Day 84 – Kilsyth to Drymen

After yesterday’s trek along the towpath I had vowed not to walk any more canal until the Great Glen, so I opted for an alternative route via some very minor roads at the back of Allanfauld Farm. This did unfortunately mean I ended up trudging down a busy A-road, but at least I was away from the blasted canal!
I stopped in Milton in Campsie for a cup of tea and to pick up some lunch. Everyone I spoke to was very friendly and surprisingly adventurous – the co-op cashier was heading to Tunisia the following day and the baker’s wife was off in the Lake District preparing for a forthcoming trek in the Atlas Mountains! I left with a smile on my face.
Unfortunately for my poor sore feet, the next part of the route involved yet more tarmac, this time on the disused Strathkelvin railway which takes the route up to the West Highland Way. This was hard underfoot and fairly dull; it was livened only by trying not to be run over by cyclists until I met Maria, who was out walking her dogs. We walked most of the way to Strathblane together and had an interesting conversation about prisons and rehabilitation (she works as a prison officer).
After a much-needed break in the park in Strathblane it was back to the rail track. However, without a proper map, and with some unhelpful strip map directions (“turn left at the house”), somewhere between Strathblane and Dumgoyach I managed to lose the right route. I didn’t realise until I walked into the car park at Duntreath Castle, narrowly avoiding crashing a wedding reception full of posh hats and very smart kilts. Feeling incredibly scruffy and muddy, I high-tailed it up the drive to the A81 and managed to find the WHW round the corner.
The rest of the day was a long dull trek, on a mainly flat path through pastureland and then some more road walking into Drymen. I stopped for a quick pint at Dumgoyne, as a result of which I was able to quick march the following 3 miles before the buzz wore off and the feet started to hurt again. There was however a lovely moment on the way in to Drymen, when I looked at the distant Highland hills and thought ‘I’ve walked here, all the way from Cornwall, on my own two feet’ and got quite choked up.
I arrived at my B&B feeling like I had walked significantly more than the stated 19 miles, and opted for an early dinner. The pub was full of West Highland Way walkers and snatches of conversation (“we did the whole 7 miles today”, “you’re going all the way to Fort William, wow”) confirmed to me just how warped my distance-effort compass has got!

Highlights: no more canal (for a bit); the view of not-so-distant hills; looking forward to some straightforward walking on the WHW.

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