Callendar House/Park is well worth a visit in itself with its Georgian kitchen,period rooms and floor of exhibits.OS map 65.Falkirk.
A seat of power in the Falkirk area for 1000 years from the great wooden hall of the original Thane to the present French chateau version.Both park and house are open to the public (2 to 4pm only on Sundays for house.)The Antonine wall runs right through the middle of the grounds as well but thats not why I was here.
I was using the park as a starting point for exploring the Falkirk ridges,a large upland sky scape of soaring plateau and soft rolling folds that I feel is the true roof of Scotland for its bleak emptiness and vast horizons.You probably need to go to Caithness in the far north to get flat scenery on this scale elsewhere in Scotland.A favourite place to build prisons ,past and current.Former open cast coal mines and lost villages complete the picture on these high ridges.
So.Place to go sorted I watched the forecast in my house with expectation.Ho Hum!A carbon copy of last spring/ summer seems to be unfolding with dull grey mornings then improving after lunch time ending with a sunny evening.Looking out the window at the murk(this is Sunday 9 /5/10 by the way) I stayed indoors,stuffing my face with crisps and reading my interesting library book.
Monsters,Murderers and Madmen -history`s most evil humans revealed.Tales of rectal impalement procedures and head boilings had me chortling happily.I like a good impalement story me.I always fancied I could have been an enthusiastic mass murderer if I`d paid attention and stuck in more at school :0)
Around 10 o clock I`d had breakfast,seedless grapes, cashew nuts and sugar puffs, then set out for Falkirk.
Callendar Park is situated near the town centre with several car parks to choose from.I picked the biggest one near the high flats and the entrance then set off on my bike.First stop past the large pond with its swan boats and islands was the Forbes Mausoleum hidden in the woods beyond.
Yer man high heid yin was the proprietor of the Carron Iron works who made a fortune from navy contracts, putting a layer of copper on the nations hulls.By the age of 40 old copper bottom was the richest self made man in Scotland so he bought Callendar House.He then built this impressive Mausoleum after the sudden death of his first wife.Now its neglected ,sad and largely forgotton in its gloomy bower.
The local kids know about it though,like me enjoying its Gothic vibe of an evening.I was impressed they`d managed to climb up onto the first tier.When I was young I used to play among the temples,ruins and overgrown gardens of a large estate myself,the Maxwell family wonderland in country between Nitshill and Barrhead.Full of jackdaw infested mansions, old mines,water filled quarries and the odd folly or two.
Standing 45 feet high on its Doric columns in a damp shadowy setting I usually think of Count Dracula and his brides entombed in here.Sweet.Always pay my respects to those inside when I`m over here.
Following a wooded path up the ridge behind through mixed woodland took me into Hallglen,a mini Cumbernauld style scheme just as the sun came out.
From here it was a short hop down to Glen village and the nearby tunnel,a well known landmark on the canal which leads to the Falkirk wheel if followed.
After a quick nip through both ways just for the thrill it was off up the minor road climbing onto the main Plateau and the high ridge lines.
Delightful cycling up here and fairly flat once you`ve done the initial push onto the uplands.
Easy peddling in good warm sunshine followed across a rolling mostly empty landscape under vast skies.High plains drifting indeed.Wind can be a problem up here but it was no more than a breeze today with superb cloud formations overhead.
I cut out over Gardrum moss with its tundra like setting then round by babbit hill and easter rigghead where I cut right at avonbridge to follow more minor roads across the folds to Maddison.
Then a place with a surprising name.
The sleepy village of California which may have been named after that American state gold rush of the mid 1880s as that was when this village was founded to mine the rich seams of coal in the area.Black gold.
This nice house looked a bit at odds with its surroundings. On the one side a view of grassy fields,cows, horses, sheep and woods...... on the other.......
A hugely enjoyable freewheel next where the real descent back into the Falkirk trench begins past Shieldhill and came just at the right time too as legs were starting to tire.It seemed to last for ages.
Always enjoy this bike trip in a surprisingly beautiful area yet one that that only really skims the edge of this vast upland region.Loads to explore here.
Oh, and a smashing meal back home.What a day!