So, here it was, the last leg of my hike on the West Highland Way. The prospect was great: Good weather and no physical challenges along the way. This part was going to be the easiest by far. I was looking forward to it. However, I had made up my expectations without taking my weary feet into account.
Through the Shire and over Trolls Bridge
To get back to the West Highland Way I had to go back eastwards along Stirling Road before after about 1km I would get back onto the West Highland Way, southwards over a pasture. So, for a while, I pretty much had to focus on avoiding cowpats instead of enjoying the landscape. Pretty soon, however, the West Highland Way joined the Gartness Road, so, for a while, I got to walk along a nicely paved road. The road was going down more often than up, so walking was fun and easy. It was wonderfully quiet and peaceful. I met a group of German walkers, whom I recognized by their accent when they asked me (in English) for the shortest way to Drymen. I can still see the surprise on their faces when I answered them in German.
A short while later, I met a single walker who had seen the camera and my tripod. Carrying my gear attached to my backpack had become second nature in the past couple of days. In fact, it took me a second to realize what he meant when he said to me, „You must be a professional photographer.“ „Well, I pretend to be one from time to time,“ I said. „Certainly much more than that,“ he said with a friendly smile. I liked this chap.
Here on Gartness Road, the West Highland Way had lost all of its wild and untamed flairs. Everything was clean and nicely trimmed. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when after about 3 km a sign told me where I was.
I half expected to meet a hobbit around the next corner. However, a few hundred meters later I concluded that it was probably better to not wish for an encounter with fabulous creatures.
At this point, the painkillers began to wear off – much too early. I had taken them in the morning, knowing that I wouldn’t get far with the heel spur in both feet. Even though I hadn’t yet completed a quarter of the way, and the pain began to become nasty again. I used both walking sticks to relieve my feet of at least a bit of the weight they had to carry, even though the terrain was easy. This helped for a while. Ironically, I was thankful for each short ascent because then I would walk more on my balls of the feet than on the heels.
As I said, the landscape was beautiful and clean, but also a bit boring which is why I didn’t take any noteworthy pictures for a few kilometers. After about 9km I reached The Beech Tree, a restaurant suitable situated next to the West Highland Way. Here, I took a break and threw in the next round of painkillers. It was a beautiful place to sit and wait for the effect of the pills to kick in. I studied the map and enjoyed a beautiful view of Dumgoyne, one the last noteworthy hills on my way.
At about 1 PM I got back on track for the remaining 13km of the West Highland Way. The pain was not completely gone but for held in check by the painkillers. I passed Glengoyne Distillery which wasn’t attractive for me as I don’t drink alcohol. But Dumgoyne was an impressive landmark, so I made a few photos.
In the distance, I could also see Dunreath Castle which looked beautiful and quite painterly with the sheep in the fore- and the trees in the background.
Lonely trees, shapely hills, and a beautiful loch
After about 12km the West Highland Way circumvented the small mound of Dumgoyach, an area that once again offered some picturesque photography subjects, mainly lonely trees, and shapely hills.
Here, the old photographer’s wisdom to always take a look back proved to be true again because one last time you could see the West Highland Way trail off towards the distant highlands. Soon enough, the West Highland Way passed the small but picturesque Craigallian Loch. The Loch, the lake and the impressive mansion amidst the trees was a good subject for a photograph.
Back to civilization
At this point, you could feel and hear more than I could see that I was approaching a more densely populated area. There were many sounds in the distance, behind hedges, walls or trees, that indicated that I wasn’t far away from civilization anymore.
After a while, I entered the Mugdock Country Park. Magnificent trees lined the way and more than once I stopped to photograph a few of them. I knew these pictures weren’t spectacular or extraordinary, but I took them anyway solely for the process of shooting.
A small and white furball crossed my way, followed by a loud and clear call from the further away. „Nico!!!!!“ Nico, the dog, didn’t listen kept on sniffing the trees and the grass underneath. I went on and met his owner, a young woman who managed to say a friendly „Hello!“ in between her calls. Long after I lost sight of her, I could still hear her calling. Nico, it seems, is a rocker.
It was fascinating that even though I was so close to the city, its noise still appeared to be remote and muted. It wasn’t until after a few wrong turns I reached the West Highland Way Gate, which I suddenly found myself in the city center of Milngavie. I had made it.
The last steps
I found it very convenient that there was quite a sizable Marks & Spencer supermarket nearby, so I bought some of my favorite snacks (mostly fruit, but also a small bag of vinegar crisps). Then I stowed away my walking poles because the way to my accommodation wasn’t long – a bad mistake. Thanks to my heel spurs, every step was excruciating now. I quickly realized how much the poles had helped me. Given the pain I was feeling now, it is safe to say that I wouldn’t have made it without them.
I spent the rest of the night facetiming home, eating my snacks, and watching a documentary on BBC Scotland. Cameron McNeish walked the so-called Western Way in Scotland, documented by a camera team which filmed him walking up and down mountains, crossing the frame from left to right and right to left, and occasionally setting up a tent. Just the right stuff for a weary walker to fall asleep to.
On the next day, the way home was wonderfully uneventful. Everything worked out as planned. When I landed back in Germany, my family was waiting for me at the airport to take me home as quickly as possible. We didn’t have much time to talk because we had to begin packing for our family holiday in Majorca where I intended to spend two weeks by the pool, indulge in fond memories of Scotland and lick my wounds.
The travelogue itself might be over now, but there is one more thing. In the next (and final) part, I will go over the equipment I used on my way and report on how well worked and if I would use it again. Stay tuned.