Friday, 30 September 2011

Cumbria Way

Monday 22 August: Carlisle to Skiddaw (27 miles). Cloudy with sunny spells. Glad to escape Carlisle I make it to Caldbeck as the Odfellows Arms ends lunch service but the shop sells snacks. When I had my walking boots resoled thirty-years ago at the clog makers here the cobbler assured me the new soles would outlast the boots. They did, I left these worn out boots in Caithness in July. Good job. It's a great climb across Caldbeck Fells to the slopes of Skiddaw and the wonderfully welcoming and remote hostel in Skiddaw House, a former hunting lodge run by a former Yorkshire coal-miner and his spouse.
Tuesday 23: Skiddaw to Borrowdale (15 miles). Dull and cloudy. A steep descent into Keswick for lunch then south along Borrowdale for two nights at the smart wine-bar style YHA hostel at Longthwaite and an open-top double-decker bus (87th mode of transport) into Keswick for a day.
Thursday 25: Borrowdale to Hawkeshead (19 miles). Sunny and cloudy. This is a great day. A long haul up beautiful Langstrath and a tough ascent to Stake Pass leads down to the fairy-tale landscape of Great Langdale and one of my old-time haunts, the Hiker's bar of The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel for lunch, where, in thirty-years, only the prices have changed. I spend the evening in the splendid YHA hostel at Hawkshead.
Friday 26: Hawkeshead to Bowness-on-Windermere (6 miles). Sunny morning and a short stroll takes me to Bowness and the start of the Dales Way.
Photos along the Cumbria Way. I've now walked 554 miles.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Cumbria Coastal Way

Saturday 20 August: Gretna to Carlisle (13 miles). Cloudy and rainy evening. Lunch at the Gretna Inn then the old road over Metal Bridge and on to Rockcliff's English style church spire before arriving at Carlisle's stumpy castle and a restful weekend in the city.
Photos along the Cumbria Coastal Way. I've now walked 487 miles.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Annandale Way

Thursday 18 August: Moffat to Lochmaben (17 miles). Sunny with cloudy spells. The long climb up Beattock Hill is a fine way to get rid of a hangover and, once again, I'm into my stride and, following hilly woodland tracks, I soon arrive in Lochmaben for a late lunch.
Friday 19: Lochmaben to Annan (21 miles). Cloudy with sunny spells and a cold wind. Today is my first real sight of the river Annan as the path hugs it's banks all the way to Annan.
Saturday 20: Annan to Gretna (13 miles). Sunny morning. Continuing along the north shore of the Solway Firth I'm glad it's low tide as, at Eastriggs, the path turns into a tussocky bog for a couple of miles before joining a minor road to Gretna and the border. Goodbye Scotland, hello England.
Photos along the Annadale Way. So far I've walked 474 miles.

Southern Upland Way

Wednesday 17 August: Leadhills to Moffat (25 miles). Cloudy but dry. From Wanlockhead, Scotland's highest village, it a tough climb to the summit of Lowther Hill but the scenery is a just reward. Sweetshaw and Hods Hill in the afternoon are long tough jaunts but soon I drop down Beattock Hill and continue on to the comfort of the Bonnington Hotel in Moffat to celebrate my birthday.
Photos along the Southern Upland Way. Total so far 423 miles.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Clyde Walkway

Friday 12 August: Glasgow to Hamilton (20 miles). Cloudy drizzle and light showers. From the tall ship Glenlee, opposite the new transport museum, it's an enjoyable stroll along Glasgow's once bustling harbour. Finnieston cantilever crane build to load heavy locomotives bound for all corners of the empire now stands motionless looking over Clyde Arc Bridge, a newer city icon. The carpet factory has closed but the magnificent brick facade of Templeton's remains, now a business centre. The People's Palace museum built in 1893 "for the entertainment and improvement of East End families" still serves it's original purpose well as I speed past Glasgow Green. Most people walking "End-to-End" avoid Glasgow and walk south from Edinburgh to the Pennines, but I spit in the eye of danger, fascinated by the names on my map - Broomielaw, The Gorbals, Shawfield, Dalmarnock, Parkhead, Rutherglen. I just hope danger's other eye doesn't spit back.
Happily it's a pleasant enough walk through city suburbs in light morning rain with lunch at old Cambusland or 'Orion' bridge and on to the remains of medieval Bothwell Castle to Hamilton Mausoleum and a night at my cousin's home nearby, sedated by a few pints of 'heavy' in the Cosy Corner.

Saturday 13: Hamilton to Lanark (24 Miles). Cloudy with sunny and drizzly spells. Now the Clyde is fast-flowing with green fields all around it, this is horse country. Soon I arrive at Lanark and, still feeling good, I head north to another cousin's home at their stables not too far away. Within a couple of miles the skies open and I arrive looking, and feeling, like a drowned rodent. But it's a warm welcome and I'm sad to leave but need to make the most of the sunny weather forecast.
Sunday 14: Lanark to Douglas (15 miles). Sunny with cool breeze and cloudy spells. A sad goodbye to family and soon I'm in New Lanark, a former mill village now an UNESCO World Heritage Site and a little later I pass the Falls of Clyde then head south to overnight in Douglas. Bad news, the campsite has closed down and the only hotel is being refurbished so I pitch my tent under the slightly scary castle walls and sleep like a log only disturbed by bleating sheep.
Monday 15: Douglas to Leadhills (16 miles). Cloudy with sunny spells and a cool breeze. A well-mapped path over saddle-back hill turns into a boggy mire and I'm relieved to arrive in Crawfordjohn. Bad news, the pub is closed on Mondays so it's a long hungry afternoon's walk over grouse moors to Leadhills and a late lunch next to a log fire at the wonderful Hopetoun Arms where I stay for a couple of nights to avoid rainy weather.
Photos along the Clyde Walkway. I've now walked 398 miles.

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Wednesday 10 August: Two days of heavy rain forecast so time to explore the city - Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh House (no photos) and the Huntarian Museum's art collection. Some Scottish Colourist's works are on show together with an important range of Whistler's portraits. I know Glasgow Museum of Transport well but it has moved to a new state-of-the art building on the banks of the Clyde. Great looking outside but, I'm told, less hands-on inside than it's predecessor, I give it a miss.
Thursday 11: Kelvingrove Art Gallery is also a delight showing works from the Glasgow Boys, the Scottish Colourists, Mackintosh and an enigmatic Salvadore Dali peice, Christ of St John on the Cross.
Pictures of Glasgow.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Kelvin Walkway

Tuesday 9 August: Milngavie to the River Clyde (12 miles). Sunny with cloudy spells. Following the River Kelvin this is a surprisingly pleasant day-stroll into the cultural heart of Glasgow. I stop for lunch at the pretty tulip-shaped Maryhill locks on the Forth & Clyde Canal before passing under the aqueduct and winding my way to Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow University and the YHA hostel in Park Terrace at the top of the hill.
Photos along the Kelvin Walkway. My total so far is 323 miles.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

West Highland Way

Tuesday 2 August: Fort William to Kinlochleven (15 miles). Warm, dry and cloudy. It's a steep climb up the glen but with good views across to the tourist path up to Ben Nevis and, later, forward to Kinlochleven where I fall into the last bed available in Blackwater Hostel.
Wednesday 3: Kinlochleven to Inveroran (19 miles). Sunny. Another steep climb with stunning views across the West Highlands before zigzagging down the Devil's Staircase to the Pass of Glencoe with more spectacular views up the glen. It's then a bit of a march past King House Hotel to more gentle scenery and a warm welcome at Inveroran Hotel with it's campsite nearby.
Thursday 4: Inveroran to Tyndrum (10 miles). Warm grey drizzly day. A short easy day along the route of the West Highland Railway line leads to the comfortable and well run By the Way Hostel at Tyndrum. Highly recommended.
Friday 5: Tyndrum to Inverarnan (12 miles). Cloudy with sunny spells and cool breeze. Still following the route of the pretty West Highland Line it's an easy jaunt to the overpriced campsite facilities at Inverarnan and nearby Drover's Inn.
Saturday 6: Inverarnan to Rowardennan (14 miles). Warm and cloudy with sunny spells. Dropping down to the northern tip of Loch Lomond it a difficult boulder-strewn path along the eastern lochside passing Rob Roy's Cave to reach the remote Inversnaid Hotel for lunch. As heavy rain starts to fall and the boulders become increasingly slippery I'm glad to reach the safe-haven of the YHA lodge at Rowardenan. This is where I meet Robbie.
Following a hot shower and dinner I'm changing footwear when a soaking-wet Glaswegian bursts into the room, his rucksack clanging loudly with a frying pan, two household cooking pots, a tin mug and a kettle hanging from the straps. Still swearing to himself he disappears and returns out of breath. Dumping a large holdall on the floor he flops into the nearest bunk and immediately starts snoring. I stroll down to the pub for a beer.
Sunday 7: Rowardennan to Balmaha (7 miles). Heavy cloud and rain. My morning conversation goes something like this:
Robbie: "Hello, I'm Robbie. I'm walking the West Highland Way." (nearly everyone staying in the hostel is walking the West Highland Way).
Me: "Good for you."
Robbie: (proudly) "Yes, I walked 9 miles yesterday!"
Me: "Well done."
Robbie: "I thought it would only take 4 days so I've run out of money. The wife's coming up with more money today." (He's already been walking for 5 days).
Me: "Well, it would take 4 days if you walked 24-miles a day"
Robbie: (enthusiastically) "You want to see my blisters?"
Me: "Not really". He shows me his feet anyway - multiple sticking-plasters on each foot.
Robbie: "Are the plasters still okay?"
Me: "Yes, did you try on your boots before starting?"
Robbie: (defensively) "Aye, for an hour or so last week. They were fine."
Me: "What do you have in the holdall?"
Robbie: "Food for the dug (dog)." Pets aren't allowed in hostels so he's put the dog in his tent and pitched it hidden in nearby woods (there are heavy fines for wild camping in this part of Loch Lomond). I'm sure it's well fed.
Good luck to Robbie, I really hope he finishes his challenge, that's what it's all about.
A short wet woodland walk along Loch Lomond's shores and I'm in the pleasant village of Balmaha and the comfort of Balmaha Bunkhouse which is run by Bob, an amicable Welsh mountaineer, and his wife.
Monday 8: Balmaha to Milngavie (20 miles). Sunny with cloudy spells. Up and over Conic Hill, through Drymen (pronounced Dri-men) where walkers are flocking out of Glasgow towards me, thick and fast. A couple, like Robbie, festooned with clattering kitchenware, approach me.
Man: "Hello pal, are we going the right way?"
Me: "I don't know. Where are you going?"
Man: (proudly) "We're going to Fort William!". Not nearby Drymen or Balmaha which would make more sense, but Fort William 90 miles or so further north.
Me: (pointing with my stick) "Yes, just carry on north for a fortnight and you'll be there".
Woman: (looking at man accusingly) "Is it north? I thought it was south. I'm dying for a pee".
Me: "Have a good day".
I guess many people start the West Highland Way but few finish it - it really is a bit more than a stroll in the park. As evening approaches I arrive in Milngavie (pronounced mill-guy) at the end, or start, of the wonderful West Highland Way.
Photos along the West Highland Way. I've now walked a total of 311 miles.