West Highland Way Travel-Lite
Milngavie to Drymen – 12 miles (19.5 km)
The West Highland Way leaves Milngavie town centre by a walkway over the stream, then you are in a leafy lane which used to be an old railway line. Walk along the Allander water and after a short time you will come to a sign which takes you up to the right to the higher ground of Mugdock wood. The walking at this stage is nice and easy, with a well defined track, which used to be an old carriageway to Craigallion House. Mugdock wood is associated with the distillation of illicit whisky, and has been a scene of punch ups between revenue men and the lads who made the drop!
From Craigallian Lodge you turn left down a road for a little while, then through a gate and on to another track running parallel to Allander water. The track opens out and you soon see the waters of Craigallian Loch, with the Campsie Hills and the great dumpling-shaped bulk of Dumgoyne beyond. Dumgoyne is an extinct volcano and the first landmark of the way. Craigallian House looks grandly down over the loch and it is a lovely spot to have a break over a cup of coffee.
Onward from Craigallian you move towards Carbeth. The track opens out onto a plantation where the wood is fenced with fine mesh, to protect against roe deer. At Carbeth is the wooden holiday huts which were built after the war for the city dwellers of Glasgow to have a place to visit in the country.
Leaving Carbeth you follow a track which meets a road at a place called Balachalairy Yett. After a few metres, westward on this road a sign directs you over a stile into Tinker’s Loan.
Tinker’s Loan is a broad grassy ride, rising to a gentle slope between two dry stane dykes. At the open spaces beyond the head of Tinker’s Loan, you may wish to stop at the gate as this is the first big view of the West Highland way. The ground drops away over open moor to the buildings of Arlehaven. On the left are the Kilpatrick hills and on the right, the campsites. Ahead, beyond Arlehaven, the twin mounds of Dumgoyne and Dumgoyach; Dumgoyne smooth and green, Dumgoyach more conical and more wooded.
At this point the Crainlarich hills are visible, and the bulk of Ben Lomond. The track is quite open, and takes you close to some cottages at Arlehaven, and close to the farm buildings at Dumgoyach. The next stretch of moorland is quite wet and as you approach the woods of Dumgoyach, you may see on the right, the Dumgoyach standing stones.
The stretch from Tinker’s Loan is fairly rough going and by walking along the old Blane Valley Railway you can make up some time. This is reached by the lane behind Dumgoyach farm, which crosses an old wooden bridge over the Blane water. A few metres along, to the left, is a big gate with a stile, you walk along 4 miles or so of the old railway line. Across the fields are the white buildings of the Glengoyne distillery, which produces fine malt whisky in the Blane Valley for over one hundred and fifty years or so. You follow the old track or you can walk on the mound to the side of it. This conceals a huge pipe which takes water from Loch Lomond, and distributes it all over Scotland.
After passing the Beech Tree Inn a few metres to the right, you take briefly to the road, before joining the railway track again to take you almost all the way to Gartness. You pass the old buildings of Killearn hospital and the bridge which crosses over to the village of Gartness is a good vantage point to observe the salmon as they struggle up river to spawn.
Gartness was the home of John Napier the philosopher and mathematician, whose family at one time owned the land around the village. Napier was famous as the inventor of logarithms and he also devised the dot – the decimal point which has had a significant effect in the computer age now.
The bridge at Gartness was built in 1971 and replaces the old one which had lasted from 1715. There is still an old stone bearing the original date, which has been built into the parapet of the new bridge.
On the way between Gartness and Drymen you leave the lush countryside and move to wilder terrain. On the high ground it is remote and rugged, where in the distance, the Highland peaks begin to appear. In the foreground lies Conic Hill, which is the first uphill climb.
The West Highland Way by-passes the village of Drymen, but if you have the time it is an attractive village to have a look around.