Helen Rose Outdoor Diary Renton to Balloch. April 2020
Covid 19 Virus Lockdown
Renton to Balloch is the last walk I did with a small group before the lockdown in Scotland from the Coronavirus pandemic. I travelled by train to Renton to meet the others at Renton Station. The train was empty but I was very careful wearing gloves at all times and avoiding touching any surfaces. During the walk we were very careful to social distance although it was not yet an instruction from the Government. We walked from the station over the bridge to the start of the walk up to Carman Hill. This was the muddiest part of the path but we skipped along trying to avoid the worst of the mud. The weather in the West of Scotland had been very stormy and wet for the previous month. Renton is located in West Dunbartonshire to the west of Glasgow.
It was a long easy pull up to the top of Carman Hill, which has an impressive Iron Age Hillfort on top of the hill. Halfway down the slopes are the remains of a Neolithic Chambered Cairn.
Sitting 230 metres above sea level, the summit covers an area of nearly four acres and overlooks the River Clyde to the South and Vale of Leven to the East. It sits in front of Overton Muir (288metres) to its North and has stunning views down the Firth of Clyde to the Cowal Peninsula and the Arrochar Alps in the West. It was a double walled fortification, with a smaller inner enclosure on the Northern edge of the summit surrounded by a large outer enclosure that contained 12-15 Hut Circles. There are ditch remains on the steeper, sheltered Northern side. The inner enclosure had an oval plan, measuring approximately 55 metres from east to west by 40 metres, and was protected by 3 metre thick walls, now mostly removed. The outer enclosure measures about 180 metres from NW to SE by 140 metres and was encircled with a large stone wall roughly 2.5 metres thick.
From the top of Carman Hill we had a splendid view out to the River Clyde and Dumbarton Castle. The castle is situated on a volcanic rock overlooking the river. Dumbarton was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Alclud, and later the county town of Dunbartonshire. Dumbarton Castle on top of Dumbarton Rock dominates the area and has 500 steps to access it. Dumbarton was a Royal Burgh between 1222 and 1975. Alclud was one of the early medieval kingdoms of the Britons in what the Welsh call Old North, the Brythonic speaking parts of what is now southern Scotland and northern England. The kingdom developed during the post Roman period. Dumbarton was the ancient capital.
I have never visited Dumbarton Castle and climbed the steps but it is on my ‘to do’ list when we are free to travel again.
We descended to Overton Muir and along to Carman reservoir for our refreshment stop. Carman Trout Fishery is stocked with hard fighting Brown Trout, Blue Trout and Rainbow Trout. Although the area is rich with wildlife we only saw some ducks.
Crossing the muir the views opened up and we saw Loch Lomond dotted with islands and over to Conic Hill and further away Ben Lomond in its majesty wearing a snow covering. Ben Lomond was my first Munro as a mountain over three thousand feet leading me to Munro Bagging over many years throughout Scotland. We were now on Bromley Muir.
We reached a crossroads on Bromley Muir where the path branches off to Cardross and there is a coffin stone. In ancient times, coffin bearers would have carried coffins some distance to burial and stopped at these stones to lay the coffin on while they rested. This was probably the route from Balloch to St Mahews Church in Cardross. The church was built in 1467. It was a convenient lunch stop to look over the views on Loch Lomond. Some horse riders passed us on the path.
After lunch we came down from the Muir to walk in to Balloch through lovely parkland and down the Stoneymollan Road. All the shops and cafes were closed so no post walk refreshments. The walk was only about 6 miles long but it was exhilarating being in the fresh air and we were not sure when we could have another walk in the countryside. Balloch could mean village on the loch as it is on the banks of Loch Lomond. During the season there are public boats on the loch including The Maid of the Loch, the very last paddle steamer to be built in Britain and most recently rescued in 1996 and maintained by a loyal band of volunteers. The interior is inspired by Art Deco.
For at least the next few months, I will only be on local walks in the city so perhaps I will write about the wonderful parks in Glasgow which means ‘Dear Green Place’
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Thanks to Kathleen Hodge for the photos of Loch Lomond and Dumbarton Castle.
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