Saturday 4 May 2024

Dumbarton. Lang Craigs. A fabulous Spring/ Summer/Autumn walk.

                                                   ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

 Overtoun House near Dumbarton. Two walks Alan and myself were saving for a cracking spring day that can be awarded the term 'magical' without any exaggeration  are the next two posts featured. Bus or train to Dumbarton. Get off at Dumbarton East train station. Or Crosslet stop if by bus. Path up to the Craigs starts at Crosslet following Gruggies Burn. either up the burn via a deep worthwhile gorge, a walk in itself if you can find it.... or simply walk on the minor road leading upwards to Overtoun House, see photo above. Best visited in a car via Milton. A car park for around 20 cars sits beside the house which also has a tearoom but only Fri,Sat open 10am to 4pm. The house used to be home to a rich family with a large surrounding estate and now it's a landscaped park, open to the public. Coming by car we started our walk up here.


You can walk up through the landscaped central meadow section of the park, seen here, easily enough but we immediately jumped a metal stile over a stone wall directly from the back car park which took us straight uphill via faint grass paths through a beautiful rising landscape. Fresh green meadows, little orange tipped butterflies dancing around in numbers, clumps of bluebells and yellow primroses dotted everywhere, wild garlic in the more shaded woods and gorges, small streams after overnight rain tumbling down hawthorn studded hillsides,...... like the photo above, contended cattle scattered around the pastures, even wandering high up, as it's their dried mud paths you end up following through the trees and then up into the cliffs. Cloven hoofed daredevils of the bovine variety.    Overhead. Warm sunshine for a change. Heat squatting happily on the head and shoulders all day. Only a gentle breeze appearing when you really need it. Sharp, crisp, cool morning then beautiful afternoon. That all combines to make this a very special place indeed. Perfection. A ten star walk... out of ten stars.


This is us on the way up to do the traverse of the Lang Craigs, starting at the furthest right where the cliffs end abruptly and a faint grass path leads onto the top of the escarpment which you follow along to it's elevated left end under Doughnot Hill, 374 metres, 1227 feet, which you can climb as well. Easy path to top.

Once up into the higher regions spectacular views open out over West Dumbartonshire, most of Renfrewshire, The River Clyde Estuary, and far off Inverclyde. I've stood on a lot of high summits in many different countries over the last six decades but to me this is as good if not better that most. True world class views.


Dumbarton and Port Glasgow. This ship on the River Clyde is carrying part of the new Renfrew to Yoker swing bridge and followed us on our walk. Corlick Hill, a cracking walk on a previous blog post a couple of months ago, can be spotted here by its wind turbines above Port Glasgow. The underrated film Dear Frankie, an enjoyable pastel shot love letter to the three Inverclyde seaport towns is worth tracking down. As good as Gregory's Girl. Local Hero, etc but less well known. Some films appear on TV loads of times, almost yearly, yet others do not. Another example is Winter's Bone. A 2010 film set in the Ozarks about a missing father and drug dealing in a blighted rural community. Completely different from Dear Frankie which is sweet and delicate this is dark and brutal throughout but with an outstanding acting performance from a teenage Jennifer Lawrence. Maybe even her finest acting role to date. Critically acclaimed and a modest commercial success yet I've only seen it appear once on TV, many years ago. Probably around 2011, near its release date. Never seen both films in any DVD selling shop either in all that time. 

 Another view of the ship when we're finally up onto the Lang Craigs escarpment edge. Although I live fairly close to this long cliff it is a walk I've only done around a dozen times in 45 years as I want to keep it feeling very special and unique... not an everyday event....and it always does feel fantastic... every time. Spring and early summer for the scent of wild flowers... trickling burns, and the freshness of air, certain angels, and various other winged raptors...soaring high above.


Dumbarton Rock and Castle.


This was a young family we met on our walk along the Lang Craigs escarpment. They did not look like seasoned hill-walkers just locals but imagine the thrill of growing up in Dumbarton with all this on your doorstep from a young age. I was the same in Nitshill growing up with wonderful scenery all around every corner to escape into if that's what excites you.

 If nature does excite you then you're already up here in Heaven on day's like this one. It's what hill-walking should be all about. Pure simple Joy!  With views like this. Don't need to travel anywhere... just enjoy it and pick whatever weather conditions you prefer for the outing... sheer hedonistic pleasure for a single long, not too hot, or overly arduous day.


Looking down on Dumbuck Quarry with its central spike of exposed rock. A new peak! Could it be a secret summit perhaps...? An illicit list of hard to reach tiny Scottish summits on private ground?


Overtoun House with the Inverclyde town of Greenock in the background. A quick history of the house and estate here... with period photos. This house has also been used in the film Cloud Atlas and featured in several other film and TV productions. 

 And the info board sitting near the main house.

 Meanwhile Alan and I had lidl sandwiches for lunch on the ragged edge of the escarpment.... our feet dangling over the side. An hour passed by... watching boats on the river below. Life doesn't get any better than this. You might never win the pools... might never be rich... or famous. But you can do the equivalent of this easily enough. Solo or with a family. Wherever you live. The children lucky enough to experience it will remember it the rest of their lives.  For us......A choice. Egg and Cress or Cheese and 0nion sandwiches.  £1.19 a pack. Nationwide. Sorted.

 I'm calling this one 'The garden of the Gods'. As it is... The Lang Craigs being the weathered, shrunken, flower, bush, and tree festooned heights of ancient lava flows. A real life hanging gardens of Babylon... or used to be...


This is what it looked like ten years ago when I did another walk here.  The bluebell carpet should still be evident around early to late May. 2024.


A beautiful display. What was also very abundant ten years ago on these slopes however was verdant hanging gardens of lavishly scattered pink rhododendrons, even growing up the cliffs and various terraces of old dead lava to create a wonderful display of natural grandeur  unseen elsewhere in Scotland to that extent... and ridiculous pomposity. Like exuberant baroque style architecture transferred into natural forms.

Planted for ornamental decoration from the foothills of the Himalaya they have also thrived and spread here for the last 100 years....


Creating vertical carpets alive and crawling with bees and other nectar and pollen feeding flying insects. I congratulated myself while staggering up into... then finding this annual flowering wonderful gem hidden in rising heat drenched summer hollows many, many years ago. As it was well off the normal tracks and paths that existed...even back then... so it was doubly precious.



Then about eight to ten years or so ago this paradise was lost.... as I noticed them cutting and burning down large areas of these beautiful bushes. A totally unique location in the UK. Not as good as this anywhere else I've ever been.... or seen. For sheer rampant quantity in a rugged upland scenic setting. A forgotten miracle evolving over decades of unheralded quiet spreading growth to be eventually treasured and saved you might think.... as a wonderful example of what can happen if left alone   but no. Woodland trust and other UK conservation bodies get rid of any non native species... but they really should have made an exception here. Bees loved them. Stung twice. Still loved being here. Right in the middle of this high level Eden.

Maybe some bushes still remain up here.... and still flower....semi hidden, to this day.... It is not the same though for those of us who knew the best of this totally fantastic area in the golden dawn era.... years before.... the fall.


A second short lunch break occurred beside a small reservoir with a lone guy fishing peacefully. A secluded spot and a rather cold and gloomy one usually. But today it gleamed invitingly so we had another rest here for the general ambience of the place an hour later. No rush. Black Linn Reservoir. Normally well named but this day the shade here was welcome. Years ago I would rush away over  dusty forestry tracks to the larger Loch Humphrey or race up Doughnot Hill for the higher mountain views to the north but these days I'm happy to take it easier. Delighted in fact.


Another view.


The lush landscapes of West Dumbartonshire and Renfrewshire. Cow, sheep, horse and hobbit country. Small rolling hill ranges. This is 'The Shire' as Tolkien based it around very similar typical English countryside near rural Birmingham to this one.  Farms, meadows, small woods, rivers, all very different, green and lush from his earliest memories growing up within more arid inland South Africa... so all the more intensely viewed and remembered by the author as a complete outsider exploring a wonderfully different foreign land....arriving in England.... while still a young child. The biggest character in the Lord of the Rings being nature itself. Landscapes. Caves, Mountains. Rivers. Forests.


An exposed gully on the descent trail. We returned down the main path to Overtoun House.

A great day out and a magnificent walk. 2 to 5 hours depending on speed of walking/ running and any route add ons. If arriving by bus or train you have the option of continuing across the Kilpatrick Hills on good land rover tracks or grass paths ending up at Duntocher, Faifley, Drumchapel, or even far flung Carbeth, across the wild central section for a memorable longer day out. Around four to six hours for any of them,  one way. And an adventure as good as any around.


Bellsmyre and the Vale of Leven from the local crags.


Dumbarton Rock and Overtoun House estate grounds. A day out like no other.


Carol said...

Some lovely views there - the reservoir looks especially peaceful that day.

I knew they'd have felled your rhododendrons. If you want to see a hillside completely covered with them, you need to get down Eskdale (the Lakes one) and see Muncaster Fell from 'La'al Ratty' (Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway).

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol, I still love this walk.
I did see a hillside completely covered with them... this one above Dumbarton... ten years ago.

Anabel Marsh said...

Overtoun House does excellent chips - I know my priorities!

Carol said...

Yeah I know but I meant where they're not about to fell them all!

Rosemary said...

Like many other imported species by the Victorians rhododendrons are now considered to be very invasive.
Glad your weather has improved and that you are able to get out and about again to enjoy your beautiful countryside.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel. Never been in the tearoom as I'm not a tearoom person ( don't drink tea or coffee, never have) but would go in for one just to see the house. The care home section of Cloud Atlas(film) was set in there though. A film more than any other where I've actually been to many of the locations in it, including the mountain climbing parts although I didn't really like the film. Far too disjointed for me.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary. I know Rhoddies tend to take over but it was a truly spectacular hanging garden of colour that could have been left intact up there, not bothering anyone at all, and also took over 100 years to reach that stage whereas I've seen loads of UK riverbanks completely taken over by Indian Balsam, Bamboo, Giant hog-weed and Japanese knotweed with a couple of decades, so far quicker growth, and they don't seem to be doing much to cut them down with any great success. I think rhoddies get hammered as they are an easier target to remove and like all these institutions they need to be seen to be doing something with the money they've got. Loch Lomond National Park is the same. Advertise, attract loads more people into an area than would otherwise be there, then impose tougher restrictions than before on activities within it due to a minority causing problems. A minority that might not even be there expect it's on their radar now as 'a national park and playground.' But that's just me.

Carol said...

"Advertise, attract loads more people into an area than would otherwise be there, then impose tougher restrictions than before on activities within it due to a minority causing problems. A minority that might not even be there expect it's on their radar now as 'a national park and playground.' But that's just me."

Definitely not just you - I'm seeing that as a really big problem since post-lockdown era. They advertise like mad to get people to go to places where there are already quite enough people and end up causing huge problems, not least by getting exactly the wrong sort of people to come!

Oh, and tea rooms aren't for drinking tea or coffee... they're for stuffing cakies!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol, Luckily I don't eat too many cakes as I'm swollen enough these days and 3 stone heavier than in my hill-walking prime when I was 30 years of age and still built like a twig.