A Walk Doon The Watter: The Greenock Cut

Veiw of Greenock Cut Walk

Ian R Mitchell suggests a brisk walk , suitable for families, fatties and fanatics of industrial archeology.

A short drive from Glasgow (25 miles), is an easy, low-level walk of great interest, the Greenock Cut. This is an aqueduct, just under five miles long, built by the engineer Robert Thom between 1825 and 27. Its purpose was to channel water from the reservoirs on the hills above Greenock, in order to provide water-power to the town's factories, and drinking water to the inhabitants. The Cut was designated an Ancient Monument in 1972, but so far little seems to have been spent on maintaining this unique feat of engineering. Full of historical interest, a walk along the Cut on a clear day it gives views to the north of Ben Lomond, and south to the ridges of Arran and the Firth of Clyde.

Cast Iron Memorial

The simplest way to get to the Cut is to drive through Greenock past the huge IBM factory, and then take the first left turning sitgnposted to Loch Thom and Cornalees Visitor Centre, where there is parking. The Centre is closed over winter, but there is a box with a leaflet route-map and information on the Cut. The route of the walk goes northwards past Loch Thom cottage on a good track slightly uphill past a well constructed by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1915, then slightly down to the fine wee Waterman1s cottage at Overton, where there is a delightful cast iron memorial in a wall to the centenary of the cut in 1927. On this section of the walk are splendid views across the multi-storey flats and surviving cranes of Greenock to Dumbarton Castle and beyond that the Argyllshire hills from the vantage point of 200 metres above the Clyde.

A White Hut

Turning west(left) you are on the track of the Cut proper; this is generally a very good path, constructed for the workmen to give access to work on the Cut itself. In summer it was maintenance and weir manning, in winter breaking the ice to keep the water flowing. This track runs almost perfectly horizontally for about three miles, passing many weirs, wasters(outflows), old bridges across the cut to the moorland grazing, and former workmens1 huts en route, in a never-ending scene of interesting industrial archeology. Sadly, all these remains are ruinous, and at places the banks of the Cut are caving in. Surely Lottery Money could be gained for a restoration project?

Greenock Cut view on a sunny day

The path gradually trends southwards, and the huge lum of the redundant Inverkip power station comes into view, heralding glimpses of Bute, and then Arran1s peaks. The section of the Cut, towards Shielhill farm can be very dubby, so take good boots or wellingtons. The last section of the walk goes past the fine mixed woods of Shielhill Glen, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and brings the circuit to an end at Cornalees. The whole circuit is just over seven miles, but is easy going, and takes between 2 and a half and three hours. The cut is gradually filling in with vegetation, and harbours lots of bird life, which adds to the interest. Sadly, Greenock is not café country, and the Visitor centre at Cornalees must be one of the shabbiest around, with only Greasy Joe1s catering; so take a picnic or head back swiftly to the West End for refreshments. On the return route head back to Glasgow on the Old Largs Road at the other side of Loch Thom (named after the engineer of the Cut.). Or instead, go to Nardini's in Largs for a retro café experience.

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Photographs by Jim Byrne: [email protected]