Helen Rose’s Outdoor Diary: Dram Walk

woods dram walk

Dram Walk, February 2023

As the first walk of the New Year, Glasgow Health Culture Rambling Club put on a walk in Mugdock Park where we stop for drams to celebrate the New Year.  The contact for the club is Roshni.. The club is Glasgow’s Oldest Rambling Club and was founded in September 1902. They have a good selection of walks every week and the club is run entirely by volunteers.

Drumclog Moor

The walk started from Milngavie Railway Station, just outside Glasgow. We had a smaller number than usual due to the rail strike and the inclement weather forecast. We walked up to Mugdock Country Park by taking the West Highland Way, which starts in Milngavie village centre. The West Highland Way is about 98 miles going north and finishing in Fort William. The walk was circular a – bout seven miles long in the park on good paths albeit a bit muddy. The early part of the walk was in drizzly rain in an area with trees replanted on Drumclog Moor. Until 1950 the area was used for grazing but now it is a patchwork of heathland, woodland and boggy areas. It is a haven for wildlife but they were more sensible than us and stayed home in grey weather so none were sighted! The rocks under the moor surface are sandstone laid down 50 million years ago and have been used in the building of the houses in the nearby Tannoch area of Milngavie.

Craigend Castle

We walked on through the woods with improving weather conditions and came to an interesting gate through a wall which is round a circular moss covered stone as part of the wall. I have not seen this design elsewhere. Moss is a good sign as it indicates fresh air having trapped carbon dioxide. (https://mosslovers.com/does-moss-clean-the-air/. ) Our next stop was at Craigend Castle.

The lands of Mugdock were a property of the Grahams from the mid-13th century, when David de Graham of Dundaff acquired them from the Earl of Lennox, The original castle was built in the mid-14th century. It may have been shield-shaped on plan, comprising towers arranged around a courtyard and linked by curtain walls and ranges of buildings.  In the middle of the south wall was the main gate. The castle stood on a natural, steep-sided mound formed of hard volcanic rock, at the west edge of Mugdock Loch, which was larger than its present extent. Of the early castle, only the south-west tower remains complete, and forms the most recognisable feature of the ruin. Until 1955 there was a zoo with a lion in the building. It was rumoured that the zoo elephant was taken for a walk to the village. Craigend Estate was owned latterly by developers who took the roof off the building to avoid tax. It became part of the public park in 1982.

Craigend Castle Stables

We continued our walk to the Mugdock Park Visitors Centre for lunch as the covered BBQ area was closed off.  Craigend Stables functions as the Country Park’s Visitor Centre and is contemporary with Craigend Castle. Constructed of whinstone and ashlar in 1816, it was here that the Estate’s horses, coachmen, grooms and carriages were housed. Behind the Stables was an open area with a glass roof where the Estate coaches and carriages were washed, a very early car wash! There was also a storeroom for farm tools, a boiler-room used for the preparation of animal feed and a byre with a semi-circular bull-pen attached. This was an important lunch time stop for us to consume our drams and toast in the New Year. There were convenient picnic benches outside and by now the weather had much improved. We had brought different drinks as shown in the photo but with the dram in a hip flask. In Scotland the word dram was first used to describe a glass of whisky. It isn’t an official measurement; a dram is most often referred to as “any amount of whisky that you could swallow in one mouthful.” The word originates from the ancient Greek word drakhme, used in reference to coins.

Guide Dogs

Before leaving the Visitors Centre, we met a handler from Guide Dogs a UK charity, which also has a base in Scotland where they breed and train dogs for visually impaired people. The handler had three Golden Retrievers on a lead. He told us that one had been retired primarily due to cataracts developing, one had left the puppy walker and was due to go in to training and the other one was being looked after while the owner was unavailable. The dogs were not working as they were not wearing a harness but they were very placid and posed willingly for the photo.

Water Features

The park was fairly busy with many dog walkers as it was the first Saturday after New Year. We were walking a circular route and walked on past Mugdock Loch. The maximum depth of the loch is about 27 feet, and the water is usually quite calm. It can only be navigated by fishermen with permits but the walk along its banks was pleasant following a natural trail between the trees that gives a different view of the loch.

No walk in Scotland is complete without a waterfall and on the final stretch of the walk we passed a waterfall with a good amount of water in it as the weather has been very wet this winter.

Last year, the walk was extended out with the park as it was a mild and dry day. There was much singing on the return in the dark along the West Highland Way when we even had two dram stops on the walk!

Many thanks to Ronnie for leading the walk and everyone at the club for putting together a great programme of walks throughout the year.

Helen Rose, February, 2023


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