Commonwealth Games at Cathkin Braes
Total distance – 4.2 kilometres
Ascent – 60 metres
Walking conditions – Easy walking on good footpaths. Fairly flat. No difficulties.
Time required – Around 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Nearest town – Glasgow/ East Kilbride
Cathkin Braes is undoubtedly the best location to view Glasgow from the south. It is now home to one of the UK’s best mountain biking trails and was the setting for the Commonwealth Games mountain bike competition. It is also proof that walkers and mountain-bikers can co-exist without conflict. The vast network of tracks and paths within Cathkin Braes ensures that even on a busy day we tend not to get in each other’s way. What’s ideal about Cathkin Braes for us is that it is within easy walking distance from our house and if the children are misbehaving we can speed-march them up the hill or the bad fox will catch them.
The start of this walk is from the large car park on Cathkin Road which is a few hundred metres up the hill from Carmunnock (Glasgow’s only village). Head west across the fairly flat, open ground. After about 800 metres this leads to a viewpoint at the edge of the tree line over-looking Carmunnock and you can see as far as Arran. Then change to a north easterly direction until you enter the forest. Take one of the many tracks going east. It’s probably best to stay near to the tree line that you entered from. After about a kilometre you should come into open ground. You’ll see a building with a huge mast. Beside it is a trig point (we love trig points). This is a fantastic place to stop for a picnic as you can see the whole of Glasgow, the Campsies, Ben Lomond and beyond. From there walk over to the stone circle feature which is clearly visible form the trig point. To get back to the car follow any of the paths through the trees which run parallel to Cathkin Road.
A visit to Carmunnock is to be recommended. We’ve had great days out there at the Carmunnock Highland Games and we’ve often stopped at Mitchell’s for dinner and to look at the fish tank.
Total distance – 4 kilometres
Ascent – 30 metres
Walking conditions – Entirely roads and pavements
Time required – Approximately 1.5 hour’s walking time plus however long you wish spend at the numerous attractions
The west end of Glasgow was my happy hunting ground in my years as a student at Glasgow University. It is also a fantastic urban adventure for the children as there’s loads to do. We’ve carried out a number of incursions into the West End and on our most recent mission we identified three key objectives.
The Botanic Gardens is your first port of call so find a parking space close by. If you are in a metered zone make sure you buy a parking ticket. The parking attendants do not mess about here. The gardens are open all year round (free entry) and there are 19.6 hectares to wander around in. These gardens extend to the river Kelvin walkway. The Glasshouse (Kibble Palace) and Tearooms are also worth a visit and are open during the day.
From the Botanic Gardens head along Byres Road. Take a left at Dumbarton Road. By all means stop for lunch at one of the cafes along the route. After about 300 metres you will see the magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery on the left hand side. When you enter, despite what may appear to be the case the Kelvingrove Art Gallery is in fact not a crèche with loads of things to climb onto, but a museum which is free to visit and show-cases numerous invaluable works of art. Make sure you scare the children by visiting the dinosaurs.
The final objective is Kelvingrove Park which is right beside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. It’s a great park with extensive grounds and for the children there is a skatepark and a playpark beside each other. I could now reminisce about the original skatepark which had been filled in during the 1980s and has made up some of my fondest childhood memories, but that would be self-indulgent. Anyway, when you’re done, walk along Kelvin Way and take a left at Universtiy Avenue which leads you back to Byres Road.
Total distance – 4 kilometres
Ascent – 430 metres
Walking conditions – Good footpath up grassy slope. However, the slope is relentless and particularly steep in places. Children may require assistance descending the steepest sections.
Time required – Around 2.5 to 4 hours
Nearest town – Strathblane
This is the favourite hill of many a rambler, including my mum who is always guaranteed to point out Dumgoyne to anyone and everyone at any given opportunity. It wouldn’t be so bad but you can see it clearly from almost anywhere in her home town of Blantyre. Being part of the Campsie Fells, Dumgoyne sets itself apart and not just literally.
From the parking bay at Dumgoyne Distillery cross the road and follow the faint path over fields until you cross a stream beside a fence. At this point the route becomes a distinct footpath which leads directly up an increasingly steep slope straight to the top of Dumgoyne. The path is wide in places as a result of the large number of visitors who are probably avoiding the muddier parts of the path by going around the sides. Please try to avoid doing this as it causes considerable erosion. Although it’s hard work, before you know it you’ll be on the summit. Park yourself close to the trig point, get your sandwiches out, and strike up a conversation with whoever it is you will be sitting near to on this busy, extremely enjoyable and most sociable of hills.
Take care on the way down as it is particularly steep (although not dangerous) and should be avoided if there are not enough confident adults to ensure the children can get down without any dramas. Alternatively, take a leaf out of my wife’s book and slide down the steep slope on your backside. The children are guaranteed to do likewise.
Total distance – 4.8 kilometres
Ascent – 180 metres
Walking conditions – Well defined footpath up a gentle slope but can be very muddy in places
Time required – Around 2.5 to 4 hours
Nearest town – Milngavie
High volumes of traffic pass by the apparently small and featureless Auchineden Hill on a daily basis. I, myself drove past on numerous occasions unaware of the hill’s hidden character. I did however think it strange that at this inconspicuous point on the A809 there was a large and invariably busy car park. I once stopped there for a cup of tea, looked at my map and noted a trig point at the top of Auchineden Hill and thought to myself that it’s probably a very nice viewpoint. Indeed it is, but that’s not the reason for this busy car park. In fact, what’s concealed from view and to the rear of Auchineden Hill is where according to folklore (I therefore can’t guarantee it is factually correct) the devil himself carved out a deep crevice in the hill with his tail. Locals later named this astonishing feature ‘The Whangie’. This cleft is long, very narrow, over 50 feet high in places and great to walk through. Inspired by this spectacle I ensured that my daughter would never in blissful ignorance pass by The Whangie so when she was seven weeks old we got her in the Baby Bjorn sling and took her there.
Take the footpath from the car park over the small dyke and follow this for around 300 metres. When you reach a fence, cross it and maintain the same direction which should mean that you are now skirting around the side of the hill in a westerly direction. Continue doing this for about 1.7 Km. It’s fairly easy going but can be muddy in places so boots are essential. Eventually you will reach the entrance to The Whangie. Stroll through this narrow cleft but beware that there are of a couple of fairly large drops. You could never fall off them doing normal walking but if a child was to start scrambling on the boulders there is scope for a bad accident.
When you reach the end of The Whangie there is a fantastic spot on the right hand side for a picnic. Or if you prefer, the footpath takes you 200 metres to the trig point. Take the direct route back down from the trig point to the car park. It’s easier walking and a lot less muddy.
If you’re driving back towards Glasgow I’d recommend that you reward yourselves with a hearty meal at the Carbeth Inn that is just a couple of miles down the road. You’ll recognise it by the large number of motorcycles parked outside. It is always very friendly, lively and the food is generous and of a good quality.