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….
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.org
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary.
It is nine years since I lasted visited Hadrian’s Wall and I wrote about that visit. The wall has not changed in that time! Here are some facts. Hadrian’s Wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire for nearly 300 years. It was built by the Roman army on the orders of the emperor Hadrian following his visit to Britain in AD 122. At 73 miles (80 Roman miles) long, it crossed northern Britain from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The most famous of all the frontiers of the Roman Empire, Hadrian’s Wall was made a World Heritage Site in 1987. It is located in the north of England not far from the Scottish border. Presumably it was built to keep out the marauding Scots! The Glasgow HF Outdoor Club https://www.meetup.com/Glasgow-HF-Outdoor-Club/ planned a weekend of walks along the wall. You can read about the wall on https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hadrians-wall/history-and-stories/history/.
The Romans are reputed to have reached Inverness in Scotland and in fact Pontius Pilate was possibly born in Fortingall in Perthshire when they invaded Scotland for the first time in AD80, reaching the area including Perthshire in about AD83. It is reported that Caesar Augustus fathered a child with a Caledonian woman and he was Pontius Pilate which makes him half Scottish!
We stayed at the George Hotel in Chollerford which was very comfortable and convenient for the AD 122 bus that travels along the wall offering a shuttle service to points of interest. Just love that quirky bus number!
On the first day we took the AD122 to Milecastle Inn to walk the nine miles to Housesteads Fort along the wall. To my mind, this is the best bit of the wall to walk. People on the longer walk took the bus to Greensteads and finished at Vindolanda which is a stunning fort and town with a recreation at the museum. I had been there on the last visit. The weekend was primarily a walking and social holiday but we also had the Roman history as a bonus.
This part of the walk has many ups and downs which we referred to as undulations. It was a beautiful sunny day and the route was surprisingly quiet apart from 200 walkers we passed on a Charity Walk for Cancer Research, some of them wearing pink tutus! The views were clear over the surrounding countryside which is mainly agricultural and fairly flat. The Romans always built in a straight line and over hilly bits rather than going round them so undulations have to be expected. The wall is in good condition and well restored. The stone wall was originally a maximum height of about 15 feet (4.6 metres), 10 Roman feet (3 metres) wide, enough for there to have been a walkway along the top, and perhaps also a parapet wall. Now it is about four feet high in most sections.
We came to a gap at Steele Rigg where there was a lone sycamore tree in the dip and this was featured in the 1991 film ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, starring Kevin Costner. It is probably the most photographed site in Northumberland.
We stopped for lunch at Sill Visitors Centre named after Whin Sill, the crags on which Hadrian built the wall. The Centre has a grassland roof with fine views over the countryside. The walk continued to Housesteads Fort where we caught the bus back to Chollerford.
On the second day, we caught our favourite AD122 bus to Housesteads to walk back to the hotel at Chollerford. The forts on the wall are interesting as they housed a full settlement, known as vicus, which included local people who worked for the Romans. We know the Romans were very civilised and had baths, toilets and a hospital in their settlements.
There were the usual ups and downs to walk and then it levelled out until we reached the temple at Brocolitia and stopped for lunch in the sunshine. Brocolitia is the remains of a third-century Roman temple to the Sun God Mithras, a cult which first started in Persia. It was built next to a Roman fort. There are also a few remains of a sacred well dedicated to the Celtic water goddess Coventina. The Roman name of Brocolitia was probably based on the original Celtic name for the area meaning ‘Badger Holes’. The walk continued mostly without the evidence of the wall but sometimes there were short sections of the wall and mostly restored to a fairly low level.
Near Chollerord, I called in at the Chesters Fort which is Britain’s most complete cavalry fort. It has Britain’s best preserved military bath house. Bath houses were important to the Roman Soldiers as they were social spaces to relax in as well as for cleanliness. Soldiers came from all over the empire in the hope they could become Roman citizens so many languages were spoken. There were sweating rooms, hot rooms and warm rooms, all with evidence of underfloor heating and also cold rooms.
Back at the hotel we relaxed and toasted a wonderful weekend. Thanks to Stephen for the organisation of the walks on the weekend. The weekend was too short for all there was to see. The following day we took the bus to Hexham to catch the train. Hexham has a renowned Cathedral but alas we did not have time to visit it. Maybe another time……
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Thanks to Kathleen Hodge for her sycamore tree photograph.
The Glasgow HF Walking Club runs two low level walking weekends every year at different locations; this year the first one was on the Isle of Bute. The group was based in the famous Glenburn Hotel in Rothesay. Rothesay has many childhood memories for me as a summer holiday resort and was affectionately known by Glaswegians as ‘Goin Doon the Watter’. In other words, sailing down the River Clyde. Bute is 33 miles from Glasgow as the crow flies and is only 15 miles long by 4 miles wide. It is renowned for its glorious gardens and grand architecture including Mount Stuart House, which is a wonder of Victorian engineering and had the world’s first house indoor swimming pool! I have previously visited it to see the celestial ceiling and art works. Stella McCartney got married there so it must be tasteful!
Rothesay is the largest village on Bute. Our walks were planned for the West Island Way, which was Scotland’s first official island long distance footpath and was opened in 2000 to celebrate the turn of the millennium. We walked 12 miles a day and did most of the Way but we were dependent on local buses and had to fit in with timetables. Stephen planned the walks well taking in all the Island’s attractions.
On the first day we took the bus to Port Bannatyne and walked over to Ettrick Bay passing a derelict church with an interesting three dimensional cross. Ettrick Bay has glorious sands and views over to Arran and its majestic mountains. A great place for a coffee break to soak up the scenery. We continued our walk to Rhubodach with some rough walking due to recent inclement weather. We had a diversion to a lookout shelter from World War Two facing North West with lovely views out to sea. Spring has been late here this year but there were some lovely violets and primroses in full bloom. When we reached Rhubodach, we saw the bus coming across on the ferry from the Dunoon Peninsula which is only a five minute crossing!
On the second day we caught the bus to Kilchattan Bay in the south of the island and walked over to Stravanan Bay stopping for coffee on the beach after passing the local airfield, basically a field with a large windsock and a picnic table which we joked was the check in desk! We walked on to a little top for lunch with views again over to Arran where there was a bench. We were approached by a man wanting to take a photo of people sitting on the bench as he was responsible for maintaining it from the Dorothy Marshall Trust . He was the local joiner so well placed to provide us with interesting information on building and maintaining teak benches. . The walk continued through avenues of brilliant yellow gorse and we came to a field where some sheep were in a pen watched over by a farmer. Kathleen could not resist asking the farmer about a black lamb in a field of white sheep we had seen earlier. We noticed the two lambs in the pen were big and a strange grey colour. He explain that they were January lambs and it was the first time they has been out due to bad weather. Their coats had become waxy and turned grey as they had been inside so long. So now you know! Many lambs were lost this year due to late winter snow.
Every night we had entertainment in the Glenburn Hotel including an Elton John Tribute Night on Saturday. On Monday, we took the boat back to Wemyss Bay in glorious sunshine. In fact, we were very lucky the whole weekend had been great weather. Bute is even better than I remembered in my childhood.
Thanks to Stephen for planning the weekend and leading the walks.
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It’s seventeen years since I was last walking and touring in Andalucia. This year I went to Las Alpujarras in southern Spain – a new walking territory for me. Las Alpujarras is a natural and historical region, on the south slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the adjacent valley. The average elevation is 1,200 metres (4,000 ft) above sea level. It extends over two provinces, Granada and Almeria. The Sierra Nevada runs west-to-east for about 80 km. and includes the highest mountain in mainland Spain, the Mulhacén at 3479 m. The mountain is covered with snow in winter. The snow-melt in the spring and summer allows the southern slopes of the Sierra to remain green and fertile throughout the year, despite the heat of the summer sun. Water emerges from innumerable springs and human intervention has channeled it to terraced plots and to the villages. We stayed in two villages and had five walking days in total with up to 400 metres of ascent and descent daily. The trip was arranged through Scot-Trek using a local guide Dan at Ibex Trex .
The highest of the three villages in the Barranco de Poqueira is Capileira at 1,436m; a good base for walking in the gorge itself or up to the Sierra Nevada. Its twisting, steep streets are dotted with many springs gushing with fresh mountain water. It offers superb views of the Poqueira Gorge and the Sierra Nevada everywhere you look. With a population of 600, it′s also the largest of the three villages in the Poqueira gorge, the others being Bubión and Pampaneira. We used the spring at our hotel for water to take on the walks.
Capileira′s remote location meant that Moorish rule arrived relatively late as did that of the Christians, who conquered the village centuries later. In the early 16th century the Catholic Monarchs ordered the construction of the village church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza, on the site of a former mosque. The original church was replaced with the current Mudéjar style building in the 18th century.
The first walk was from the hotel up to Cebadilla with lovely views down the Gorge. In the houses dotted around we could see the chimneys of a Moorish design. Unfortunately we had to cut the walk short due to heavy rain but ended up in a bar in Capileria for lunch. The hotel was warm and comfortable and there was heating to dry out our wet clothes. At dinner, we had some local dishes including a lentil stew.
The following day we travelled to Taha for a circuit of the Taha Redolent with its thousand years of Arabic History. From Las Alpuharras we had splendid views up to the snow clad peaks of the higher mountains. The walk started from Fondales and down to a Roman bridge and a chestnut mill. We walked up a ridge in sunshine although there was a cold wind. Dan provided a picnic lunch of fresh bread, cheese, pate, aioli, tomato and cucumber. We enjoyed this on a sheltered spot with good views. It was an interesting descent on a very steep winding path but we lived to tell the tale! On the way back to the village, we stopped at the famous spring that produces fizzy mineral water.
Next day we left Capileria where we had awakened to find snow in the village! We had planned to move to a lower village of Cadiar where the weather was a little warmer. We walked in the Rio Trevelez Valley up to a ridge where we met the snow line but only small patches. The descent to the river was more gradual where we had our picnic. Trevelez is the highest village in Andalucia. The following day we were in the Contraviesa Mountain Range where we descended though almond orchards and vineyards. We sampled the local wine in the hotel while sitting by a log fire in the bar. The hotel outside Cadiar was built as a village with buildings constructed in the style of the old Andalusian farmhouses. There was even a church within the compound! We were fortunate with the weather which was dry although unseasonably cold
The last walk was into the Campo from the hotel following paths and waterways to the villages of Lobras and Timaras where we stopped for the picnic lunch in warm sunshine looking over the valley and the little canals used for irrigation. Part of this walk had been on the GR7 . This runs from Tarifa near Gibraltar, across Spain, through France into Andorra and back into France to Mont Aigoual and Aire-de-Côte in the Cevennes and north to the final 250 km ending in Alsace, northern France. We finished the walk in Cadiar with the customary beer and tapas. My favourite tapasis Boquerones, fried anchovies.
No visit to Andalusia is complete without a visit to the Alhambra. I had been on a previous visit to Granada but I did go up to it and walked around the public area. The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex and was originally constructed as a small fortress on the remains of Roman fortificationsin AD 889. It was largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Emirate of Granada who built the current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace by the Sultan of Granadain 1333 . After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Andalusia is steeped in Moorish History and the designs on the wall tiles at the Alhambra are reflected in this culture. In the evening we dined at a restaurant in the Albaicin and saw the sunset lighting up the walls of the Alhambra. It was then on to a Flamenco show but not one for the tourists. There was an amazing amount of energy from the dancers. A good cultural end to the trip.
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Water of Leith History
Flowing for twenty four miles from its source in the Pentland Hills, the Water of Leith winds its way through various suburbs into the heart of Edinburgh. It is a grand name for a river in the capital city of Scotland! It was once at the centre of the city’s industrial heartland with the river providing the water power for the production of paper, flour and fabric. Today, there are pleasant walks along the river on very good path. The Glasgow HF Outdoor Club walked from Balerno to Murrayfield with Gerena as our very knowledgeable leader.
We travelled by bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow and caught a local bus from Haymarket to Balerno. The start of the walk featured a wooden sculpture with a winding metal strip. It had an area of seating perfect for a refreshment stop before the start of the walk. The walkway follows the path of the old Balerno Branch Railway to Colinton, then runs parallel to the river all the way to Leith – away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Leith famous as a port has the Royal Yacht Britannia berthed there; now a visitor attraction. However, we did not walk as far as Leith, almost thirteen miles, as it was a short winter day with limited daylight and we had a time constraint to return to Glasgow by public transport.
It was pleasant strolling alongside the river and passing through areas with unusual names such as Currie and Juniper Green. We spoke to local people along the way and some pointed across the river to a higher area where J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, lived. Designated as an Urban Wildlife Site, the wooded river banks include patches of ancient woodland and are hosts to carpets of wildflowers and dramatic trees.
Colinton is a charming and highly sought-after suburb of Edinburgh. It was a former mill town and still has a quaint village feel. Set amongst rich flora and fauna in the midst of the peaceful Colinton Dell, a pleasant stretch of greenery nestled along the Water of Leith. The picturesque, well-kept community features a number of pretty historic buildings. Robert Louis Stevenson spent the summers of his childhood at the manse when his grandfather was Parish Minister. The village is a haven for arts and crafts shops.
The Colinton Dell continues to Slateford where the Visitors’ Centre is located. The name ‘Slateford’ comes from local rock found in the area. We learned that the river is stocked with brown trout and wildlife is plentiful including heron. On the way we passed under two impressive arches, the aqueduct carrying the Union Canal and the viaduct carrying the railway. We made a wide loop around the allotments but had some road walking to reach our final destination at Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish Rugby.
There was a match on that afternoon so most of us headed for the bus back to Glasgow although Gerena invited us to go for a small refreshment in a local hostelry to round off the walk. If we had continued to Leith we would have passed the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, the Dean Village, Stockbridge and the Royal Botanical Gardens. A good excuse to go back and walk from Murrayfield to Leith. Thanks to Gerena for organising the walk.
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Thanks to Maura Buchanan for the photographs.