Saturday, 17 September 2016

Greenock and The Cut. Central Scotland's Best Balcony Trail?

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
At Alan's suggestion we decided to go to Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park in Inverclyde, above Greenock, to walk 'The Cut', a flat balcony trail offering magnificent views over the sparkling Firth of Clyde. Above is a photograph of the soaring Victoria Tower, a small part of the larger municipal building underneath, and at a height of 245 feet, 75 metres tall, slightly higher than the tower on Glasgow City Chambers, both buildings completed within two years of each other in the late 1880s. As the largest of the three Inverclyde seaside towns clustered together in this vicinity, consisting of Gourock, Greenock and Port Glasgow it was a very wealthy place once as seen in it's wonderful architecture, church spires, and grand mansions rising up the hillsides from the coastline.
Another view from Well Park, a flat three football pitch sized oasis offering great close up views over the town reached from the central district by an interesting and steep flight of stairs. Although a small park it's worth a visit if in the area as it has a few unusual features and sculptures to admire. It can also be reached by car from the streets above giving a perfectly flat walk without inclines, although parking near the higher entrance is limited.
Where we started our walk however was from the main visitor centre car park at Cornalees Bridge next to Loch Thom, a massive reservoir, and the reason for the Cut's existence. The Cut starts from here and flows in a narrow open channel, slightly descending although it looks flat, from the higher moorlands above, carefully using this contour line at roughly 560 feet, 170 metres, round the side of the hills to end up above Greenock's factories and warehouses, giving the town a much needed and reliable steady supply of clean water for industry.
Robert Thom was an intrepid civil engineer from Bute in the early 1800s who had already pioneered a successful aqueduct system for the town of Rothesay and it's cotton mills and was invited to the mainland to work on this larger project, namely providing year round fresh water for the numerous mills, people and rapidly growing industry in this part of Inverclyde. The finished waterworks did the job nicely and Loch Thom was named in his honour. 'The Cut' is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and an extremely popular walk these days. I'm in two minds about creating National Parks and putting labels on natural features and landscapes. On the one hand it does save certain areas from development but on the other it dramatically increases the number of visitors into small areas that are now deemed 'fashionable' and the 'acceptable' thing to do, which in turn can erode the very essence of 'wilderness' they are meant to be protecting. As I've noticed with Loch Lomond National Park over the years not all visitors can be trusted to behave themselves correctly with such large numbers appearing, resulting in far more regulations and restrictions, so naturally, to me anyway, the archipelago of marvellous islands in the middle of Loch Lomond do not have the same quality of freedom and remote isolation they used to have 30 years ago. Mind you, few popular places do.
The first half of the Cut has views over rural farmland with mountains in the distance and we soon found we'd picked the right location as several sharp showers and much duller weather could be observed sweeping over the nearby peaks, which remained gloomy and overcast during our visit. This is a walk from a few weeks ago.
A zoom of what looks like the Cobbler, 2,900 feet, 884 metres, in the Arrochar Alps region seen from the Cut. Once again we were in sunshine all day whereas many regions experienced sharp sudden downpours of high intensity in very contained locations. With the humid summer temperatures still continuing we ran into several semi flooded roads on the way back yet we stayed dry and were only treated to a few rainbows over the surrounding hills.
A partial rainbow over the golf course.
A photo showing the aqueduct channel of the Cut. As we progressed further different urban views opened up across Gourock and Greenock.
One of Greenock Cemetery. This large wooded area is an interesting destination in its own right with many fine obelisks, tombs and gravestones on show as well as a network of lovely paths through a cornucopia of assorted tree types, including more monkey puzzle trees than any other location I've visited in Scotland. You also get fine views from the more modern part of this cemetery and it can be combined with other hilltops ( like Lyle Hill and adjacent small reservoirs ) to make a larger varied walking tour within the town.
Inverclyde Hospital and Central Greenock showing a small corner of the colourful modern school. One of the older, recently redundant, schools in this area was used as the location for Waterloo Road, a fictionalized BBC TV drama set in a modern comprehensive school with a mainly English cast of teachers and pupils. Not so far fetched as it sounds however as I've noticed an increasing number of English folk living and working in Scottish cities over the last decade.The Scottish Highlands have always been a magnet for rich incomers to kill the wildlife and play at big game hunters but now it seems there's a big switch into cities as well, and not just Edinburgh. The general consensus when asked seems to be that 'England has changed' and 'not for the better'... so they are all abandoning it to its fate and arriving up here in numbers. Mainly white and middle class it has to be said. Makes sense when you can sell a house in some areas down there and either retire on a large nest egg or start up a business with a sizable pot of money left over. Maybe the south of France is full up, too dangerous, or house prices are cheaper here now. From a strictly Scottish point of view though I have to say that 'Scotland has changed.'  My God! If this trend keeps up we may even start voting Conservative again in elections for the first time since the1950s! An unthinkable notion for any self respecting urban Scot even though Labour appears to be eating itself alive faster than a self catering cannibal. Immigrants out I say :o) Keep Scotland Scottish!
Obviously, New England is already taken but 'Albion' has also been suggested as a more forward thinking, less patriotic, future name for the country instead of Bonnie Scotland to reflect the recent demographic spread more accurately. New Poland also proved a popular choice and came in second.

A view of Greenock Docks with a cruise ship and a container ship moored at rest. Cruise ships are a regular sight here now in Albion, sorry Scotland, and this is a popular stop over to let visitors see the area. I've always said the Firth of Clyde and it's islands have world class scenery and the cruise ship owners seem to agree. As you can see a haggis is grazing in the field here above the town, unafraid and looking at the camera. Yum Yum.
A helicopter spotted on the way back.
Rain clouds building over the moors. A 12 km circular walk in total with one strenuous uphill section from Overtoun back over the hillside to the car park and the three reservoirs there. Allow 3 to 5 hours depending on pace and stops. Still a great varied walk.
And the usual glorious west coast seaboard sunset to end the day.

Here's another excellent film about a young deaf boy and his mother set in Gourock and filmed around the town and up on The Cut. Easily as good as Local Hero, The Full Monty, or Gregory's Girl but less well known. It gets a score of 70 to 90 out of 100 in most film reviews I've seen and is beautifully filmed and acted. A modern and clever fairy-tale of sorts and well worth watching. P.S. the mother is English of course (damn, they get everywhere) but it's still a great enjoyable film about childhood :o)


Anabel Marsh said...

We did this walk earlier in the year - really lovely.

Rosemary said...

When we first moved to Glasgow we stayed with an old lady who had owned a house in Langbank with its own turret and a ballroom. I don't know what that area is like now. She had married a very wealthy Glasgow chap, something do with shipping, and Burrell was one of their friends.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Not that many good high level horizontal balcony trails/walks in Scotland as it's more an alpine thing but someone on the walk we met said it was listed as such, hence the title.

blueskyscotland said...

Evening Rosemary,
Yes, it was houses like that I was thinking of. I had a great little book years ago called The North Clyde Estuary: An illustrated Architectural Guide 1992 edition which gave descriptions and selected photos of every notable house and building in that whole area. A real treasure trove and indicative of the money and ambitions in that neck of the woods during that period. I still think Victoria Tower is outstanding and the carving work on that entire building is remarkable up close. I think that turreted house is still there and many more scattered along the coast have rooftop outlook balconies. People tend to forget that when they think of Greenock and Port Glasgow. Dunselma,Coats old Sailing Lodge is Scotland's very own Neuschwanstein. Well, I think so...

Linda said...

How beautiful!

The Greenockian said...

It's been a while since I've walked the Cut - maybe next summer? Your photographs are great - love the rainbow. The views are just stunning from up there on the hills.

Kay G. said...

The rainbow photo, I would frame it and sell it!
I bet the film is good. I recognize the English actress, I must watch too much British TV. (P.S. For anything from Scotland, I sometimes have to put on the subtitles!)

Linda W. said...

Lovely sunset and that rainbow photo is fabulous! Yes, I hear what you're saying about national parks. Here in the US we're loving ours to death and there seems to be an increase in selfish people disregarding the rules. mention the large influx of English moving to Scotland, here in Oregon we've been battling huge waves of Californians that have migrated to our state, boosting our real estate prices and gridlocking our traffic.

Carol said...

I used to sleep in my Cortina on the road up from Largs to Loch Thom - thought the loch was lovely but didn't know about the cut... or the reason it was called 'Thom' - so thanks for that. The Cut looks a superb walk - might give that a try sometime.

I've often wondered whether I should move to Scotland and my main reason is the same 'England has changed' and 'not for the better'. England has, by and large, been turned into a noisy, overcrowded, anti-social dump! Richard is thinking the same way too. The only thing which has saved you from us is your weather really ;-)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Liz,
If you ever see it advertised on TV Dear Frankie is worth a watch as Gourock, Greenock and the Cut take centre stage apart from the fact it's a warm charming family film.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Thank you. I think you would like that film very much but it rarely gets an outing, even here in Scotland, despite good reviews.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda W,
Yes, I read about people in your National Parks recently outdoing each other to get selfies as close as possible to major large predators as if they were stuffed toys. Same the world over I suppose. Reading about the five year drought in California last week I'm not surprised folk are moving out into the next state north. Mass migrations all over the world at the moment.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Yes, I can see the endless sunshine up here might be a problem for you :o)
You canny get in anyway as we've not got any room left. We're already stuffed to the gunnels with English folk always attempting to gentrify our villages, towns and cities with fancy cake shops, upmarket delis and wine bars instead of keeping them the traditional familiar shit-holes we know and love so well. Next they'll be changing our culture, grabbing the best jobs and school places with their 'ingrained, self entitled, highly competitive sharp elbowed attitude to life.' Not my quote but a Daily Mail favorite phrase describing 'upwardly mobile Yummy Mummies' of a certain age in the Home Counties suburbs.
Naturally, to try and redress the balance, we send all our worst drunks, junkies, neds and nutters down south every year on a Scottish government subsidized bus to get our own back.

Carol said...

Don't worry, I won't be gentrifying Scotland if I move up there - I'll be lowering the tone! Couldn't agree more with the Daily Mail comment - it's spot on nowadays and it's not just in the Home Counties. Please do send your worst down south here...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I thought I'd do a twist on the UK immigration debate but its based on accurate on the ground info as I was increasingly puzzled at the number of luxury housing estates going up in Scotland and who could afford them. £150,000 to 350,000. Even with ordinary new cul de sac developments I would have to work from dusk to dawn from leaving school to pension age just to afford to buy one and would probably die of old age before I paid the mortgage off. Another piece of the social jigsaw worked out as Scotland's cities in many areas seem to be going upmarket in the last ten years yet in the poorer districts where streets of houses are getting knocked down the working class tenants that lived there in their thousands seem to be evaporating as new affordable estates or social rented flats are thin on the ground. Just cycling about all the areas in Glasgow there appears to be far less ordinary homes around, replaced by upmarket new housing but holding far less occupants than before. At present I'm not smart enough to work out where the average citizens on low wages are disappearing to but I'd like to solve that mystery as well. They can't all be committing suicide although RIP tags to folk who have are a regular feature nowadays on walls during walks and bike runs.
Thick and puzzled.

Carol said...

ALL the housing being built nowadays is luxury housing unfortunately - and those houses which were small, neat and affordable are being extended for profit out of existence. I object to both practices - soon, normal working class folk won't be able to afford anywhere to live! And not everyone wants a huge house when they're older. I'm trying to get a tiny house for my retirement and the selection is very limited indeed nowadays - ridiculous!

In England, 150,000 is cheap for a house, 200,000 is average and 350,000 is very expensive. That's excluding the over-the-top prices dahn sarf of course...