TOWARDS the end of summer 2013 I set out walking the West Highland Way for the sixth time; but ahead of getting on my way I did something slightly different to my normal routine – I drove to the start in Milngavie the night before.
Usually I get up at about five in the morning; eat, shower and dress and get in the pre-packed car 30 minutes later giving me enough time to get to Milngavie ahead of the bag-carrying service leaving at 10am; and it’s always a struggle.
Even factoring in a coffee break at Annandale Water (which was opened in 1973 by ‘popular actor’ Rodney Bewes), and the slowness of the M74 and the confusion, due to amount of traffic, of coming off the M8 motorway at junction 16; it’s always a struggle.
So it made sense to drive up the night before and stay at Bankell Farm campsite, just over a mile north of Milngavie; meaning I’d be fresh for next day’s walk from Milngavie to Balmaha.
Along with my partner for the trip, Steve, we set off from Yorkshire after work and arrived in Milngavie just after 11:00pm following a leisurely drive (and the usual stop at Annock Water).
It was a dark sky and the air was slightly damp but, thankfully, it wasn’t too cold. Through the glare of the car’s headlights the campsite seemed small but not busy, and we managed to get a spot near the entrance away from the other tents.
This was good because we’d be pitching under the beam of the headlights, and knowing we would arrive too late for the pub, not that there was one nearby, we’d brought a four-pack of beer so we could sit outside to drink and chat and wind down.
All was going well; we’d drunk a can each and we were on to the second one. A few gulps then two bright lights from above lit up the campsite through the dank misty air. And then an almighty noise hit us.
For a couple of seconds we both thought we were in a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind; and then it struck us, it was a very low-flying plane preparing to land at Glasgow Airport – and it was nearly midnight.
“They’ll be every half an hour – and I forgotten my ear plugs”, says Steve.
“They’re always the first thing I put in my wash bag”, I reply, before suggesting to Steve that he puts toilet roll in his ears.
It turned out there were only a couple more planes during the night, both shining bright lights and both very loud; but, thankfully, neither really disturbed us too much because they passed over in a matter of seconds.
In the morning I went to the campsite office to pay for two tents for one night each. I told the woman in the office that I’d enjoyed staying there – I genuinely had; it was a well kept field, it had good showers and views of the Campsie Fells and it was a great location.
“Ay, it’s a shame about the planes though”, she says half-embarrassed half-amused.
Despite the planes Bankell is a great site and I highly recommend it, as do several other people.
By Richard Hamer.