LETJOG – Day 43: Tuesday 29 June – KILSYTH to DRYMEN (22 miles)
Leaving early, before the heat got going, I picked up my path from yesterday along the Forth and Clyde Canal over the first five miles or so. For this part of the walk, and along a total of around 15 miles today, I followed the John Muir Way – part of a 130-mile coast-to-coast long distance route. I recognised this name as that of the ‘Father of the National Parks’, an early advocate of the value of ‘wilderness’ (as an asset rather than an adversity), from my studies at Exeter forty-plus years ago. I hadn’t previously realised that John Muir hailed from Scotland and that his influence in pushing for the preservation of Yosemite, for example, extended also to this side of the pond. More research needed here!
All of this morning’s part of the walk I undertook at some pace, striding out with the poles and thankful of the flat terrain and of the frequent shade, and buoyed by the prospect of completing my walk to Drymen in time for England’s clash with Germany at Euro 2020! I took lunch briefly at Strathblane, then covered the three miles to Glengoyne Distillery. Due to the pandemic, no tours are yet possible at the distillery, but I was able to visit the shop, to have a look around and to enjoy a few minutes chatting with their welcoming guide Gordon, before departing, naturally, with a miniature for later sampling.
Then it was back to the trail, slower now as the sun strengthened and the temperature reached the mid-20’s, shortly joining the West Highland Way, my pathway for the next four days. Fine weather, verdant waysides and some early views of Loch Lomond combined to make my final six miles of the day quite special. But later this evening there was a strong warning to us all of the very hot conditions, with a report of the rescue helicopter being called out to someone on nearby Conic Hill who had collapsed from heat exhaustion.
And tonight; a celebration of a great day’s walking, of reaching the start of the West Highland Way, and of England’s historic win at Wembley! After dinner in The Clachan pub (Scotland’s oldest licensed premises), I was fortunate to bump into ‘old friends’ from the trail this afternoon, sisters Laura and Marsha, spending the time to share a couple of drinks together and to swap a story or two. It was great to meet you both – happy walking!
As a footnote, I crossed another important frontier this morning, just after leaving Kilsyth – namely the Antonine Wall. Built around AD 142 to 154, some two decades after Hadrian’s Wall, this structure ran the approximate 39 miles between the Firths of Forth and Clyde, and was built of turf on a foundation of stone, with a ditch to the northern side and topped off with a wooden palisade barrier. Not much remains now, and in many places the route of the wall is more easily seen on a map than on the ground: nonetheless this line represents another milestone on my LETJOG journey northwards.