Today was stupendous and outstanding! It feels amazing to be on the West Highland Way again. There really is something special about this trail and although the first few miles aren’t the most exhilarating, it’s makes for the perfect prelude to the magnificence of the Scottish Highlands that is to come over the next few days.
To be starting the West Highland Way in such monumental style with a TV crew, on World Autism Awareness Day, with Sarah there to wave us off, was something truly special.
If that wasn’t enough, we have been waiting to start the West Highland Way since the start of year, as for us, it represents the psychological start of the whole 2023 charity adventure of hiking all 1900 miles of Scotland’s Great Trails.
Today it became real! Today it dawned on me what we have set ourselves. For Eve it’s the continuation of what has become her life, and for Sarah it’s a feeling of missing out. I wish Sarah had more physical capabilities to hike with Eve on these adventures, but the cancer has simply damaged her too much.
Being in Milngavie at the start of the West Highland Way, watching people start their own adventures was great, and we took loads of pictures for people next the obelisk. It was really busy with hikers and periodically it would get even busier when the train arrived at the station full of hikers.
The West Highland Way has one of the best starts to any hiking trail we have seen anywhere. It’s truly outstanding. However everybody misses what I think is one of the best bits, the floor map at the seats opposite the huge overhead banner.
Before heading off we had a few jobs to complete. The TV crew did lots of filming and I had to record my first ‘diary’ entry on a GoPro that will be used as part of the documentary. I obviously waffled on loads and added way too much for what might be a few seconds clip!
Finally we had to pop into Greggs. I bought a soup and Eve chose a vegan sausage roll. It was needed, as we were all really hungry and very excitable! So thank you to everybody who has donated to our Buy Me a Coffee fund.
The TV crew were excellent. They are really good with Eve and she has taken a shying to the camera operator (Brooke) whom Eve even voluntarily spoke to a few times! Brooke has tried to show her the camera a few times and some clips of the footage. Its amazing, as most people know, Eve doesn’t talk to anybody!
We said a huge goodbye to Sarah and started walking slowly.
We were recognised by loads of people today who stopped and spoke to us. It will always feel odd being recognised and approached by people but I am a lot more confident (I feel more confident) than I used to be. We had a awesome group photograph with the Scottish Women’s Walking Group as well as countless other people. It was incredible!!! Thank you to each and everyone who stopped to say hi.
The start of the West Highland Way is anything but glamorous, walking through a car park and down a path by a pretty river that backs onto an industrial estate and urban area.
We all commented how much dog poo there was but also how many abandoned dog poo bags there were too! If people pick it up what can’t they carry it to a bin! There are plenty along this section of the trail.
The TV crew did lots of recording as we walked past them and other stuff that I didn’t really understand. They were really good and very unobtrusive. It helped Eve a lot and she settled into the rhythm very easily.
The trail lead us through the woodland at the base of Mugdock Country Park with countless cyclists coming past us at such speed we all had to jump out of the way on more than one occasion. They were dangerous and for such a busy trail, there really needs to be more consideration or rules imposed as somebody is going to be seriously hurt someday.
We found a small wooded area where the TV crew set up the camera and filmed an interview style section asking me questions that caught me off guard that I answered abysmally, such as “are you missing Sarah today?”. The whole missing Sarah is something that I keep well and truly boxed away so it doesn’t affect me like it did at the start of last years JOGLE when I had an emotional breakdown one evening in the tent! I couldn’t let that out of the box so my answers to that and the other questions were not great.
The TV crew didn’t actually walk with us for very long today, leaving us after just a few miles. They are meeting up with us at specific points along the route such as coming over Conic Hill with us on Tuesday. We parted with them and continued along to Craigallian Fire monument to sit down and have some lunch. We were both starving and I had a headache developing. We chilled and drank plenty of fluids and relaxed cuddled up. It felt good and I think Eve needed it.
We carried on walking a lot faster this afternoon only really stopping for a drink, shoe laces and of course to record a quick video that we put on social media. Eve was very chatty, if you haven’t watched it you really should. I struggled with the video and so Eve basically took over! She did great!
The best section of the West Highland Way before reaching Conic Hill is, in my opinion, the trail that starts at the road by Easter Carbeth Farm to just past Duntreath Castle (it’s a hill). It feels more remote and has spectacular views up Dumgoyne Hill, a hill Eve and I know very well having been up it countless times.
This is where we stopped and recorded our small video and had another snack. I FaceTimed Sarah whilst Eve studied trees and danced!!! I think she had a lot of energy to let out and felt a little more freedom as we were on our own.
The final few miles of todays section was ridiculously easy and simple. Eve power walked and only stopped to admire daffodils and the countless new shoots that are appearing on every tree and bush along the trail.
I know I say it a lot but I wish I could really tell you or show you what Eve is like when we are outside. She is a different child and in her element. She comes out of herself and is so captivated by everything around her. Its a privilege to watch and witness. When we return home she is different, almost withdrawn except for TV programs about animals, adventures and of course playing board games!
We ended todays section at the Beach Tree Inn which is just over 7 miles from Milngavie. Not far but we wanted a short day as we knew it would be an intense day and didn’t want to overwhelm Eve. Eve was absolutely fine and the only person who started to feel it was me, but I don’t think I help myself sometimes.
Sarah bundled us up and we all went home for the night before hitting the trail again in the morning. It’s going to be another great day tomorrow and we can’t wait…
We’ve decided not to do any camping whilst the film crew are about to ensure we’re fully refreshed ready for the day. But we’re going to be wild camping soon and we can’t wait!!
Right that’s it from us
See you all in the morning
Ian, Sarah and Eve
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