Saturday, 19 November 2011

Hill House.Glen Fruin.Three Lochs Way.

It happens a lot that you go to a place then notice other possibilities just by going there.The very next weekend after my Roseneath Peninsula Bike Ride posted here on 30th august 2011 I was back again In Helensburgh keen to explore further.Not had a chance to put it in til now. So...Parked in the same large free car park down at the pier.The shows were still on and Britney,s Toxic had been replaced by Katy Perry,s Extra Terrestrial booming out.I don't mind it nice and jumpy for short periods but I wouldn,t fancy living close by.For me though it was very easy to escape.
.I,d looked up Information on the Three Lochs Way,a New long distance walking trail going from Balloch to Inveruglas on Loch Lomond side.It travels through some interesting  hill country, has fantastic views and is circular if you take the ferry across to Inversnaid and return down the West Highland Way.A lot of these new trails are appearing all over Scotland promoted by local areas keen to have visitors numbers staying and spending in the vicinity.  Good maps of the route here also.
This one looks interesting as it visits some lovely wild scenery,interspersed with gun ranges,private MOD roads and little known tracks high above lochs most people zoom past on their way further north.
It was an easy uphill cycle on quiet roads to reach Hill House situated at the top of upper Helensburgh.I,d read the large garden surrounding the house was free to visit and it was someplace I,d never been.That was enough.I,m not a big fan of Charles Rennie Mackintosh though.He was unique and his ideas are bold and visionary with furniture and  high backed chairs that look as if they were designed for aliens with eight foot spines but the outside of his buildings often look cold and detached.Just as well they are now saved for the nation,they don't look comfortable places to live in.The garden matched the house,large but fairly spartan.It didn't have enough colour,flowers or wildlife in it for my tastes.I didn't stay long and as I know Mackintosh designs well I didn't visit the house itself.Feel free though.It has its own  sizable car park.
I much preferred this house nearby.Now that looks a welcoming place to come home to though a house that size would be a maintenance money pit.Need to have very deep pockets.
Anyway the main reason I was here was to go along the Upland way,an old coffin route, which runs at the back of the house left and right and travels through Highlandman,s wood to Rhu.Its one balcony trail I,ve never done and I do like a balcony trail  as Alex will tell you :)
For part of the way this is also the Three Lochs Trail before it veers uphill across country to the north.You can also do part of this route described as a walk returning via Rhu and the sea front Promanade or take the Three Lochs Trail inland over to Glen Fruin Then Back Along Minor Tracks Via The Reservoirs.This also looks good.Glen Fruin is also the site of the Last great interclan battle in the highlands..A woman distance runner has completed the whole thing in 7.5 hours recently and a good  mountain biker can do it in a day.(one for you Mr Vally?)
I soon discovered its not really suitable for a bike though once past the three  loch turnoff as it has too many dips,tree roots and curves to be a safe ride for someone of my limited ability.I was happy to walk these sections anyway as it only increases erosion on a dirt and grass path like this to ride a bike along it.When I did it  in the summer the trail was fine but the latest information on the link above suggests it is now muddy and rutted given the amount of feet, bikes and rain we have had since then.A large amount of money(£40,000) will have to be found to repair this.Not the result the makers of the way intended but in the words of a well known it and they will come... then walk across it,trample it down and leave you with a trench.I suppose that's always the catch if it proves popular.Luckily much of the way is on decent  broad tracks which can take the numbers involved.There is now a detour in place. I visited the ever popular Mugdock recently above Milingavie for a couple of hours and a lot of the grass trails there were looking pretty trashed and muddy due to continued use in all weathers.
This is one of the views on the upland way.Looking across to Gare Loch, The Kilcreggan Peninsula and then Loch Long.It is very fine scenery in all directions and a nice walk in itself..As it was a better path now,hard packed and firm I got back on the bike for the descent  down into Rhu and Shandon.
At the bottom it was the usual canter along the fairly quiet main road beside the Gare Loch til I reached the Minor road leading up into Glen Fruin.This is the first real highland glen you pass  traveling north up the A82 from Glasgow.The next one up from here is Glen Douglas yet both are quiet and empty of visitors despite having good scenery.Its the usual thing of being hidden out of sight  because its right under everyone,s nose.I include myself in this as I,ve only cycled here twice many years ago in spite of its proximity to Glasgow.
The last time this sign wasn,t on the gate at the entrance though.
As signs go this is a cracker,the red one being the best.Don't know the reason why its here.Maybe some local has issues with the MOD base nearby or thinks he might be sued if someone is accidentally shot on his land....who knows.It didn,t bother me much anyway as its a public road and I wasn't intending to stray off it.
I also remember it being a belter on a bike,good views and peaceful.
Nothing has changed.As you can see from these photos its still the same.
 This is the steep climb up with the hills of Argyll in the distance.I didn't make it all the way up in the saddle and was passed by two younger guys with thin tyre racing bikes and more low gears.They were still struggling though.It was warm and muggy and the sweat was dripping off them with the effort.I was happy to walk and had my first stop at the top for a snack and a drink of juice.
I could now see the Luss hills ahead.On the map,OS sheet 56 Loch Lomond and Inveraray/Trossachs, there is a larger, faster road built above this one running through Glen Fruin.It looks close but you can hardly see or hear it, all it does is take any traffic away leaving this original one serene.The Three Lochs Way passes along here.
Any farmers I came across were friendly and always gave me a wave.This guy was moving sheep to a new field.
After the hard work over the pass its a slow gentle freewheel all the way along the glen itself til near the end at East Kilbride where you cross the Fruin Water then climb up less steeply to reach the main A 818.Views now open up over Loch Lomond and the Campsie/ Fintry hills area.
This is Loch Lomond and Balloch Country Park.Good walks and safe car parking here too.
As I still had a bit of energy left in the legs and hadn,t been round this section I followed the cycle track down to reach  Ross Park and Auchentullich Jetty area on Loch Lomond with its Golf courses and loch side views.Very upmarket,not me at all :)
Wish I hadn,t bothered with this added on bit though as I slogged back over the hill to reach yet another area I,d never visited.This one was much more to my taste.The town reservoirs just above Helensburgh. Here I had a seat to recover and got talking to an elderly woman out with her dog.She was a local,owned a grand house in the upper town but was struggling to pay for the upkeep and heating bills now she was no longer earning money .Her family didn,t want to live in it after they themselves got married preferring something smaller and more modern so she was left sitting  alone in a sleeping bag in this massive pile all winter trying to save costs and did all the housework and gardening herself as well .She was a nice old lady.Its a familiar story sadly. Over the years I have met a lot of people like that where the money has gone yet they still hang on to what they love,often places where they were born and raised a family... so some of these grand houses are not always what they seem.
One of several small reservoirs just  above Helensburgh.Anyone visiting Hill House can walk from here and explore these by using the upland way track.Its a short ten minute walk straight from the house to here.
Well worthwhile.
A great day out with a variety of landscapes.Some of the hills are a bit odd looking around Garlochhead though.


The Glebe Blog said...

A great post as usual Bob.Some great views and it looks like you also found some good weather.
Have you got an engine on that bike of yours ?You certainly cover some distance.
The signs remind me of a trip to the Brecon Beacons back in the 60's.
Camped at Sennybridge we were training with live ammo at targets strategically placed.Miles away looking like little dots and off at an angle was a flock of sheep.
This particular marksman thought he'd try them out for distance and would you believe it,they were in range.
It cost him 56 days in jankers and compensation to the farmer.(No,it wasn't me)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim
Maybe that explains why the signs are there.Also why that runner did it so fast.Thats an incredible time.
We had a girl in our club years ago who ran the West Highland Way in mid winter with snow on the ground in two days.Some folk just enjoy pushing themselfs to the limit.
Luckily I,m not one of them :)
About 40 miles is my limit now on a bike. I like to explore places and get off to wander about if I see something interesting.Then it can go down to 10 miles :)
For me its not about how far it is but how interesting I can make it for myself.
bob. said...

'Its not about how far it is but how interesting I can make it for myself'. That's not a bad maxim for those of us in our middle years!

Those 'hills' look like silos - is that what they are Bob? In the '50s my dad was stationed in Glasgow, seconded to the 51st Highland Division. He was in the Signals and fitted out the communications for the nuclear bunkers in these parts. I've often wondered where they are since i moved here from the south.

40 miles sounds like a lot to me...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Pete.
Yeah,Everyones different.Even when I was younger I was never interested in long distance events just for the sake of them.Apart from lack of climbing skills to solo at speed along the Skye ridge say I didn,t really see the point doing things like that in a oner when you could have a dozen great days out instead.Same with the Three Peaks race which I turned down a couple of times when the offer was there.
Back packing abroad was different because it was the only way to see different mountain ranges properly in a short holiday period.
If you haven,t been over that way its a really scenic half day drive over the upper(new) Glen Fruin road or Glen Douglas then round the Roseneath Penisula,coming back via the coast road at Helensburgh.
I know you like the far north west but its still fairly wild where your dad worked.Cowal In Particular is as rough and empty as anywhere else in Scotland.
Ps. Still Game is being repeated on BBC 1 every monday 10.35pm at the moment.Bit rude but very funny.

surfnslide said...

Hi Bob. Just come across your blog for the first time. Really enjoyed this article about a part of Scotland I don't know all that well. Always great to get some background the scenery which you've captured really well in the photos

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy.
Most folk from down south on holiday always seem to head for the west coast mountains and get a soaking usually but the area east of Edinburgh is worth a visit with spectacular seacliffs,huge stacks, rugged islands and its good for families.Mind you you,ve got Gogarth,Great Ormes head,the Rhyl Sun Centre and the LLeyn Peninsula on your doorstep so the world,s your onion :)

Hunter said...

Hi Bob, what a great trip and evoked so many happy memories for me! Spent my younger years growing up on the shores of the Gareloch at Shandon and lived there til the age of 19! Know and love the area and had loads of adventures and escapades there. So lovely to see those photos of all those places I know and love so well, especially the Gareloch and Glen Fruin. Glad to see you had a good day as the one thing I dont miss is the climate - lots of rainfall usually. Left the area a long time ago but although I have left the area it has never left me!! Absolutely loving the blog Bob and this trip has, for me personally, been an absolute delight for me to read. Keep up the good work!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Hunter.
It,s a smashing area when the sun stays out.Next post is back over your way though.Half the rainfall--twice the sunshine :)

Hunter said...


You're not going to Bute House to get a tourism award from Alex Salmond, are you?!!

blueskyscotland said...

Exactly.Well said.