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....
Helen Rose Diary
The Lowther Hills, also sometimes known as the Lowthers, are an extensive area of hill country in the Southern Uplands. They form a roughly lozenge shape on the map with the acute angles being to north and south. It has the river valleys along its boundaries with Clydesdale to the north east and Nithsdale to the south west which carry the two largest arterial routes northwards into the west side of the Central Belt of Scotland. A string of small towns and villages have long since developed along these routes such as Leadhills and Wanlockhead. Most of the Lowther Hills lie in Dumfries and Galloway.
The area has a history of lead mining and the villages still have the rows of miners’ cottages. The museum in Wanlockhead has a real 18th century lead mine set deep in the hillside where visitors can experience the thrill of going underground. Make your way along village paths to the miners’ cottages and see how the miners really lived in the different periods of 1750, 1850 & 1910 before exploring the second oldest subscription library in Europe, which has gained recognition status as being a collection of National Significance. You can also go gold panning! www.leadminingmuseum.co.uk
Bobby led the walk for the Glasgow Ramblers www.glasgowramblers.org.uk in lovely sunny, dry and warm weather with excellent visibility much to his surprise. We drove down to Wanlockhead which is Scotland’s highest village at nearly 500 metres above sea level. Following the Southern Upland Way in part we climbed onto East Mount Lowther at 631 metres. Using the indicator on the trig point we could see clearly the Lake District peaks including Skiddaw and Scafell Pike, the island of Arran and many of the southern Munros including Ben Lomond, Ben More and Stob Binnein. We could also see over to Northern Ireland. There was a good track and we looked over to the ‘Golf Ball’ on the next hill for radar etc. The weather was unexpected and we spent time just taking in the views.
After lunch with a view we then climbed Lowther Hill which is topped off by a large dome used by aircraft radar. It resembles a very large golf ball with some mini golf balls adjacent. We passed close to the ski centre with only one ski tow. Lowther Hills is a small, family-friendly ski centre nested between Scotland's two highest villages, Wanlockhead and Leadhills, which boast Scotland's oldest Curling and Skiing heritage. It's the only ski centre in the south of Scotland and the nearest to the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dumfries, all just one hour's drive to the slopes. Today there was no snow on the slopes although there were tiny patches on the hillside. It is only operational on around 20 days per season. From the summit we looked over to Ireland although unsure whether it was the Antrim Coast or the Mountains of Mourne that we could see. Amazing to see the three countries of Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. Wales was just a bit too far away to see!
After a gentle stroll along a tarmac road we reached our third peak of the day, Green Lowther with an assortment of masts at the summit. Cyclists were slowly climbing up the hill which looked a lot harder than walking. An easy downhill stretch on rough ground to the reservoir then onto hill tracks and finally we followed an old railway track back into Wanlockhead.
No visit to Wanlockhead is complete without visiting the local pub, the Wanlockhead Inn, the highest pub in Scotland, for a well-earned refreshment before returning home. A great day out in fabulous weather and with interesting history. I must go back when the Museum is open at Wanlockhead as we were out of season.
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Helen Rose Walking Diary
During the winter I had took part in an interesting walk organised by Stephen in the HF Club Outdoor Club . The walk was entitled 'Around Lanark'. Lanark is a small town in the central lowland belt, about an hour by car from Glasgow. The name is believed to come from the Cumbric Lanerc meaning "clear space, glade". The area is probably best known for the nearby New Lanark, which is a World Heritage Site. It's famous for the 18th century social pioneer Robert Owen who founded the setting up of a large mill at New Lanark as a Utopian Society. However, this walk was from the town of Lanark, which is an interesting historically.
We travelled by train from Glasgow to Lanark as we are environmentally friendly and like to use public transport where possible. We walked from the town to Castlebank House on the outskirts to the Wallace Memorial Rose garden with the splendid wooden statue of Wallace and other interesting wood carvings. This in Wallace’s time would have been part of the ancient Clyde Forest through which Wallace made his escape to the river Clyde before going upstream to hide out in the cave near the Falls of Clyde. In May 1297, William Wallace attacked the town of Lanark, killing the English sheriff and unrest quickly became a full-blown rebellion. Men flocked to join Wallace as he began to drive the English out of Fife and Perthshire.
We walked on over the Cartland Craigs and through the Cleghorn Woods, taking care on the path as it is steep sided into the gorge. Every June, hundreds of people join the Lanimer procession to check the 15 boundary or ‘march’ stones, some of which are in the nature reserve. During the procession, many people carry birch twigs taken from the Cleghorn Glen woodlands. This tradition started in the 1840s when an ancient dispute with the Lairds of Jerviswood came to a head as the Lairds would not allow people across the land. We have no such problem now in Scotland as in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 there is a right of responsible non-motorised access, for recreational and other purposes, to land and inland water throughout Scotland with few exceptions. This makes planning walks so much easier. Within the woods we saw various types of fungi growing on the path, including a very small one with a red cap.
We continued through the woods with the river known as Mousewater to our side. It is pronounced Moosewater and is a tributary of the River Clyde. It is popular with canoeists. In the past, the fast flowing river was used to power mills and factories along its route and is still used today to produce hydroelectricity. There are bridges where the roads cross the river and these are built of stone. The sides of the river were originally red sandstone but this has been eroded over the years. The trees are still coppiced to let in the light. There are rapids and we stopped near one for lunch where there were convenient logs placed to sit on.
When we reached the open countryside, we spotted some Jacob Sheep, which are a rare breed of small piebald, white with black spots and unusual multiple horns. They are sometimes kept as pets and ornamental animals and have been used as guard animals to protect farm property from theft or vandalism and defend other livestock against predators. The Jacob is descended from an ancient Old World of sheep, although its exact origins remain unclear. Spotted polycerate sheep were documented in England by the middle of the 17th century, and were widespread a century later.
It was then back to Lanark as a circular walk and a visit to a hostelry before catching the train back to Glasgow.
It was an interesting walk with fine weather, fascinating historical features and lots of banter in the group. Never a dull moment on a group walk.
Many thanks to Stephen for leading the walk. It is a lot of work planning and recceing a walk and then leading it on the day and we all appreciate his hard work.
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Thanks to Marty Douglas for the photos.
Photograph courtesy of Jacob Sheep Society.
Helen Rose Diary. February 2017.
A group of fourteen of us know each other through walking and have been going to Arran every July for a weekend for nearly seventeen years staying in recent years at Shore Lodge in the grounds of Brodick Castle. This year, Kathleen booked the lodge for Hogmanay and we had a great time staying four nights. Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. Hogmanay is the biggest festival celebrated throughout Scotland and there are traditional customs associated with it.
Arran is situated in the Firth of Clyde and is the seventh largest island in Scotland. It is 19 miles long and 10 miles wide and it is often referred to as ‘Scotland in Miniature’ with glorious scenery of mountains and sea. It was actually under Norwegian rule in the Viking period until the 12th century. It is about an hour by road from Glasgow to Ardrossan and then about an hour on the ferry. We all love our summer trips there but this was our first trip in winter. Shore Lodge is a bunkhouse in the grounds of Brodick Castle and warm and comfortable. Brodick Castle is eight hundred years old and set in beautiful grounds just outside Brodick. It was once the ancient seat of the Dukes of Hamilton
Hogmanay at Corrie
We arrived on Friday at Shore Lodge in the grounds of the Castle and settled in. Saturday was Hogmanay and we walked along the shore and golf course into Brodick, the main village in Arran for afternoon tea and scones, a great Scottish tradition. We had a restful day to prepare for the Hogmanay activities. At dinnertime, all fourteen of us were together and enjoyed a hearty meal before going to the Village Hall at Corrie for the Ceilidh to bring in the New Year. Corrie is only five miles north of Shore Lodge and Ian, Noreen and Kathleen offered to drive. We were lucky to have tickets for the Ceilidh as they were sold out. We enjoyed an evening of Ceilidh dancing in the hall with Strip the Willow, the Dashing White Sergeant, Gay Gordons, etc. Before the Bells at Midnight we went outside where a piper was playing and stood at the bonfire. It was a cold, clear night and the sky was a carpet of stars as there is no light pollution on the island. At midnight, we welcomed in the New Year with the firework display and hugs and kisses all round. We went back to the lodge where the drivers could have a drink to bring in the New Year.
On New Year’s Day (Ne’er Day) some went off to climb Goat Fell but Kathleen, Ian Mac, Noreen and I went over to Machrie on the west of the island to visit the standing stones. Ian Mac was waiting for a new hip and had a fractured pelvis so was on crutches. He managed to walk over one and a half miles on the track from the car park on the crutches he was so determined to get there. This rich archaeological landscape includes stone circles, standing stones, burial cairns and cists, as well as hut circles and an extensive field system, all dating to between 3500 and 1500 BC. The stone circles were preceded by elaborate timber circles on exactly the same sites. They were associated with religious activities dating back around 4,500 years. Cremation and inhumation burials were placed in the circles, long after they were first built. It was a beautiful cold sunny day with views all around. Historic Scotland maintain the site.
Brodick Circular Walk
On our last day, most of us went on a walk from Brodick that Noreen wanted to recce to lead as a walk in the spring for the walking club. We set out from Brodick near the ferry and crossed a few fields to reach the rocky beach where we headed south towards Lamlash. The sea was a lovely shade of blue and we looked over to Goatfell as the highest point on Arran but not quite a Munro at just shy of 3,000 feet. The walk on the shore continued for some time and although a clear day, the sun was behind the higher ridge to the west of us. We had our usual banter on the walk. Eventually, we left the rocky shore with the views over to the Holy Island where there is a Buddhist Monastery and headed towards Lamlash over some very muddy terrain.
We bypassed the village and crossed the main road to follow the path to the Fairy Dell onwards to Brodick. At this time of the year, there is not a lot of wildlife to be seen but we did see a sign post at the road warning of squirrels! The native red squirrel of Scotland is a protected species whereas the grey cousins from the US in the last century are now outnumbering the red squirrels.
The following day, it was time to head home on the ferry after celebrating one of the best Hogmanay’s I have ever had. It is a huge thank you to Kathleen for organising the weekend and for everyone mucking in at mealtimes to make it all a great success. Hopefully, we will be back to Arran for our summer weekend.
Coming attraction; Around Lanark.
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Thanks to Jim McLarnon for the photos.
Helen Rose Outdoors Diary
The Walking Club.
The Glasgow HF Outdoor Club https://www.meetup.com/Glasgow-HF-Outdoor-Club/ has been running an annual Christmas trip to Crianlarich for some years now. This Christmas 36 members were on the trip and although it is mainly a social weekend, we also manage a walk on the Saturday. Colin, as the Social Secretary at the club, put a huge amount of work in to it to ensure we had an enjoyable and memorable visit.
The village of Crianlarich is located in Glen Strathfillan to the north of the Trossachs, some eight miles north of the head of Loch Lomond.This small historic village is an important staging post on various transport routes linking central and northwestern Scotland. I travelled up by bus which only takes about an hour and a half and the views of Loch Lomond over to Ben Lomond are beautiful. We all stayed in the Crianlarich Hotel in comfort. The first night we had dinner in the hotel and the next day, various walks were on offer.
The West Highland Way.
I chose to go on part of the West Highland Way. We took the train to Tyndrum and walked back to Crianlarich. The first point of interest was the disused tin mines. Within the hills above the village of Tyndrum, there are the remains of lead mines that have been worked on and off for nearly six hundred years. The earliest known record of mining in this area was in 1424. Mined for precious metals rather than lead, the mines supplied King James I with silver. Later in the 18th century, the Scots Mining Company (1768-1791) operated the mine and built a smelting works nearby to turn the mined lead ore, called galena, into metal. Mining for lead, silver and gold continued at various times into the 20th century, but with limited success, however, gold mining continues in the area today.
The path continued and we eventually reached the Trading Outpost which looked like something from the Wild West but is just a campsite with a shop. We had a break here while cheeky wee Robins hopped about looking for food. Nearby, we crossed the Kirkton Bridge over the wide flowing Fillan River and followed the farm road to Kirkton. Among the trees by Kirkton Farm are the ruins of St Fillans Chapel and its graveyard
Later, we passed a field where there were loud bangs and we looked around to see rams head butting each other. Head butting is both a natural and learned behaviour in sheep. Contestive head butting is a carry-over from when sheep ran wild and from those that still do. I have never seen rams head butting in the all the years I have been walking in the country. It was a steep climb on the forestry paths dropping down to Crianlarich. The route was less than seven miles but with great scenery of the mountains around, Ben Challum, Ben Lui and Ben More. The last time we did this walk at the club weekend two years ago, it was thick snow but this time the weather was mild and dry.
In the evening, we had a quiz with multiple choice answers which made it all the more amusing as two answers were humorous when read out. This was followed by a Xmas dinner enjoyed by everyone. I was at a table with younger people who do the harder walks in the club so I never meet them on club outings. This was an opportunity to hear about their walks on the higher hills and relive my experiences when I was Munro bagging. Dinner was followed by the raffle and the proceeds from the sales of tickets were donated to the Lochaber Mountain Rescue.
We finished the evening with the Ceilidh. Originally the word Ceilidh (kay-lee) descended from the Gaelic word for ‘gathering’ or ‘party’. However, these days when people think of a Ceilidh, they think of a fun filled night of wild dancing, good music and great company! The beauty of a Ceilidh or Barn Dance is that everyone can take part, young or old, experienced dancers to beginners and even those with two left feet! We had great fun with Strip the Willow, Gay Gordons, Dashing White Sergeant, etc. The musician on the accordion was accompanied by a Highland Dancer who treated us to the Sword Dance. Too soon, the festivities were over and I headed back home the next day after the full Scottish Breakfast including Stornoway Black Pudding.
Many thanks to Colin for the organisation and making the weekend fun and to Maura for leading the walk on the West Highland Way. There may not be the Crianlarich weekend this year as the Club has its centenary and other events are planned to mark it.
Thanks to Maura Buchanan for the photos.
Coming attractions, Hogmanay on Arran and Around Lanark walk.
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Helen Rose Diary
On a recent visit to the US, I travelled to Wisconsin and managed a visit to Milwaukee and Taliesen. Wisconsin is in the mid-west of the US and on the western shores of Lake Michigan with Chicago at the southern end of the Lake. They are less than two hours apart by bus. This area has notoriously cold winters but I was there before the cold set in and the weather was unusually mild.
Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin although the capital is Madison. Germans came to Milwaukee in droves during the 1800’s and by 1880, 27% of Milwaukee’s population was German. So many Germans came to Milwaukee in those years that by 1990 almost half of the people who lived in the Milwaukee area were related to someone who was born in Germany. German sausages are very popular here. I was particularly keen to visit Usinger’s Sausage Shop as it is one of a kind, a nationally recognised family business devoted to the craft of sausage making. It is in downtown Milwaukee and the walls are decorated with large tiles of farming life. I had a look around and caught sight of the van leaving on deliveries. I went across the road to the Tavern and had some Usinger’s sausages for lunch and very nice they were too washed down with German beer.
Milwaukee has an architectural gem in the Art Museum looking on to the lake like a giant swan preparing for take-off. The Quadracci Pavilion is sculptural and postmodern in design, designed by the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. It is like a cathedral inside with a 217 foot wingspan which folds and unfolds twice a day weather permitting. I was very impressed with the design and it is known internationally as an iconic building and used in movies. It was named By Time Magazine as the Best Design of 2001. Well worth a visit.
From Milwaukee, I took a road trip to Taliesen passing through the capital Madison on the way. Wisconsin is known as the Dairy State but I did not see many cows as there are vast vistas in the US and huge empty spaces unlike Scotland where the fields with the cows come right down to the roadside in our very small but beautiful country. Taliesen is the estate designed by Frank Lloyd Wright where his school of Architecture was founded. Taliesen is Welsh and means "shining brow", derived from Welsh tal "brow" and iesin "shining". This was the name of a 6th-century Welsh poet and bard. In later Welsh legends he is portrayed as a wizard and prophet, or as a companion of King Arthur. Frank Lloyd Wright’s mother was Welsh and he chose the estate name to reflect the countryside around.
There was an excellent guide on the two hour tour and the group were shown all the highlights on the estate. Firstly, we visited the school where Lloyd Wright’s aunts had set up an innovative boarding school to educate children in 'learning by doing' with a schoolroom, dormitories and a dining room. Much of the design was Arts and Crafts with carved wood and hearths as central to the rooms to create a homely atmosphere for the children. Wright’s building designed in 1902 is as innovative as the school it housed and is situated on land cleared by his pioneering grandparents. After his aunts retired, Wright re-opened their building and expanded it to accommodate a community of architects and designers, a community that continues to live and work at Hillside to this day and even has a Architectural Summer Camp for kids.
After visiting various other buildings on the estate including the Hillside Theatre, we arrived at the house he designed as his own home after he left Oak Park, near Chicago. The views are stunning from the windows and verandahs over the estate to the Wisconsin River. Wright always wanted to be at one with the nature in the environment. The interior of the house was beautifully furnished with the fireplaces as a central focal point. He had a holistic approach to architecture and also designed all furniture and fittings in the buildings. Some furniture design was reminiscent of the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I particularly liked the use of plywood which could be shaped in to curves. There was a vertical lighting system made from angled shelves with bulbs below giving a lovely lighting effect.
Taliesen is another part of the Frank Lloyd Wright story and I would also like to visit Falling Water one day. Anyway, I never did have time to have a Wisconsin ice cream from the Dairy State.
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Helen Rose Hillwalking and Outdoors Diary