Clarkston to Blackridge

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?

Sadly for a new station pedestrian access is limited and to get to the start of the walk you have to go out on to the A89 and east to Towers Road, uphill and over the railway bridge.

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. The stile at the bend in the track

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. 

Follow the path along the burn and uphill to a copse where buzzards can be seen, circling and mewing.

 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 path to the cairn The path to the cairn

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.

Duntilland Hill and the Lilly Loch
Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’ Chroin

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.

Mid Bracco

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.

Looking back to the transmitters

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.

Looking towards Forrestburn

 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.

Papperthill Crags

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.

Welcome!

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.

Razor wire running into the water

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.

Forrestburn Forge

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.

Welcome to West Lothian- if you can get past THIS!

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. 

Blackridge Station

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…

9 Responses to Clarkston to Blackridge

  1. delboy says:

    good commentary on the walk how easy would it be to follow this route from your descriptions? Did you already know this route? How long did it take you?Too many questions i know!! Also im a keen cyclist what is the state of the cycle path alongside the railway as it didnt look finished last time i went east on train (last month for rugby)!
    Cheers
    Del

    • jester1970 says:

      Hi Del,
      The descriptions are only a guide, I’d still make sure I used a map. For this type of terrain you are best with a 1:25,000 map, and you can print off sections from websites such as ‘Where’s the path?’ for free.
      http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm
      I took around 4 hours -ish, but I was delayed at Forrestburn, as well as taking loads of photos, but with rough ground to cover 4 hours is probably a reasonable time. The cyclepath near Blackridge is still not finished as far as I know, I was up a few days ago and it appeared to be still under construction.
      Cheers,
      Jim

  2. shaun says:

    were is the plains train st a did not see it in ure photos ram head xxcc

  3. Joe Smith says:

    Good post. I have also encountered the angry land-owner. I think you have played down his angryness. I think he’s genuinely unhinged. I would do whatever is possible to stay out of his way. I don’t like calling people “nutters”, but this one genuinely is.

    • Jane Rigby says:

      Hello, I’m trying to trace a Joe Smith who was at Jordanhill College doing Outdoor Education with Pete Rigby in the early 90s. Is it you? [He’s fine btw, just was thinking about those days and being in beautiful Scotland]

  4. Marion Vermeersch says:

    I have heard about these places all my life: my family lived on Stepends Farm before emigrating to Canada in the 1920’s. My grandmother lived at “Langside, Blackridge”. Such beautiful country you have: I’m sure I have relatives somewhere there still and I would love to travel there someday. Thank you for putting this on the web for the rest of the world to see and enjoy.

    Marion (Barr) Vermeersch,
    Ontario, Canada

    • jester1970 says:

      Hi Marion,
      I was up walking in the snow at Stepends Farm and Annieshill a few days back. It can be bleak at times but I enjoyed being there, on a good day you can see Ben Lawers from there. Hopefully you’ll be able to visit sometime.
      All the best,
      Jim

  5. Marion Vermeersch says:

    Hello Jim:
    Thank you so much for this very kind comment. Annieshill is one of the many place names I recall being mentioned. It has always been a dream of mine to go and see the area where my family lived: however, I am one of the thousands of “Lost Canadians”, here since coming with my War Bride Mom in 1946 to join my Dad(home from service with the Royal Canadian Artillery). However, in 2004 our present government decided none of us should ever have been given citizenship so I now cannot travel out of Canada! If ever we succeed in getting it back, I would love to visit your area, but it’s been a long battle and not in sight yet.

    In the meantime, I am enjoying reading about it and seeing all the beautiful pictures. I have been able to get some information on the farm with the wonderful assistance of the West Lothian Family History Society: I know there was a nasty incident there in 1925 which was the reason my Dad (Alexander) and his brother Andrew came to Canada as children to work on farms. Fortunately, they were placed with dairy farmers originally from your area in Hillsburg, Ontario(near Guelph) who were kind and helped them in having my Gran and siblings join them here later.

    We do have lots of Scots descendants in Ontario (the University of Guelph even has a School of Scottish Studies). Port Dover (less than 10 minutes from here) has an excellent band, the “Paris-Port Dover Pipe Band” which travels to Scotland to compete as well as other places.

    Thanks again for this beautiful and informative website!
    Best wishes,
    Marion

    • jester1970 says:

      I’ve been reading up on the ‘Lost Canadians’ Marion. It is absolutely shameful that the Canadian government have behaved this way. If I understand it correctly you can claim British citizenship, but if you left the country you would be denied entry to live in Canada?
      I hope your situation get’s resolved but as with any government, those wheels grind slowly. Good luck to you all!

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