Hills & Mountains
The Kilpatrick Hills
*I am in the process of redesigning this section to include notes and many more high-res shots*
Despite their proximity to Clydebank and the city of Glasgow, a walk over the Kilpatricks can be a memorable experience, especially if thick fog is forecast on an otherwise fine day. During such conditions a temperature inversion may occur which often leaves the upper slopes basking in sunshine above any mist or cloud blanketing the Clyde Estuary.
The southern aspect of the Kilpatricks, known as the Kilpatrick Braes, is wooded and overlooks the River Clyde above Old Kilpatrick in a broken line of cliffs and crags, however, an extensive area of open moorland, lochs and forestry plantations stretches to the north and east with the highest point being Duncolm at 401 metres.
To the east, beyond the Blane Valley, are the the Campsie Fells, which include the volcanic plug of Dumgoyne and to the north Loch Lomond and its surrounding peaks are revealed. Although Duncolm is the highest summit in the Kilpatricks, Fynloch Hill, which lies just a kilometre away to the southwest, is a finer viewpoint. It overlooks lonely Fyn Loch, which is often home to a pair of Great Crested Grebes during the breeding season.
The most popular trip with locals is the walk to the Loch Humphrey Reservoir. Cars can be left in Old Kilpatrick, near a small electricity sub station although parking is limited and it`s better if walkers park just south of the A82, on the edge of the playing fields Mount Pleasant Drive beside the bowling club.
From there it only takes a couple of minutes to reach an underpass that leads to the sub-station from which a tarred road climbs steadily and initially passes a couple of farm houses before becoming a gravel track when a locked gate bars access to unauthorised vehicles.
The best view from the track is high on the shoulder where it bends sharply and turns north towards the loch. A fence offers protection at the edge of the sheer cliffs of Haw Craigs where Peregrines have been known to nest.
Left: In this shot, taken from the Humphrey track in June 2003, a newly built Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) heads downriver from BAE Systems yard at Scotstoun to start her sea trials.
The once busy Gavinburn Bus Depot in Old Kilpatrick, by then boarded-up and awaiting resale or demolition, can be seen in the foreground. The building was eventually sold and is now the base for a private business enterprise.
From here the scene, especially towards the mouth of the Clyde Estuary, is outstanding, especially if a ship sails into view and there` a bit of snow covering the landscape.
The adjacent Creigarestie conifer plantation is alive with birdsong in springtime with species such as Redpoll, Goldcrest and Crossbill occasionally seen on the tree tops.
The first section of the route is shown in this view taken from the Erskine Bridge. Gaviburn cottage, passed on the way up the Loch Humphrey track, is in the middle, just above the centre of the image although difficult to make out. The alternative Dalnottar Burn approach leads onto the southern edge of the Braes and follows the skyline all the way to where the track curves out of sight on the left. The vessel is the Liberian-registered bulk carrier Anarchos which had sailed all the way from the port of Santos in Brazil to deliver animal feed to the Glasgow city docks.
From the bend the track continues at an easier angle to the Loch Humphrey reservoir where, despite the general area being good for bird watching, there never seems to be much of interest on the loch itself.
These shots of Loch Humphrey were taken from almost the same spot, on the hike towards Fynloch Hill.
An alternate. more interesting ascent route from the sub-station is possible. Rather than follow the track all the way to Loch Humphrey, cut over the adjacent field and follow the Dalnottar Burn to the east end of the crags. Then, try to keep to the crest as you work your way along to join the Humphrey track near a disused quarry, just beyond the sharp bend above Haw Craigs. This route gives the best chance of spotting wildlife with roe deer, fox and various species of birds inhabiting the wooded slopes. (* edit -poss duplicated)
Various extensions and alternative descents from Loch Humphrey are possible, depending on transport and time available including, as previously mentioned, a detour to take in Duncolm, which lies almost 3 kilometres to the north, or Fynloch Hill.
A good western circuit can also be had by heading northwest to Doughnot Hill, 374 metres, and then following the course of the Overtoun Burn to tiny Loch Bowie above Milton.
This route passes through the grounds of the Overtoun Estate with its large mansion house that was designed by the well-know architect James Smith (1808 -1863) for the wealthy White family. In the 1930s the family vacated the property and donated it to the people of Dumbarton. The Overtoun mansion has since operated as maternity hospital, a religious retreat and a youth and social services centre. Overtoun House dates from the 1860s and is not currently open to the public. The estate grounds are though and various walks lead through the woodland and onto the open hillside.
Overtoun is perhaps best known for its stone bridge which has the macabre claim to fame that it is an apparent suicide hot-spot for dogs. Over the years, since the 1950s, numerous canines have leapt to their death over the wall, landing in the gorge of the Overtoun Burn 15m (50ft) below. There are even documented cases of dogs that have miraculously survived the fall being taken back to the bridge, only to jump over the parapet again!
The only scientific theory that has been put forward to explain the phenomenon is that mink are prevalent in the area and it may be the exceptionally strong scent from their urine that is irresistible to the dogs!
On the way down from Overtoun House Loch Bowie (above) is passed then it`s a very steep descent (cyclists need to make sure their brakes are working well here before the next section) to regain the busy A82 Glasgow - Fort William road at Milton, approximately 4km west of the starting point at the electricity sub-station in Old Kilpatrick.
The return along the A814, rather than the busy A82 which runs parallel, takes you through Bowling, once an important shipbuilding centre on the Upper Clyde. The western terminus of the Forth & Clyde Canal lies in the shadow of the Kilpatrick Braes and is worth a look at any time of year, although there`s obviously more activity during the summer months. It can be a great location for photography in exceptionally harsh winters when the surface soon freezes over.
Although these birds were snapped at Bowling Basin, there`s every chance of spotting the same species higher up on the Braes: Dipper feed along the various burns and Kestrel, and Buzzard, are likely to be encountered hunting over the open moors.
There used to be a sizeable `ships` graveyard` at Bowling harbour, although the majority of the wrecks, most of which only became visible at low tide, have long since been cleared. Vessels included a steam trawler, a 30 metre-long World War 2 minesweeper and a torpedo boat.
The following shot, taken in August 2005, shows RFA Wave Ruler (A390), a Fast Fleet replenishment tanker, sailing downriver en route to start her sea trials in the Firth of Clyde. The crags immediately below the bend in the Loch Humphrey track are immediately noticeable towards the skyline, right of centre. Just in front of Wave Ruler, at Bowling, is Dunglass Castle which is currently in a dangerous condition with no access permitted.
The earliest part of the Castle, which was once the main power base of the Colquhoun Clan, dates from the 14th century but very little of the original structure remains. In 1735 a large section was dismantled to provide a source of stone to repair the adjacent quay. Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret MacDonald later re-designed the castle`s interior for its wealthy owner and it is thought that Mackintosh's efforts here led to him being awarded the contract for the Hillhouse in Helensburgh.
Security fences and trees more or less screen the castle from the A814 road which runs through the village, therefore Longhaugh Point, on the south bank of the Clyde, where this shot was taken from, is the best place from which to view it. The area surrounding the castle previously housed a large fuel depot and storage tanks were built into the hillside between here and Milton, just east of Dumbarton.
The obelisk in the castle grounds, erected in 1838, is a monument to Henry Bell (1767-1830), an engineer and celebrated character on Clydeside who pioneered the development of nautical steam power. His vessel Comet, built at Port Glasgow, operated the first steamboat service on the Clyde in 1812. Initially the paddle-steamer transported passengers between Glasgow, Greenock and Bell`s hotel in Helensburgh sailing three times a week.
This monument to Bell was erected on the seafront at Helensburgh. Bell is buried in the graveyard of the nearby Rhu Church. (add pics*)
To the east of Loch Humphrey lie the Greenside, Jaw and Cochno Reservoirs, with returns possible via the Duntocher and Faifley areas of Clydebank.