Monday, 3 October 2011

Stronend.Culcreuch Castle Estate.

For anyone who has not been up this Magnificent hill....What are you waiting for?
There are not many hills I,d  do again and again but this is one. I,ve been up Stronend a dozen times over the years since I first discovered it.For my money its the finest hill in both the Campsie and Fintry ranges and for its size (511 metres)  its one of the best within fifty miles of Glasgow.
Its hard to describe what makes it so good exactly but I,ll try.

The drive out past Killearn and Balfron is beautiful past the popular and almost as good Dumgoyne with its lay by stuffed with cars and walkers then round to the much quieter and serene Corrie of Balglass. For once I,d deliberately picked a Sunday outing trip in poor weather as I fancied something different for a change. Heavy intense showers were forecast throughout the central belt of Scotland mingled in with scattered bright periods.This was during our so called Indian summer heatwave which never really happened except in England.It was very warm though and a risk of thunder was a possibility.I like a good thunder and lightning storm me. What I can never work up a passion for is dull ,drab weather  and grey skies,lifeless with no energy.If I go out walking on days like this I always feel the same. I never really enjoy them.
This though was different.The morning had a brooding, pulsing edge to it that had my senses tingling.The animals could feel it too.
Fintry is a smashing little community.A true mountain town if ever there was one,sandwiched in the deep gap between the Campsie Fells and the Fintry hills.It should really be the hub of walking in this entire area considering its surroundings but the hills lie mainly empty.In countless visits,winter or summer I,ve met few folk on the upper slopes.This is the other side from Stronend. Dunmore and Dechrode.Also a fine outing if combined with Allanrowie and Earl,s Seat.Also beautiful but empty hills and ridge lines.

Maybe parking is why this strange state of affairs exists.There are double yellow lines on most of the best parking spots now but the B822 road lay by area beside the rugby fields next to the Culcreuch Castle entrance is empty except on match days and there are other safe areas nearby to park unobtrusively if you look.It is never a problem for one or two cars to get a space anywhere mainly because so few people come here to climb these fantastic hills.Its a puzzle.
When I started out these farm cows were sheltering under any trees they could find in a Capability  Brown style landscape.The rain was hammering down now.Mind you if the thunder and lightning materialised I,d not fancy my chances there.A whole herd of fifteen or so bullocks were killed a few years ago doing exactly the same thing on the eastern hills outside Edinburgh.
As it wasn,t fork and boom time just yet  though I hugged the trees  myself  all along the lane then walked  up past the estate loch where several fishing tents and poles were sticking out,owners snuggled deep and safe inside the canvas while they fished.One of the reasons I,d picked this walk was the shelter it offered throughout this  lovely estate.
Culcreuch Castle is an upmarket hotel ,one of the oldest in Scotland.Its fairly popular with wedding couples getting photos taken in the  grounds.You are still allowed to walk through them though and they are a delight,full of mature Oaks,Giant firs and Redwoods,beech, Ash, Sycamore and  Horse Chestnut.A circluar tour of the main path  through the grounds,up past the castle then on down the  long western entrance towards Fintry Cemetery is a popular local walk as is a pint or a coffee and meal in its restaurant dungeon which is open to the public.Dogs would have to be kept on a lead though until well up the hill due to the numbers of sheep and cattle roaming around,both in the fenced grounds and free on the open hillsides above.Unless they were  well trained.
As the castle comes into view just past the small loch a fork in the road occurs.Follow the right hand tarmac across an open car park and the low level hall nearby(parking here with Castle hotel or restuarant customers.) and take the lower right hand track that,s signed farm.This is followed past said farm (Barking dogs are normally secure in kennels anytime I,ve passed ) then up left through a gate onto the open hillside.Keep following this track as it zig zags through some lovely scrub land and meadow to the upper balcony of the hill.
Maybe the main reason I like this hill so much is the different levels you pass through at each stage.
Lush woodland  walk....then open grassy meadows...then this.....
The double escarpment of the upper zone.You can avoid this band of crags by trending up right or you can get an easy but thrilling scramble up one of the more open gullies in the middle.Once up here Stronend turns into a proper mountain with a wild almost Peak district feel about the terrain and the outlook..A flat broad ridge is enjoyed rising gently to the cairn and far reaching views over Kippen Muir,the Forth valley and Flanders Moss.... To infinity and beyond!
 It doesn,t feel like a Scottish hill at all,more like a Limestone peak transported to here.A fantastic hill and luckily the good sunny spells matched in with the summit push given a little extra time wasting in the woods with my mushroom guide on my part.I dont eat them as I dont like the taste or texture but I like to know what they are just in case it comes in handy.You never know.
I,ve not changed that much folks.I,m still not going to climb a hill in the pissing rain :0)
A vast flock of geese passed above me close to the summit.Think they were either pink footed or greylags going by the pale breasts and black wings. They look like storks here though.Wierd!
Didn't stay  too long on the summit as it certainly wasn,t heatwave conditions up here.On the way down I could see the dark clouds rolling back in again driven by an increasing wind which at least helped to dry my  still damp clothes.
I was even able to get a photo of a rain shower and sunny patch only a short distance apart so unusual  were the conditions on this strange day.No lightning though.Shame.
Back at the car I headed up over the Muir toll road which crosses  the Campsies,bleak high and empty in yet another sudden downpour.Above Lennoxtown however the rain eased off so I waited a while and I got my best photo of the trip.
Lennox Castle and its Woods boiling in sunshine with mist slowly rising in the evening light.
Magical.A photo can,t really capture the full glory of this moment though.I,ll remember this day for a long time.Wild, empty and timeless scenery. Yet its all under 20 miles from the heart of Glasgow.
The icing on the cake was this sunset just entering Glasgow,s Suburbs once again..Every three or four years you get one as good as this where the clouds seem  to roll like slow motion ocean depths above you.
Yep.I certainly love Stronend! And a  pork chop and stewed apple extravaganza for dinner as my self cooked reward.Happy Days.


The Glebe Blog said...

You're right with the word magical Bob,clouds, mist and sunset in the right light make fantastic pictures.

I see Google have abandoned their slideshow,but that's ok too.
Maybe it was an experiment for a future app.

blueskyscotland said...

Glad Its gone Jim as that was what was peeing me off.I knew that most folk then would just click though the pictures as a slide show without reading anything.

The Glebe Blog said...

I've put you on a challenge list I had passed on tae me Bob.

I wouldn't blame ye for ignoring it.
You'll see it when you next visit the Glebe Blog.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love the play of light and shadow on the hillsides!
Glad you didn't decide to give up on blogging!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anon.
It was the slideshow idea that was bugging me.
No doubt it will make a return in a revised form at some point though.

blueskyscotland said...

My sister sends me stuff like this Jim.Brain teasers.It must be a women thing :0).It does my nut in but I,ll give it a go!

The Glebe Blog said...

If the weather hadn't been so crap Bob,I doubt whether I'd have taken up the challenge.
It was fun looking through old post though,I'd forgotten quite a few of them

Anonymous said...

Stronend, the Fintry Hills, underrated, under visited and just up the road from Glasgow.
I'll have to pay a visit with the exceptionally well-trained wife and reasonably well-trained Mutt next week. Thanks for the tip, Bob.

I love those slightly edgy weather conditions when anything might happen, looked to be a real cracker.

blueskyscotland said...

Its a little belter of a hill Pete.Hope you enjoy it.As is earl,s seat from Fintry. Quieter walking than 99.9% of Munro,s.Its actually still easy to walk across Scotland in any direction coast to coast, top to bottom and never meet anyone.Mind you where,s the fun in that?

Russell said...

Went up Stronend today with two pals the way you recommended, Bob. – Even parked at rugby ground. Great day out. Started in mist. Then got above mist. – A photo below to show this, if it turns out.


Unfortunately were back in mist above the cliffs all the way to the trig point. However, mist cleared on way back to give a great view of Ben Ledi, Ben Lomond, Cobbler, etc. Best of all was view of Meikle Bin which looked like a real mountain. I had gone up Stroned in October 2002 from Kippen side via the Spout of Ballochleam on my own on a dull day. I remember it being very boggy and vowing never to go up it again. Thanks for showing what a great wee hill this is. Russell.

blueskyscotland said...

Glad to be of service Russell.Meikle Bin Looks great from there.

hannah bracken said...

Hi Bob, really inspired to do the Stronend walk you recommend. Can you tell me roughly how long that Stronend round trip would take? Thanks.

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Hannah,
It takes around 4 hours to climb this hill and return. You can park at the lay-by in Fintry next to the sports ground, as mentioned in blog post or a few small lay-bys exist within the grounds. You could even park up at the castle itself if it's quiet and no weddings or events are on. It has a bar- restaurant and the walk around the grounds are nice. A farm track runs to the right from the hall next to the castle past a farm( dogs, usually indoors) follow the track uphill through a wood then over a gate and continue up this farm track until you reach the open hillside. From there walk up onto the ridge and trend left to the summit. Great views on a nice day. Return same way down the track to castle.
Best wishes,