Scotland is the best in many respects, not least in place names that are pronounced much, much differently than how they are spelled. Off the top of my head, there are Cockburnspath (Co’burnspath or Co’path), Athelstaneford (Alshenford), Strathaven (Straven) and the daddy of them all, Milngavie (Milgui). Milngavie is a small town a wee way north of Glasgow. It is known for being the southern end of the West Highland Way, which stretches 96 miles all the way to Fort William (pronounced Fort Wilyum, incidentally), and also for being quite well-to-do. It is the kind of place that has a Waitrose, for example, the mark of somewhere with a lot of Range Rovers. I had never been there before and I decided one very warm April Bank Holiday to change that.
‘This is Glasgow Queen Street Low Level. This train is for Milngavie…’ went the train. Milngavie is quite well served by trains and I could get there from either Glasgow Central or Queen Street. Indeed the train I got from Queen Street had come from Edinburgh. I was going to wait for the Central train but Glasgow was mobbed and I wanted out – summer had arrived with a vengeance. As I write this, it’s cool and wet outside but this day wasn’t. I sat by the window and watched the city pass by, most of the journey via Charing Cross, Partick and Hyndland very familiar, a shadow on the grey Riverside Museum roof, the river shimmering with the unfamiliar sunlight. From Westerton it was all new, houses on either side, some very red people sunbathing in their gardens. These quickly gave way to dearer brick and stone houses. ‘They’ll tell I’m working class’ came the unbidden thought. No wonder I ended up humming ‘The Red Flag’ on regular intervals on my walk.
Milngavie station, with its low hanging roof, was quite busy with young folk heading for the beach or wherever. I felt quite old walking through them, not quite old enough to be their faither yet, but certainly an older brother. The underpass to the town centre was rather fine with a series of murals about the area’s history and the West Highland Way. To my surprise, given Milngavie’s reputation, the town centre was fairly run down and wonderfully the West Highland Way, that well-kent footpath, began right by Greggs. I desisted from buying a steak bake this particular day and started off for Mugdock.
I walked up past some quite posh houses and soon reached the banks of Mugdock Reservoir. I had never been there before and it was rather fine on that gorgeous sunny day, the water calm, the vista pretty perfect. Lots of people were out walking, running and enjoying the sunshine. I knew only that this was where my water comes from. Loch Katrine in the Trossachs is a major source of Glasgow’s water and it gets piped through 26 miles of tunnels and aqueducts to end up at Mugdock and Craigmaddie Reservoirs. This was one of those wonderful Victorian innovations designed to solve a major public health crisis in the city and the design of the gauge basins were enough to remind of a grander civic age. As I walked, I forgot I was so close to Glasgow – indeed I could see some of its high buildings – and I sat by the reservoir, ate my sandwiches and read a book. It was brilliant.
After a fashion, covered in a couple of Loose Ends posts recently, I walked back down into Milngavie, only heading the short distance to Bearsden for a Roman diversion. I was glad finally to have reached Milngavie, the source of much amusement over the years, and to be able to put a place to a name. I think I’ll go back on a colder day, the kind of winter day where the sun is intense but bitingly baltic, to see the view to its best effect. It was pretty fine that day, to be fair, another end of a line and the beginning of another.
Thanks for reading. The Loose Ends posts featuring Milngavie and surrounding districts are John Frederic Bateman monument, Craigmaddie Gauge Basin and Bearsden Bathhouse.