Thursday, 16 November 2017

Rediscovering The Kilpatrick Hills. Glasgow's Arthur's Seat. A Gallery.

                                             ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
As I've not been back to the Kilpatrick Hills above Glasgow for a few years I thought I'd revisit them to see the magnificent views over Clydebank, Glasgow, Paisley, Renfrewshire, East Kilbride etc etc...
Of all the hill ranges that surround Glasgow the Kilpatricks are the only ones where you really do feel like you are standing above the city- looking down on it like a living map. The main reason why Glasgow has a tall, man made viewpoint tower near the city centre is that it doesn't have an Arthur's seat in the middle of the urban sprawl- a high natural observation point where you can look down over the complete city, end to end. It does have dozens of smaller drumlins across the various districts but they are too low to give a proper bird's eye view of the entire city in one panorama. Scotland's largest city sits on a glacial, family sized, egg box carton sea level plain surrounded by low hill ranges. One of the reasons it regularly hits the heights for UK air pollution levels and spectacular winter fog inversions is its geology, Britain's 4th largest post industrial city sits within a shallow bowl. When winds are absent anything within it lingers for weeks or days at a time and I clearly remember, with a few adult males, getting off the bus in the 1960s into thick yellow fog then walking ahead to scope out the road beyond the headlight beams when the driver was completely blinded and could only see yards ahead. An exciting adventure as a schoolboy and the stuff of vivid dreams later on- many nights spent wandering unsighted for hours at a time in my bed through that mysterious yellow realm with a world of half seen structures lying ahead. When industrial and domestic chimney smoke was an issue from the  early 1800s until the late 1960s Glasgow, like a lot of UK cities, had a reputation for long lasting smog. One memory bubble that came back to me recently with full impact, like a punch to the face. How could I ever forget such memorable dreams from that time? You always need a catalyst to recall.

The Campsies, to the north, offer a distant view of the city but are too far away to really see much in detail... the Castlemilk/ Cathkin Braes, slightly closer but still viewed across the districts rather than downwards... Brownside Braes to the south west, roughly the same.
The Kilpatricks therefore are the Goldilocks Hills in my mind... high enough and close enough to be just right... and the putrid yellow smogs of my childhood days that killed many thousands in British cities until the clean air acts of 1956 and 1968 made a real difference to health are largely absent today.
Above, moving right to left are Drumchapel Water Tower (white round) A corner of Linkwood Flats (white hi rise, still in Drumchapel) the white and red stripe of Anniesland Tower and the spire of the University of Glasgow. ( in darker shadow)

Most people that grow up and live in cities, towns or villages (unless they change drastically, something happens untoward, or they are just too quiet to live and get jobs in) have a long lasting history  and a very real love affair with that place. It is my eternal totem. Although Glasgow changes all the time with new buildings springing up as soon as you turn your back on it and entire districts rising and falling year by year, decade by decade it has always been an exciting lifelong companion to share my life with... and it never lets me down..... so to see it spread out in all its glory across the flat plain below is both a wonder and a joy. Over 2 million people (this includes all the other towns and urban areas all the way to Hamilton) spread out in one vast view makes an incredible and thrilling sight that I never tire of seeing. In the photo above, the Kilpatrick Hills rise in a long escarpment above Clydebank and a faint balcony trail can be found running along its edge. Most folk, being baggers, just head for the two or three highest points in the range further back towards the plateau like interior.. which is great as it means you can easily avoid them.
Which I did. This area used to be little frequented except by locals but with the internet it's got busier year on year and dozens of cars line the minor road above Old Kilpatrick every good dry day.This has caused problems with local farmers, service workers etc needing access, so a while ago barriers were erected, presumably by the local council or officials, to stop anyone parking on the grass verges and they now park beside the bowling club/ train station. This area is also packed any sunny day nowadays and just means the locals can't park there to use these facilities.
A situation I have noticed happening on Skye as well as most pictures on TV recently of that famous Scottish island show long lines of cars and churned up lay-bys in summer near any famous outdoor location. The last time we were at the Storr and Quirang on Skye a few years ago, (world famous rock formations used in dozens of films)  hundreds of cars lined the road on both sides with the existing lay-bys totally overwhelmed. A growing theme in the countryside in popular places these days. Knowing that and leaving the house late around 10:00am I took the train instead, one way, to Old Kilpatick as I suspected I'd never get a parking place. This proved to be the case. As the farm track up to the high-points looked  busy with walkers  I picked the alternative option of this grassy route up onto the ridge line. With Scotland's wet climate and hill-walking more popular than ever grassy trails like this one and empty lands without people everywhere are an increasingly rare commodity these days. Somewhat ironically, I've often found the lands surrounding urban areas and in the Central Belt can be far quieter than the traditional wilderness areas- like the Scottish Highlands.
And what a view you get up here. two million plus people take up a lot of room and on a clear day you can see the urban sprawl almost stretching to the horizon.
The southern uplands bulk of Tinto in the distance here, looking across the city.
A view of Dalmuir flats, The Titan Crane and The River Clyde.
Erskine Bridge. As I enjoy balcony trails for the views I maintained a wandering line along the escarpment edge instead of walking further up into the interior. By doing this I was completely on my own so it just shows how focused most people are on one thing- summit ticking.
Old Kilpatrick and Erskine Bridge. The train station here is very handy for the hills and I thoroughly recommend it. Get off at Kilpatrick Station and walk uphill past the Bowling Club then the route up the farm track is signposted to Loch Humphrey. Enjoying the solitude I carried on in the direction of Dumbarton.
A view of Dumbarton Rock.
And a kestrel looking for a mouse or vole in the long grass
A view across to the rolling uplands of Renfrewshire.
This really is an excellent balcony trail.
It was at this point I discovered signs of heavy machinery leading into the interior. Since my teenage years the Kilpatrick Hills have been largely un-fenced and open plan- offering great spacious walks across an empty upland habitat from the River Clyde to the Highland boundary fault at Drymen where the higher mountains start.. You often see small groups of roe deer dancing across the tall grass meadows here in what is probably the largest expanse of wild open ground anywhere near the city. Unfortunately, that has now changed as forestry interests appear to own most of it and extensive new planting is now going on at a fast pace. Inland, large areas have been fenced off, young trees planted, and access roads into them created.
This was a bit of a shock as I was intending to head inland at this point over previously open landscapes but several seven foot tall fences blocked off my intended route. I did meet someone after this point who said it might be the Woodland Trust or the Forestry Commission. Although these may well be 'the good guys' I have to admit I'm slightly conflicted about this whole subject. The Woodland Trust have a large site at the nearby Lang Craigs and landscaped the area there, planting trees, improving access for all by creating new walks/mountain bike paths and ripping out one of the most spectacular massed displays of Rhododendrons anywhere in the UK as they 'didn't belong.'
National parks often have the same effect on me as they just seem to encourage more folk into them, some misbehave then inevitably you tend to get restrictions that you never had before when less people visited and access and publicity was not as good. I mention this because a long line of white tape has been tied in place leading down to my grassy, largely unknown and unfrequented balcony trail that looked suspiciously like a template for a future mountain bike run. Troubling stuff.
Also troubling was trying to find my intended path through three different sets of high fences placed between Loch Humphrey in parallel lines... seen below...
and Greenside Reservoir ...see also below... an easy walk before across open, un-fenced, ground.
Eventually I managed it without climbing over them so it can still be done but it was a bit of a maze to get through and involved some strange high level detours round the side of lochs.
A lesser trail under the Slacks. This is what the fenced area used to look like. I suppose I'll get used to it eventually as all things change and there are long established forestry plantations up here already but it will look very different to what it was before in the past- high open grassland stretching for miles.
I did find an info board at the start which gave me the idea of  a circular route  across the Kilpatricks ending up in Faifley where I could get a bus back to my house.
This I did and had a great day of around 4 to 5 hours duration, easy walking.
A spectacular trip.
Great views...
And a full moon to end. I've zoomed this up to the max to show 'the man.'

This video looks like a fabulous coral reef in a shallow sea,  somewhere really exotic, but it is in fact the wonders of creation happening inside your own body. After seeing this it should make you wonder about needless wars, death, violence and torture occurring daily around the planet. We are stardust....and part of some great unknown cosmic plan. Amazing visuals.



Rosemary said...

I have fond memories of The Kilpatrick Hills seen from our home in Milngavie. They made a perfect backdrop to our view all year round. Sometimes during winter months there would be no snow in Milngavie, but The Kilpatrick Hills would be iced in white and looked spectacular.

Anabel Marsh said...

I could almost see my house in that first picture, it not quite! The reflections in the last few are amazing.

Kay G. said...

You are so lucky to have such open space where you can walk! Sorry that you came upon that fence.
Love the reflection in the lake.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
They still look the same when we get snow today. A light dusting of frost a few days ago when it was minus 5 overnight.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
it was a lovely sunny day which gave me the idea of the next walk further east. If you haven't walked it you could easily get the train to Kilpatrick Station and then walk up a good land rover track to Loch Humphrey for the views yourself. On a clear day it is breathtaking and an easy popular walk of a few hours. No rough ground going that way and loads of fellow walkers.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
yes, the reflections were nice and unexpected. Seen a mini iceberg in one once when the temperatures dipped below minus 10 for a few days and a dishwasher sized block formed that outlasted the surface ice. Weird effect.

Linda W. said...

Sigh....yeah the social media effect is causing crowds of people into places that used to be relatively unknown. I thought it was just an American thing....sorry it's happening in your country too.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
Happening all over the world I think. One of the serious unintended consequences of smart phone technology is that the world has shrunk right down. People in war zones or mud huts see a better life through them and now have an instant information guide book in their hands on how to get there. Probably, the main thing that's driving successive waves of economic migrants into Europe whereas before they would not have attempted it in such numbers.

Carol said...

I suppose we can blame social media/blogs etc for all the extra folk putting pressure on our beauty spots nowadays but I also blame those groups who are forever trying to encourage folk to the countryside and the outdoors who would never have dreamed of going without that encouragement. I'm not saying we should keep them for a few exactly, just we shouldn't spend so much time getting people to visit these places who had no interest until they were pushed in that direction. So, blame the 'inclusivity brigade'!

I loved my village for many years but it's changed so much, I'm not sorry to leave. I will miss my old house though - it was a good 'un.

Neil said...

That's disappointing if they're building fences and planting trees all over these hills. I've got Cochno Hill and the Slacks on my list of winter walks; never been to that area of the Kilpatrick Hills. It looks from the photo of the map that that area should still be OK.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I suppose the older we get the more change seems less appealing- like changing all the food around in supermarkets every six months just when you've got it nailed where everything is for a faster shop... or changing gadgets, phones,shoes, everything else so that you can rarely get the stuff you like again in the same model if it breaks or wears out.

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Neil,
You should be alright with those two hills as the main paths to summits are still clear although you will see the new tree plantings going on. Fences were mainly across the slopes running south of Loch Hump...but they do run for miles heading eastwards.

Anonymous said...

Great post and photos. You know from my blog how much I love views over cities. The Living Map analogy - I like that! :)
I'm torn as well on my opinion of the increase in visitors to our outdoors. On one hand I find its dispiriting that people visit not to see and experience them but to be seen seeing and experiencing them, just a box to be ticked. On other the other hand unless we encourage people to see and appreciate the beauty for themselves how can we expect future generations to develop the will and desire to protect them from unscrupulous development. Short-term we need to be just as careful in how we protect the environment as we should be in not making outdoor pursuits elitist. Like many of today's problems there is no easy answer

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Mike.

Anonymous said...

When I was very young we lived in Dalmuir, just below the park, and I have vivid memories of big ships on the Clyde behind the single story shops and the hills over the back of the park, although just across the street was a WW2 bomb site.

Allan McDigger.