5 hiking highlights – Scotland’s West Highland Way: Stage 1

Stage 1 of Scotland’s most famous long-distance hiking route. Milngavie to Drymen.

  1. The feeling of Getting Started (& getting finished!).

    Walking into Milngavie to start the walk, take the photo opportunity at the obelisk with the West Highland Way thistle logo carved into it – this marks the offical start of the walk. Pass under the big steel gateway and after so much anticipation, the great adventure is underway!

    Getting finished is of course another great point in the day – the comforting satisfaction of achieving what you set out to do that day is one that needs no further explanation.

     

  2. Carbeth Huts at Craigallan Loch.

    The history of the Carbeth Huts and the people who owned them (the Hutters) is complex, deserving of it’s own Carbeth Hutters History post.

    When I walked by, the weather was sunny & dry, the smell of sawdust was in the air as one “hutter” built his own balcony and the view down the lush green valley to the peaceful Craigallan Loch with it’s quiet fishermen was enviable. Around 10 miles from Scotland’s biggest city and these cabins, each a different design, could have been in the peaceful wilds of New Zealand or Canada.

    Despite the walk taking a route near water, luckily for us there was not a midge in sight!

  3. Meeting Predators (and two Cocker Spaniels) at the Ranger Station.

    This was a surprise discovery – we met a true wolf (imported from Russia), a beautiful  sleepy ocelot, two typically mad Cocker Spaniels, some lovely people who advised us that they are volunteer West Highland Way rangers and a Harris Hawk who had just finished killing and eating a buzzard. The rangers offered us free tea / coffee / fizzy drinks and snacks (crisps and chocolate bars) and gave us some information about the next stage of the route.

  4. Drumgoyne & Glengoyne Distillery.Drumgoyne is an impressive hill. It’s not too high, it’s not too wild, but it’s steep and distinctive and a great marker for helping you to find Glengoyne Distillery below. For a long section of Stage 1, along a disused railway line, you pass by these two Scottish emblems and can’t help but think that they summarise Scotland in miniature.

5. Honesty Box Ice Cream (With naturally free toppings).

Honesty boxes, or in this case, an honesty fridge and freezer are great things. Essentially the owner just leaves their wares by the side of the road with a little box and a price list. You take, pay, go & delight in the goodness of humanity.

Summary

This first section of the West Highland Way is a great walk. It’s not challenging in   terms of terrain – the path is well-worn, easily spotted although you still need a map of some sort, not necessarily a full OS map, and there were quite a few other walkers on the route. It’s 12 miles long and took us a leisurely 4 or 5 hours, it joins other paths and there is a mixture of settings to keep it interesting – rivers, lochs, forest, field and road.

You could bike it. You could take the dog on a lead (there’s livestock and wildlife that shouldn’t be disturbed). You could take Mum & Dad. You could possibly take Gran and Grandpa.

The existence of Honesty Boxes proves it – Life is sweet!

If you’re looking for a packing list for walking in Scotland, check this out.

Enjoy your saunter! (my what??)

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