Coast to Coast

Global Traveler|June 2020

Coast to Coast
Journey along the John Muir Way to explore Scotland’s heartland.
RICHARD NEWTON

THE START OF A JOURNEY. Apprehension mingles with excitement. What lies ahead? Standing on Scotland’s west coast, we know the bare bones of what we’re facing: 134 miles of hiking, a coast-to-coast traverse of the country. But what will we see along the way? Who will we meet? How wet will we get?

We’re in the seaside town of Helensburgh, northwest of Glasgow. A circular stone inlaid on a lawn beside the town pier marks the exact starting point of the John Muir Way.

The man — and the hiking route named after him — are synonymous with wilderness, yet for the first 30 minutes we tramp along pavements, passing shops and houses. It’s only when we leave town that a true sense of adventure kicks in, and we inhale the scent of pine and bracken.

Breaking from woodland into open ground, the countryside transforms into a typically Scottish patchwork of browns and greens, interspersed with purple clusters of thistles. The path wends steadily inland. Three hours after leaving the coast, we reach another body of water, Loch Lomond, and the bustling tourist town of Balloch. We’ve completed the first of the walk’s 10 official stages.

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June 2020