The West End of Glasgow is not known as a mecca for hillwalking – although there are a few steep inclines within its boundaries . However a fair population of folk living in the West End have a passion for the outdoors and many of our city dwellers nurse ambitions about conquering the Munros.
Few are more committed than Helen Rose, who shares her hillwalking experiences in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere….
I was last in Berwick on Tweed seven years ago but was limited in walking as it was not long after I had broken my leg. This autumn I went with the Glasgow Ramblers and we had a great weekend with good, sunny and dry weather. It was well organised by Bobby and Ian, who had taken the time to recce all of the walks. Berwick on Tweed is in Northumberland, north east England just over the border from Scotland. The town is surrounded by Elizabethan Walls.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and did part of the Lowry Trail. L. S. Lowry is mostly known for industrial paintings portraying with matchstick people. He lived from 1887 – 1976 and painted mostly in Industrial Lancashire. However, he was very fond of Berwick and visited it from the mid-thirties until the summer before he died. He produced more than thirty drawings and paintings of the Berwick area. Copies of his work are displayed on easels at eighteen spots where they would have been painted in the town and surrounding areas. We visited a selection on the walk and it was interesting seeing the scenes he painted particularly the seascapes. On the paintings on land, he introduced his famous matchstick people. Incidentally, where we walked to the end of the pier to see a seascape, on an early morning walk one of our group saw a pod of dolphins playing in the water. They are regularly spotted there but alas none on our walk.
The next day we set out to climb the Cheviot. It was a lovely sunny day but with a strong gusting wind. The Cheviot is the highest point in Northumberland at 2,676 feet (816 metres) and is only 2 kilometres from the Scottish border. It is the last major peak on the Pennine Way, if travelling from south to north. The Pennine way is 268 miles long starting at Edale in Derbyshire and ending in the north at Kirk Yetholm. The Cheviot walk started in the Harthope Valley and we walked along by the Harthope Burn. The path has become very eroded in parts due to landslides and we crossed the burn at least ten times. Burn crossing is not my strong point and I fell in once and had to walk the rest of the day with wet feet. I should have worn gaiters – I am always wise after the event!
We walked along the valley floor by the burn to almost the head of the valley and then climbed up the hill mostly on paths but steep in parts. The summit of the Cheviot is very flat. It is an ancient, extinct volcano and is covered with an extensive peat bog up to 2 metres deep. The Northumberland National Park authority have laid down stone slabs on the main access footpath to prevent erosion damage to the peat and to make the approach to the summit safer for walkers. We reached the summit but did not hang about in the strong wind. We descended by a different route to make it a circular walk.
On the last day, we headed north in to Scotland just over the border to St. Abbs. St. AEbbe in the 7th century was an Anglian abbess and noblewoman. She was the daughter of AEthelfrith, the King of Bernicia and founded monasteries at Ebchester and St. Abbs. Northumbria was a kingdom of Angles in what is now northern England and south-east Scotland and was initially divided into two kingdoms: Bernicia and Deira. The two were first united by AEthefrith around the year 604. St. Abbs is a lovely little fishing village and we had a coffee there prior to the walk.
On the morning of 14 October, 1881, the vast majority of the fishing boats on Scotland’s North Sea coast were tied up in port but skippers from Eyemouth, along with fishermen from other nearby ports including St Abbs, ignored the warnings and set out at dawn. By midday, they were in the teeth of a severe storm for which their wooden boats were no match. They fled for the shelter of the port but many never made it. Their vessels either overturned or were dashed on the Hurkar Rocks at the entrance to Eyemouth harbour. Hysterical women and children looked on helplessly as their menfolk were thrown overboard and swallowed up by the sea. To commemorate the tragedy, there is a small bronze sculpture in St. Abbs of the women and children looking forlornly out to sea.
St Abbs is on the coastal path that runs from Berwick on Tweed north to Cockburnspath and is 48 kilometres long with dramatic clifftop scenery. We climbed up from St. Abbs on to the dramatic cliff tops looking out to sea on this circular walk. We looked for dolphins and sea birds but only saw some eider ducks bobbing up and down in the choppy water. Although it was sunny, it was still windy. We walked along the contours of the cliff tops and admired the rock formations. At the lighthouse on St. Abbs Head, we had a break in the sunshine before walking down and around the Mire Loch, through the forest and back to our starting point.
A great weekend and special thanks to Bobby and Ian for arranging it. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I had a family visiting and we decided to go to Dundee and see the new Victoria and Albert Museum and possibly the Discovery ship. The day was particularly stormy but we made it to Dundee in gale force winds and rain. Dundee is a coastal city on the Firth of Tay estuary in eastern Scotland and is the fourth largest city in Scotland. Rapid expansion was brought on by the Industrial Revolution, particularly in the 19th century when Dundee was the centre of the global jute industry. This, along with its other major industries gave Dundee its epithet as the city of “jute, jam and journalism”. The discovery that the dry fibres of jute could be lubricated with whale oil to allow it to be processed in mechanised mills resulted in the Dundee mills rapidly converting from linen to jute. Among the smaller industries, the most notable was James Keiller’s and Sons (established in 1795), which pioneered commercial marmalade production. The publishing firm D.C. Thomson was founded in the city in 1905 and produced among other publications, comics such as the Beano. Dundee was said to be built on the ‘three Js’: Jute, Jam and Journalism. I do like alliterations!
Dundee’s regenerated waterfront has two nautical museums: ‘RRS Discovery’, Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship, and the 19th-century warship, ‘HM Frigate Unicorn’. There is the excellent Verdant Works museum celebrating the city’s jute-manufacturing heritage and the McManus Art Gallery & Museum displaying art and archaeological finds.
The V&A in London is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The Museum holds many of the UK’s national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance. It is my favourite museum in London. They decided to open a new V&A museum in Dundee as Scotland’s first Design Museum and it opened in September 2018 following ten years of planning and building. Following an international architect’s competition, it was designed by a Japanese Architect Kengo Kuma.
While I am fine with the concept of building to look like a boat on the water, I have some serious concerns on the design and location. The great bulk of the building over shadows the RRS Discovery moored nearby on the river. The entrance to the building is small and there is a wind tunnel effect. On the day of our visit, it was stormy and a visitor was blown over in the wind and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. The main door was closed and we had to exit by the staff entrance. There are obviously some design faults that need to be resolved but it is early days.
The outside looks like shelving of granite but can be grey looking on a dull day. By contrast, the inside is light and airy with plywood shelving floor to ceiling although the entrance is not welcoming with the reception desk around a corner. On the plus side, visitors can take in their own picnic although the café food did look good. The galleries are on the first floor and the Scottish Design Gallery included a dress which I found impressive as two figures were depicted in the design.
Within the Scottish Design Gallery, the jewel in the crown is Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room, the painstakingly reconstructed interior of part of Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street, Glasgow, Tea Rooms which has been unseen for 50 years. It is a very dark interior and I nearly walked in to a wall! Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a Scottish artist, architect, and interior/furniture/textile designer who had a professional influence on the development of the modern movement. He worked to create totally integrated art and architecture including the recently restored Willow tearoom in Glasgow.
Discovery Point is home to RRS Discovery, made in Dundee and designed for adventure. The Discovery was the last traditional wooden three masted ship to be built in Britain. Designed for Antarctic research, it was launched as a Royal Research Ship (RRS) in 1901. Its first mission was the British National Antarctic Expedition, carrying Scott and Shackleton on their first, successful journey to the Antarctic, known as the Discovery Expedition. Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather it was closed to visitors.
It was unfortunate that Storm Ali hit Scotland on the day we travelled to Dundee which was an experience in the winds gusting up to 100 miles an hour in some places. In some ways it enhanced the visit to the V&A museum as waves on the River Tay lashed the outside of the building. On the plus side, on returning to Glasgow the lawn was a sea of apples blown off the apple tree by the winds!
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The annual holiday of the walking club this year was to the Algarve. I have been to Lisbon and the area north of it but never to the Algarve. The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is known for its Atlantic beaches and golf resorts. Along the southern coastline there are whitewashed fishing villages on cliffs overlooking sandy coves. The region’s western Atlantic coast and rugged interior are less developed. We had five walking days and one day in the middle to do our own thing – I went to Lagos that day.
On the first day we took the bus from our base at a comfortable family hotel in Burgau to Lagos to walk back along the cliffs to Burgau. I really liked the painting of the bus shelter of older ladies. Very colourful, just like our group! The walk was from the centre of Lagos and the paths were good although sometimes precipitous as we were on cliff tops. We visited a light house and continued on to a lovely beach to have lunch. This is a holiday so we have plenty of coffee and refreshment stops at cafes. The weather was warm with some cloud so it was good for walking. We continued towards Praia de Luz and up a hill where there was an obelisk. We finally found the very steep descent path into the town and then it was straight to Burgau where some of the group were anticipating Happy Hour at the Beach Bar.
The walk on this day was intended to be at Monchique but due to the terrible forest fires in August and the devastation caused, the walks were changed to the Silves area. We had a circular walk near Silves at Ilha Do Rosario through orange groves with fig and almond trees alongside irrigation channels similar to the levadas in Madeira. We were walking near Falacho and Vale De Lama and came to the confluence of the Arade and Odelouca Rivers. We had our bus to take us to Silves where we spent the afternoon. The town dates back to Palaeolithic times and in 1189 King Sancho of Portugal conquered the town with the aid of Northern European crusaders. Sancho ordered the fortification of the city and built a castle which is today an important monument of Portuguese heritage.
I was most impressed by how colourful the Algarve was with its Mosaic pavements and even paintings on the Telecom boxes.
On our free day from walking, we took the bus to Lagos and went on a small boat to sail into the caves below the cliffs. It was interesting to see the cliffs from the sea that we had walked along the top of on our first day. There were many kayakers out and on one occasion we turned around a rock and almost collided with a group of kayakers coming towards the boat. The boatman was very skilful in avoiding them. After the boat trip we walked around the old town, seeing the city walls and admiring the tiles on the front of buildings. Lagos is a historic centre of the Portuguese Age of Discovery and at one time was the centre of the European slave trade.
One day we travelled to Cabo de Sainte Vicente to see the most south-westerly lighthouse in Europe. According to legend, the name of this cape is linked to the story of a martyred fourth-century Iberian deacon St. Vincent whose body was brought ashore here. I liked the modern metal sculpture dedicated to St. Vincent. We returned to Burgau and started our walk to Salema where I walked along the beach to see the Dinosaur footprints on the rocks. They were first discovered in 1995 on a flat rock at the western end of Salema beach. At the hotel, we had our very own dinosaur descendant in the form of Maria, the seagull, who had a broken wing but was waiting for treatment at the local bird sanctuary which was overwhelmed with victims from the forest fires.
On the last day, the walk was from Vila Do Bispo to the western coast and a beach at Castelejo for lunch. On the way we passed cork oak trees in the nature reserve. Cork is an ancient industry ans Portugal is the largest producer in the world today. On this coastline the ocean breakers are strong and many surfing schools train on the beaches. I tried paddling but the waves were so strong it was difficult to stay upright and bathers tended to have the feet taken from under them by the waves. There was a red flag that day so not many people were in the water. On our beach at Burgau, it was much calmer and many of our group had a daily swim in the sea. We returned to Vila Do Bispo for coffee and ice creams as the weather was hotter than the earlier part of the week. It is a sleepy village but has a lovely church and bougainvillea spills from the houses.
A truly wonderful trip organised by Peter B and all the other committee members. Our walk leaders did a great job and we appreciate it. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s nearly eleven years since I completed the entire round of Munros in Scotland. These are mountains of more than 3000 feet that Sir Hugh Munro listed in 1891. When I compleated (original spelling!) them, there were 284 as more modern measuring devices have been used since Sir Hugh divided the summits into 283 separate mountains (now known as the Munros), whilst 255 further summits over 3000 feet were considered to be only subsidiary ‘tops’. His list caused quite a stir at the time, as it had previously been thought that there were only around 30 mountains of that height. The present list is 282 as some Munros have been demoted! Over the past few years I have tried to do an annual Munro and this year it was Beinn a’Chochuill (meaning the Hill of the Shell in Gaelic) at Dalmally. I went with the Bearsden and Milngavie Ramblers and after I checked my Munro Log, I discovered I had climbed this hill with its neighbour Beinn Euniach with the group twenty five years ago.
These hills are located near the small village of Dalmally which is spread along the Stratch of Orchy in Argyll & Bute 2 miles east of the tip of Loch Awe. The village was established by the first Lord of Glenorchy, Sir Colin Campbell, and started as a settlement serving the nearby historic Kilchurn Castle. Nowadays, Dalmally is a popular tourist destination surrounded by lochs, rivers, mountains and beautiful scenery and a railway station operating on the Glasgow to Oban line. We started the walk on a gently rising landrover track. It was a very hot day and we were walking at an easy pace as a group. The faster walkers had gone on ahead as they were climbing both Munros. As the weather had been so dry for a prolonged spell, the burns were down to a trickle at best and some people dipped their sunhats in the water to cool down.
The hills to the side are known as the Dalmally Horseshoe and comprise Ben Cruachan with a ridge round to Stob Daimh. Ben Cruachan is famous as one of the hidden wonders of the Highlands with a power station buried one kilometre below the ground. At its centre lies a massive cavern, high enough to house the Tower of London! Here, enormous turbine converts the power of water into electricity, available to you in your home at the flick of a switch. There are tours available and it is on my wish-list to take the tour. We stopped for a tea break to relax and take in the clear views. There was no shade and some people used an umbrella as a parasol. There was a lovely view down to Loch Awe with the island in the centre where the ruined Kilchurn Castle is located.
After our extended tea break we left the landrover track and it was a pathless ascent on steep ground until we finally reached the ridge. We had frequent stops to admire the view and to drink to keep hydrated. The last time I had climbed this hill it was on a clear day but not as warm. When we approached the bealach which is the pass between two mountains, we passed the faster walkers heading to the second Munro. It was a very pleasant walk along the gently ascending stony ridge to reach the top where we relaxed and had lunch. It was 26 degrees celsius on the top at over 3200 feet. We had views over to Ben Lomond but not as far as Ben Nevis which is the highest mountain in Scotland at 4400 feet. There was a heat haze but on a clear winters day Ben Nevis is visible. It was a case of choosing which way to face for lunch as there were panoramic views of mountains all around.
I was delighted to complete the annual Munro and thoroughly enjoyed the day out. For the record we were out for seven hours with a lot of stops and I drank two litres of water as it was very warm for walking. We were all prepared with plenty of water, sunhats and suncream. Everyone was so friendly and obviously enjoying the walk at an easy pace. Thanks to Peter B. for organising it and Peter A. for leading it.
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The walking club recently went on a day walking trip to Culzean Castle and Country Park from Maidens in Ayrshire. It is many years since I last visited Culzean and was I happy to explore further in the Country Park.
We drove to Maidens, a fishing village at the southern end of Maidenhead Bay two miles north of Turnberry and five miles west of Maybole. The village retains an old world air of peace and tranquillity and is a favourite spot for artists and camera enthusiasts. It was at Maidens that Robert the Bruce landed when he sailed from Rathlin Island. Rathlin Island is situated off the north east coast of Ireland and is the only inhabited offshore island in Northern Ireland. Robert the Bruce was a 13th century Scottish king. You may have spotted a version of his persona in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart movie in 1995. We walked along the beach at Maidens on a beautiful hot sunny day and entered the Estate of Culzean. Although the temperature was 30c., the seawater was still cold but a few brave souls went paddling anyway.
Culzean Country Park is a glorious 260 hectare estate and was once the playground of David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis, a man who was keen to impress with his wealth and status. Opulent to the extreme, the park is planted with conifers and beech, sculpted around miles of sandy coastline dotted with caves, and finished off with a Swan Pond, an ice house, flamboyant formal gardens and fruit-filled glasshouses. The Castle and Grounds are now run by the National Trust for Scotland, a charity whose aim is to protect the heritage of Scotland.
The castle itself is perched on the Ayrshire cliffs looking out to the Irish Sea, incorporating everything the earl could wish for in his country home. It was designed by Robert Adam in the late 18th century and is filled to the turrets with treasures that tell the stories of the people who lived here. We did not go in to the castle on this visit but had lunch at the Visitors Centre, originally the Old Stables. From the lunch stop we had wonderful views over to the island of Arran and its mountains which I have climbed many times. Within the Castle there is the apartment at the top where US President Dwight D. Eisenhower used to come to relax.
After lunch we continued to walk round the many paths in the Castle grounds and saw a mixture of llamas and deer in the Deer Park where they seemed to be happy living alongside each other. The Deer Park has been there since the 1750’s. We walked over to the area in the south west of the grounds to see the Cat Gates, sculptures on the top of an entrance arch pillars which really looked more like lions heads but I suppose they are regarded as ‘Big Cats’!
The gardens close to the castle are well manicured and include an Orangery and a Fountain Court. The Earl of Cassillis certainly knew how to live in style. There is also a garden specially created for children and as we are all ‘Big Kids at heart, we had a walk around it and saw the wood carvings including the Gruffalo which was based on the well-loved books for children.
It’s around 50 miles drive from Glasgow to Culzean and we were very thankful to the members who volunteered to drive. It was a great day out. I really enjoy walking by the sea on a glorious day with the views over to Arran. It can sometimes be very grey and wet in Scotland which makes it atmospheric. Come rain, hail or shine we are out walking in Scotland in its many moods. It is thanks to the Bearsden and Milngavie Ramblers that I have the opportunity to see the many and varied landscapes of the central belt of Scotland. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.orgHelen Rose Hillwalking and Outdoors Diary