A circular walk from Erskine along the River Clyde starting at Boden Boo car park then continuing along the shore line with fantastic views over the wide river to the Kilpatrick hills. Although a fine circular route of great variety it's a walk I've only completed four times in 30 years so it keeps it fresh and exciting. I did this shortly before the current Level 4 Covid 19 restrictions came in and as usual in almost every 2020 walk I've done this year the car park was mobbed. Busier than I've ever seen it before in the past so be warned. (though cars have been parking along part of the entrance road as well near the official car park.) A downside of covid for me has been a huge increase in other walking and cycling enthusiasts but only because it's increased parking problems at places where people travel and start off from. If it continues to increase I'd imagine in the future, with smart phones, you may have to book ahead for a parking place. This already happens with city to city buses and the Doors Open Day, shading out folk, like me, who just want to turn up on a whim if its a nice day. Or pay to park which has already increased in Scotland at certain beauty spots that used to be free. I don't mind that if it means getting a space. With hundreds of miles of new cycle tracks springing up in cities and towns recently are we seeing the golden age of personal car journeys for everyone reversing? It would not take much to fix electronic gates across car parks meaning only those who book in advance and pay to get access would get in. Something I can see in the future to encourage more people onto bikes or electric cars. It would take something like that, with our grim winter weather, to get folk cycling daily at this time of year as the summer cycling crowds are back down to a sporadic trickle now in rain soaked November. I've noticed very few people using the newly built network of cycle tracks recently compared to summer, just traffic getting used to less or narrower car lanes and I'd imagine service people or delivery drivers must be cursing all these new bollards/barriers and cycle lanes where they used to park easily to drop things off for customers in houses or business premises.
Another view of the Kilpatrick Hills. There are paths from this small car park where the Erskine ferry used to journey across the River Clyde running from the late 1700s until 1971 making it one of the oldest ferries crossing the river until its demise. The skyscraper high span of the Erskine Bridge replaced the ferry in the early 1970s and is still there to this day. The closest natural sandy beach to Glasgow is here as well (There's a small artificial one in Strathclyde Park) and from the car park... paths/cycle paths lead along the river in both directions- upstream and downstream. Both are attractive shoreline walks- the upstream one following the shoreline for several pleasant km to Erskine Harbour past the Erskine Bridge Hotel then returning much the same way. Erskine is a new town, similar to East Kilbride or Cumbernauld, expanded from a small village pre 1960s into a sprawling development of around 15,000 residents divided in the modern style into separate named district housing clusters/ wards in a pleasantly wooded, gentle hill and ridge landscape. It has often been rated highly as an attractive UK place to live.
My walk travels the other way however, downstream, where the river slowly widens into a tidal estuary with views across to Old Kilpatrick and Bowling on the other side. Incidentally Old Kilpatrick is as far up the west coast as the Romans tried to advance and became the western end of the Antonine Wall, a Roman man made barrier of deep ditch, wood walls, and forts stretching across Scotland's Central Belt constructed to keep out raiding parties from the tribes further north . Far easier to travel any invading army up the flatter, richer, east coast of Scotland than progress further into increasingly mountainous terrain with little reward for heavy losses incurred.
Bowling village on the River Clyde taken from the Erskine side. Once a stopover and busy manufacturing hub for the old Clyde puffers, as seen in Para Handy's Vital Spark, books, and TV series plus classic old films like The Maggie. These 'deliver anything' small cargo boats had a design that allowed them to travel on canals inland, beach on sand at remote islands and remote west coast hideaways without a pier to unload coal and essential supplies or travel up rivers straight into cities. At one time, up until around the 1950s, when highland roads were still slow and terrible, puffers were the delivery lorries of their era and the sea lanes had a hundred boats and ferries on the water between Glasgow and Portpatrick / Mull of Kintyre, covering the entire expansive estuary of the Firth of Clyde, the largest enclosed estuary in the UK. Now only a hillbilly handful of ferry routes remain, (nine or ten, with one part time) mainly heavily subsidized essential service routes connecting the west coast islands or peninsula towns to the mainland. Still popular with small pleasure boats today Bowling is an attractive and colourful stop on the Glasgow to Loch Lomond cycle path/walkway.... and a canal hub.
The village of Milton, still looking at the Kilpatrick Hills range which stretch along the riverbank from Clydebank to Dumbarton. Volcanic plugs dot the Kilpatricks but most are grassy knolls, unlike the perfectly smooth basalt cliffs of Dumbarton Rock. A stronghold since the iron age, and probably even earlier.
On the Erskine side itself views are not too shabby either with the 5 star hotel and golf resort of Mar Hall in close proximity. Celebs like Oasis, Katy Perry, Neil Diamond, Robbie Williams, Kylie, Brad Pitt ( making World War Z in Glasgow perhaps?) and a host of others have all stayed here at one time or another.
It used to be a grand estate, one of several belonging to the Earl of Mar, but now it's a luxury hotel and golf course. Not having a five star life I've never been in it but I felt privileged, (saving shed loads of money in my case), just to be allowed to walk beside it.
Another view of it.
Erskine Bridge looming nearby.
At the obvious end of the path along the shoreline the track cuts inland, seen here, running between two golf courses. The Mar Hall one on the left and Erskine Golf Course to the right. This path leads into the 'big wood.' At this point you can get lost which is maybe why most folk turn back here. I was completely alone from this point on-wards so I continued happily into the 'big wood' taking the first large forest path I arrived at, trending left.
This is it here. After a while, if you do not get discombobulated by greenery, you should end up here....
... which always comes as a real surprise....
After fumbling around in the deep woods of Erskine for a while, never quite sure, as an infrequent visitor, if you are on the correct path, to suddenly emerge out at the old Compaq factory is always a weird experience. Built in 1987 by Texas based Compaq, one of the big three personal USA computer giants for almost £50 million way back when I still remember the shock of seeing this place, having no idea it was here, buried deep in its sylvan setting. Must have been late 1989 or thereabouts. I remember it was autumn. IBM in nearby Greenock, another American computer giant in Scotland, was the other mass employer in the region although that factory has now gone, replacing heavy industry and shipbuilding in its turn.
Even today, knowing it's there, although hidden deep in the forest it's still a surprise and it looks different somehow. Given a modern makeover perhaps? Ten years since my last visit it is now HPE owned and a refurbishing IT warehouse still working with computers, laptops, 3D printers etc but now it takes in old tech and reconditions it for hire or sale again with green credentials and given the planets growing landfill problems this makes sense.
It used to employ around 1000 workers in its prime. No idea how many now but with Covid 19 restrictions I'd imagine it's been hit like everywhere else. That may explain ( and a Sunday afternoon visit) why the vast semi underground car parks stayed empty during my trip here. I felt privileged again exploring an empty district so I just ignored the many CCTV cameras as I was only curious, not up to anything criminal in nature.
With all the concrete around and semi underground chambers it reminded me strongly of the programme Abandoned Engineering although of course this place is still active as far as I'm aware.
It had a weird, surreal, The Prisoner, The Last of Us, I am Legend, vibe wandering around here on my own but as I did not want to be apprehended by security staff patrols I did not outstay my welcome. Amazing place though. I love underground locations and tunnels.
At one time, with 1000 workers manufacturing new computers this place supplied half the Compaq computers in Europe and was the largest factory of its kind in Europe when it was built. I had one. It still supplies a huge quantity of refurbished IT equipment according to 2018 online info which is the most updated I could find.
In the 1990s and needing a job I applied here for one but I did not have the necessary IT skills or a background in computing. In the end I was glad I didn't get it as most of my other jobs have involved driving around Glasgow, the Central Belt, , working outdoors, maintenance work in various institutions or in houses, coast to coast, etc, which I prefer rather than going to one place every day, indoors.
Curiosity satisfied I could either go out to the main road or continue down this path, photo above, on the eastern edge of this complex to arrive at an opening in a green metal fence. Well, it was open when I visited it. The green fence runs along here in the woods.
This opening is close to here, which is a private gated small estate. On the right of this development more woods and a path lead round to Princess Park, another modern development that I do not remember seeing last time but maybe I came out a different way. It was a long time ago and there are other paths through the woods
a landscape veering from wild woods to upmarket suburbia and still with a slightly surreal feel....
Erskine Disneyland came into my mind here... incorporating the grounds of the former Erskine Hospital and Erskine Park Home although new housing has munched away at some of the original parkland setting I remember cycling through from many years ago. Everything changes with time.
An old red phone box in a land of mobile phones.
Pavement paradise at Erskine. Back in suburbia again. By this point I was getting worried as it was close to darkness and where my car was parked is not a particularly safe night time car park.
The town of Erskine buried in the autumn woods.
Colourful woods at Erskine.
And back at the bridge again and my car. A 3 to 4 hour very varied walk with a slightly surreal feel. Probably wins the prize for the most amount of naked concrete on a walk yet it also feels very wild in places.