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.

fsdfds © Ian R. Mitchell

Copyright I.R. Mitchell

Read about Ian Mitchell

Photographs by Jim Byrne: jim@glasgowwestend.co.uk


If I start at the Overton end of the cut can I get down at the Branchton end. X

marilyn | Wed Sep 10 2014

Plain text only.one of the grandest walks you'll ever take highly recommend it,excellent scenery, inat

Nameframk vinnelly | Tue Dec 17 2013

I work at Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, in which the Greenock Cut is located. Can I suggest this artile is updated for a number of reasons: 1. I've had complains about the suggestion that Greenock is not cafe country. 2. ?1 million of HLF money has been spent on restoring the Greenock Cut 2006-2009. There is now an interesting exhibition in the Visitor Centre. Which has been renamed (Feb 10) the 'Greenock Cut Visitor Centre' in recognition of its location at the start of the Greenock Cut. 3. The Visitor Centre and 'cafe' is open every day Apr to Oct and at weekends in winter, toilets most days in winter and there is a Countryside Ranger Service based at the Visitor Centre. Get in contact for more info or to arrange a visit with me or one of the Rangers.

Fiona Carswell | Fri Aug 20 2010

How much of the cut is possible on a robust outdoor mobility scooter?

Jan McDonald | Thu Dec 17 2009

Although I agree that the catering in Cornalees Visitor Centre leaves a lot to be desired (even after the refurbishment), if you go to the Ardgowan Fisheries just up the path a little, there's a much friendlier wee cafe that does hot soup, toasties, sandwiches, all sorts. It's still very basic stuff, just snack bar type things, but much better food and much better value than the main visitor centre.

Jennie Hood | Sun Jan 04 2009

as a boy i walked many times i fished in it and the long dam also loch thom and all other waters my family were members of the angling club while your photos are wonderful i am disgusted by the condition of the cut which appears to be empty no fish as boys we would guddle fish on sunday nights i last walked the in 1951 james lawrie australia

james lawrie | Sun Dec 14 2008

Having read the above I ran the route described this morning (Although I started and finished at Overton where there is also a car park) . The path is stll in very good condition and the cut is clear. Weather was attrocious so the views were missing but I will be out again on a clear day. Just over an hour to run the entire route

Darren Coventry | Wed Jun 25 2008

threr aint no nardini's either

andy luke | Sun Apr 20 2008

This article needs to be updated. The Cut and Cornalees visitor centre (now known as Cornalees Bridge) have recently had a re-vamp. The Cut itself has had over 3/4 of it's path re-laid with fresh gravel. New gates have been installed, freshly painted and maintained. Fences renewed, walls, bridges and parts of the old workmens buildings rebuilt and all the old rubbish which was gathering has been removed. The visitor centre at Cornalees Bridge is almost brand new, and offers information about the local area and includes cafe. There is still a local Burger bar as well. Overall this is an amazing area and one right on the doorstep of Inverclyde residents, most of which i suspect have no idea how nice it is. I have recently began cycling this route and would recommend it anyone looking to enjoy the local scenery.

Derek McNeil | Sun May 20 2007

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