Style....Kaleidoscopic.Films, books ,music everything else.
Be aware traveller. There are many different ways to explore the labyrinth of minor roads that sweep across this fantastic area like dew on a spiders web and make it so good for cycling. Dozens of routes. On foot or bike. Although people do live here it is surprisingly empty and wild, current fashion luring most outdoor folk towards the honeypots of the greater ranges.
Here's my suggestion for one of the best rides to give first timers a real taste of the area. Walkers can do a shorter version of this and still be impressed.
OS Map Sheet 63 Firth Of Clyde.
Parking.Knapps Loch area. Semi hidden large lay by off main road just beyond that loch going out of Kilmacolm.
Suggested route. From here to Quarriers Village Then Hattrick Farm road, then past Killochries then past Blackwater to Gateside, Down B788 to Balrossie School minor road.
Just watched a programme with The Specials which highlighted the fact their big hit "Ghost Town" was inspired by a visit to Depression era style Glasgow during the Thatcher demolition derby solution to Scotland's heavy industry and the streets of boarded up communities left in the aftermath.You get the distinct feeling now it may happen all over again. The Specials naturally thought of Coventry going the same way as Glasgow as that was home for them.
"Pride and prejudice" for here as I know a family with 5 young daughters of marrying age not too far away in Greenock :)
If you wanted to skip the Port Glasgow bit then just go via Kilmacolm and Auchendores reservoir road to reach Finlaystone which is more scenic than Port Glasgow but not as much a shock to the senses going from one of the richest areas in Scotland within a couple of miles straight into one of the poorest. Then,for those that have the energy up via bogside, north glen farm, mid glen and whinny hill.This is very up and down but very scenic.The first part of the route as far as High Mathernock is not hard but beautiful, ,just gentle bumps and easy dips.
What I really want to write about though is the variety seen on this route and what such ever changing landscapes do to imagination.Well ,to my own at any rate.
Now we get to the crux of this two parter. For me this has always been the ultimate landscape for any one day tour.It has so much variety packed into such a small area that on a four /five hour easy cycle ride you can be in almost any part of the UK or further afield.
Last year I walked up Blackcraig hill with Alex near New Cumnock.Normally I like it down that way but I found the hill itself so monotonous I almost turned back and only took three photographs of the day out.Its never been posted.Other folk might like that hill.Fair enough.It just was not for me.
I,m never bored or uninspired here though.I switch instead to a whole new level,able to see reality but also to glimpse in my mind when I,m cycling or walking so many other endless possibilities or see echoes and hear voices calling to me in places far away.
How can you not be inspired when round the next corner could be the roofs of Hailsham boarding school from the exquisite and heartbreaking "Never let me go"......
Voices call out from hidden towers and rich princesses stuck out in the countryside try to fill their days.Maybe some get bored here but not I.
I didn't get many books then, maybe one or two a year. All I knew was that if a child wearing the gear that Rupert had on ..scarf ,hat, gloves and checked trousers turned up at our school he would get beaten up every day...Even if it happened to be a girl wearing that stuff.
Now I,m older I can more easily recognize one of these characters as being the Mayor of London.Another, changed into a suit, our current Prime Minister. Hi Rupert.
But that,s beside the point.When I did pick it up I discovered it had one big advantage over Oor Willie.It was in spectacular colour and it was full of adventures in Caves,coves,beaches,romanticized English countryside, castles and towers.Inverclyde and Renfrewshire were a perfect fit for all these. Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir wouldn't look out of place dropped into the Home Counties of England.After all they were probably modeled from examples down there.
When The Lord of the Rings dropped into my Christmas stocking aged twelve it made a big impression on me.
("Christ ! Not more F****** elves! "A disgruntled comment from an Inkling,one of Tolkien,s writing group when told of his latest offering :) I love that!
To me it was obvious this could be the Shire as well.It was a perfect,almost magical version of the English landscape as described in the book.Magical because it was so far north. The map of the Shire showed the same small rolling hills ,woods, meadows and farms.In the middle of that imagined landscape drawn from Tolkien,s own childhood memories Greenhill Country sat bang in the middle of his Shire.
Look at the sign in the photo above this one.I rest my twelve year old minds case.:)
This has always been for me my Shire and even when I look at the modern film version that Peter Jackson Shot in New Zealand so many views of that still match the views here.A wooded rolling country of small gentle hills and streams.The only thing missing is the hobbit holes.After all "The fairest of a thousand parishes" quote about Renfrewshire was penned long before the Lord of the Rings was ever written.
But it is amazing how many of these classics where the landscape is a star can fit in here like a glove. Its got that level of diversity.
It certainly makes a cycle ride here a fun experience.
What do I see in this landscape other than fields and farms?
Decades of books, films, plays and half remembered ghostly characters that flit in and out of my mind constantly here. Nowhere else has that effect. Just here. " Cold comfort farm? "Why, That's here as well of course , just over the next hill.
That early day's pack horse man was spot on.This is a changeling country.
But I've always known that.
I don't need peacocks and horseboxes sitting outside my front door when I can play in sunshine every weekend and can transport myself to so many different imagined and real landscapes all over the UK at will.
All you need is imagination.... and I've always had my fair share of that.
If God offered me the keys of heaven right now I,d say.
"Pah! Old man! Is that the best you've got? I,ll stay right here then .If you ever want a tour around some real quality scenery anytime just give me a shout."