Friday 15 September 2023

The Cut. Scotland's Best Balcony Trail?

                                                   ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

 Shipyard Workers sculpture. Port Glasgow. Another trip where Alan and myself found our way back to Port Glasgow and Greenock. This time to do........ The Cut.

 Numerous mills, shipyards and factories covered Greenock and Port Glasgow during the Industrial Revolution and all required an increasing level of plentiful fresh water, both for drinking and for industry. By the early 1800s demand was outstripping supply from the various small hill dams originally there so civil engineer Robert Thom, who specialized in this UK wide problem, designed and enlarged what became Loch Thom and marked out the line of The Cut... a long level aqueduct running along the sides of several small hills for 5.5 km, carefully angled at a very slight gradient so the water would be delivered to the thirsty towns below year round. Later on another large body of water, the Gryfe Reservoir, got added on as well. He designed a smaller but similar set up for the town of Rothesay on Bute. Both of which I've visited. Several of the mills, warehouses, and factories still stand to this day in Port Glasgow and Greenock, some converted into upmarket apartments, like this one, above. 

The Cut Walk starts from Cornalees Bridge where there is a large car park and visitor centre next to Loch Thom, a tiny section of which is seen here. This path leads gently uphill then descends to Overton and the start of the cut, a Scheduled Ancient Monument. People can walk along the cut but bikes are not allowed. Ok on this stretch though and along Loch Thom and The Gryfe  Reservoir ( rough landrover track)

The descent into Overtoun and the start of the cut, to the left. It is a circular route.

This leads to fine views over the Firth of Clyde, Port Glasgow, Greenock (seen here) and Gourock, which all run into each other without obvious gaps between them. Greenock's docks often have large cruise ships coming and going year round as the Norwegian fjords and towns, Greater Scandinavia, The Scottish West Coast, Ireland, The Isle of Man  and The English West coast are all easily reached from here.  This ship is the Island Princess.

A closer view. This ship is roughly the same height as the hi rise blocks beside it. Length 294 metres or 964 feet. If placed vertically it would be higher than the ancient volcano Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh at 823 feet. That puts into perspective the size of cruise ships and this is only a medium sized example. It is currently heading for or already in Iceland I believe which is another destination not that far away from here.

As well as the three towns below  to look at you also have the backdrop of Argyll's mountains to gaze on, which in winter covered in snow, are spectacular, looking far higher than 2000 to 3000 feet as they rise up, often abruptly, from sea level. The large building is Inverclyde Hospital.

I personally think the best way round is Overton to Sheilhill, walking east to west, for the finest views. 

The other great thing about The Cut is that it's flat, no steep inclines, so all your energy is saved for the views instead of panting uphill... only to come back down again. A big bonus for the elderly... like me! Some might offer Arthur's Seat, The other Edinburgh hills, The Binn above Burntisland etc as Scotland's best balcony trail but having done them all and many others besides this is the only one, in my opinion, that qualifies as a proper balcony route, following a level line around a slope on the same contour line. I have done balcony trails in the Alps decades ago and this is the nearest equivalent to them in Scotland. Equally spectacular in winter under snow.

For those without a car Drumfrochar Train Station in Greenock is the closest to the start of the route at Overton or a bus to the town centre from Glasgow. Firth of Clyde here.

Another view from The Cut  with a small reservoir. All three towns have bags of interest in them yet cruise ship passengers rarely if ever see them.


A container ship at Greenock docks. Always something of interest to see on this walk.

Greenock Prison. When I took this I was thinking ruefully, comparing the prison inmates with the cruise ship passengers. Ostensibly world's apart yet both equally confined in boxes except for exercise periods. On a previous trip years ago Alan and I had a walk around Greenock Prison, several town reservoirs, and then Greenock Cemetery. A very varied trip I enjoyed. Not so sure Alan did though.


He did enjoy the cemetery though, seen here, with many beautiful mature trees, including monkey puzzle trees and ornate old gravestones.



Further round The Cut green fields and farms replace urban views as the three towns fade out. This concrete patch is all that remains of the large IBM complex, once a major employer in the town but now flattened. It had its own train station and employed thousands from the 1950s onwards.... over 5000 workers at its peak.



The Waterfall Near Sheilhill. We deliberately picked a dry sunny day for this walk  but heavy rain had fallen previously so the water in the cut was half full. I have seen it bone dry in summer although it is no longer used as drinking water, replaced by more modern pipes underground. 


All the water did make for a plethora of flying insects however with bees, butterflies, and dragonflies spotted all the way round. A large hawker here on an old wooden bench.


Obviously a very common sight Europe wide for thousands of years to humans observing them closely. Is it just a coincidence that dragonfly wings look like stained glass windows in churches and cathedrals? Inspiration from nature perhaps.... yet again? Note the one stained or coloured window on both wings here.

Dung beetle doing what dung beetles do best. Rolling dung from the path into the long grass to lay its young in and produce the next generation. Spotted several here.


Rosemary said...

The cut looks a lovely pathway - steep hills are hard work these days especially when the day is hot. Being able to wander along and see those wonderful views is perfection.

Carol said...

Really sad about my ex-employer's complex having gone (IBM) - I never actually got to go to IBM Greenock but Richard did. I'm sad to see just a concrete patch now. I have to say they were a really good employer.

Interesting to read about the facts behind why it's called Loch Thom - I had no idea. I'm glad they don't allow bikes along The Cut - wish they'd stop them on some of our delicate passes and hill tracks before they're completely ruined. The gullying and trenching is really horrific over the last couple of years.

A lot of the Yorkshire mills have been converted into apartments - there are a few in Skipton and some riverside at Leeds.

Anabel Marsh said...

That’s a walk we enjoy too. My late Uncle Jim used to work in IBM there.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary, Yes it is a favorite walk and being fairly close not much petrol used to get there. So many Highland car parks now charge for parking and some are ridiculous, like £9 pounds a day in some cases.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Yes both IBM and Amazon have left that area now. It's a lovely section that wild high moor minor road running between Greenock and Largs with Loch Thom halfway across it. A huge area of empty ground.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anabel, We are ticking off the good walks in that district one by one at the moment.The Cut was not as busy as I thought it would be, only half a dozen other walkers along the route when we did it.