Day 16. Millarochy Campsite to Milngavie. 21 miles (ish).
My last day on the West Highland way was particularly exciting for me, as I would be arriving into Glasgow for a luxurious 2 day rest break over the Easter weekend, where Becky and some close friends would be joining me to celebrate my arrival in Scotland's best city, as well as the supposed resurrection of an iron age deity. Well, any excuse for a drink will do I suppose.
I left Millarochy bright and early and deliberately avoided the route I had taken 2 years ago, as I knew it was unnecessarily long and arduous, so I jumped onto a wonderful B-Road to Balmaha and was there before I knew it, sat with a thick slice of chocolate fudge brownie and a flat white for breakfast.
From here I continued to ignore the official West Highland way path and followed the lesser known lanes to Drymen, my mid point of the day. I convinced some charming Germans from Munich to join me, and we spent the late morning strolling down the sun drenched lanes, making our way to Drymen talking of small things like brexit and not mentioning the war.
I parted ways with zee Germans at Drymen as they marched on, and I settled into the fantastic Clachan Inn. I suppose now is as good a time as many to move begrudgingly away from cooked breakfast evaluation onto the much more nuanced and serious business of pubs. Ahh pubs. How do other countries manage without them? I'll never understand it, they serve as a social focal point, a place to get drunk comfortably, somewhere to find food, shelter, toilets, basically everything a person needs, and I find it continually perplexing that other nations somehow muddle by without them. Anyway, my opening page promised a pub rating system, so I may as well lay it out for you here.
Pubs will be scored out of 10 with the following categories being considered as of primary importance:
Selection and quality of beer Decour / ambience Food History
Secondary factors may include the friendliness of the patrons and staff, music (if any and if appropriate) and miscellaneous factors that may be unique to particular establishments.
It is worth noting that I've been to a few pubs so far on this walk, but true pub country starts here as the North is slightly too remote to feature pubs worthy of my evaluation on a regular enough basis. So, the Clachan was great, Scotland's oldest licensed premises and the best pub in Drymen, perched atop the charming village green. I ordered an '80 shilling', so named for the duty historically charged on barrels (a common etymological term north of the border), the cajun chicken burger and chatted amicably with the locals.
The beer was only OK, but the food was fantastic, and the conversation free flowing.
The Clachan certainly fell down on choice of beers (only one cask beer option), however the food was of a very high quality (and with solid portion size) and unique historical points were won by the Clachan for the 'oldest licensed premises' feather in its cap - overall score of 8.2.
Anyway, it was 12 miles to Milngavie, where I would be catching a train into Glasgow for a well deserved rest (don't worry, I would be catching the very same train back to Milngavie to rejoin the trail in 2 days time). The path from here was both largely forgettable and painful, I'd been on my feet for 5 days without rest and could not wait to sit back with a beer and relax, little did I know the chance would be coming sooner than I thought.
I limped into Milngavie (pronounced, by the way, as 'Mull-Guy'), made my slow way to the station, bought a ticket and sat down heavily, covered in sweat and 5 days of assorted grime from the Way. The train was uncomfortably hot and I was conscious that my oversized bag was taking up more room than polite, the train was mostly empty but filling up fast so I closed my weary eyes, and prayed no one would sit next to me on this largely empty train. A man sat across the aisle from me, pulled a large, 660ml bottle of ice cold Corona from his bag, popped the top casually with a lighter, sat it on the small, window-side table, and reclined in his chair. I could not take my eyes from the bottle. It practically steamed with cold in the late afternoon sun, condensation gripped the side of the glass as the golden nectar swirled to the neck of the ice cold glass, driven on by its own effervescence. The man saw me hungrily viewing his beer, then caught my eyes as I guiltily met his and quickly looked away both embarrassed and envious, "Man that looks good", I said - or something similar, I very well may have just drooled and make some non-committal grunt, I can't really remember. Wordlessly he pulled another large, 660ml, ice cold Corona from his back pack of wonders, popped the top with his lighter again, and casually passed it across the aisle. I could not believe my eyes. To merely whisper 'thank you' to a stranger on the London underground for making way is definite grounds for a lynching, so this kind of genuine altruism on public transport was something my sun-addled mind could barely contemplate. We chatted the train ride away, David from Ashton if you are reading this, I have no words for the gratitude I felt on this day - you made me want to be a better person by the sheer virtue of your unexplained generosity. As I strolled to my Glaswegian lodgings I thought of the profound effect this simple act had had on me, and resolved to pay forward this generosity somehow.
I now had a belly full of cold beer, 2 full days to rest and Becky & friends arriving early the next day to celebrate, roll on Easter.