Sunday, May 25, 2003

The West Highland Way - Day 1

Sunday 25th May
The weather is reasonable – not too bright and no rain or wind. We stand by the start of the West Highland Way – the 100 mile track from Milngavie to Fort William and for some reason we have decided to do it in two days. What’s worse is that we have told others that we will be doing it in two days as well. Alistair sets the timer on his camera, jumps into frame for the mandatory start of route shot and then we are off.

The start winds up through Mugdock Wood, and a sudden climb leaves me out of breath and feeling sick – Alistair is riding ahead and is getting further away – not encouraging signs for the start of a route that climbs nearly 2500m including the notorious Devils Staircase. It takes me 15 minutes before I get my breath back and Alistair is waiting for me when we get to the road.

Straight across and following the signs through Craigallion and past it’s Loch until we reach the B821 then a left and a right and past a surprised cow and through some deep mud up to a style. Over this and onto a fantastic track that had us grinning from ear to ear and didn’t last for nearly long enough. Then onto an old railway line which we followed to Dumgoyne. Here we took to the road until we reached the railway track at Gartness where it’s off road once again for a short ride to the old railway bridge. Climb up again onto the road and say “Hello” to the walkers who have just left the campsite the other side if the bridge. We look at the GPS and see that 14km have gone already – not too bad a start really and we have plenty of time.

Along the road to Drymen now and then off up a long slog to Garadhban Forest. This is a killer slog – put it in a granny ring and just don’t stop – eventually, before we reach the top we turn left into the forest itself – happy with this I relax and take a drink from the camelback – but to my dismay they have re-surfaced the track in the forest. Once easy (and some might say tame) forest track has been turned into rubble. Worse that that – rubble and mud. It’s a mess and no fun to ride – and it’s not until we start to leave the forest that this gets better, I guess they have been logging and had to move in heavy equipment. The downhill into Milton of Buchanan makes up for this however and brings a grin back to our faces. 32k down and we’re still smiling.

Road work now – and I have to say that it’s a bit dull – apart from the scenery. We didn’t bother going off into Ross Woods by the side of Loch Lomond as it looked pretty messy and we wanted to catch the ferry after having time for lunch. Our plan was to catch the ferry from Rowardennan across to Inverbeg. The ferry supposedly runs during the summer months and we had been told that it left at 2.00pm – so we had plenty of time as it was only 12 when we arrived. The ferry is operated by the local hotel – so we checked with them here to see if it was definitely running, and were shocked to find the ferry out of the water round the back of the hotel. It wasn’t running and the only other ferry to get across runs from Inversnaid – 6m up the Loch and it leaves at 2.45 and 5.00pm. This was not good news.

The reason that we wanted to cross at Rowardennan were two fold. One – the path after this point is not strictly open to cyclists, and two the path after this point is not strictly suitable for cyclists! In fact it’s awful – still we had no option, it was either this or go back to Glasgow. So we set off – and the track lived up to everything we were told. Much of the track is a push – you can ride some of it – but you’d only do this if you had to. Imagine our surprise when we come across a family of four adults, three kids and a baby – all riding complete with Halfords bikes and stabilisers for the kids and a great big baby seat for the nipper. These guys must have been off their heads – and they told us they were heading for the ferry, well – now we know what the path was like after that point – I hope one of the walkers turned them back as they would never have made it – and some of it would have been damn dangerous for the kids.

We made the ferry with six minutes to spare – it had taken nearly two hours to cover 6 miles. The ferryman asked us if we were crossing and brought the boat round for us. He didn’t even charge for the bikes – just £3 each to cross and it takes you across to just below the power station pipes north of Inveruglas. I would recommend crossing – all the walkers say that the path onwards gets worse after Inversnaid and it’s simply un-rideable all the time rather than just the majority of the time.

If you don’t like busy roads – you may want to catch the train now – because the A82 is pretty busy – and the cars fairly fly up it. It’s a slog up this road – there is a pub half way up at Inverarnan and after this I’m afraid it just gets worse. Spin up past the Falls of Falloch and then we eventually, after what seemed like hours and in reality was, arrive in Crianlarich. We turned left and headed for Tyndrum. Just before Tyndrum the trail heads off left – and this is worth doing – it’s a good trail and lovely scenery. About 6pm we arrived – tired, sore and hungry at the Invervey Hotel where our bags awaited us along with hot food and showers. 74km done so far.

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