Sunday, 13 May 2012

Callander.Doune Castle.Deanston.An Easy But Interesting Outing

I think this area above looks a lot like the peak district or the limestone heights of central England. Its actually the slopes around Uamh Bheag near the Braes Of Doune a few miles from Callander.
A week or so before the trip to Rum a lovely forecast was predicted for Sunday.Out came the maps and an hour went by the night before, looking for somewhere to go.One area that stood out on the Stirling and the Trossachs Map Sheet 57 was a bike ride I,d only done once as part of a longer epic day when I,d zoomed though the first few places at speed without stopping, intent on eating up the miles.They had struck me as interesting places to spend more time in though so I,d always planned to return.Scotland has so many wonderful areas to visit though and time passes and you  soon forget.....................................So... Ten Years Later..... :o )  
This time I wanted to take it easy and stop whenever I spotted a good photo or point of interest on route.

A new born lamb.There were a lot of them about. I parked in Callander, which is a lovely tourist town, in the large central car park near the river and got out the bike then set off.There is a bike trail that starts from near this car park and runs east along a disused railway parallel to the A84 to Dalvorich. From here it climbs up over the quiet minor road past Upper Drumbane and Milton of Cambus.  It gets you away from the traffic fast and views soon open up over the moors and mountains.
This is looking across at Stuc A Chroin.  Ben Vorlich ,The Glen Artney Hills and Ben Ledi can also be seen near here.Once down at Burn of Cambus the main and rather busy A 84 is rejoined but you can avoid this road by cycling along the quiet, normally people free,  open pavement past fields a kilometer or so til you reach Doune itself.
Ten years ago I,d raced through here on the bypass road without stopping.Now I had my explorers head on and cycled into the town centre.Most people know Callander well as its a tourist hot spot popular with coaches and cars.
Doune by comparison is less well known but it has much to offer the visitor.By bike, car or foot.The tourist information centre is halfway down the main street.( 9.00am til 4.00 pm opening )
Its the white building opposite the church.Its a mine of information about the area, full of local walks beside the River Teith and beyond.  Long distance walk maps that pass though here are inside and facts about the district. I,ll certainly be back again to walk here as I noticed what looked like a council visitor and shopping car park nearby. As the morning was forecast to be cold and misty I,d left it til 11.00oclock to set off from my house.It was now almost 2.30 pm but the sun as predicted had burned off any mist and it was now pastel perfection time everywhere. A soft shimmering pale blue. No point leaving early and not enjoying it as much.
Doune itself has several  interesting old buildings and looked a nice wee place.I stepped into the information centre  to get a map of the  local trails and was out again shortly, having been told there was a red kite feeding session just about to start.At half past two.
Although I knew they had been reintroduced into Scotland since the 1990s from Mid Wales where they had clung on in pockets I,d never seen one.
Argaty was where it was taking place,only a few kilometers from Doune up a minor  farm road. I jumped back in the saddle for a wheezing full pelt race uphill thinking to myself I,d never make it in time.
I didn't see the actual feeding.Although they catch some live prey these birds are mainly scavengers which is surprising considering how acrobatic they are in the air.Everyone was just coming back down from the hide having seen the feeding but the farmer/guide was good enough to let me stay on in the hide, telling me that they were always searching  the fields for lambing afterbirth and dead young lambs at this time of year.
Sure enough, after a  hopeful lunch break to stuff food into myself, there were half a dozen right above the hide.Beautiful birds of prey and a real treat for £4 pounds. A real privilege to watch them wheel and glide effortlessly on the thermals. I suppose they are the northern European version of a vulture. Great to see them back. May be a common sight again one day all over Scotland.
It was a lucky road up to Argaty and the bike meant I could stop anywhere I liked.This was a field with several pig sheds spaced out in it. I couldn't believe the number of animals attracted to this one field.Pigs are great cultivators and diggers with hooves, tusks and snout and most green fields they are placed in end up looking like this.The pheasants,jackdaws,crows,rooks and oyster catchers were all here looking for spiders worms and grubs flushed out by the busy pigs.A wonderful sight seeing so much wildlife in one small area. Pigs are often used to clear ground that is a tangled mess of bracken or other unwanted undergrowth.
Mind you it's hard graft digging. Some had obviously put in a shift earlier and were now relaxing... loudly! That's what I love about pigs though. When they do something they really enjoy like scratching an itchy bum crack on a post they show how much pleasure they get by their expressions. I laughed out loud when one proceeded to do just that vigorously, right in front of me,giving little grunts and sighs of happy content. I,m sure it was smiling.
It was certainly worth the effort to get up here.
Back down in Doune I visited the nearby castle which was famously used in a Monty Python Film.It,s an imposing structure but more importantly from my point of view I discovered a network of scenic short walks around here,one of which runs just under the castle and along the riverbank.You could have an enjoyable half day here just exploring this path network and the town.I,m always on the lookout for new walking areas. Doune Castle is now famous all over again as the castle in popular series Outlander.
When I,d had my fill of this I cycled back up to the main road and crossed this bridge on foot to reach the quiet road leading into Deanston. This used to be a purpose build model village and still retains many features from that time. It's very pretty as its reached by a curving road beside the river. The main building that dominates the view is this.
It's Deanston Distillery which produces Scottish leader finest blend and Deanston malt. It was formally a cotton mill which provided work for the area and contained the largest waterwheels in Europe at one time.The mighty Samson and Hercules.
The village itself is picturesque with its workers clock tower visible from every row of houses so the workers were never late in an age before cheap wrist watches and clocks.Like a mini, two story high, New Lanark. Not surprising as that was also a  purpose built cotton village. The Rows are called divisions. It's the correct time. A lovely evening, warm and light til well after eight o clock pm.
A water filled lade and cherry trees make it a nice place to cycle through and the heady smell of the "angels share"  as you pass by the open windows of the distillery makes heavy breathing good fun. I had a spring in my step as I followed this quiet minor road though open countryside. It's one of my favourite  B roads (B8032) as there is normally very little traffic on it. (only two cars in nine kilometers of cycling).
This gently rolling  tarmac ribbon takes you out to meet the A81 with views towards Ben Ledi in the distance. This is the only road with any volume of traffic on it you cant avoid but its flat, straight, slightly downhill, and is over in under five minutes as you bomb  back into Callander.
Anyone wishing a longer version of this tour can add  in minor roads past Gargunnock, Kippen Thornhill or Port of Menteith but I was happy with my half day easy adventure.What,s not to like? A great way to pass 3 to 5 hours on a bike or car journey.


The Glebe Blog said...

Plenty of Red Kites in Galloway Bob. Laurieston and Loch Ken are the breeding stations.
I've got a picture somewhere of me (Jim Deans) standing next to the Deanston sign. Must have been 2004 or 5. Beautiful area.

blueskyscotland said...

There are five centres of reintroduced red kite populations in Scotland I,ve now learned about.Never spotted any of the ones over Galloway yet Jim.
With this spell of freezing rain and cold winds though the new born lambs on the exposed uplands will suffer badly.Suppose the kites will do well out of it with a supply of dead lambs though.

Mac and Cas said...

Another nice trip Bob! Like the area and used to go through there almost every weekend doing a mad dash to the munros!

Was down in galloway for a break last October and saw loads of kites at the Loch ken feeding station - at one point the sky turned dark there was so many of them! A nice area to walk and explore but very wet - wellies and a brolly are in order!

Have just started my own blog Bob 'A Lothian and Scottish Wild Life' detailing my own trips with emphasis on the wildlife seen - thanks for being the first to post. Could you you list it on your blog as i would like a few comments \feedback? no photos yet but will get them on soon.

Ta Bob, Hunter.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Hunter.
I,ll update my Blog list soon.Been meaning to do it for a while now.
As far as comments are concerned its a very fickle thing.I,ve had over 1400 hits for things like the two Glasgow history posts and Heart Of Darkness Part Two.Also 1000 plus hits for a Springburn hills tour!!! yet only 40 to 50 hits for Rum,Islay,Canna,most mountains, hills etc.99% of people never comment so dont expect a rush.I like to indulge my love of photography.If folk like that fine but unless you network in a big way(I only comment if I,m interested in someone elses work or if its something I can relate to myself)Otherwise you can spend a whole day writing a post,commenting on other blogs etc so that you just get sick of the sight of the computer and your own blog at times. Its a thankless task except for your own enjoyment in the subject as most will just surface skim throught it anyway.Pictures of your day out helps.Best of luck.
By the way The most complex,original and best post I,ve ever written on here got 0 comments :).
Have fun.

Mac and Cas said...

Cheers for that Bob. I for one love reading your stuff so keep it coming! Living up to your reputation with lots of blue skies in those photos - will have to get my own photos loaded up. Nice to see some clear blue sky as its been raining nonstop here in Edinburgh for 2 days now. Summer? someone's having a laugh!