First stop on arriving in the immense baroque red sandstone Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was their café where we relaxed and enjoyed a light lunch whilst the organ concert was taking place above.
This place is like the British Museum, Science Museum, the V and A, Natural History Museum and the Tate all rolled into one. It’s immense, one needs a battle plan to find a way around the multiple galleries on two floors. The entrance hall is large enough for concerts with the organ at the north end.
We were most interested in the art galleries in the east wings. We were straight into another Mackintosh exhibition. Lots of examples of his work and that of his collaborators. There was a partial reconstruction of a Glasgow Tearoom which he designed for Miss Cranston who owned several tearooms in the city. There was metalwork and glass from the same era. I was struck by the design of the leaded window as it was almost identical to those in my parent’s inter-war semi-detached.
The next gallery was devoted to an extensive collection of The Glasgow Boys. Encountered earlier in the University this group of local artists rebelled against Victorian sentimentality and revolutionised Scottish painting at the end of the C19th. Outdoor naturalistic painting of local scenes and people with strong brush strokes and later French-inspired techniques bordering on the abstract.
Time for coffee and cake,
Now on the first floor. Scottish landscapes, French art, Scottish Colourists and Dutch art. Quite a variety.
Lavish Scottish landscapes.
Large French display – mainly impressionists.
The Scottish Colourists, a colourful modern French style for Scotland at the start of the C20th.
J D Ferguson.
Classic Dutch paintings.
And in a room of its own ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ by Salvador Dalí. This iconic painting was purchased by the gallery in 1952 for £8200 and now estimated to be worth £50million. Dali said he had dreamed the scene of Christ looking down on a shoreline from the cross, no nails or blood.
We had only seen a fraction of the displays in the Museum. In the west wings were a multitude of history, science and nature which we didn’t explore. There were some outstanding paintings on the landings surrounding the first floor and from up here one had a view into the two courts.
A bus back into town, a pint in the Counting House (Witherspoon’s superb use of an old bank) and back home to Preston in a few hours. Glasgow is certainly worth a visit whatever your interests.
A taxi was used after breakfast to take us quickly up to the Hunterian Art Gallery in the University. The taxi fare of about £13 was almost as expensive as our train tickets from Preston to Glasgow, £15 for the two. From the outside the gallery was a big block of concrete, brutalistic Mike said. But inside is a hidden gem – The Mackintosh House.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a renowned architect, designer and artist creating modern Art Nouveau buildings with the interiors and furnishings complementing his minimalistic ideas. His wife Margaret was a talented artist/designer and collaborated on many of his works.
One of their projects was to transform the interior of the house they were living in from 1906 to 1914, 78 Southpark Avenue. They had a vision for light clean lines, often taken from nature, and designed everything from the furniture to the curtains to create integrated spaces for living in. “the room as a work of art” Subsequent owners kept the interior and eventually Glasgow University took it over in 1945. The furnitures were put in storage and when the house was demolished in the 1960s the interiors were preserved along with drawings and photographs of the house. By 1981 the interior of the house had been carefully replicated inside the university art gallery and the original furnishings installed. Carpets, curtains and soft furnishings were produced from drawings and photos.
So we found ourselves stepping into the Mackintosh’s entrance hall from over a century ago. The adjoining dining room was more of a sombre hue with distinctive Mackintosh chairs. On the next floor up elegant stairs was the L-shaped drawing room created from two rooms, As soon as you enter you are transfixed by the white decoration, flooded with light from windows which replicate the original house’s orientation. All was sublime. Delicate details from Margaret compliment the distinctive furniture of Charles. Up a floor, and you were in the bedroom, again an L-shaped area. All white with furniture inspired by plant and bird forms. Everything was exquisite.
For an in depth look this video is recommended.
The adjacent art gallery had more of Mackintosh’s work, complemented by his wife, and fellow artists and collaborators, the husband and wife James and Frances McNair. This included a reconstruction of one of Mackintosh’s last interior schemes from Derngate, Northampton, 1916, pictured in the heading photo.
Adjacent galleries highlighted the painter James A MWhistler. I don’t remember seeing any of his works before and was particularly impressed by his long portraits, delicate impressionism. No sign of his mother.
The university gallery had several of the paintings of the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists.
The ‘Boys’ – an informal group of 20 Glasgow artists that came together in the early 1880s – they challenged Victorian Scottish painting, and developed a distinctive style of naturalist painting. Outdoor painting of local scenes and people with strong brush strokes and later French-inspired techniques bordering on the abstract. Whistler’s work was an influence.
Hornel, Henry and Gauld.
The ‘Colourists’ – four painters – Francis Cadell (1883–1937), John Fergusson (1874–1961), George Hunter (1879–1931) and Samuel Peploe (1831–1935). They used vibrant primary colours and simplified avant-garde forms. I first became aware of them at an exhibition in Woking in 2019.
Still Life . Cadell.
There will be more of these Scottish painters in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum this afternoon. Time for a break.
A good buffet breakfast set us up for a full day. The bus took us south of the Clyde alighting at the entrance to Pollock Park. A pleasant walk through the grounds and we were outside the Burrell Collection building, reopened in March after a major refurbishment. It originally opened in 1983 to house the vast collection of the Burrell family, gifted to Glasgow in 1944. Sir William Burrell, (1861–1958) a wealthy shipping merchant, devoted more than 75 years of his life to amassing one of the world’s greatest personal art collections, renowned for its quality of Chinese art, exquisite stained-glass and intricate tapestries, as well as its breadth of fine art. The galleries are built with a warm sandstone and lots of glass, situated in the middle of all the greenery of Pollock Park.
We were in for a bumper day. 9000 objects from 5000 years.
Burrell collected just about everything from all over the world and the first we noticed were the many medieval doorways from monasteries and country houses, they have been carefully incorporated into the building giving access between the galleries. The interior is a pleasing blend of stone, wooden beams and glass giving a beautiful light for the visitors.
In the covered courtyard is the Warwick Vase. It was found in the C18th in fragments in the villa of the Roman Emperor Hadrian outside Rome. It was restored and given to the Earl of Warwick. The Vase stood in the courtyard of Warwick Castle for almost two centuries until it was purchased for The Burrell Collection in 1979. A large marble sculpture in the form of a two-handled drinking cup, with motifs to the Roman God of wine Bacchus. So one of the star exhibits was not actually collected by the Burrells.
Off we went around the ground floor outer galleries with exhibits scattered throughout the rooms. Burrell started collecting Chinese antiques around 1910, Jades, porcelain and furniture from all dynasties.
Egyptian artefacts were well represented, and I was particularly pleased to see the lion head of the goddess Sekhmet, 1390BC. My cat Seth is named after this goddess, the name change when the vet pointed out his sex.
Suits of armour were everywhere, I was amazed at their intricate artistry and the fact that somehow they had survived intact from the C16th.
The museum is home to more than 700 ecclesiastical stained-glass panels from across Europe, and the outer galleries are ideal for displaying them with natural light.
You will all recognise this bronze Rodin statue.
Time for a coffee from the pop-up café in the entrance.
Now we delved into the inner galleries where pictures were protected from the outside light. I thought that the fantastic collection of master painters, Degas, Rembrandt, Manet etc needed more space to show them at their best.
There was an informative section on carpets, mainly Islamic designs. The C17th Garden Carpet from Iran was displayed with its animated video representation bringing it to life, showing how far museums have become more interactive and accessible
Upstairs were several galleries delving into the secrets of creating the masterpieces. Printing, lace making, woodcarving, metalwork, glassblowing, bronze casting etc etc. We should have left more time for these fascinating insights, but we were coming to the end of our visit and a restorative tea and cake in their café was called for.
I think we missed far more than we saw, and a return visit would be warranted. Once outside we decided to have a walk around Pollock Country Park and see the house where the National Trust for Scotland was started. We did not know what to expect but were surprised at the Georgian grandeur of the house. It had closed for the day, so we only admired it from the courtyard which was full of colourful azaleas. Walking through the stables we found a path following the river, White Cart Water, and skirting the gardens, with a view of the house frontage. The gardens were resplendent with blooming rhododendrons. We wandered back past the estate sawmills, closed for refurbishment, a cricket pitch and Highland cattle in the fields.
Back in town we enjoyed a pint in one of the oldest inns in Glasgow. The Scotia Bar established 1792. A friendly place with a good selection of ales – we had the session Belhaven. All around were pictures of old Glasgow and you could imagine the sailors of the past from the nearby docks sipping their pints in here. The subsequent Turkish restaurant was unfortunately a let-down.
A good night’s sleep is needed before tomorrow’s excursions.
As we sip our pints in the unique Counting House, a Wetherspoons pub created from an old bank in the centre of Glasgow, the words in the title come to me. If we had stayed too long in the friendly, but toxic atmosphere of this drinking emporium Glasgow would have belonged to me. Sensibly we cut the session short and went off in search of some food. We found the busy Madras Café and enjoyed some good Southern Indian food before returning to our hotel for the night.
Mike and I had travelled up from Preston to Central Station on the train this morning at a ridiculous £7.50 single fare. Our plan was to explore some highlights of central Glasgow and over the next couple of days visit the outstanding art galleries. Having an architect along would give extra value for me.
The ‘Merchant City’ area of Glasgow was developed from Medieval periods but came to the fore in the C19th when merchants’ money from shipping (tobacco, sugar, tea and slaves) created impressive Neoclassical buildings. Everywhere we looked were historic properties. Mike had a list. First up was the City Chambers (opened in 1888 by Queen Victoria) headquarters of various city councils over the years. All was marble, mosaics and mahogany. Unfortunately only the entrance chamber was accessible (post Covid regulations) giving some idea of the opulence.
On the outside wall of the Chambers were the official Imperial Linear Measures. Not normally of great moment but since our crazy government is thinking of resurrecting them in place of the Euro metric I thought a photo would be of historical interest. They may have an armed guard on them by now.
We were in George Square surrounded by imposing buildings and full of statues of notable Scots. Sir Walter Scott was 80ft up on his pedestal, towering over Robert Burns, James Watt, Victoria and Albert and several more.
As you can see we had a damp start to the afternoon. Our next objective, on the other side of the square, was the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) housed in a Merchant’s building, whose history was as interesting as the art. Built in 1778 as the town house of William Cunningham a wealthy Glasgow tobacco merchant who made his fortune through the triangular slave trade. It had been enlarged considerably over the period, namely the Corinthian pillars to the Queen Street facade, the cupola above and the large hall to the rear of the old house. Outside is the most photographed statue in Glasgow – The Duke of Wellington resplendent with traffic cones, four today! The council have given up on removing them.
The entrance opened out into a stunning oval stairwell illuminated from a distant skylight.
The art on show included black artists who have been in the minority in Scottish culture, yet their post-colonial legacy is important today. Tam Joseph’s Timespan was intended to be a representative leap forwards in racial equality and human rights.
On the next floor were recognisable modern paintings.
The top floor, Domestic Bliss, was less recognisable with contemporary installations.
Ready for a coffee and a sit down we headed downstairs to the café in the extensive library. I recognised this from a previous visit, but I couldn’t think when! They had just reopened after all the Covid restrictions that Scotland had imposed for longer than England. Good coffee and cakes.
Mike wanted to visit The Lighthouse, the former offices of the Glasgow Herald newspaper. Completed in 1895, it was designed by the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The first of his designs we visited on our trip. Yet again delayed post Covid problems meant we couldn’t access the higher floors and the famous spiral staircase leading to the viewing tower.
Mike thought that the Cathedral, the oldest building in the city, C12th, would be a good place to visit, so we set off in the rain to walk up there. My camera didn’t like the moisture and refused to work, so I switched to my phone for the rest of the day.
The Cathedral was a massive Gothic structure – inside and out. Noticeably was a central pulpitum, a richly carved stone screen between choir and nave added in the early 1400s. The cathedral had survived the reformation intact. Somewhere in the crypt was a shrine to St. Mungo, we missed it. Some lovely stained-glass.
We re-emerged just as the rain stopped and were attracted to the Necropolis on a hill behind the Cathedral. Reached by a bridge this large Victorian cemetery has 50,000 graves, many of them with ornate mausoleums. Wandering around was like something out of a horror film, I was expecting bodies to creep out of some of the shrines. From up here the copper roof of the cathedral was very obvious, copper having replaced the over heavy lead. It was worth coming up here.
A restorative coffee in a fish bar, and we were on a train to the western dock’s area. The last time I stayed in Glasgow was here next to the Armadillo and the Finnieston Crane. We had a walk on both sides of the river, BBC on the south bank, as crowds queued for a Russel Brand concert.
Then it was back to the centre for that drink and meal, quite a busy afternoon.
I hope this will be my last post for now on the ills of the grouse moor. I’ve recently tried to highlight raptor persecution and today want to bring to your attention the vast losses of other wild life occuring on grouse moors. The more the public become aware of these killings the more the pressure on politicians. So read the article, spread the news and sign the petition.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent animals – foxes, stoats, weasels, and hedgehogs, as well as birds are killed in traps and snares on Scottish grouse moors every year. This is having a massive environmental impact as these moors cover a fifth of the land in Scotland. The same is happening in the rest of the UK.
The League Against Cruel Sports have just published an article with a link to the full report.
The same bus driver picked me up this morning as had transported me back yesterday, he was keen to know where I was heading today. By the time he dropped me off at Nybster we were on first name terms, they’re a friendly lot up here.
Walking down to the small harbour the weather was awful, maybe I’d misjudged the forecast. Anyhow I was on my way. There were a couple of geo’s and the odd sea stack for starters though the rain was getting on the camera lens.
Ahead in the mist were some castle ruins on a headland. Bucholie Castle dates from a 12th-century Norse nobleman but what remains today is from a 15th-century rebuild.
By now the rain had thankfully stopped but the wind remained strong.
Lovely open walking around Ness Head brought Freswick Bay into view. On a sea stack fulmars were kings of their castle. The other house/tower/castle call it what you like has Norse origins which are normal in Caithness. I was able to wade a stream, have lunch and then walk leisurely across the beach towards Skirza Head.
A diversion sign took me on minor roads to avoid some clifftop properties although I was tempted to go direct. Maybe access negotiations are delicate so I didn’t want to inflame matters. At least I didn’t end up in the field with this chap.
I arrived back on the coast at a small harbour.
Rough and dramatic walking along the cliffs covered in Sea Thrift, it seemed to take me an age to get around Skirza Head and a couple of geos. There were lots of seabirds on the cliffs with guillemots doing their best penguin impersonations.
Ravens meanwhile were doing their best acrobatic displays, I wonder if they are responsible for this egg stealing. More likely to be Herring Gulls.
Yet more dramatic clifftop walking with my first distant view of Duncansby Head and its stacks.
Then I was peering down into the largest geo I’d seen, Wife Geo. A complicated chasm with stacks and caves within its depths.
Open boggy moorland lay ahead and then the impressive Stacks of Duncansby held my attention for some time.I came round Duncansby Head below the lighthouse and joined the masses milling about in a car park. Some were whale watching. Stroma, Hoy and South Ronaldsay were just visible in the mist.
I left the road as quick as I’d joined it and took a bearing across the open moor to the Bay of Sannick, I was the only person on its beach. A bit of scrambling around the headland, Ness of Duncansby, and I was on a made gravel path heading straight to the circus of John O’Groats.
A couple from the Wirral took my picture at the appropriate signs, I bought a postcard for my old walking buddy Mel who is now on kidney dialysis, enquired without joy at the TI office about bus times, had a coffee from the kiosk who gave me the correct bus times – one in 5 minutes.
I’m now in Thurso for the evening before a long train journey home tomorrow and reflections on my journey.
Change of plan – Milngavie to Glasgow, the Kelvin Walkway.
I’m still not absolutely sure, and it was my idea I think, why we changed our direction for today. An early morning train was taken from the Exhibition Centre to Milngavie.It was years since I’d been here and I was surprised at the amount of signage for the obviously popular West Highland Way. Several groups of backpackers were setting off on that journey. There was no mention of The Kelvin Walkway and we realised the River Kelvin didn’t even come through here. We set off on paths marked on the map and our first sign after a while was for the Allander Way which we’d never heard of. Still it seemed to be going in the right direction so we moved on, we had a train to catch later in the day and didn’t want too many problems. The Allander was more of a drainage ditch than a river but gave easy walking through a dull landscape.
We began to notice on the river banks a large yellow flowered plant which turned out to be the American Yellow Skunk Plant. A garden escapee which apparently has an unpleasant odour as it matures.
The river was narrow and meandering, at one point a very substantial girder bridge had been installed by the Royal Engineers, it should last forever. That is more than can be said for ‘Stan’s seat’ We didn’t really notice where the Kelvin joined forces. Our next landmark was the Balmuildy Pipeline Bridge which deposited us on a rather busy road. The map showed nearby evidence of the Antonine Wall and Roman Forts but our brief diversion revealed nothing. The Antonine Wall was built in AD 142 between the Forth and Clyde. It didn’t last long and the Roman Legions retreated to Hadrian’s wall. As it was built mainly of wood and turf there is not much apart from its course to see on the ground.
Some pleasant riverside walking followed until we were suddenly diverted away onto roads near Maryhill. Left high and dry we followed our noses once more across Dawsholm Park and luckily [skillfully] rejoined the river. Now in a gorge and a more urban setting there seemed to be a plethora of abandoned railway bridges and at some stage we must have gone under the Forth-Clyde canal aqueduct of 1790. I wish we’d known as steps take you up to see Maryhill locks.
Signs for Glasgow appeared although I suppose we were already in it. The grounds of the Botanical Gardens were on the opposite bank and next an old flint mill site was passed. Kelvin Bridge was an impressive structure with some ‘homeless’ camping under its arches, not the best of campsites. Also beneath the bridge in the water a Heron was waiting patiently.
Kelvin park was next. The Highland Light Infantry memorial remembered those men who died in the Boer war. We looked into here yesterday evening when the place was packed with sunbathers – pale skin and ginger hair don’t make for tanning. All around are university buildings, churches and museums suggesting that Glasgow is definitely worth an extended cultural visit.
After all that the Kelvin runs into the Clyde almost unnoticed.
We had time for a celebration meal and drink in the Counting House, an interesting old bank-house a Wetherspoons acquisition, near Queen Street. The Modern Art Museum nearby was disappointing. Then on the train home to Preston.
So we had accomplished our venture, the Lanarkshire Link, to join up the Pennine Way with the West Highland Way. The journey was more interesting than I had envisaged, thankfully as JD had come along. It would be good to see in the future an official Tweed – Clyde linkup, it is 70% viable now.
The trains were back to normal this morning and we had a quick journey back to Uddingston. We dropped down to the Clyde and crossed a pedestrian bridge but immediately we were taken away from the river on undulating paths and roads through what looked like old mining or industrial areas which are slowly being developed with housing estates. Not particularly attractive. We eventually rejoined the Clyde near an abandoned railway bridge just upstream from an attractive weir, I think we were in Carmyle. Somewhere along here was the stork’s nest on a lamppost. One benefit of the urbanity was a nearby supermarket whose well known value cafe we visited for morning tea and snacks.
We crossed another old railway bridge onto the north bank of the river where we remained all day. On this side we came across new signs which detailed the route in minutes. The M74 was ducked under and then there were surprising stretches of pleasant countryside as well as modern housing. Somewhere we passed near by Parkhead and Celtic Park the home of Celtic FC.
Along here we were brought into conversation with [accosted by] a well known Glaswegian on a bike with his dog. Tales of the slums of Glasgow, a Barras stallholder, working with the London privileged in the 60’s [he showed us the scar on his hand from a bite from Christine Keeler’s dog!!] some sort of ongoing protest about a drugs/jewellery raid on his house many years ago and his subsequent life as an artist. James Donnelly, all is documented on the internet. For a flavour watch …
Anyhow onwards around a towering wall hiding old water treatment works. The cycle way we were sharing became busier with families out cycling and we spent a lot of time dodging bikes. Now into the parkland of Glasgow Green which houses the Peoples Palace Winter Garden glasshouse and Templeton’ s Carpet Factory brick facade. Through the park, today busy with families, is an obelisk built to honour Horatio Nelson.
Bridges come thick and fast now as we approach the centre. across the way was once the infamous Gorbals tenements. The route stays alongside the Clyde all the way but mostly with a busy road adjacent so there are no riverside developments or cafes to enjoy. Having just returned from the Thames Path through London I feel Glasgow has missed a trick. We could have easily diverted into the busy centre of Glasgow and all its historic buildings. The river also seems to lack any boat traffic.
The most interesting section on the river is the Exhibition Area in the west. Lots of modern designs are highlighted in this area as well as restored dock side relics. There is the Finnieston Crane and on either side of the river Rotunda which once housed lifting equipment for the passenger tunnel, closed in 1980. The old tower and pump-house has been converted into a distillery. On the far bank is the BBC Studios, a science museum and an old paddle steamer.
This all culminates at the Riverside Museum with its Tall Ship alongside.
It is here where the Clyde Walkway finishes and the River Kelvin enters the Clyde. Tomorrow we will follow that river to Milngavie to complete our week.
We could have been singing this as we walked the last few days. All together now –
There were two obstacles today: the large towns of Motherwell and Hamilton straddling the Clyde and a complicated motorway system where I had read that it may be necessary to catch a bus around major roadworks. We found more problems in the streets of Blantyre.
From our morning bus we recrossed Garrion Bridge and sped up the hectic road to seek The Clyde Walkway going off down a lane. it wasn’t signed, waymarks and posts have a mysterious habit of disappearing from roads. The traffic noise faded and soon we were in beautiful woodland and showing our, or at least my, lack of knowledge at tree identification.
We continued to see a garlic-like plant we had noticed for the last few days growing prolifically in the shade alongside the river, it looked introduced and invasive. Research showed it to be the Few-flowered Garlic, Allium paradoxum, which we had never seen before and is obviously a nuisance. I have in my garden the bluebell like Three-cornered Garlic Allium triquetrum a similarly invasive species which although attractive I am constantly battling with.
Most of our walk along the Clyde here was on a flood plain with lots of evidence of previous high waters, there were in fact signed alternatives for when the river was high. On the hill above us were high rise flats in the vicinity of Motherwell, are these the ones you see driving north on the motorway? But generally the towns had little impact on the walk. All seemed rural and peaceful especially looking back to our old friend Tinto Hill.
Around us was the old Hamilton Estate but to be honest we didn’t see any of the remaining ruins. If we had had more time it would have been interesting to explore some of the obviously popular paths around Dalzell House in the estate. There was a nature reserve, Barons Haugh, with observation hides over the marshes but without binoculars all we could see were the flats.
The railway Ross Viaduct was a landmark high above us.
Heading for Strathclyde Loch and Country Park. we could hear it before we saw it. One minute this…
…the next this.
The boom boom of loudspeakers was an intrusive element of the day and totally unnecessary in a ‘country park’ but it was good to see people out enjoying themselves. We followed the masses alongside the artificial loch which was centrepiece for the 2014 Commonwealth Games water sports venue.
At the North end of the loch the River Clyde had disappeared somewhere and we ended up on roads to a restaurant at the Innkeepers Lodge where we enjoyed a coffee in the sun and discussed our options for onward travel. The bus transfer was still advertised but the new pedestrian bridges and walkways through the motorway complexes had literally just been opened days before so we followed our noses on a carousel of paths. I’m not sure what we crossed over or where we ended up but the Bothwell Bridge over the Clyde appeared and at its far side a way-post down to the river path. Unfortunately this didn’t last long and soon we were back up on the roadside following our instincts. This we did through a good part of Blantyre urban area. A cyclist approached us looking for a cycle shop to buy inner tubes, he’d had a lot of punctures. We couldn’t help which was a shame as he also was on a LEJG journey. We eventually realised we must have missed something so before entering a huge shopping complex decided to strike off down a side street and under the railway to luckily join up with Clyde Walkway on a newly surfaced path which had come from we know not where.
Soon we were at The David Livingstone Centre. This includes the listed building of his birth, surrounding parkland, and a 3,000 piece David Livingstone collection. We managed unintentionally to miss it all, I presume it may have been closed.
An elegant iron cantilevered suspension bridge, built in 1952 but rebuilt more recently in 2000, took us onto the north bank of the Clyde for our final stretch. And what a delightful stretch. woodland, bluebells, sparkling river, dippers and a kingfisher. Suddenly ahead up in the tree covered banks was a red sandstone castle looking impregnable. Boswell castle was started in the 13th century and played a major roll in the Scottish Wars of Independence.
We diverted off the route into a place named Uddingston to find the station only to find no trains running but there was a replacement bus which eventually arrived and took us into Glasgow for our two nights of accommodation.
Our plan was to link up the Tweed with Clyde. The old railway line is a public footpath from Broughton to Biggar and after that we thought minor roads would suffice. So it was back to Broughton on a number 91 bus. A signed track went past Broughton Brewery the first microbrewery in Scotland, 1979. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately they hadn’t opened when we passed by.
The walking along the old railway line through a flat landscape was not inspiring so we were soon back in Biggar. Having said that we met more groups of walkers on this section than we had seen all week.
A light lunch was taken in one of the cafes on Biggar High Street. The place still has a market town feel to it with independent shops and fine buildings in the wide main street, ‘biggar’ than most.
Spurning the opportunity to visit the Gasworks Museum, a Victorian Puppet Show or the more interesting Albion Motors display we passed an unusual installation of a stainless steel snowplough. Having given the world the likes of television, pneumatic tyres, golf, mackintosh raincoats, tarmac and the telephone, the Scots have a fair reputation as inventors and pioneers. James Archibald Cuthbertson was the inventor of the high lift snowplough, celebrated here, as well as rubber vehicle tracks and unusual wheels for Land Rovers and amphibious vehicles. His engineering firm continues production in Biggar. We wandered out of town by an old mill and ford. A ScotWays [Scottish Rights of Way and Access society] sign gave us the chance to keep to paths and avoid roads for a good section to Thankerton. This was undulating sheep country interspersed with small farms and those typical compact Scottish cottages. The bridge at Thankerton was over the Clyde but we weren’t to see it again until later tomorrow.
The weather was not great with a cold wind and moisture in the air. To put a few more easy miles into the day we pushed on via a small lane to Carmichael House Visitor Centre under a misty Tinto. From here we were able to get yet another 91 bus, from a different operator, back to Biggar.
Mission accomplished. No more ‘Biggar’ jokes please.
I finished the Pennine Way at Kirk Yetholm 50 years ago and started the West Highland Way in Milngavie 15years later. So as part of my humble protracted Lands End – John o’Groats I could fill that gap. I’ve done K.Yetholm to Melrose on St. Cuthbert’s Way, and Melrose to Innerleithen on Southern Upland Way so I’m left with Innerleithen to Milngavie. Out with the maps and I realise by a combination of old railways and riverside paths I could have an easy week’s walking. I’ve called it the Lanarkshire Link.
That highlighted a problem as rights of way are not shown on the OS maps of Scotland. There is no definitive map of rights of way as there is in England and Wales and no single place on the web where you can find out about them. Paths are marked with black dotted lines but that is no indication of whether they are passable. Finding out about footpaths through Scotways [Scottish Rights Of Way & Access Society] is cumbersome for a non local so we will just have to see how things work out on the ground. Interestingly ‘rights of way’ in Scotland can be lost if there is no evidence of their use over 20 years which seems heavily biased towards the landlords.
I happened to mention my plans to JD, of Canary Island GR131 fame, who jumped at the chance of a bit of exercise and within hours he’d booked a train heading north. Cost less than £15 for Preston to Galashiels via Edinburgh. Finding accommodation in the various villages en-route wasn’t too big a problem although that will be more expensive.
So we found ourselves on an afternoon bus from Galashiels asking for a ticket to Innerleithen, which we couldn’t pronounce. Even in the Borders the Scottish accent is going to be a problem.
*Donder – To walk in a slow and carefree manner, not really concerned with how long it takes to arrive at one’s destination. Scottish slang.
The Clyde Walkway through the ‘orchards of Scotland’
We were on a roll now as there was a waymarked trail, The Clyde Walkway, it was signed from Lanark’s centre. We even had a useful app for the phone giving directions and points of interest. For a change it was warm and sunny. After a brief section by the river out of Lanark we had to cross over and follow the road through Kirkfieldbank before a lane led to a barrage at Stonebyres power station and a decent riverside path. The fourth of the Clyde Falls was downstream but we didn’t have a good view because of the tree foliage which is in its full flush of green.
Gentle strolling through open countryside along the banks of the river felt right for the warmer weather we were enjoying.
Are we in the wrong field?
Approaching Crossford there was extensive housing development near old properties of the Carfin Estate, looked like it would be a gated estate. This estate in the 19th century was extensive with orchards and gardens. Their old Iron Bridge across the Clyde was closed for repairs. We came out at the elegant stone road bridge just as an MG sports car rally drove across. The pub was closed and asking a local about a cafe suggested there was one close-by but after walking half a mile back towards Lanark we gave up and sat on a park bench with a banana and water – far healthier.
Where’s the cafe? Oh and have you seen any MG’s?
The fields onwards were famous at one time for orchards and on the opposite bank were several garden centres doing a roaring trade. If we had been more observant we might have spotted an occasional apple tree. To give variety we had some ups and downs through woods on the Milton Lockhart estate.
More people were met as we neared the road, families out enjoying the sunshine. Two backpackers stopped to chat, they were from Manchester and doing a Dover to Cape Wrath journey! They quickly disappeared into the distance.
Off to Cape Wrath.
I meant to say that the Clyde Walkway markers had taken on Brobdingnagian proportions [word of the day]
Ahead was Mauldslie Bridge which with it’s elaborate gatehouse used to form the entrance to one of Lanarkshire’s oldest hunting estates.
Again across the river was sighted Dalserf church with its unusual clock tower. A ferry once operated across the Clyde at Dalserf, although this has long since been superseded by the nearby Garrion bridge.
We meandered with the Clyde and suddenly popped out onto a very busy road. This is where we diverted for our bus stop, walking thankfully down a pavement as the traffic hurtled by. The complicated two bridge roundabout at Garrion was traffic hell.
Stood in no-mans land at a solitary bus stop is a sobering experience: is the bus running today? did I read the time table correctly? how do I get a taxi?
Anyhow we made it back to Lanark and a good Italian meal.
The Carmichael Estate, The Falls of Clyde and New Lanark – interest throughout the day.
The number 91 bus dropped us back at the entrance to the Carmichael Estate, the ancestral home of Clan Carmichael for 800 years. Luckily there is a series of marked trails through the extensive grounds which are farmed for beef and venison. Carmichael House was built in 1754 on the site of an earlier castle. In 1952 the roof was removed to avoid property taxes and death duties, a short sighted action, and it is now a substantial ruin surrounded by woodland. We found our way up to it – what a place it must have been in its heyday. We were surprised the public are allowed to wander in and out of the decaying buildings in these days of health and safety. Our path leading west traversed the once substantial gardens and even went through a pets’ graveyard.
Once out of the estate we made our own way on quiet country lanes passing yet another abandoned railway and over The River Douglas. The small town of Douglas was only 5 miles away, Clan Douglas has associations there and JD’s ancestors were hereabouts. Tinto that pointed hill still loomed over us to the south.
Bridge over the River Douglas.
We were making good progress towards the Clyde and only had to worry about a lane leading to a possible river crossing. Gates across the lane looked ominous but we squeezed by onto the banks of the Clyde and yes there was a way across the bridge at a water extraction barrage. Thankfully we didn’t have to risk the older crossing.
We were now on a waymarked trail visiting the Falls of Clyde. The Falls of Clyde is the collective name of four linn (waterfalls) on the River Clyde. This afternoon we would pass Bonnington Linn, Corra Linn and Dundaff Linn, Corra Linn is the highest, with a fall of 84 feet. [The lower falls of Stonebyres Linn would be seen tomorrow] I had previously never heard of this area so was delighted when we entered a wild sandstone gorge with waterfalls round every corner. Despite the river level being low, blame that water extraction plant, this was spectacular. We passed a peregrine lookout but apparently they haven’t nested here for a few years which is a bit strange, is there persecution occurring in the area?
At a viewing point overlooking the falls there was a series of interpretation boards – the most interesting related to William Wallace. Thats what happens if you lead a rebellion against England, take note Nicola Sturgeon.
To complete a great day we entered New Lanark, founded in 1786 by David Dale who built the mills with Richard Arkwright to take advantage of the water power of the waterfalls on the River Clyde. Dale built the cotton mills and housing for the mill workers. With his son-in-law, Robert Owen, a social reformer, New Lanark became a successful business and an early example of a planned village environment. The New Lanark mills operated until 1968. Thankfully most of the buildings have been restored and the village has become a major tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You come round a corner and there in front of you is the mill complex which was far bigger [not another Biggar joke] than I had imagined. Large water power powered mills with workers cottages perched above. I was impressed. We wandered around but didn’t pay to go into the various sites but we did visit the cafe in one of the old mills. As well as reaching the Clyde we were now on the Clyde Walkway which should take us into Glasgow.
Resisting the road up into Lanark we followed the river for another half mile through delightful woods before a steep ascent up into Castlebank Park and to our wee b and b.
Lanark was an odd place with an even odder road system which seemed designed to kill pedestrians. We were here for two nights and would be using buses to help with logistics – surely not another number 91.
John Buchan, the author and diplomat, spent time in Broughton where his grandparents lived. He became famous for his thriller novel The 39 Steps published in 1915. There is a museum to him in Peebles. The John Buchan Way is a 14mile walking route devised to link Peebles with Broughton. We decided to follow the first half of the route this morning. It was waymarked with a book motif out of the town up alleys and out into to the open heading for Cademuir Hill. This hill has Iron Age hillforts but disappointingly the route doesn’t visit them. Some of the higher hills in the distance, I think the Pentlands, still had patches of lying snow. Our route descended to a minor road where we were glad to put on waterproofs not just for the rain in the air but to shield us from the biting wind. This is sheep country ‘par excellence’, acres and acres of grassy hills with the newborn lambs released onto.
Hill Forts to the right.
Looking back to Peebles with the Hydro prominent.
A minor col was climbed giving great views of the open Southern Uplands country. We dropped down to meet up with the Tweed again at Stobo.
I had read about the unusual church here so we made a short detour to visit…
Stobo Kirk is an ancient church of the Church of Scotland dedicated to St Mungo. retaining much of the original 12th-century building, including windows, the nave and chancel, unlike many other Roman Catholic churches which were destroyed after the coming of the reformed religion.The porch was added in the late 15th–16th century and is notable for the grooves in the left-hand doorjamb, created by pupils sharpening their slate pencils before class or possibly by the sharpening of arrow heads prior to the weekly after-church archery practice which became compulsory after the disaster of the Battle of Flodden 1513. The 12th-century Norman entrance into the nave has a door made from a single board of cedar wood from the nearby Dawyck estate.On the outer entrance hangs the old Jougs [yokes] used to punish recalcitrant members of the parish until some time in the 18th century.
The church looked a bit of a curiosity to be honest but we had a good look around at the features and then found a seat for lunch in the sun which had fortunately appeared to warm us. Many of the headstones in the graveyard were adorned with scary skull and crossbones, a Memento Mori, a reminder of our own mortality, an aide-mémoire, should it be needed, that you too will die one day. Time to move on.