Monday, 28 November 2011
"Fairest of Scotland,s thousand parishes
Neither highland or lowland
But undulating,like the sea in sunset after a day of storms
Thou art indeed beautiful as of old."
These are the words of Christopher North ( 1785-1854 ) a writer,poet and professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh University. More importantly he came from Paisley and went to school in the Mearns.He knew East Renfrewshire well and in later years those memories of youthful explorations here came back to him.I don,t think anyone has managed to capture the special essence that is Renfrewshire better in so few short words .http://www.eastrenfrewshire.gov.uk/john-wilson.htm.
This is worth a look if only for the Robert Pollok link halfway down, a poet and friend of Christopher North(Christopher,s real name was John Wilson and his friend went on to write a best seller of the day inspired by Milton,s Paradise Lost.) It made him famous.
What,s so special about that I hear you ask? Well.......It was three and a half thousand verses long! And it was a best seller! Clearly they liked something to get their teeth into years back to pass those long winter nights beside the fire.
I came across this( thankfully) shorter verse months ago on the internet but the image has never left me as I too have been smitten by this magical kingdom since childhood..I,ve known it since my earliest memories yet even after 50 odd years of exploring its depths it still has the power to move and excite me.There is no other place quite like it.
Why is it so special? I,ve often wondered that myself.It has no major hills,no outstanding places of great merit,no famous landmarks or Iconic visitor attractions for the tourist.But to anyone who knows this landscape well it leaves its mark on you forever. If I die and my ashes get scattered I can,t think of a better place to lie than Renfrewshire.
My original ambition for this post had been to do one great bike ride of homage round the entire kingdom from Eaglesham to the outskirts of Port Glasgow.I may have been able to cover that distance in my youth... but not now on winter roads and short days.This therefore is two journeys blended into one.
The first tour was Barrhead past Neilston Pad along the edge of the Lochliboside hills past Uplawmoor on minor roads to Dunlop then back along the winding Harelaw dam minor road,wild and empty of cars,visiting the weird Totherick in mild calm conditions.
When the Ice age retreated glacial deposits were left all over the central bowl including Renfrewshire.
Edinburgh is a city built around the sides of ancient volcano,s and stumpy lavas , Glasgow is a city built over Drumlins,a multitude of them , mostly between fifty to a couple of hundred feet high.Its what gives both cities their different character.You only have to look at an OS map of Glasgow to see the large number of kettle lochs on it dotted on the outskirts left by stadium sized blocks of melting ice from that time. I,ve spent many happy years exploring every one.
Whatever happened it created this fantastic bumpy part of Scotland.A landscape similar in many ways to parts of inland Dorset,the South Downs,The Sussex Weald.A softer southern patchwork of gentle ridges and dips, each hollow might be filled with beech woods,waterways,fields, farms or a village.Its a land built for joyful exploration, every new view containing a multitude of hidden treasures waiting til you stumble across them.Although I grew up just over the border on the outskirts of Glasgow twenty minutes walk over the fields took me into the start of that magic land.Both feet and mind were always going to be pulled in that direction.
high, empty moors to Largs and Wemyss Bay.Although the modern boundary between Inverclyde and Renfrewshire weaves along rivers and around the edges of small towns like Kilmacolm and Quarrier,s village
I,ve always thought of it in simple terms as this...Rolling valley and pasture lands...must be Renfrewshire. Higher open moors and hills...Inverclyde or Cunninghame.This is as much a landscape of the mind and as old maps show boundary lines are always changing anyway while the basic characteristics of the countryside remain.
Saturday, 19 November 2011
.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.
http://www.threelochsway.co.uk/balloch-helensbu.html 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.
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 film...build 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.
The last time this sign wasn,t on the gate at the entrance though.
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.
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.
A great day out with a variety of landscapes.Some of the hills are a bit odd looking around Garlochhead though.
Monday, 14 November 2011
I arrived in South Queensferry(locals just call it Queensferry) shortly after 12.00 noon and set off on my bike.I like cycling anyway but I would not have enough time on foot to explore the full Dalmeny Estate and get back before nightfall.I would on a bike however.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Queensferry The history of all the Islands in the Firth of Forth can be found here too.It makes an interesting read. They have been used as quarantine Islands in the past and also in a cruel experiment where a woman that could not speak was placed here alone with her two infants to see if they would grow up speaking the true lanuague of God.This was on Inchkeith which is still a very remote and Isolated place today.On a modern map they no longer print" here be dragons".That would just invite dragon slayers.Nowadays....they just hide it in the open..in full view :)
For walkers and cyclists however, the Dalmeny Estate is the jewel in the crown.Seat of the Earl and Countess of Rosebury for many generations its mature woods, meadows, hills and sandy bays are popular with local walkers and cyclists.A circular bike route runs right round the entire estate.
I,ve had my eye on this grassy dome for many years now.Its been five or six years since my last visit here but that was in poor weather when I sheltered in the woods during a violent summer thunderstorm,not interested in climbing a summit running with water and no view.
Now was the hour.
I hid my bike behind a tree just off the tarmac path and set off to claim my prize.The view was worth the wait.
This is nearer at hand.Cramond Isle... and beyond that the gleaming wall of Platinum Point at Leith docks and Granton Docks.
I remember a few weeks ago running after a woman in a Glasgow park(not something I do often) and calling out a couple of times,not that loudly before she eventually turned around to face me.The relief in her face was obvious when I handed her back a toy her child had dropped out the pram.It was a sunny day and the park was fairly busy at the time.Yet Glasgow and Scotland as a whole fare better than a lot of countries.Turned out he was from Glasgow originally so that explains it.Glasgow folk will start a conversation with themselves if no one else is around.
Ironically the more connected we are through phones,Internet and other machines the more detached and suspicious of each other we are getting as people.Its not a very trusting age. I,m no different to anyone else in that respect I suppose.
Anyway I spent that much time chatting to Hunter about various rock bands, Scottish islands we,d both been to and the like that it was a shock to realise it would be dark in 30 minutes.It was the first week the clocks had changed.An hour of light less. His car was closer than mine.I got back in the saddle and shot off.A quick look at the big house then it was steady peddling through the trees,the lights of the various towns in Fife twinkling in the gathering gloom.Although warm before It was certainly November now alright, cycling fast without the sun.I also wondered if the car park at Queensferry had a gate on it that would be locked at nightfall by someone.This thought made me go like the clappers,the forest whizzing past.
Monday, 7 November 2011
Full fascinating account of all three groups here.Look under DECLINE paragraph for Knights Hospitaller(Knights of St John)Amazing stuff.Torphichen Preceptory is also here under SEE ALSO. in Knights Hospitaller page..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Knights_Templar
Back at the car I still had enough time before it got dark to drive to Linlithgow and park there to walk round its loch.I,d seen it sparkling in the distance of course from the hills so I just had to pay it another visit.Its such a great area for views and photography.