writers of the notice seem sceptical.

I arrived at the By The Way Camp Site in chilly drizzle to discover they have a hostel bed available so I’ve paid the extra and will be warm and dry tonight.

Walk Day 85 – Rowardennan Lodge to Beinglas Camp Site, Inverarnen

Wednesday 29th August 2018

15 miles plus the walk to the pub. 906.02 miles total.

Over 900 miles!

Walking along the east side of Loch Lomond sounds as if it ought to be a nice beach stroll. Obviously it isn’t.

Whether you love it or hate it, and there were plenty of both comments at the end of the day, it is not a stroll.

I chose the lower path which is mainly wooded, goes up and down a lot, with steps created from the rocks or tree roots, and many of them are exactly the right height for someone a few inches taller than me.

I had to remove my pack twice.

Once to get under this fallen tree and once to slide down a rock incline. The kind German man who held my pack said, “It is manageable”. His daughter had used the same words to him a couple of minutes earlier. She looked more of a clamberer than me. 🙂

The views of the Loch and the forest varied according to the weather, which ranged from drizzle to dry every hour, and the tree cover. There was water everywhere.

Again, little things to spot like this fallen tree trunk.

I stopped for lunch at the Inversnaid Hotel, then carried on walking to Beinglas campsite.

On the way I passed Doune Bothy and went in for shelter from the rain. Any thoughts I might have had of stopping three miles early for the night evaporated when I saw that there were already four occupants, a large amount of kit hanging up and spread all over one of the sleeping platforms and the general air of a teenage party about to take place.

I decided to move on and was making my way up hill at the end of the Loch when Sarah called from behind me. By the wonders of social media she knew that four separate LEJOG walkers would be in Inverarnan tonight. So Sarah and I completed our walk together, pitched our tents and then walked a few hundred yards to the Drovers Inn pub to meet Ed and Kevin (and Annie who is walking the WHW with him.)

This the four of us being overseen by a hundred years of taxidermy. Thank you Annie for taking the photographs.

Walk Day 84 – Drymen to Rowardennan Lodge

Tuesday 28th August 2018.

11.69 miles today. 891.02 miles total.

From Drymen I followed the shorter route to the Oak Tree Inn at Balmaha

for a morning cuppa before picking up the path around Loch Lomond.

Another walker said she had taken the higher route and climbed Comic Hill, but the weather was against her and views were hidden by cloud. This is what it looked like from the ground.

Among the big pictures there were also smaller things to notice. This fungus,

a tiny frog less than an inch long,

and the sign in the pub that left me smiling.

Tom Weir MBE, Scottish mountain man is commemorated in Balmaha.

As the path started to climb the views opened out and even on a cloudy day the route was scenic.

At one point I sat on a large rock to make a phone call and a stoat dashed past my feet. Sadly this time I didn’t have the camera ready.

Lots of people overtook me today. Many had been staying in the same hostel, so there was some recognition.

Also overtaking was the other LEJOG walker, Kevin from America, now walking WHW with his wife. He had taken a break in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

I’m possibly one of the few English people walking this trail. Almost everyone else is from Germany, seasoned with some Dutch, Belgian and French, a brace of Canadians and a quartet of Australians.

Here is one of their finds.

Many of us are staying in the Youth Hostel which feels quite cosmopolitan.

Rest Day at Drymen

Monday 27th August 2018

A day of tent drying, sock discarding – more holes – and resting. And chatting to other guests at Kip in the Kirk.

Recommended 🙂

I walked into the centre a few times. Once for supplies, and once to post back the used maps.

The wool shop was closed, but it had an old GR post box on the outside.

And just now, for dinner.

No exercise plus lots of food has left me feeling overfull so I’ll sleep well tonight.

The weather is forecast to be good for the rest of the week and tomorrow I’m aiming for Rowardennan, and hopefully lots of views of Loch Lomond.

Walk Day 83 – Milngavie to Drymen

Sunday 26th August 2018

13.81 miles today. 879.33 miles total.

It rained all day. Non-stop. And it has been quite cold.

Fortunately I’ve been walking and the exercise keeps me warm, but I got chilly when I stopped for lunch. The weather is definitely getting colder by the day.

The route from Milngavie to Drymen is a clear path, on old railway track and road, well signposted so I didn’t need to consult my maps. The photo above was taken before cloud obscured all the scenery.

It’s also very popular, and this is a Bank Holiday weekend so there were lots of people on the trail all day.

At one point three groups in front of me peeled off the path down a track towards what I took to be a pub. When I reached the junction it was signposted to a distillery a few hundred yards away. Cold, wet, lunchtime? I could see the appeal.

However around a quarter of a mile further on is the Beech Tree pub/cafe/animal farm/art shop and I ate a nice lunch there before venturing back into the rain.

Due to the rain there are some photographs missing. As I passed through ‘The Shire’ there was one notice warning ‘Slow Hobbit’ and another labelled ‘Troll Bridge’.

Tonight I’m staying under a roof again at the Kip in the Kirk hostel. Again I’m warm and comfortable.

Tomorrow is a much needed rest day and I’m hoping to get all my clothes and my tent dry.

Walk Day 82 – Auchinstarry to Milngavie

Saturday 25th August 2018.

14 miles today. 865.52 miles total.

I wasn’t sorry to pack up a wet tent this morning and leave the Falkirk Wheel campsite. It’s a Bank Holiday and therefore people have come out for the weekend who don’t normally camp. While I felt quite sorry for the family that had squashed in next to me and was obviously cold and damp, I was less enamoured of them all sitting in the car with the engine running to get warm, while the exhaust collected in my tent.

A brisk mile walk to the bus stop via the locks and The Wheel warmed me up.

Then… a Road Traffic Collision closed the road and delayed all the buses. It was eventually cleared and I arrived back at Auchinstarry Marina an hour later than planned.

But still in time for breakfast at The Boathouse. 🙂

I left twenty minutes behind schedule and despite going off track – too busy chatting with a nice couple (David and Anne-Marie) walking alongside – finally arrived exactly on time.

Much of today’s route was along the canal but with views to the side.

This slobbery dog wanted to say hello. When I declined to be mouthed he posed for a photo instead.

I took a diversion off onto the A road, where I saw some different coloured cattle, then back onto the canal at The Stables pub.

My ‘overshoot’ meant I followed a connecting path through a golf course to Balmore, then back onto the A road before finishing on the footpath next to the canal again.

Basically trying to straighten the meanders.
It meant walking faster than was comfortable and limiting the recovery stops, so I feel as if I’ve just run a half marathon rather than walking.
But tonight I’m in an AirBnB which has a warm comfy bed, I’ve soaked in a lovely hot bath and my clothes are in the washing machine, so I’m happy. The wet tent can wait until tomorrow.
And of course, tomorrow is the official start of the West Highland Way. Exciting. 🙂

:-)

Walk Day 81 – Falkirk to Auchinstarry Marina

Friday 24th August 2018

9.58 miles today. 851.52 miles total.

The temperature dropped quite low last night so I can understand why the other walkers I’ve met have switched to B&B and hotels instead of camping.

This morning, despite overnight showers, started sunny and breezy, and with the exception of one heavy shower, stayed quite brisk all day.

My path back to the locks then led me through a tunnel and down to the Wheel, and a cooked breakfast before taking a last backwards look and setting off on my walk.

The canal banks are filled with an autumn feast for the birds.

As well as the beautiful swans there were dogs with their owners. Also two long distance walkers, several runners, and an ultra runner who had been disappointed not to crack 26 hours for the Highland Fling race. All expectations are relative 🙂

An unexpected deep roar signalled the flight overhead of what I took to be a Spitfire.

The same thing had happened near Thwaite, but I didn’t have the camera ready then

There were also lots of cyclists, and one who stopped to chat had been a fast marathon runner before an accident forced him into cycling instead. Nice to meet you Jock.

Around two and a half miles from Kilsyth David ran up to me and walked back for the rest of my route. After a quick drink at The Boat House hotel,

during which Stuart and Rosie arrived on their LEJOG walk from Linlithgow, David took me on a car tour of the area showing me some beautiful views.

As well as explaining the intruiging boat name David clearly knows a lot about and loves the area he lives in, so was a most engaging guide. Thank you so much David.

Here are some of the places we visited.

This the Loup of Vintry. Loup means tears.

The memorial for the Battle of Bannockburn. With a pointed big hill in the distance that may or may not be Ben Lomond.

The shoe inserts have reduced the pain in everything except my knees, but even they are gradually improving. I’m hopeful of continued healing over the next couple of days.

Tomorrow I’m back to my own devices on my way to Milngavie ready to start the West Highland Way.

Walk Day 80 – Linlithgow to Falkirk

Thursday 23rd August 2018

11.50 miles today. 841.94 miles total.

My room last night was very comfortable but the leg twinges meant I didn’t sleep well so was a bit jaded when the alarm went off. One more sleep cycle and a later start helped.

I was in Linlithgow High Street doing my shopping soon after 9am.

Boots had some Plantar Fascia supports, and I found a ball of string* in a newsagents.

Soon after I was on the canal towpaths marching along to a little ditty I’d made up that reminded me where I needed to be by a given time of day to stay on schedule. It was raining and the canal looked like many others. It was an effective way to distract myself.

With about 5 miles to go and at the end of a heavy shower I knew by my singing that I was around 30 minutes ahead of time so stopped at a large Tesco next to a prison. Learning from yesterday I forced myself to eat, even though I didn’t feel hungry.

During the hour I spent there I dried out and warmed up so was able to restart with more energy.

Several walkers and runners had passed me during the day but I was expecting one in particular. Again, someone I had never met in person but we had been corresponding for a while about this visit.

When David jogged past I didn’t realise who it was, but I’m easily recognised so he turned around and we walked the last few miles into Falkirk, including through a long tunnel strung with fairy lights.

This is a contoured canal with no locks for miles until Falkirk, where there is a very deep double lock. We watched as one boat went through. Here, unlike England, there are lock keepers who operate the paddles and gates for boat users. Apparently it saves water and prevents flooding.

David had already recce’d the short cut to the camp site.

While I pitched my tent he went to get his car.

David had brought bicycles, but a 10 mile or more round trip on a bicycle was rather more than I thought I could cope with so we went by car instead.

Our trip included the Falkirk Wheel with mini Kelpies.

The Wheel itself is an amazingly simple design and there is a children’s play/science area with worked examples of how to move water and turn it into energy. We had fun winding water uphill into the complex sluice system.

Then on to Helix Park with the full size sculptures, scaled up from the working maquettes we had seen earlier.

Kelpies are mythical monsters that lurk in the water and lure people to their doom. Extracts from a poem about them are displayed around the park.

The Kelpie heads here have taken on the appearance of beautiful horses that come out of the water in a working canal system. Can you imagine how much of the rest of the beasts are under the water?

David’s tourist guide knowledge is excellent.

I fulfilled my wish to see the Wheel working, and I saw the Kelpies. Perfect.

* Needed for my to-be-bodged tent repair if the tent turns out to be leaking. I hope I won’t have to test the idea. It’s raining now and is quite cold but all seems well so far.

Walk Day 79 – A71 Kirknewton to Linlithgow

Wednesday 22nd August 2018

10.59 miles today. 830.44 miles total.

I slept very well at Rob and Louise’s house (Thank you both for your hospitality) and, along with their other house guest, we were all ready to go by 8.30am.

Rob dropped me off at the same corner where I’d finished yesterday’s walk. The only difference was that it was raining.

I decided to extend today’s walk by going into East Calder to get cash, and was glad I did.

Not only did I find an interesting small town with pretty gardens

some new building and artwork (this is called Past and Present),

and the best use yet for an old phone box, but I chatted briefly with John and Freda who were walking two greyhounds. Freda comes from John O’Groats and says she will look out for my name in the finishers book.

Then a voice called from behind me, “Good on you. Are you enjoying yourself?” and a smiling man jogged past, also in full waterproofs.

I left the town heading north up a cycle path, alongside a cereal crop that was over ripe and turning black.

Maybe the extra rain up here has delayed some of the harvest?

The path looks like an old railway track. Here it follows a viaduct.

The weather gradually improved leaving just the puddles.

The path continued under the motorway and arrived at the railway station at Uphall.

I smiled at a poster advertising the industrial heritage at Pumpherton Refinery. The advert is by Scottishshale.co.uk.

The final mile into Uphall had a number of outbreaks of Japanese knotweed along the verges. Some had been treated but there was a lot of new growth. It’s getting to be quite a problem across the country.

In Uphall there was more evidence of the industrial heritage.

This was one of those journeys that should have been easy but wasn’t*.

So I stopped for a long rest and a very full lunch at The Oatridge Hotel before moving on. The food was home made and good value so I think it was a lucky find.

The rest of the route was on the road and with more energy, fairly pleasant to walk with distant views of hills – or are they mountains?

I found more huge fungi, these were decomposing in a rather disgusting manner but I assume they have some purpose in the ecosystem.

As I came into Linlithgow a man stopped for a chat. His wife had died of Pancreatic Cancer 8 years ago. Every story is individual and it was a good reminder of how much we need faster diagnosis of this disease.

Tonight I’m staying at an AirBnB. The owner is away so I’m on my own.

Once again in a cosy bed and I can see out over the loch and the castle.

Despite the tourist delights I’m not sightseeing as it’s more important to rest and recover.

It’s back to camping tomorrow as I head for Falkirk, the Wheel and the Kelpies. I do want to make space to see them.

*My legs were hurting a lot and lacked energy. Two reasons: Firstly, after a huge breakfast at the hotel yesterday morning I was not hungry so ate very little for the rest of the day. Underfuelled. Secondly, the Plantar Fascia inserts in my shoes are worn out so no longer providing support. This has a knock on effect on Achilles, calves, knees, quads that other PF sufferers may recognise. I have a spare set of gel insoles with me so will use those to rescue my feet before walking tomorrow.