Going wild on the West Highland Way: Day One

20151002_181927Day One – Saturday – 5 miles
7am – drive to Milngavie
3pm – Park and walk 5 miles to standing stones
6pm – set up camp.

Breakfast: Porridge at home
Lunch: Sushi in car
Camping dinner: Cous Cous and baked chilli chickpeas

I was smoked out of England by fog. The trees had started to catch and kindle, turning to a blaze of autumn, breathing out fog to suffocate the views. Each copse looked like it had been rubbed out, only for the indent on the page to remain. It followed me as I drove. Each bridge could have been bending over an abyss, driving towards an ash-grey heaven.

For a moment, the smoke sucked back in when I drove through the Lake District and the sun seeped through. And what a sight that was. A brush of blue sky and a mountain with fog hanging like a spare tire around its middle. The fog blew away when I reached Scotland. I weaved between broad-shouldered mountains with forests of evergreens shaped like crew cuts. Blue skies were smeared with white sugary wisps.

I finally arrived in Milngavie (later I found out it’s pronounced Mun-guy) at 3pm, after 7.5 hours driving. I found the entrance to the West Highland way but I was too embarrassed to linger. I would have liked to have listened to the musician who’s trumpet-like instrument haunted the air like a violin. I knew the tune but couldn’t remember what it was.

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I walked through a popular park and a few miles in, it opened up to Craigallian Loch. Two boats skated the surface with a membrane of trees turning to caramel and sunshine. There is no other joy that matches the one you feel when a view surprises you. How it lifts better than love. It takes nothing from you – doesn’t require you at all. It’s a fulfilling, without the emptying. It only tops you up with every view.

A little further on, I passed what I could only describe as a wood nymph. He sat on the path that was descending down past the standing stones, legs crossed and his hair like soft white smoke. He tooted his harmonica but his eyes sang a wild tune that I didn’t want to hear. ‘Where are you from, sweet angel?” he said to me and I told him ‘far away’ and didn’t turn to meet. I wasn’t the only one.

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I wanted to camp near where he was, but it was too exposed, popular and close to him. So I carried on and up off the path, I found a ramble of trees that had been used a fair few times by campers before me. It’s a shame people don’t clear up after themselves. I had plenty of time to get settled but people were walking past all evening, making me a bit paranoid. Days before leaving Bristol, I had been trying to get over a bad cough. The night before, I had slept upright on the sofa tortured by a base-toned cough. Now, the moment I wanted to keep quiet, was the moment it decided to seize me like a fog horn telling everyone where I was.

I turned in at about 7.30 pm after speaking to a grouse running about the long grass, and fell asleep about nine because I had only slept a couple of hours the night before, and miraculously, the cough had subsided.

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