Walking the John Muir way

John Muir Way

My most recent walk, done in April 2014, was the new long distance walk from Helensburgh to Dunbar, the John Muir Way. I decided to do the walk over 2 weeks during pre planned holidays in April. I intended to B&B the walk and hope for the best regarding the weather, the latter was great.

The first day of the walk was from Helensburgh to Balloch, which took me over well signed posted pavements and cycle tracks. The only trouble I had was walking over the Gouk hill, it seems the way has a small diversion over muddy paths, until such times as improvements to the path are made, this should be done in May-June 2014. After conquering the hill you have gorgeous views over Loch Lomond, much needed after a boggy wet walk. I stayed in Balloch for the night at a nice cosy B&B having a few pints at the local pub next to the railway station.

The second day took me from Balloch to Strathblane on public paths, roads and nice tracks through the forest. There were steep parts to this walk but all doable. You also join parts of the West highland Way path with again some section being very steep, definitely hard work for this longer part of the walk. For me personally this was the hardest part of the walk, if that had anything to do with just starting the walk and not being physically in tune or maybe it was the recovering from the few pints of lager the night before, who knows 

John Muir Way
Supplied by the daily Telegraph

The next day I was up bright fresh and early after not frequenting the local pub the night before, normally I like to plan a few pints into my walks as this gives me a feel of the local community, that’s my excuse anyway. This part of the walk was shorter than the previous and followed repaired railway paths and an off road footpath going through Kirkintilloch, which was easy to navigate and made the walk more interesting rather than walking through the town. At the point where the route splits into two, at Twechar, you are advised to walk up and over the Antonine wall, although steep it does include walking past the Roman Fort at Bar hill. This part of the track was very steep but worth it once at the top. This was a very good days walking, short but interesting. Of course being early in Kilsyth gave me time to relax and have a look around this nice town.

The fourth day was another early start as I had to tackle 13 miles, mostly on canal tow paths which made the walk maybe a little boring but easy. One excellent feature of this walk is through the new walking/cycling area called the Helix, which is a stone throw from Falkirk fc stadium. Right in the middle of the Helix is the 30 meter high land mark sculptures, the Kelpies, awesome and magnificent feature of this walk, definitely a highlight. I managed to stay in the heart of Falkirk for the night at a great B&B and recuperated with a nice meal and lager at the local Weather spoons.

On and upwards to the fifth day, a little tired but looking forward to this smaller distance of 8 miles from Falkirk to the beautifully town of Linlithgow. This part of the route goes mainly along the Union canal, again a little monotonous but comfortable on the feet. I arrived early afternoon and walked around the Local loch before having a gander around the Linlithgow Palace. There are some great pubs on the main street of Linlithgow, well worth a visit.

The next part of the walk from Linlithgow to South Queens ferry is roughly 13 miles and takes you along the shores past Bo’ness to Blackness where there is a delightful little castle worth visiting. After walking the rest along the shore you have to take note that there is restoration work going on to the path so it would probably be advised to do this part when it is low tide. Looking at the main homepage of the John Muir site, they have highlighted that the work should be finished roughly July 2014. After you pass Hoptoun house on your right hand side you walk through dense forest before coming out the west side of South Queensferry, here is home of the Forth road and rail bridges. South Queens ferry is another small medieval like town and full of delightful little restaurants and pubs just to my liking.
Next day I was up early to start the next part of the walk into Scotland’s capital. This piece was 15 miles roughly and uses farm tracks, quiet paths and pavements plus again parts of the Union canal. I made it into the capital late afternoon and made my way to the quiet and peaceful meadows for a relaxing hot chocolate. Edinburgh is full of life especially on the mile which is the street which connects the Castle and the Scottish houses of parliament, again pubs in abundance which suited for a relaxing pint of nectar 

SNH SGT JMT 90
Supplied by the Edinburgh reporter.co.uk

The next part of the walk from Edinburgh to Prestonpans walking through Musselburgh, the home of Scotland horse racing another of my past times, alas no time for a flutter, onwards and eastwards. You join the coast again at Musselburgh and walk this scenic part into Prestonpans, this was a gorgeous part of the walk partially because the weather was stunning but also there was a great wee pub on route.
The next part was a whopping 17 miles and I was starting to tire a little after my previous days walk, but the paths where of good substance and on the plus point not far from the sea which is always scenic and interesting. This part took me roughly 6 hours and gladly I made it into North Berwick at 7 pm making my way directly to my hotel for a well earned shower and sleep, to tired for a beer tonight!!!
The final stretch was again a little longer than I hoped but nice all the same as the weather stayed well until the end. There where great views on reaching the top of the Berwick Law across the East and West of the this ancient town looking over to Arthurs seat and east to the castle in the town of Dunbar, my next and last destination, well worth the climb. The final part actually takes you into the birth place of John Muir, which is a fitting end to a great walk.
Just to recap, I really enjoyed this walk, I have done a few long distance walks in Scotland but this is up there with the best. If this had anything to do with the great weather then that makes sense. I must also say that the walk has been well financed and following the markers/paths is easily done. The walk is still ongoing with parts being refurbished/repaired but you can definitely be sure that once completely finished this will be one quality well visited walk. I got a lot of information for the John Muir coast to coast website plus also managed to get great gpx downloads from the walks in Scotland website, which is also a great resource for Scottish walks