This walk begins at the newly relocated Drumgelloch Station and heads east, climbing up towards Blackhill before dropping down into Blackridge, a distance of around 10.5 miles. The route takes in a variety of terrain types, paths, rough moorland, bogs and steep hillsides and at times involves crossing fences, barbed and electric.
The reopening of the Airdrie to Bathgate railway has created some good opportunities for car free walks along the east-west corridor. There is some surprisingly high and rough terrain on the south side of the railway which is well worth a visit. Having had no railway here for over 50 years and no proper bus service for the last few years, circular walks have been the order of the day. However the opening of stations at Caldercruix, Blackridge and Armadale mean that longer linear walks are now on the cards, for locals and perhaps visitors as well.
I began my walk at Drumgelloch Station. Relocated some 600m east of the old station, it is now located in Clarkston, not Drumgelloch, and occupies the site of the former Clarkston Station, but is still named Drumgelloch… Confused?
At this point there is a driveway on the left and a gravel path leading off along the railway. This is the North Calder Heritage Trail, the first section is sadly littered with empty cans and bottles. I followed this for about 300m, crossing the fence to Katherine Park Lane then south west, past Wester Moffat Farm along an old farm track which leads down into Clarkston Glen. The North Calder Water runs through here to eventually join the Clyde, and at the bottom of the hill are the cut off remains of the old railway viaduct which carried freight trains into the old Inver House Distillery. In the 1980s this was the biggest distillery in Europe, now only bonding warehouses remain. The path is quite muddy here and crosses a bridge, and pausing here may give you the chance to see some of the glens birdlife. The white spotted rocks in the water show where the dippers perch, while herons and woodpeckers can also be sighted in the vicinity of the bridge.
Moving on uphill and where the path bends back on itself, cross the ‘stile’ and follow the treeline northeast, and at the corner of the field cross the fence and a small tributary, before walking up the banks of the burn to a waterfall, the ‘tumbling tams’.
These woods, less than a kilometre from busy streets, provide a habitat to many species including roe deer and foxes, while trout can be caught in the burn. In the 1960s there was a sighting of a Scottish Wildcat in these woods, one of the most southerly sightings ever recorded.
From the south end of the copse I went east along the fenceline, crossing a tangle of gates, and uphill to the top corner of the field and through a gate to join the access road to Easter Moffat Golf Club. This tree lined avenue heads north and after 500m I crossed the road and slipped through a gap in the trees, where I picked my way across the Browns Burn (or Cawder Burn), before skirting round the north side of Stepends Woodlands, a plantation of pine trees. There are a number of paths through the trees, but I prefer this route which eventually picks up the bed of an old railway branch before ending on Stepends Road.
A thick plantation and some boggy ground is difficult to cross, so I head up the road to a gate opposite Annieshill Woodlands and taking the road up to the north side of the hill through the woods. This passes the remains of an old shooting range and the butts are still in place. A quick trowel behind the butts will give you some old .303 bullets if you are lucky. From Annieshill I go north east, along the top of the Moffat Hills passing a bronze age cairn then along to top of the crags on the north side of the Lilly Loch.
The loch was quiet, the fishing season being over, but there was plenty of bird activity on the loch, Canada Geese being amongst the many wildfowl on and around the loch. The loch is part of a system designed to keep the Monklands Canal ‘topped up’ and water from here feeds down into Hillend Reservoir by a sluice, which I cross by a metal bridge before the steep but short pull up Drumfin Hill and to the eastern and higher of it’s two tops, at 246m.
From here there are some outstanding views, to Arran in the west and to the north seven Munros can be seen, the furthest away being Ben Lawers, 49 miles away! Nearer to hand is Hillend Reservoir, ‘The Rizzer’, the second of three lochs you will see on this walk.
The south side of the hill is covered with thick gorse and is easier bypassed by going east to the track then back to the gate and south up a track over Alice Hill then on up skirting the eastern edge of the high ground to the lonely remains on Mid Bracco, a long abandoned farm. The remains of ‘rigs’ can be found to the west of the farm, and an animal enclosure to the south. This must have been an exposed and remote spot, and the poor souls who inhabited this wind battered spot must have been a hardy bunch.
From here I traversed the slope to the western edge of the trees, then up hill to the south west corner of this large plantation. To the west are the Blackhill Transmitters, the second highest in Scotland.
Turning my back on them I head east and the ground here is rough, hags interspersed with soaking wet spots, water which eventually makes its way into Forrestburn Water. Climbing up to the 274m spot height at NS 847 647 is a watershed moment, from here on all the burns run eastwards and the views back towards Glasgow and Arran are now gone. Visible in the east are the Pentland Hills and Arthurs Seat, and at the bottom of this hill, Forrstburn Reservoir, the third loch of this walk.
I decided to follow the ridge downhill, rather than along Papperthill Crags and the route is pleasant enough, although the burn is a strange colour, I certainly wouldn’t fill my water bottle from this greenish blue tinted soup.
I kept to the north of Bentfoot Cottages and cross the road onto the motorcycle track at Forrestburn. The water is owned by North Lanarkshire Council, and this was a half hearted attempt at providing a facility for the off road bikers who plague this area. Today it lies quiet and I use the track for a few hundred metres, before going through a gate and skirting round the north end of the woodland here. I’m quickly hemmed in by woodland on one side and a deer fence on the other. On arriving at the far side I come to another problem, Forrestburns answer to the Berlin Wall.
With razor wire, and barbed wire on one side and a 3m high fence on the other, the only thing missing is a machine gun nest and a minefield. The reservoir is owned by North Lanarkshire Council and can be passed under access legislation. However Bridgehill Farm is a major obstacle in getting round, with the fence being ran in to the water making getting round extremely difficult.
Having beaten the wire I’m now confronted by an irate landowner with some vicious looking dogs wanting to know why I’m on his land- which I’m not! After things calm down I have a chat and discover that the area has been heavily vandalised, the broken trailer and vehicle windows demonstrate why the initial welcome wasn’t the warmest! Bridgehill Farm can be bypassed by going up the road instead of along the motorbike track, then down the farm track past Bridgehill, a long diversion, but perhaps for the meantime a necessary one.
From Bridgehill I went east then north, following the well defined track towards Bogend Farm. On the way I passed the well preserved remains of Forrestburn Farm and the even more impressive Forrestburn Forge, which from a distance looks like a large white mansion.
The hard track ends here and it’s a rutted track which goes ahead, first downhill, then swinging east over a jumble of gates and a burn.
The trees up ahead herald Bogend Farm, and I skirt round the south side of the farm building and out of the farm, where I am given a wave by a young farm worker driving a huge tractor. It’s a good track from here, taking you over the new bridge on to the A89.
The route of the new cyclepath can be seen as you cross the bridge, but not accessed, which is unfortunate as it would make an interesting and more natural final stretch. As it’s still under construction I take to the road and head east through the Blackridge for the final 3km to the railway station, located on the eastern outskirts of the village.
With perfect timing the train arrived and I covered the 10 miles back to Airdrie in almost as many minutes. This was certainly an enjoyable walk, but tough going. I wore a hole in a brand new pair of hillwalking socks and gained a blister, not ideal for I was off Munro bagging the next day. I’m looking forward to doing it again, hopefully the Local Access Officers will have sorted out the fencing issues at Bridgehill Farm as this is a nice stretch of land to walk, and with the station at Armadale now open there are possibilities to go even further. I’ve started looking at my map already…