|Day 54 – June 2||Uphall to Kilsyth|
|Weather: Sun, Cloud, Wind||B&B: Coachman Hotel (£55)|
|Departed: 7:35 Arrived: 17:40||Walked: 8h 42m Rested: 1 hr 0m|
|Distance Today: 29.0 mi / 46.67 km||Total Distance: 853.2 mi / 1373.09 km|
|% Complete: ~ 73.93%||Pint of the Day: John Smith’s|
|GPS Track for: Day 54|
One good thing about the Oatridge Hotel is that they serve breakfast from 7am. One bad thing about the Oatridge Hotel is that some moron turned the water off to the top floor sometime during the night. Running water was eventually restored and I was under way by 7:35am, my earliest start to date.
Today’s first objective was to get myself to Linlithgow and my early start meant I would be doing so at the height of rush hour. The roads were stuffed with commuters heading to Edinburgh and so the walking got tricky once the sidewalks disappeared a mile out of Uphall. The situation improved when I headed west on a local road but before I made the turn I enjoyed a great view of the Forth Bridge silhouetted on the horizon.
The local road was surprisingly busy considering there were very few homes in the area. About half way to Linlithgow I passed a large farm named Riccarton. I recognized this from my family history research and it turns out to be the residence of one of my ancestors in the mid to late 19th century. I can’t be sure if they lived in the farmhouse or possibly a cottage that no longer exists. I spoke to the farmer as I walked by and he said it has been in his family since 1926 when it was purchased from the Bailey family. I took a few photos just in case.
I arrived in Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, around 9:30am and immediately began walking west along the Union Canal. The town looks like it would be worth a visit and in retrospect I should have pushed on yesterday afternoon and stayed here instead of Uphall (future LEJOGers take note).
The towpath along the Union Canal is dead flat and makes for easy walking. There was very little boat traffic about, in fact I only saw a single boat, a Waterways Trust Cruise boat with a handful of passengers. I saw a lot of this boat because it also travels at about 3.5 mph.
The first landmark on the canal was the Avon Aqueduct which I crossed on foot. Not as long as some aqueducts I’ve seen but impressive nonetheless. A few miles on I entered Polmont, a sprawling town with a large amount of industry on its doorstep. I left the towpath to pick up some snacks at an old fashioned general grocers a short distance from the towpath. It was a warm day and I needed something to drink in addition to water. There wasn’t much to see in Polmont although Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institution did leave an impression. From the looks of this prison these laddies aren’t in there for shop-lifting. A 20-foot concrete wall, razor wire and dozens of cctv cameras are testament to that.
The next landmark was the 620-meter Falkirk Tunnel. They say the lord works in mysterious ways and because I missed my shower this morning I was entitled to one this afternoon. Walking through a dark tunnel that doubles as a power shower is an interesting experience and one that I quite enjoyed. Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness I was just about able to make out the big puddles and big drips. The Falkirk Tunnel was good fun.
The third landmark of the day was the famous Falkirk Wheel which I shared with a small circle of friends, numbering in the hundreds. It really is an amazing piece of engineering and if I wasn’t so frickin’ tired I’d tell you more about it. Instead you’ll have to google it and/or check out my photos. I did have a rest here and I got to see the wheel go round. Now having seen this wonderful piece of kit I wonder how many Scotsman question the cost of building it based on what appears to be a complete lack of boats on either the Union or Forth & Clyde canals. The saving grace I’m sure are the tourist boats that visitors can pay to board and ride the wheel round and around.
I had already clocked 18 miles and I was nowhere near Kilsyth, but I was at least on the Forth & Clyde canal. The F&C is a much wider canal and had there been any boats I’m sure they could have sailed three abreast.
The last 8 miles looked pretty daunting and my energy levels were sinking … this was a job for Irn-Bru! I’d never tried an Irn-Bru before but I had passed hundreds of discarded bottles since entering Scotland and figured it must have some special medicinal powers. Alas, it turns out to be nothing more than rusty colored cream soda and although tasty its not something I plan to add to my daily routine. Fortunately my iPod provided some inspiration and in the next hour I covered nearly 4 miles. Eventually the effects of the music wore off and I settled into a Zombie-like shuffle for the remaining miles to Kilsyth. Unfortunately my digs for the night were on an A-road located ¾ of a mile from the canal and so when I finally reached the reception desk my GPS read a record 29.0 miles. A record, I hasten to add, that I have no intention of breaking ever again. I stopped walking 4 hours ago and my feet are still throbbing.
Tomorrow I head to Drymen (rhymes with ‘women’) and have already found a short-cut that should bring the daily mileage in under 20. I’ll also pick up the West Highland Way just outside Strathblane, the trail I will follow all the way to Fort William.