Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 1: Glasgow to Milngavie

Glasgow's Central Station
September 6: It was a couple of days before Karolina was scheduled to arrive, so I set out to walk from Glasgow to Milngavie (and the start of the West Highland Way) alone. Amanda was content taking a day off of touring and would spend the day hanging out near Wemyss Bay. I took the train from Wemyss Bay into Glasgow's Central Station and, immediately upon exiting the train, started taking photos for Walking 4 Fun. This is where the trail would start: Central Station.

I had already passed through Central Station several times during our visit. Amanda and I would take the train from Wemyss Bay into Central Station each morning, and take the train back each afternoon at the end of our sightseeing, and I liked the train station. The glass ceilings let in enormous amounts of light making it bright and I enjoyed watching the rush of people going about their business. But this time, I had my own business to attend to!

The train station was located right alongside the River Clyde and the Clyde Walkway, so I exited the train station and walked the few blocks to the water and started following the river downstream.

The sites, so far, weren't new to me. Amanda and I had already explored Glasgow a bit and got tickets for one of those "jump-on, jump-off" buses that take you around to the tourist sites in the city which included stops along this walk. But I liked being on foot and taking my time. Once I reached the Clyde Walkway and got off the busy roads filled with traffic, the noise level was reduced dramatically.

I followed the Clyde Walkway for the better part of an hour, leaving it briefly to cross Bell's Bridge, a pedestrian-only bridge, across the River Clyde to take some photos on the other side of the river. That's where the Science Museum and Glasgow Tower were located and they seemed like good photo ops. Then I recrossed the River Clyde again on the Millennium Bridge--another pedestrian-only bridge a mere one minute walk away from the first one I had crossed. It seemed astounding to me that they would build two pedestrian-only bridges so close to each other, but I'm by no means complaining!

The outside of Central Station.

I continued following the Clyde Walkway until it turned into the Kelvin Walkway near the Riverside Museum, and the Riverside Museum was my first real stop along the hike. I had seen the exterior of the building before (including the tall ship behind it) from the bus tour Amanda and I had taken a couple of days earlier, but I wanted to go inside and explore it a bit which we didn't get around to doing earlier. And entrance to most museums in Glasgow is free--including this one! So into the museum I went.

They call it the Riverside Museum because it happens to be located next to the River Clyde, but it would have been better named the Transportation Museum because that's what the museum is actually about: transportation. Buses, trains, trolleys, bicycles, automobiles--if it's used to transport goods or people from point A to point B, it's in this museum. I could have spent the entire day looking around and reading all of the displays, but I did have nearly 15 miles to hike (which had to be entirely in daylight so I could get the photos I needed!) so I mostly browsed the museum quickly. A quick look around the building, stopping only to read about the exhibits that looked the most interesting. Then I went out the backdoor to the tall ship which was so big, of course, it couldn't fit in the museum.

Tradeston Bridge over the River Clyde.
The entrance for the tall ship takes you through a gift shop and I tried to mosey around the person paying for something that the counter to get on the ship when another worker stopped me and said I shouldn't be cutting in the "queue."

Oh. I didn't realize there was a queue--the ship was free to get on. The sign said so right there. But maybe there were limits on how many people could get on at once or something. Whatever. So after the person at the counter finished paying whatever stuff they bought, the desk clerk gave me a speech about the importance of the ship, and that if I donated 5 pounds I'd get a slick little book about the ship, and my god, I swear she talked for two full minutes before shutting up.

"So it's not really free?"

"Oh, yes--it is! The 5 pounds is a donation!"

I see.... so it's not really free. I was almost tempted just to walk off. I didn't really want to deal with these people, and it was abundantly clear they didn't want anyone getting on the ship to hadn't paid the "optional" 5 pounds. At the same time, I was half tempted just to tell them to bug off and go onto the ship without paying saying that I choose not to donate.

I felt a bit angry at the whole situation. Like I had been ambushed. But.... at the same time, I thought Amanda might actually be interested in the book about the ship. I thought about it for a few seconds, and decided to take the book. I pulled out 5 pounds, took the book, and walked off angrily without even saying thank you. They didn't deserve it. (Later, when I gave it to Amanda, I told her if she wanted to visit the tall ship without me, be prepared for a hard sale, wave the book around and say you already have one, and tell them "thanks but no thanks"! Then, after getting off the ship, give the book to the next person who was about to board the ship to do the same thing. It was my form of petty revenge.)

It wasn't until I was already on the ship I wondered what they'd have done if I said I didn't have any pounds on me. Clearly, they should have recognized that my accent was American and if I started waving around a handful of dollar bills, I wondered what they would have done. The idea really appealed to me, but it hadn't come to me until it was too late.

I only stayed on the ship for about 5 minutes--about 1 pound per minute--before getting off to continue my hike. I couldn't linger around on it for too long! I didn't even look at the book since I knew I'd have plenty of time to look through it later after I had finished the day's walk.

I walked around the side of the Riverside Museum back to the front of the building and continued the walk through Glasgow.

The Clyde Arc over the River Clyde.

The next stop, maybe a mile further up the trail, was at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum--another free museum in Glasgow. (And this one really was free! No queues to get into, no hard sells.) I didn't stop here for more than a few minutes, though, mostly because Amanda and I had explored it a couple of days earlier. I'd already seen it, but I still wanted to go in for a couple of photos for Walking 4 Fun. I knew exactly which two photos I wanted to take. The first was of a dramatic room with relatively good lighting with preserved animals including a giant elephant (Sir Roger) and an old WWII Spitfire plane. I really liked the juxtaposition of natural history with a WWII military aircraft. The second photo would be a bizarre statue of "Saint Elvis" which had Amanda and I scratching our heads thinking, "What the hell?!" And I knew immediately that I wanted to caption the first photo saying, "What an awesome museum!" Then caption the second photo, "On second thought...."

With my two photos done, I walked out the backdoor and continued on the hike, now headed through Kelvingrove Park. Lots of bridges, lots of people walking, jogging and biking, and a generally pleasant if unexciting park.

I then veered off trail at the Glasgow Botanical Gardens, mostly because I thought the buildings that made up the botanical garden were pretty darned cool and I wanted a photo of them for Walking 4 Fun. However, by now, it was lunch time and I wanted some food. There was a lot of civilization around there and I knew I'd have no trouble finding food.

Ultimately, I got a sandwich and Coke for three pounds, and since I was in the area, I dropped into one of the buildings of the botanical garden (it was free!) to take a few photos. I walked through a desert full of cactus, a tropical rain forest, and a few other climates before exiting and continuing my walk along the Kelvin Walkway.

The SEE Hydro

The trail continued meandering along the Kelvin River, eventually passing Maryhill Park which was pretty much the end of the "city" portion of the walk. Shortly after that, the trail became more of a "country walk." The trail grew narrow, less traveled and less maintained. Large muddy pits covered parts of the trail and for about a mile, thick brush overgrew the trail. Much of said brush had thorns or felt like stinging nettle and my legs tingled in a most unpleasant fashion from the stinging--thank goodness I was wearing pants rather than shorts. I couldn't imagine how bad my legs would have felt had I been wearing shorts. The back of my right hand accidentally brushed against one of them as well causing a stinging that would last through the rest of the day.

There were some nice views along this country walk, but the overgrown conditions were exasperating.

Late in the afternoon, I finally arrived in Milngavie. The trail went by the train station and I could have just jumped on the next train and headed back to Wemyss Bay, but I was anxious to find the actual start of the West Highland Way before I left and walked the few blocks further into town.

The official start of the trail was easy to find--it was marked with a large monument and right where my maps showed it to be. I dropped into the tourist office to see what they had and ultimately bought a passport that could be stamped along the trail--probably inspired from the Camino de Santiago. And looking through their selection of maps, I found one for the Great Glen Way. I already had an excellent guidebook for the West Highland Way that Amanda was able to purchase on a previous visit to the United Kingdom, but she hadn't found anything about the lesser-known Great Glen Way. But this tourist office had a map for that so I purchased it as well. I was now fully outfitted for the hike all of the way to Inverness!

The aardvark building (a.k.a. Clyde Auditorium)

I walked back to the train station and bought a ticket asking the clerk when the next train to Glasgow would arrive. "That train sitting outside right now? You need to be on that."

Awesome! I jumped onto the train and was off in less than 5 minutes. The train was largely empty until it arrived at the Expo Center stop where it seemed like hundreds of people dressed as Batman, Superman and unidentified superheroes got on. I felt a little out of place without a costume on. ("Thru-hiker" doesn't really count as a costume.) I had remembered seeing banners and billboards promoting a Comic-Con happening this weekend in Glasgow, and I suspected I just found Ground Zero for it.

The train finally arrived back at Central Station from where I started my walk and where I blended in the herds of non-costumed people and changed trains to head back to Wemyss Bay. My first day of hiking was done!

The Science Museum (one of the few NOT free museums in Glasgow) with
Glasgow Tower behind it.

Bicycle in the Riverside Museum. (The small print says that there's some
argument as to whether or not this is really the world's first bicycle. BUT!
It is undoubtedly the world's oldest bicycle that still exists and works.)

They had a display about the Lockerbie bombing in Scotland, which included
these examples of what the black boxes look like. (I'm pretty sure these aren't
the black boxes from the bombing, but I didn't see any information about
where these black boxes actually came from or if they were even part of a crash.)

The Glenlee first took to the water as a bulk cargo carrier in 1896 and circumnavigated the globe four times before being bought by the Spanish navy in 1922 and turned into a sail training vessel. The ship served in that role until 1969. She then operated as a training school until 1981 when she was laid up in Seville Harbour and largely forgotten. The Clyde Maritime Trust succeeded in buying the re-named Galatea at auction for 5 million Pesetas (£40,000) in 1992 saving her from dereliction and restored her over a six year period. And now you don't have to provide a "donation" to get onto the ship to learn any of this. =)

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. And like the previous post, this guy at the front
was in honor the recently completed Commonwealth Games.

Giant elephants (Sir Roger) and spitfires! What an awesome museum!

Or maybe I spoke too soon.... WTF?!!! ;o)

Building on the University of Glasgow campus.

The Kelvin Walkway follows alongside the Kelvin River.

Glasgow Botanical Gardens

I knew Dr. Who was running around the botanical gardens somewhere,
but I wasn't able to find him (or his companion)!

Inside one of the rooms of the botanical gardens.

The vote for Scottish independence would be happening in about a week.
It seems like people had very strong feelings about the subject, but they
seemed remarkably polite about stating them! =)

Autumn is in the air! The trees might not be all that colorful yet, but
the leaves on the ground show autumn is just around the corner! I took
this photo at Maryhill Park which is near the end of the "city"
portion of the walk and soon the trail heads in the "country."

In the country, people have horses!

And the trails are muddy!

And there are farms!

And overgrown trails! (Just watch out for those stupid stinging-nettle type of plants!)

And you might be attacked by wildlife!

And blackberries to pick! =)

And more farms!

And giant leaves! Holy cow!

And... holy cows? =)

Getting into Milngavie, civilization comes back!

No more muddy trails....

...and you just feel... welcome! =)

I loved all the murals under this bridge, but I had to get a special photo
of the "I ♥ WHW" one! =)

This monument marks the start of the famed West Highland Way!


Karolina said...

'Juxtaposition' - would this be a 10$ word? I knew it before!

Ryan said...

Juxtaposition is totally a $10 word! *nodding* I think I'd even have trouble working it into a conversation! =)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking us on this first day adventure.

Anonymous said...

so that's what happened to Elvis!