Stage 1 – Milngavie to Drymen

Welcome to The Shire

I was not expecting to see snow at the end of April

Day 1 of the West Highland Way is all about warming up the muscles. It’s really just a stroll through the countryside, nothing strenuous about it. It gives you that feeling of ‘I can do this, it’s easy!’

The excitement had me up since 5am, but I tried to keep still until it was finally a decent time to leave the AirBnB. Looking around the tiny town, it was easy to spot the archway marking the beginning of the West Highland Way, so I raced through it. It was also the last marker I would see for a while.

Kick off! I look terrified

About 100 metres from where the walk begun – a little path that followed a children’s playground and backyards –  I ran into 4 other walkers (Belgian and Scottish), all with their maps and GPS’s out. I had just presumed I would follow walkers ahead of me, and never bothered to pack a proper map, so I was quite bewildered to see that none of us knew where we were going. Trying to help, I also pulled out my WHW book, and between the 5 of us we managed to discern we weren’t going to follow the path into someone’s garden, but the one that led into the forest. Great start. But it did get me talking to the Belgian group, and I had met the first familiar faces that I would see for the next 8 days.

It was a glorious sunny day. The walk creeped up into curved footpaths through a forest, until it eventually reached a clearing with rolling hills in the distance dotted with flurries of snow and sheep. Since it was an easy walk and not too far from Glasgow, there were a fair amount of people rambling through. The WHW walkers were easy to spot because of their backpacks, but there were plenty of locals enjoying their Friday, and a sweet countryside pub – Beech Tree –  after 7 miles which tempted me into having my first drink of the walk. For any future walkers, do stop here. It’s been done up for the WHW, they welcome walkers and it’s another opportunity to socialise.

The walk got a bit harder after lunch, although that might have had something to do with the big lunch and the beer, and the initial excitement having faded.  It did become more scenic, with some beautiful rivers and country houses on the way. While walking through the woods, an interesting sign came up directing me to The Shire. Through the Shire, and over Trollls Bridge I walked, but sadly I did not meet Frodo.

Still hopeful, I continued to pass through the hill paths, and 13Km later, reached the town of Drymen, a town that’s hidden in the countryside and on the foot of the highlands, and home to the most comfortable bed I’d ever slept on.

I finally managed to force my legs out for an evening stroll to the local pub – The Clachan – (‘how far away is it?’ ‘5 minutes walk’, ‘is there one any closer?’), and I’m glad I did. The town was scenic, full of character and tired walkers, joyfully talking about their first day triumph.

A cosy and local atmosphere

Before going to The Clachan, I went for a short walk up to a view point to overlook Loch Lommond – the loch that I would follow for the next few days – and sat there until the sun went down, before joining the rest of the walkers to celebrate the end of Day 1.

Happy and reflective watching the sunset