Walk Day 55 – Kilsyth to Drymen

Day 55 – June 3 Kilsyth to Drymen
 Weather: Sunny and Hot  B&B: The Clachan Inn (£28)
 Departed: 8:30 Arrived: 16:00  Walked: 6h 33m Rested: 0 hr 50m
 Distance Today: 20.7 mi / 33.31 km  Total Distance: 873.9 mi / 1406.40 km
 % Complete: ~ 75.93%  Pint of the Day: Belhaven Best
 GPS Track for: Day 55

The Coachman Hotel in Kilsyth was my most expensive accommodation to date but I feel I got my money’s worth. It’s the sort of place you might stay at if you were traveling on business, one step up from a Travelodge. I chose it because it was all I could find online so I’m glad it was worth a bit of a splurge (and after yesterday’s 29 miles I was pretty happy to find a decent restaurant at the bottom of the stairs).

I was away from the Coachman Hotel at 8:30am under bright and sunny skies. Today’s walk was going to be 22 to 23 miles but I found a short cut that would shave a couple miles off this total. Instead of walking back to the canal and following it as it makes a big lazy turn towards Milton of Campsie I decided to follow the A803 (which the hotel was on) instead. Fortunately there was a sidewalk between Kilsyth and Queenzieburn and a raised shoulder all the way to the point where I cut over to the A891 via a country lane. The A891 was much quieter and although it didn’t have a shoulder over the entire distance it wasn’t a problem. Once on this road I had good views of Glasgow on the western horizon.

From Milton of Campsie I followed the Strathblane Railway Walkway almost the entire way to Drymen. The old railway was shut down in 1951 and the stretch from here to Strathblane is well maintained and paved in many places (I’m not a fan of paved paths but the cyclists likely are). The first section to Lennoxtown was almost completely in the trees while the subsequent 5 mile stretch to Strathblane had very little shade. The temperatures were heating up and this combined with the effects of yesterday’s march had me dragging my ass into Strathblane just before 1pm. I had a brief rest and a sandwich outside a convenience store while propping myself up against a large steel bin. Benches are in very short supply in Scotland, even most bus shelters don’t have them, and so you have to make due with whatever is at hand.

After Strathblane the old railway bed is no longer an “official” walking route however there is a well-defined footpath running through the bush. A large pipeline, used to carry water from Loch Lomand to Glasgow, is a prominent feature along this section. It’s been covered with earth and grass but there’s no missing it, in fact in a couple of places you actually walk on top of it. Before long I emerged from the bush and joined the West Highland Way which was to follow this old railway track for several more miles.

Almost immediately I began to see long-distance walkers, a species that has been thin on the ground for the past few days. Businesses were also quick to take advantage of the foot traffic. The Glengoyne Distillery sign on the side of the trail is a good example but I’m afraid I didn’t stop for a wee dram as was suggested.

The disused railway track kept on rolling and whenever I stopped for a wee break (that’s wee as in short not wee as in wee) I felt like a locomotive pulling out of the station. The first few steps took forever and it was at least a minute before I built up enough steam to get into any sort of rhythm.

For the last few miles into Drymen I was joined by four Scots who were on day 1 of the WHW. One of the party had done their dissertation on Scottish immigration to Canada in the 19th century and so we had lots to talk about. The chat helped pass the time and before long we had left the railway track and began following a local road up and down as it made its way towards Drymen. They stopped just outside town to check out a campsite while I continued on.

Drymen’s village green was covered with a wide assortment of walkers, some stretched out on the grass, others nursing aching knees and feet, while quite a few others nursed cans of lager. I checked into the Clachan Inn, reportedly the oldest pub in Scotland.

Tomorrow’s walk to Rowardennan is approximately 15 miles and part of it will follow the southern shores of Loch Lomand. According to my guide book some of the rocky bits can be tricky so it sounds like it will be a shorter but not necessarily easier day.

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