DAY 20: Balmaha to Milngavie – 18.5 miles *WHW day 7
So this is it… the final leg of the West Highland Way! I was keen to get cracking so left the bunkhouse before 9am full to the brim of complementary cereal, picking up lunch from the local store before heading out of town. The sun was shining and for the first time since that one summers day a couple of Tuesday’s back, there was actually some proper heat to it. Already I knew today was going to be a good day.
Passing through picture postcard villages, with the tail end of Loch Lomond still visible for the first few hours, the WHW continued over sheep filled farmland, and along lush tree lined paths. Such an easy, pleasurable days worth of walking… including a random stop on the edge of one field, where someone has placed two chairs back to back for passing walkers. One for me and one for my backpack, this is where I stopped to enjoy my brunch of homemade pulled-pork pie. The next pit-stop was at a lovely big old pub, also geared up for walkers, where I downed a pint of lime & soda (whilst secretly snacking on my own – you’ve guessed it – apple and cheese!)
I was about 5 miles from the end of this epic journey (within a journey), when I met Dru… turns out he sits at the same spot every day handing out refreshments to walkers in exchange for donations to local charities. We never actually got to have that particular exchange as he immediately commented on the fact that I was going north to south – which is unusual as about 90% of those doing the West Highland Way go south to north. I told him I was actually going all the way from top top to bottom bottom, to discover that in the 3 or so years that Dru has been of sitting here meeting walkers, I am the only woman he has met doing the WHW as part of JOGLE. This year there has been two guys before me, but no ladies. After kindly donating to my charity, I told Dru to check out my blog… so if you have Dru, thanks again 👍
Feeling special, I continued on those last few miles and suddenly before I knew it, turned a corner in Milngavie and there was the granite obelisk denoting the finish (or for the majority, the start) of the trek. So there I was and that was that. I got chatting to a couple of guys who took my photo for me, and I asked if they knew of anywhere cheap to stay in town… Scratching their heads for anywhere other than the Premier Inn, I said not to worry as I had a list somewhere so would start ringing around. Unfortunately the day before I had tried to book a bed in the most obvious dorm style guest house suggested on the WHW website but they were full. I contacted them now to see if they’d had any cancellations but sadly not. The next best option on my list was a bunkhouse, who I had emailed and text within the last 24 hours but heard nothing back. On route to find them I saw the Premier Inn, so on the off chance, I went in to check the price for a single room. I was told £83 not including breakfast, and swiftly left.
Anyway to cut a long two hour story slightly shorter… I can only imagine that unlike Fort Wiliam where everyone finishes the walk and wants to crash, everyone starting the walk here must catch a morning bus or train from Glasgow and subsequently this town has no need for accommodation. I did find the address for the bunkhouse, only to be told by the man on the driveway that it closed down two years – and one by one every number I tried to contact on my list was either shut, number unobtainable or they were full. With no Airbnbs in town, no other guest house, my bivi tent waiting for me in the Glasgow hostel and no other bloody option, I skulked back to the Premier Inn. I tried my luck to get a discount – and the new receptionist did attempt to find a manager to see if they could do the room half price (given that I’m doing this for charity and all) but when she eventually found someone in authority to ask, the answer was no. I could however have a free breakfast in the morning, so I suppose that was better than nothing and I’d just have to make dam sure I got my money’s worth!
Cursing myself again for not being better prepared, I whacked up the heating, took a bath, drunk my way through all the tea/coffee sachets and made the most of the fast wifi. And I have to say… Premier Inn does have exceedingly comfy beds as I enjoyed the best sleep since I’ve had in months!