Sunday, 8 January 2012

Kilpatrick Hills.Duncolm.The Magic Escarpment.

Before I posted this I had to look back at  our previous entry list trying to find out if I,d posted this walk before as I couldn,t believe this was the first time for it on this blog.Our only other entry on the Kilpatrick's however was in  June 2009 at the Western edge. Dumbarton castle.Lang Craig and Doughnot Hill. Unbelievable! High time then these vastly underrated hills get another  mention.Of all the hill ranges in Scotland this is probably the one most central belt west coast outdoor folk  pass most as they zoom along the bottom on their way to higher,damper hill groups further north.Many don,t even look up.
I  should know.... I used to be one of them.
This all changed around thirty years ago ,when I first moved over to this side of the river from the oh so easy to reach open fields and farmlands of my youth.Would I find  a playground over here as good as the Barrhead Dams,Gleniffer Braes and high moors of East Renfrewshire for local walks between trips to the greater ranges?It was a serious question.Walking and exploring nature is my life and always has been.I,d be lost and empty in a place without scenic distractions.
I need not have worried.A bold,exhilarating kingdom awaited me on these, my newly adopted local hills. This is the farm track leading up into the Kilpatricks starting from just above the Erskine Bridge at Old Kilpatrick village itself. I think one of the main reasons these hills remain undiscovered by the majority of walkers must be the lack of obvious parking in the area.Once you know where to park however that is not a problem.
For those without a car trains run every 30 minutes or so from Glasgow city centre(Queen street)past Partick to Kilpatrick Station.From here Five minutes gentle walk uphill  under the  A 82 at the Erskine Bridge brings you past a little Gas facility to the start of the farm track which is signposted" Loch Humphrey."Follow this up onto the escarpment then across the rolling uplands to the rocky crown of Duncolm.The highest point in the Kilpatrick range.The weather here is usually better than even ten miles further west and north.Blue cloudless Skies throughout the year are common.
For car drivers follow the A82 til the Old Kilpatrick cut off which is on the left just after the Erskine Bridge slipway.Once down in the village there are several discreet parking places in quiet streets nearby where you are not in front of anyone,s house or driveway.Then walk up Station Road.Alternatively two suitable car parks for visitors are available right beside the road at  nearby Bowling harbour.This is also worth a foot tour round afterwards anyway as its an interesting place full of liitle boats,wooden sculptures of animals and canal berths.There is a tiny three car layby at the start of the farm track itself right beside the gas facility which I use but I would only park my own car here for a short time.It,s up to you.The other places feel much safer if slightly further away.There is also large safe street parking available around Mountblow both in bays below the three grey high rise flats (West Court is the first or on quiet streets higher up nearer the hills.) I,ve parked here many times.
The reason I,m taking the time to  mention all this information is simple.This walk into the Kilpatricks is stunning and contains one of the finest balcony trails anywhere in Scotland. This is Glasgow,s answer to Arthur,s Seat in the heart of Edinburgh.  ie.... a mountain range surrounded by a city.  I,ll never forget the first time I explored this surprisingly wild upland area starting from the Queens View after getting a lift on a scorching summers day,walking through the deep damp slot of the Whangie then continuing past Burncrooks Reservoir, over Thiefs Hill and lonely Saughen Braes to stand on top of Duncolm.It felt as remote as any mountain wilderness but had  far less hillgoers.I never met a soul  all day til I arrived at the edge of the escarpment above Glasgow and Clydebank then looked down at this view from above.After 10 kilometres of fighting across empty moors and flowing  grasslands up to my waist at times in small, springy meadows alive with roe deer ,jumping hares and buzzards  it took the breath away to suddenly confront a city spread below like a living 3D  map.Its an image I,ll never forget.
Even greater range loving  Alex when I persuaded him to go a walk up here (Duncolm was on his list of ticks needless to say) expressed amazement at how good it was.A real five star day out.
The balcony trail  to end all balcony trails can be found by  following this faint path  due south from the summit cairn of The Slacks to the edge of the escarpment.From here it weaves down through little crags and  mixed trees then turns right,above a cottage(Craigleith), to join the same  farm track seen above in the second picture.Its seldom used except by a few knowledgeable locals.A real hidden wonder.Enjoy.
Try to get it on a sunny blue sky day like this and it will not disappoint. Loch Humphrey.One of many lochs up here.
A view standing high above Dumbarton Rock and the silver ribbon  of the River Clyde.

Sunset across Renfrewshire and  the Erskine Woods.

Looking across towards Inverclyde,Langbank and Port Glasgow from the farmstead.
Last of the sunset.Standing above the twinkling carpet of Paisley and The Erskine Bridge illuminations.A magical adventure in a remote area yet so close to Scotland,s largest centre  of population.How do you hide such a wondrous, dazzling exotic gem for so long? By placing it in full view of course.


campagvelocet said...

i've been up there a few times in different conditions. nice and wild once you lose the glasgow view and there are good views north. not as vast (or wet) as the muirshiels area but definitely preferable to the south side stuff you mentioned further east.

mark aka the23

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mark.
One of the reasons I thought I,d post this just now is that I,ve read they are trying to apply for a windfarm permit on the Kilpatrick,s which if it goes ahead will spoil that good view north and west.Soon not be able to swing a mouse outdoors without hitting a bloody turbine.

The Glebe Blog said...

This is another area I've only ever driven by.
It's absolutely amazing how much you can't see from a car.
It's only now looking on-line at an OS map that the geography makes sense.
What a great area to have on your doorstep.Some great pictures too Bob.
Great post

Robert Craig said...

Always liked the Kilpatricks, though only ever been up a couple of times (unless you count the Whangie as being in the Kilpatricks). I've even got a song from my 'Tokyo Sexwale' album that mentions the Kilpatricks! Didn't know about this balcony trail though, must try it out some day.

PS happy new year and much health for 2012!

Unknown said...

How embarrasing, I lived 7 years in Glasgow and never once ventured into the Kilpatricks. Mind you I'm glad I put the hours into exploring pubs and clubs instead while I was still motivated to do so!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim
You have a good playground yourself down that way with the Lakes,Ireland,coastal walks and the Southern Uplands on your doorstep.I dont visit the Kilpatricks that often with so much else availble nearby but its nice to know they are there.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Robert.
This Balcony trail is good but it Depends if you enjoy walking above a cityscape which I do.Some people prefer to be out of sight of humanity altogeher on a walk which is also no problem up here.
Reminds me of a line recently in the film Lawrence of Arabia which sums up my dual outlook on the outdoors nowadays perfectly.
Arab Ali."You are another of these Englishman who love our bare empty places.No Arab loves the desert.There is nothing out there for us.We like water, food,and the green luxury of the Oasis."
(that was before oil of course :)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Gavin.
As I say it took me 15 years of driving past them myself before I got round to exploring them properly.
We are so lucky in Scotland that there is so much variety of landscapes out there in such a small area.
The main danger now is every single view filled with turbines,which if we don,t act soon may happen.Maybe your idea of more National Parks is a way forewards though I,m not keen on the way they are set up to attract large numbers of people into an area or some of the projects they throw money at.
I don,t mind turbines so much on the dullest areas of land but now its top quality views at risk.
Tourists don,t come here for our weather.

Anonymous said...

Stunning Bob. Like you I love airy views over cityscapes like that and quiet unspoilt areas. Like you say some of the best places are hidden in plain sight.

And then I read the comment that this is yet ANOTHER area marked for Turbines. I despair, I really do. Give it time and finding any viewpoint in Scotland without a turbine in it will be nigh on impossible

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy.
The Windfarm might not happen if enough folk protest about it.West Dumbartonshire and the Vale of Leven are the ones that will be most affected by it as this is their finest local asset.Its also going to be within sight of Loch Lomond National Park which May count for something.

Anonymous said...

Superb account of all aspects of Glasgow and Surrounding hill areas
I've explored all around Duncolm hill and Loch Humphrey and it is indeed a great viewpoint back to the million + in this valley who don't know or much bother with the joys that surround them
I can see these hills from my window and photo them hundreds of times a year from Brownside braes

Great read


blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Dougie.
You,ll be a Paisley man then..or a Barrhead or Neilston dweller :)
Great views up there too of course from above the golf course and dams.I must admit I miss the 3 hi rises at Foxbar in the photos I take now.Seems a bit bare that spot in pictures afterwards.Dont suppose the tenants mind though.
You,re right about a lot of folk not realising what,s available on their own doorstep.
More wild spaces and room to roam for us though eh?

Anonymous said...

please remove this post.. i don't want anyone knowing about Humphrey :O)