Burns Country Walk, Ayrshire

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Total distance –  10.6 Kilometres

Ascent –  30 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths, tracks and pavements. No difficulties.

Nearest town – Ayr

In any West of Scotland Maternity Unit, prior to being allowed home with your new-born baby you are obliged to sign a pledge committing to taking your child to the Ayrshire Coast at least once per year until they reach adulthood. If your wife is from an Ayrshire seaside town this commitment also forms part of your marriage vows. So far we have made good this pledge several times over as the Ayshire Coast is a fantastic destination for all. There’s beaches, parks and chippies galore. So why not take all of this, add in some Scottish Heritage and a good walk. Here’s how……

Park near Wellington Square, Ayr next to the Low Green and walk along the promenade towards Alloway whilst ensuring to point out Arran, the Heads of Ayr and Paddy’s Milestone. After about 2 kilometers you will see a footbridge crossing the River Doon. Do not cross it, but instead go left and follow the path up the east bank of the River Doon. After about 500 metres you’ll see a Spar shop next to a main road. Cross the road and take the entrance to Belleslie Park. There’s a number of excellent attractions including a play park and a walled garden. From there walk through track across the golf course and over to the B7024, which is just across from Rozelle Park, then go right. This will take you directly to Burns Cottage. By continuing along this road for another few hundred metres you will pass by Alloway Parish Church, the Burns National Monument and Memorial Gardens, and on to the Brig O’ Doon, as described by Burns in the Tam O’ Shanter poem. It’s a lovely spot. The Brig O’ Doon House Hotel beside it is an excellent place to eat and not as expensive as I had feared. For the return journey walk back the way for about 500 metres and turn left onto Greenfield Avenue which leads back to the River Doon down at the Spar shop. Then make your way back to the coast, walk along the promenade and all the way back to Wellington Square where a fantastic playpark and some good chippies await you.

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Pollok Country Park, Glasgow

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Total distance –   3.6 Kilometres

Ascent –  40 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths, tracks and tarmac roads. Buggy compatible. No difficulties.

Time required – 1 to 2 hours

Nearest town – Glasgow

Pollok Country Park is the home to the Burrell Collection. So you might think that as the Burrell Collection is closed to the public until 2020, that there’s no point visiting Pollok Country Park. Well think again! It’s a great park with numerous paths and tracks, a great play-park, not to mention Pollok  House. It’s particularly good if you have  very small children with the buggy being the preferred mode of transport. All marked walking routes are buggy compatible and there are three of them. These walks are defined as the yellow route (0.7 miles), the blue route (1.4 miles) and the red route (1.9 miles). As there are a series of tarmac paths and dirt footpaths it’s really entirely up to you to wander about where you like.

On our particular recent day out we parked in the car park to the rear of Pollok House. We then walked along the tarmac road in a north-westerly direction then pretty much went the way of the red path. We stopped and had our sandwiches in the play-park across from the building that hosts the Burrell Collection. I demonstrated how to use a trampoline to best effect, then we made our way back to the car-park at Pollok House.

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Douglas Circuit, Lanarkshire

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Total distance –  6.2 Kilometres

Ascent –  200 metres

Walking conditions – Grassy and dirt footpaths which can be quite muddy in places. Some walking along single track roads (little or no traffic). No difficulties.

Time required – 2.5 to 3.5 hours

Nearest town – Lesmahagow

Make sure you’ve got a map and compass for this one, just in case you make a navigational error in the wooded area.

Douglas is home to the distinguished Cameronians Regiment, which after almost 300 years of service was disbanded in 1968. Renowned for their extremely fast marching pace, the Cameronians could have easily completed the 6.2 Kilometre Douglas Circuit in full kit within the hour. However, I’d have to say that in such beautiful, green, rolling landscape with a number of seats and picnic benches along the way, I’d recommend that you stroll around the route at a leisurely pace, eat your sandwiches at Castle Dangerous and enjoy the fresh air. Unfortunately for the Cameronians undertaking a forced march, the options of sandwiches and picnic benches would probably not have been available to them.

Driving into Douglas follow the parking signs and park at Douglas Valley Church. Start the route by walking past the church on the left hand side and then go down the stairs. Then walk over to St. Brides Church and a football field should come into view on the lower ground. You’ll see an opening onto the football field next to the tree line with a blue footbridge about 400 metres beyond, which is where you’re heading. The footpath is quite faint over this grassy field. Once you’re over the bridge the path is more distinct and heads up towards the forest on the high ground. When your in the wood keep to the footpath on the right. It soon turns into a wider forest track. After about 350 metres take the path veering right. The track then goes straight for about one Kilometre then a sharp right takes you downhill, past Gardens House, over a bridge and on to Castle Dangerous. Keep walking  and you’ll see the Cameronians memorial as well as the Stable Lake on your right hand side as you make your way back to the car park.

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Drymen to Balmaha, via Conic Hill, Loch Lomond

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Total distance –  11.9 Kilometres

Ascent –  390 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths, tracks and pavements. No difficulties.

Time required – 3.5 to 5.5 hours

Nearest town – Drymen

It was summer 1993 and an attempt by me and two friends to complete the West Highland Way. At the end of Day 1, we set up camp in Balmaha (camping there was entirely legal in those days). At that point, I was unaware that my friends had decided that they’d had enough of the West Highland Way and were hatching a plan to abandon me in the very near future. On the morning of Day 3, they did exactly that and jumped on the boat over to Ardlui. I carried on regardless. Despite the betrayal, I remember the whole episode with a bemused fondness. Twenty or so years layer, I thought that I’d take my wife and kids on part of that route. Was I abandoned on this occasion? No chance! I had the car keys.

A bus is required for this outing to save you having to walk all the way back. Buses between Drymen and Balmaha operate every couple of hours during the daytime, and it’s entirely up to you whether you want to start the walk from either Drymen or Balmaha. Most people would agree that the more enjoyable way is starting from Drymen. But be careful, if you do start from Drymen you’ll need to be sure that the kids will have enough energy after walking about 8 Kilometres to ascend almost to the top of Conic Hill before dropping down to Balmaha.

From the bus stop in the centre of Drymen walk on the path beside the B858 going east for around a Kilometre before turning left on to the dirt footpath that is clearly signposted as part of the West Highland Way. Indeed, from here on as you’re on the West Highland Way, the whole route is clearly signposted. For the next few Kilometres or so you’ll be walking on dirt footpaths and forest tracks in mostly wooded wooded areas and then onto open ground. At the 8 Kilometre point you will come to a bridge over the Burn of Mar which is at the foot of Conic Hill. From here it’s pretty much an unrelenting 200 metre ascent to almost the top of Conic Hill. The path skirts to the right past the summit missing out the last 30 metre ascent. However, if you’ve still got the energy, getting to the top of Conic Hill is absolutely worth it. Keep on the path and head straight back down to the car park at Balmaha. Here you’ll find an excellent visitor centre and if you cross the road you can feed the ducks in Loch Lomond or nip into the Oak Tree Inn for refreshments.

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Crammond Island, Edinburgh

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Total distance –  8.6 Kilometres

Ascent –  50 metres

Walking conditions – Well-defined footpaths, tracks and a single track roads. No difficulties.

Time required – 2.5 to 4 hours

Nearest town – Edinburgh

Barnton and Crammond are two of Edinburgh’s leafiest suburbs. So it should come as no surprise that the scenery is marvellous. This is particularly the case along the River Almond and out into the Firth of Forth. Fortunately for us outdoor types there are no high walls nor electric gates to keep the peasants out, so we can wander freely in this land of captains of industry, well-known authors and other privileged types.

There are a number of places you can park near to the River Almond with varying distances to Crammond Island. We chose to park beside a play-park just off Brae Park because the kids wanted to play, there was good parking and it allowed for a good stroll along the banks of the River Almond. Either way, make your way to the River Almond (East bank) and head north along the well-defined footpath. Continue along past Crammond Boat Club and soon after that, you’ll arrive at Crammond Beach. You’ll see the Firth of Forth together with the causeway leading to Crammond Island, and in the summer months, an ice cream van as well.

The flat concrete causeway to Crammond Island is about 1.1 Kilometres long and you’ll be across it within 15 minutes. But before you continue please note that the causeway will be completely submerged at certain times of the day so make sure you know when the tide will be going in or out. There are notices at the causeway providing information on this. If all is well, walk straight across and onto Crammond Island. There are military fortifications immediately to your front dating back to World War 2. It’s also well worth taking the path to the other side of Crammond Island where there are more fortifications. This is a lovely short walk along a dirt footpath through undulating grassy terrain with brilliant views of the Firth of Forth.  Please note that there tends to be a lot of broken glass at these fortifications. This is largely due to hedonistic teenagers partying overnight, so best to keep a hold of the children here.

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Helensburgh to Rhu Circuit, Argyll and Bute

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Total distance –  8.2 Kilometres

Ascent –  220 metres

Walking conditions – Well defined dirt footpaths and forest tracks. Some walking on pavements beside roads. No difficulties.

Time required – 2.5 to 4 hours

Nearest Town – Helensburgh

The fire at the Glasgow’s School of Art may well have destroyed some of Charles Rennie MacKintosh’s greatest work, but certainly not all of it. I’m reliably informed that Hill House is a shining example of the genius of Charles Rennie MacKintosh, but more importantly, it is the starting point of a delightful walk from Helensburgh to Rhu which provides fantastic views of the Firth of Clyde for most of the way.

Start at the footpath next to Hill House which is heading in a WNW direction. Continue on this path for about one Kilometre. Take the second footpath on the right (don’t take the first path that travels along the tree line up the hill or you’ll probably end up in Loch Lomond) for around 300 metres then go left. The path will now take you on a very gentle descent for about 1.5 Kilometres down to Rhu. This provides fantastic views of the Gare Loch and the Firth of Clyde. After you’ve wound your way through the residential area walk along the shoreline for about half a Kilometre when you’ll see a swing park and public toilets right next to the water. This is an ideal place to stop for a sandwich. It’s probably best to then double back about 100 metres into the residential area then ascend up through Duchess Wood to meet the footpath you started on, then make your way back across to Hill House.

Make sure you take the time to go for a wander around Helensburgh Town Centre. It’s got a large pier which is a fantastic spot to get tucked into a tasty Helensburgh fish supper!

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Crail to Anstruther, Fife

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Total distance –  6.5 Kilometres

Ascent –  50 metres

Walking conditions – Well defined dirt footpath. No difficulties.

Time required – Around 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Everything’s an adventure when you’ve got small children. This exact thought occurred to me when I was jumping around excitedly on the top deck of the scheme bus from Anstruther to Crail trying to get a great family snap because it’s been a while since I’ve been on a bus. I then briefly re-considered my complete over-reaction to being on a bus, before taking another dozen photos.  Personally, I can’t think of a better plan than to jump on a bus only to walk all the way back to where you got on the bus. Especially if you’re at a particularly nice part of the Fife Coastal Path. Not to mention the bus stop being right next to an award-winning chippy, so the reward of a Fish Supper is on the cards.

From the bus stop in the centre of Crail, make your way towards the coast. You can’t miss it. We went down to the water right in the centre of town. however, the rocks and boulders were quite awkward to walk through so it’s probably best joining the coastal path at the Southern end of the town. The walk on the well-defined footpath is really straight forward and it’s just a case of following it back to Anstruther and you’re beside the sea the whole time. Highlights include some the very distinct rock formation that is known as ‘The Coves’. There is also a picture perfect play-park which is ideal for the kids just as you’re walking into Anstruther.

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