Day 07 - Rowardennan to Inveranan

Date: 9/13/2016

Location: From: Rowardennan To: Inveranan

Mileage: 14 Mi.

Weather: Rainy and overcast

Temperature: 61°F

Lodging: Beinglas Farm

GPS Location: 56°19’50” N and 4°43’ 0” W

Highlights: Walking the trail from Rowardennan to inversnaid with all the waterfalls and the views of Loch Lomond.

Summary of the Day: 

I got up this morning at 6:00 and got everything ready to go and then met Hawk and Little Pony for breakfast. It was pouring rain and had been since before six. Everybody had rain gear on and took off. The walk was a nice and level for about an hour and a half, but it was pouring rain. Then it started to slack off. At last I was able to come out of the jacket and rain pants. The views toward the Loch were very foggy and not much could be seen, but the water falls coming off the mountain were raging and plentiful. We finally got to Inveranan around noon. I went to the hotel there and Hawk and Little Pony came in about 20 minutes later. We all decided to have lunch before heading back out for another 7 miles. I decided to try the soup of the day, which was cream of lentil soup, but I never saw a lentil in the bowl. In fact this soup was a puree, which looked like split pea soup, but tasted nothing like that either.

After lunch Little Pony decided to take the Ferry boat across the Loch to a hotel that provided bus service to where we were staying tonight. Hawk and I took off on the trail to finish the last seven miles that we had to do to get to Inveranan and Little Pony was going to meet us there. This next section of trail was about the roughest that we had seen since leaving Glasgow. There were about three miles of rock scrambling both up and down. At one point, Hawk took a fall on his knee, the one he recently had new knee replacement on, and I got worried that it was damaged. He told me that it was ok, but later he told me that it was hurting pretty badly. Finally the trail started to level out some and the rock scrambles were gone. We were walking in valleys with mountains on both sides and we had pulled away from the Loch. It wasn’t too long before we could see down in the valley where we were going for the night. After a four-hour walk for just seven miles we arrived at the Beinglas Farm where we had reservations for the night. We looked around to see if Little Pony was here yet, but she was no where to be found. It turned out that it was a longer bus ride than everybody thought. The roads were very narrow and it was just a slow go. She finally came in about a hour after we did.

We cleaned up and went to dinner in the restaurant here. The food was really pretty good.  After dinner they were so tired that they just went to their room and went to bed, which is what I'm about to do as well. Today was a pretty uneventful day as are most rainy days, because all you can do is just put your head down and walk. Tomorrow should be better as of right now it's not supposed to rain, but that's subject to change as well. I will write more tomorrow.

Day 06 - Balmaha to Rowardennan

Date: 9/12/2016

Location: From: Balmaha To: Rowardennan

Mileage: 7 Mi.

Weather: Cool, Cloudy, and looking like rain

Temperature: 68°F

Lodging: The Rowardennan Hotel

GPS Location: 56°8’58” N and 4°38’ 29” W

Highlights: Walk along Loch Lomond

Summary of the Day: 

I woke up at 6:00 this morning after a great night's sleep. I think everything is starting to fall into place on this walk. I got everything repacked and then was able to sit and study my Spanish course for about an hour before going to meet up with Hawk and Little Pony for breakfast. The breakfast was really good. It was a hot continental breakfast with lots of different things including haggis, which I declined. I had some last night at dinner so I could at least say that I sampled it. While it wasn't bad or distasteful, I just don't particularly care to eat it again. After we finished eating, we got our luggage ready for pickup by the transport people. We finally hit the trail little after 9:00.

Today's section was really nice as it walked along the Loch and I got to see ducks on the water and views across the loch. A lot of this section goes along a re-established woodlands and it drops into little coves that have tiny beaches. From time to time, it will go back out to the little roads and you walk along them. The only problem that I am still having on the roads is that I am always on the wrong side and the cars keep sneaking up behind me. I'll probably get it right by the time I leave for the States. After a couple of miles the trail, I made a turn that seemed like it was straight up for a while. I didn't see that one coming. I guess that I missed it in the book. There was a nice reward in it though. When I got to the top, there was a great view out across the loch and I could see the sailing boats again and the mountains off in the distance. The clouds were hanging pretty low and I knew that the rains were coming; I only hoped that we could get to the hotel before it started.

There are a fair amount of WHW hikers that are actually camping along the side of the trail. The places to set up camps aren't many because the foliage is right up to the edge of the trail and the bogs are deep and most have standing water in them. I would not want to camp this trail; the Inns are the way to go. The birds are really prolific here. The robins are smaller than ours and they are a lot friendlier. I took a picture of one and every time I snapped a picture and he heard the shutter click, he came closer to me. Before I was finished he was at my hand. It was great to be able to get that close.

It wasn't long before the trail turned and I descended down to a road and there was a sign that said "Welcome to Rowardennan" and directions to the Rowardennan Hotel. As it later turned out, the hotel is the village. It was 12:30 and we couldn't check in until 2:00, so we told the lady that we would just go the the bar and eat lunch and come back later. Before we left to go to the bar, she confirmed our rooms and that our luggage was there and in the rooms. When she confirmed my room, she said, "Oh you have a really nice room." I didn't know what to think about that comment, but would find out at 2:00.

The bar was really nice, it was set up just like you'd think a Scottish pub would be. I got a beer and looked over the menu and finally decided on a Scottish soup because it sounded interesting. It turned out that was a creamy soup of barley, carrots and celery and different herbs. They called it a Scottish broth. It was really good and hot on a cool, dreary day. After we sat around for a couple of hours talking to the staff in the bar (and only understanding maybe three-fourths of what the were saying), we wandered back to complete our registration. I was curious about the room comment and when I got there I was really shocked. I walked up a circular staircase to the top floor and found my room. When I opened the door I saw it was a suite with two beds a nice chair and a sofa. It had two windows that looked out to over the loch. It was perfect. If only all the rooms could be this nice!

We all agreed that we would meet at 6:30 for dinner. Later on I went back down and had a glass of wine in the pub and talked to the bartender, who was the manager. He was a hoot! I could understand him pretty well. He was ex-British Navy. We talked and he started kidding me about my Southern Drawl, and poked at me by saying “y’all.” I really liked this guy. He was interesting and knew a lot about the U.S. and especially our politics. Finally Hawk and Little Pony came down for dinner. I saw a Steak and Ale dish on the menu and decided to try it. It was like a roast beef with mashed potatoes with a lot of different vegetables. When I finished that, I was stuffed. We all drifted off to our rooms and agreed to meet at 7:30 the next morning. When I got back to my room I turned TV on and watched a some of a movie before dozing off to sleep. All in all it was a great day of walking. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Day 05 - Drymen to Balmaha

Date: 9/11/2016

Location: From: Drymen To: Balmaha

Mileage: 8 mi.

Weather: Partly cloudy with moderate winds

Temperature: 64°F

Lodging: The Oak Tree Inn

GPS Location: 56°5’3” N and 4°32’ 22” W

Highlights: Leaving Drymen and the Drymen Inn, walking through the moors and climbing Conic Hill with views of Loch Lomond

Summary of the Day:

I got up at 6:30 this morning and got ready to leave even though there was no hurry as we couldn't eat breakfast until 8:00 and it didn't matter anyway as today was a short day with only 8 miles to go. We could leave at nine and still arrive at our destination by noon. We finally walked out about 9:00. It was a easy walk out and not too long before we got to the Garadhban Forest, which the Forest Service was in the process of reseeding and restoring. There were still a lot of large trees remaining after a conifer clearing in the recent past. We quickly passed through the forest, but behind us there were a lot of people coming up fast. It wasn’t too long before the trail opened up into the moorland where you could see across to the valleys and the pasture lands where there were both cattle and sheep below.

We walked along and started dipping down into a small wooded section of trail before starting our ascent up Conic Hill. The trail stared to climb steadily toward the summit, but was only going to skirt just below the summit. This was a pretty good climb but the views were spectacular. You could see Loch Lomond below. At one point just beyond the high point you could see the resort area and all the sail boats. There was a sail boat race between about 10 boats. At this point the clouds were blowing away and the winds were really picking up. From our vantage point, we started to descend down to a stand of old growth trees. The trail maintainers did a great job on this section of trail as it went pretty much straight down and they had installed a lot of wooden steps in the side of the hill to help give you footing. It was along that when we reached the parking lot and the road which we crossed to get to the Oak Tree Inn, where we are staying tonight. It was a few minutes after noon.

We all thought that this was great as we could get cleaned up, rest a little and then I could walk down to the shops and stores and look around. It didn't take long to realize that just wasn't going to happen. First of all the lady tells us that we can't check in until 3:00. We decide to get a cup of coffee and maybe a little to eat, and then I thought I would walk to the shops down the road in this resort community. The next shocker is that there aren't any little shops in this resort community and that the only places to shop is right next door, which is an ice cream parlor and a general store which only sells things like fishing tackle and snack foods as well as beer and wine. Oh joy now it's just sit and wait to get into the room. Finally at 2:45 we ask about checking in now and the lady looked at the clock and said that it wasn't 3:00 yet. We stood around there talking to her and finally she gave me my room key but not Hawk and Little Pony. They walked up to my room with me.

My room is really nice, it's in the tower of this little cabin. It’s big enough for me, but the only problem that I have is that it has a low ceiling and I've hit my head about three times. I have a nice view out my back window to the loch. About 6:30 I met up with Hawk and Little Pony for dinner in the restaurant. The place is packed as it is the only place within miles. The food was great. I had a big cheese hamburger with French fries, which they call “chips.” I also tried a little bite or two of haggis, a traditional Scottish pudding made from sheep's "pluck" (offal) (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. It wasn’t anything to write home about (even though I am) but it wasn't too bad. I wouldn't order a full serving of it. 

After we ate we sat and talked over plans for tomorrow's walk. It looks like it might rain some. We have been pretty lucky as its only rained lightly during the day and mostly at night. I hope that it continues this way. So far this trip hasn't been anything like what I was expecting. I hope that along the way we hit some little towns, but we’ll see. As for now that's about all the news from Scotland. I will write again tomorrow. The journey continues.

Day 04 - Milngavie to Drymen

Date: 9/10/2016

Location: From: Milngavie To: Drymen

Mileage: 12 Mi.

Weather: Beautiful with blue skies

Temperature: 63 F°

Lodging: Drymen Inn

GPS Location: 56°3’58” N and 4°27’ 6” W

Highlights: Beautiful walk on a well-maintained trail, views of all the mountains and valleys in the distance, and the tour of a whiskey distillery

Summary of the Day:

I got up at 6:00 a.m. this  morning and got everything packed to go. I met Hawk and Little Pony and we went to breakfast at the Beefeater restaurant next door to the hotel. It was a good breakfast, complete with fresh fruit, eggs and veggie sausage. The coffee was really good. After we had sufficiently eaten a little of everything that they had on the breakfast menu, we figured it was time to hit the trail. We left all the bags that the transport service was going take to Drymen for us tonight and grabbed out packs and headed out to the marker that indicated the official beginning of the West Highland Way. There were about 15 people standing there waiting to have their picture taken before leaving.

The trail started out pretty much level and well maintained, which was a lot different from the approach trail out of Glasgow. We made great time along the way. In the distance we could see mountains.  It wasn't long before we came to the Craigallian  Fire Memorial site. This is a memorial that became famous in the 1920s and 30s as a meeting place for a range of people. This included travelers, climbers, and walkers as well as the unemployed that were escaping the Great Depression in Glasgow. They would sit around the fire and drink tea and tell stories and just discuss the fate of the world.

It wasn't too long after leaving the memorial that we came upon the Glengoyne Distillery. It was only a few hundred yards off the trail so we decided to head over and see what it was all about. As it turned out they offered tours of the distillery every hour on the hour and it was five minutes until one started, so we took it. It was really interesting. It started with a film that  showed how whiskey was made from beginning to end. After the film they took us through the plant and showed us every step from how the barley is prepared by first soaking it and then using steam to get it ready to mix with the water for making whiskey. Next was how it was put in the large vats and aged it. Some of their whiskey is 6 years old and yet some of the finer  whiskey is as much as 44 years old. After that process is over they bottled it.. They explained the reason as to why some whiskey is clear and some is a darker yellowish color. It is all because of the vats that it is aged in. The older the vat the darker the whiskey. They only use a vat three times before discarding the vat. The tour was about an hour and a half long and after it was over and they offer to let you taste more or buy a bottle.

We headed on to Dryden, which only took about another two hours. There was a fair amount of road walking into the small town, but after getting here we quickly found the Inn that we were staying in. It is a quaint little inn and there isn't much in this little village but restaurants and lodgings, but it’s all you needed for a trip like this. I did find while walking around after I got cleaned up, a wedding that was starting, and there was a young girl playing bagpipes. I asked her if I could take her picture, and she said yes. Later I met up with Hawk and Little Pony for dinner. The meal was one of the best yet. I had a large slice of roast beef on mashed potatoes with gravy and mixed vegetables.

All in all, today has been a great day, but I'm still tired. Tomorrow is a shorter day so we will walk a little shorter and from what I've read, this is a tourist town so I'll have more to see. The walk has been really nice so far, good weather, nice trail and great views and best of all great company and friends. The journey continues and I will write more tomorrow.

Day 03 - Glasgow to Milngavie

Date: 9/9/2016

Location: From: Glasgow To: Milngavie

Mileage: 10 Miles

Weather: Overcast with light rain and drizzle

Lodging: Premier Inn

GPS Location: 55° 56’6” N and 4°18’ 56” W

Highlights: Walk through the parks and along the various rivers leaving Glasgow

Summary of the Day: 

Got up this morning at 6:15 and started packing. I had to pack two different bags. One was the bag that the baggage transport company carries ahead to the next place that I am staying, and the other is my pack that I am going to carry myself. After that was done I met Hawk and Little Pony for breakfast in the hotel where we stayed. After having a full breakfast of eggs, toast, veggie sausage (which looked like shredded carrots and ground potatoes), coffee, juice and fruit, we headed out to catch the subway to get to the beginning of the trail out of town. The subway here, like the train system in Spain, amazes me by how efficient they are. They are on time and clean and quiet. That is something that we could learn from them.

Anyway, after a 10-minute walk to the subway and about a 15-minute ride, we were in the park and on a trail heading toward Milngavie to pick up the West Highland Way. It was a beautiful walk along a river. I saw mallard ducks on the water as well as a heron fly by and land on the water up a ways. The people here are really walkers, and boy, do they love dogs. We passed so many dogs with their owners, and just about every dog was carrying a ball in it's mouth. After a while we left the park trails and and picked up, I believe county trails, and they weren't as well maintained. They were overgrown in a lot of places and had stinging nettles and blackberry bushes, which I seemed to accidentally bump every one.

It then started to rain a slow, drizzly rain and the trail in places turned to mud and puddles of muddy water. This reminded me of the Appalachian Trail. It was so slick in many spots, and you had to watch your step to make sure you didn't slip down. It wasn't too long until the rain ended and we ditched the rain gear. About 12:30 we came upon a restaurant, The Tickled Trout. It was a quant little pub that served food as well as beer, wine and alcohol. The prices were good and so was the food and beer. We all had a bite to eat and then packed back up and headed out, only to be greeted with the rain again, but it wasn’t too hard and we didn't have but about a mile or so to go.

We started coming to roads that had to be crossed, which normally isn't  too much of a problem, but here in Scotland what’s right is now left. The cars are driving on the other side of the roads. Well, when we go to cross the road we’re used to looking the opposite direction first and you can easily step right into the path of an oncoming car, and they aren't going slow either. Finally, we saw the hotel that we were going stay in, but we had to walk up to the next street and double back, then Little Pony saw an opening in a hedge row that went into the back of the hotel parking lot so we cut through and got to the office to check in.

After we got into our rooms and hand washed our clothes, Hawk and I took a walk up to the town center to get our West Highland Way passports. These are similar to the Camino de Santiago passports. The rain had stopped again until we got to the town center, so when we started back it started to rain again even harder than it had earlier in the day. When we got back I now had two pairs of pants that were wet.

The meals are incredible here. My first night in Glasgow I had fresh sea bass, which not being that fond of fish, I thought was great. Tonight I had a nice steak and a salad with a glass of wine, and then a sundae for desert. It seemed like every time we looked up they were bringing one of us more food. My meal cost £18.00 and that also included a full hot breakfast in the morning. So far this has been a great hike and it will only get better as we get farther North. It's now 10:00 p.m. and time to prepare for tomorrow. This adventure to be continued…

Day 02 - Glasgow - Zero Day

Date: 9/8/2016

Location: Glasgow, Scotland

Mileage: o.o

Temperature:  63°F/20°C

Lodging and Cost: Abode Hotel, lodging prepaid in the package £.

Highlights: Taking a Zero Day and touring Glasgow. Going to the Kelvinggrove Gallery and Museum.

Summary of the Day: 

I got up this morning at 6:30 to a rainy drizzly, 59° day. Got cleaned up and went to the restaurant for a cup of coffee, while I waited on Hawk and Little Pony to stir. Around 8:30, they got ready and we we went back to the restaurant and ate before heading out for the museum and art gallery.

After searching for about 20 minutes for the location of the subway, we finally found it and were on our way. The subway here is completely underground and is a high-speed train that rocks back and forth in a tunnel that isn't much bigger than the train itself. Even after we got to our stop, we had another 15 to 20-minute walk in the rain to get there. This is a huge place with all types of displays of not only famous artists dating back several hundred years, but also exhibits of Scotland’s wildlife from prehistoric to present. They had displays of various types of weapons dating back to the 1500s, from swords to different types of rifles. We spent about five hours covering the entire museum, and the amazing thing is that this is open to the public for only a donation admission charge.

Afterwards, we headed back to the center of town to find a place for dinner and then back to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow’s start of the West Highland Way. Hopefully it will be a good, dry day to walk. It's always nice to start a hike on a pretty day. So for now it’s a good night’s rest and tomorrow the journey on begins anew. 

Day 01 - Atlanta, GA to Glasgow, Scotland

Date: 9/7/2016

Location: From: Atlanta, Ga. To: Glasgow, Scotland

Mileage: 4,000 miles

Weather: Fog with drizzle

Temperature: 66 °F

Lodging: Abode Hotel

Highlights: View of Amsterdam from the plane at night, city of Glasgow with all the show and street musicians.

Summary of the Day: 

Let the journey begin! It all started in the Atlanta airport waiting to depart. Delta was right on time and after 8.5 hours we landed in Amsterdam. It was great to look down at the dark city below with all the lights turned on. It is a beautiful city. Amsterdam has a great airport that is well laid out. I only went the wrong way once and ended up having to go through passport control twice, but other than that I made it quickly to my connecting flight. After a two-hour layover, I was in the air again heading toward Glasgow.

After I passed through the border control checkpoint, I found Hawk and Little Pony waiting for me at baggage claim. With all our gear in hand we were in a cab and off to the Hotel. The Hotel Abode is located in the central part of town where all the shops and restaurants are, and the streets were filled with people, both tourist as well as locals. Even though none of us had much sleep the night before, we checked in and headed out to see the sights and figure out where to eat dinner tonight.

We finally went back to our rooms to get a little rest before going back out for dinner later. Around 6:00, we went to a little restaurant called Di Maggios. The had a varied menu, everything from steak to fish. Not being a person that eats fish (usually that is something that I never choose), I thought a new adventure, why not try a new dish. So I ordered the fresh sea bass with roasted potatoes. This was a great choice as it was really good. After we finished we sat for a while and talked about our plans for tomorrow because we are staying one more night to fully rest up before getting on the West Highland Way. It’s probably a good thing... tomorrow they have called for heavy rains. It's bad enough to hike in the rain, but to start in the rain is awful. Tomorrow is going to be museums and cathedrals and more shopping.

Well that's about it for today and it's now time to catch up on some of that lost sleep from yesterday. Until tomorrow.

A New Adventure + Gear List

Well it's back to Europe for another adventure. This time it's going to be in Scotland on the West Highland Way. I will be walking from Glasgow to Fort Williams and then continuing on the Great Glen Way up to Inverness. I plan to post highlights of my journey daily if wifi is available. I look forward to sharing my sights and adventures with my family and friends. I hope that you enjoy the blog and pictures. Now let the journey begin.

Gear list for the West Highland Way:

Pack – Gregory Z40, (40 liter)

Rain Gear – Marmot Precept (jacket and pants)

Trail shoes – Keen Targee 2 hiking trail shoes

1 – Minus 33 smart wool long underwear, mid weight

1 - LL Bean light weight ¼ zip fleece shirt

2 – Mtn. Hardwear short sleeve T-shirts

2 – Under Armor short sleeve T-shirts

2 – REI long sleeve T-shirts

1 – Long sleeve button-up shirt

3 – Pair REI zip off pants

1 – Mtn. Hard wear sock hat

1 – Pair Capaline glove liners

3 – Wrightsocks Merino wool socks

1 – Ball cap

1 – Equater wide brem hat

2 – Bandanas

1 – Pair of Crocs 

1 – Pair Leki walking sticks

Cell phone and charger

iPad and charger

Head lamp

Toiletries:

Tooth brush and paste

Razor

Anti-acids and neosporin

Books:

West Highland Way Guide and Map

Great Glen Way and Map

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