Wild Walking UK

LEJOG Chapter 13: Crawfordjohn to Loch Lomond

This chapter of my wild-camping LEJOG challenge takes me through the centre of Glasgow and on to the start of the West Highland Way. It’s a route I’ve avoided previously, put off by its popularity, but I found it surprisingly enjoyable – until I nearly lost my pants…

You can read my adventure from the start here and my rough route plan and gear list here.

Day 46: Wednesday 3rd April 2019

The day started nice, but it clouded over quickly. Some heavy hail showers arrived, followed by snow showers, and then the day finished dry but very cold. I wore my Polartec top under my softshell for most of the day which was very rare, and I was still cold. I needed to keep moving for most of the day to keep warm.

Chatting to a chap last about the way to get to Lanark, he reassured me that another route change was a good idea and road was the only way. He also asked about my route up the country, and as I went through it I suddenly realised how far I’d come and where I had got to. I even impressed myself!

Following the B7078 cycle way. Chilly.

I hadn’t eaten well over the last couple of days and I was beginning to feel the effects of it. My mood and my energy levels were low, and so it probably wasn’t the best time to start reflecting on my marriage. Still, that’s what a challenge like this leads to.

The tent was all wet this morning and everything in it was wet from condensation. I was worried about how I would get everything dry before the night as it was so cold. I also had no coffee to warm me up this morning, and a long road walk ahead. Taking the tent down in snow was a new experience for this trip!

I was away by about 6.15am for an 8 mile walk with snow blowing in my face, so I got my head down and could only see about 2ft ahead of me. Once I reached the roundabout for Lanark I headed into town for great breakfast, and USB sockets meant I could charge 3 things simultaneously. This was really helpful, as all were getting low.

I left Lanark fully charged (in every sense) and followed a very quiet road due north through farmland. The snow lightened to drizzle, and the wind eased too. I took a slight quarter mile wrong turn and soon managed to put it right, but I felt quite stressed because I didn’t know for certain if I could cross the river where I wanted to. I knew it would be miles round if I couldn’t.

However, when I got there I found a nice bridge and footpath to the Falls of Clyde. Walking by the river here helped me to start to enjoy the walk again, and I only saw three people on my way to the Visitor Centre. This turned out to be a massive World Heritage Site with a big cafe, so I stopped for lunch.

Visitors Centre, New Lanark
Lunch…note the apple.

I felt much better after lunch, or at least I did until I looked at my map and realised I needed to cover about 12 miles between 3pm and dark if I was to have any chance of getting through Glasgow in one day. I felt better, but not that much better…

Once I got out of the heritage site, I found the Clyde Way (not terribly well signed) and enjoyed a very nice walk along the river. I did a few miles as fast as possible on this footpath, but didn’t make it as close to Glasgow as I wanted to. The rain started again, the toe on my left foot was hurting and I had a new sore rubbing on the side of my ankle. As soon as I found a good spot I put the tent up so I could sort out my feet.

Camping spot for night 46

Dinner tonight was a Mug Shot, bread, half a pot of olives, cous cous and two chocolate bars. Calories definitely weren’t a problem today and I felt better for it, apart from a few aches and pains.

It was a good feeling knowing that after Glasgow, my route is a known entity. The only exception is the John O’Groats Trail, as I know it’s not complete, but I can use the A9 with 99 in places if I have to. I think I’ll just want to get finished.

Day 47: Thursday 4th April 2019

It rained most of the night. I had to blow my pillow up four times in the night, and my air bed once. Putting wet socks on this morning was not nice. I desperately need some drying weather soon, but rain was forecast again today.

I didn’t fancy the rest of my pot of olives and bread for breakfast, and I still had no coffee, so not a great start. It was an uninspiring walk in the drizzle along uninspiring paths, fields and tracks near the river to the rather impressive Strathclyde Country Park water centre. I was really struggling at this point, and was not impressed when a teenager overtook me and I couldn’t keep pace with him.

Strathclyde Country Park water centre

I found a big Toby Carvery open for all-you-can-eat breakfast and all the coffee you can drink. Brilliant. It was nearly 11am and I hadn’t eaten anything all morning, so I impressed myself. What a bargain.

Breakfast stop

The Clyde Walk path wasn’t that good initially, through rough fields and tracks, but it got better and better the closer to Glasgow I got. Eventually it became a surfaced path and cycle way, which was a great way to enter Glasgow. I was impressed with the city from the start, but I didn’t stop all day as I needed to clear the city before I had a chance of finding another wild camp. It would have been a good place for a rest day or two to explore the city.

I’m sure it flashed as I went past

I got lucky and passed another Toolstation, so I picked up some more meths, but forgot to get coffee during my food shop (stocking up for the West Highland Way).

Glasgow

I managed to get through Glasgow and camped near the river, north of the city. It was about three miles from Milngavie and the start of the West Highland Way, which was perfect. By the time I got the tent up at 7.30pm and got inside, I was freezing even in my down jacket. I couldn’t be bothered to make my Naked Noodle, so I had a can of cider and fruit pot. I justified it as they are heavy and I didn’t want to carry them tomorrow!

Camping spot north of Glasgow

Day 48: Thursday 5th April 2019

The day I nearly lost my pants…

I woke up and was thinking of getting up, but then checked the time – 4.30am. I hadn’t slept very well, as I had been too hot with my down jacket and merino vest on. At 11pm I had eaten a pizza slice, olives, bread and half a litre of my beloved chocolate milk, just to lighten my pack for today. I had spent some time checking the maps, too, as I hadn’t thought about the West Highland Way at all.

When I woke at 4.30am it had been raining, but it couldn’t have lasted long, as by the time I got up and left by 6.30am, everything was dry. I didn’t have any breakfast, but did get to a Tesco’s for my next food restock. 16 coffees purchased – things are looking up!

Gorgeous morning

I reached Milngavie and waited for a cafe to open at 9am. There was another couple there who also looked like they were about to start the West HIghland Way. I felt pretty sore after yesterday’s mileage, and wasn’t sure how far I would get today. I definitely was in no rush for my breakfast, and more than happy to sit and wait.

I had an interesting game with the chap running the lovely cafe. I think he must be a bit of a perfectionist, as all the shelves are perfectly aligned. He took my menu once I’d ordered and I needed the prices to write down, so I took another one from a different table. I put it back once I’d finished and he came over to straighten it. I was not sure what he thought to my gloves and hat drying on his radiator – I just knew that if I tried my socks he’d say something! I seriously considered staying there all day; it would have been quite entertaining, moving things.

Joking aside, it was the best looking and best cooked breakfast I have had on the entire trip – Cafe Alba is highly recommended.

Start of the West Highland Way

The start of the West Highland Way was well-surfaced, easy going but very busy. There was a queue of people going out of town. I managed to overtake a few, but I was overtaken by more! I noticed an equal mix of male and female groups, most fairly young but some older walkers and a few single walkers. I met a middle-aged teacher at a surprise animal farm bar, who was on his first long walk. He gave me some useful information on the route, including the fact that there’s no camping allowed where I was planning to stop. This meant I would either have to walk 7 miles further past Rowardennan or break the law.

If you’re used to stopping for a wee whenever you feel like it, the West Highland Way is not a good choice.

So I stuck to the road from Drymen to Balmaha for a rest and another pint (£4.20! I got the barman to top it up – no head on my beer at that price, thank you). It was then 6 or 7 miles to Rowardennan which was hard going after yesterday’s mileage. My iPod definitely helped. I would have stopped for food here, but it was too expensive – definitely Loch Lomond tourist prices. I had to settle for an ice cream and a banana on my way.

Maybe I should have read up on the West Highland Way

The path next to Loch Lomond was lovely, and this would be a great walk if I wasn’t in a hurry. The scenery had really changed since leaving Milngavie, and I can definitely see the attractions of the West Highland Way. I had always been against it purely due to its popularity, but if you are new to walking, I can see its appeal. There were a couple of paid (but cheap) park-controlled areas you can camp in but I passed them and pushed on out of the park. I dropped immediately to the lochside to camp after 8pm on shingle, which was my only chance.

I put the tent up, stripped off and washed in the loch, which was bloody freezing, so I got into my sleeping bag as soon as possible. I started cooking tea to warm up, only to realise that I had taken my pants down to the river to wash them (my only pair, remember) but I hadn’t brought them back with me. I dived out of bed to find them, relieved that they hadn’t been washed away.

Another day of good mileage, as my throbbing feet and legs testified. You can read the next chapter of my adventure here.

My 11 Wild Camping Rules.

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