I’ve covered the route from Drumgelloch to Blackridge via the high ground at Blackhill and Forrestburn. If that was the high road then this is the low road. The route uses a few rights of way, a cyclepath, a proposed core path and a nature reserve and sticks to the ground on the north side of the A89 (apart from the start and finish, both of course on the south side). The route is around 20km (12 miles), and should take in the region of 5 hours.
I started this route at Plains, however if using the train in either direction you would either start or finish at Drumgelloch, which adds on a short distance using roads and a right of way, and I’ve described the walk including this part. Sections of this route can be muddy and wet, so good boots and gaiters are recommended. I’d also recommend taking a compass and a 1:25,000 map.
Leave Drumgelloch station via the footpath at Grant Court which takes you on the A89. Head east, past the shops and turn left onto Connor Street, then follow this up and over the hill, and over the old railway bridge. The line which went under here used to serve Boots Factory. The line, like the factory is now closed, with only traces remaining.
On the bend in the road you will see a metal gate with a slip-through at the right at grid NS 781 662. This is the unsignposted entrance to Right of Way (ROW) SM8 and SM9. The route goes uphill to Burnbank Quarry, which has a few short rock climbs, and is home at times, to deer and buzzards. At the quarry ROW SM9 heads off around the north side, but we will continue along the main track to Burnbank Farm.
The path goes through the remains of the old farm, and in anything but dry weather it can be muddy here, the ground churned up by cattle. At the other side of the farm the path heads east to the village of Plains, and on arriving at a slip through, you pass through to Meadowhead Road.
Head uphill, and at the top of the hill turn right, on to Ballochney Road. There is no pavement on this section of road, so beware of traffic. On the left hand side of the road is a new plantation of trees and what appears to be a small loch. This land was once moorland, with houses and a railway here, but almost all traces of it’s previous history were wiped out when Gillespie Mining turned it into an open cast mine. The history of the area is covered in the book ‘Lanarkshires Lost Villages’ which is well worth reading if you can find a copy.
Heading downhill you pass through the bomb-site which building contractors left when constructing a new housing estate. The old potholed red road is now closed off and the new road passes through the new housing to join Arbuckle Road.
Turn left and follow the road uphill, where you will arrive at West Arbuckle Cottages. These lay derelict for many years before being completely renovated, and were recently for sale for a six figure sum. With outstanding views across to Blackhill, combined with a stunning rebuilding job they look worth every penny. This route continues along Arbuckle Road, but before doing so it’s worth diverting along the now closed to traffic road to the Stanrigg Memorial.
19 miners died in a coal mine just north of the memorial on 9th July 1918 when an inrush of peat trapped them below ground. 8 bodies were recovered, the remaining 11 still remain buried, one of the reasons this area survived unmolested during the operation of the opencast mining. The memorial can at times be littered with rubbish, but is still worth visiting, and is a chilling reminder of the nature of the ground in the area north of the memorial.
Coming back down to Arbuckle Road I picked up the track east through Midtown Farm, towards Easterton Farm, and south to pick up the cycle path, which I follow as far as Caldercruix.
You have a choice of route here, left over the bridge, then right, along Station Road, or right, on ROW SM13 past the church then left along Main Street. Both routes are of a similar distance and bring you out on Main Street at the Railway Tavern anyway.
This area has changed considerably in recent years, with the railway being built, a new joint campus school and one pub being renovated, the other demolished.
Along to the end of Main Street, cross over and go through the gate on to ROW SM14. At one time this land was occupied by Caldercruix Country Park, but vandalism and anti-social behaviour meant it slipped into disrepair and eventual closure. The path has been re-aligned and resurfaced, but I left it before reaching the new bridge, to follow a path off to the east next to a weed covered pond. As I came through the trees and over a small footbridge I disturbed a dipper, which flew off low along the water.
I headed in the same direction towards the dam at Hillend Reservoir, before following the track up to the top of the left side of the weir.
Hillend Reservoir is part of a system of man made water features designed to supply the Monklands Canal with water. Historic Scotland estimate that it was constructed between 1797 and 1799, and it is thought that at the time it was the largest man made water feature in the world. Today it is home to Monklands Sailing Club, and Airdrie Angling Club, both of whom have club-houses on the south side of the loch, along with the new cycle-path route 75.
Today however I’m travelling along a trodden footpath on the north shore. There is plenty of bird activity on the loch, however as I move along they all do their best to move out of camera range towards Spiers Island.
As I near the far end of the loch I did get a decent view of some Canada Geese.
I was looking to head for the ruins of Auchengray House, so I took a compass bearing on the woodland and head in a straight line across some low, boggy ground. This is marked on the map as Kennel Wood, and in wet weather it may be advisable to work your way around the tree-line. Coming into the trees I am confronted by an old gate and a wall, and following it to the south after crossing a fence I eventually come to the south side of the ruins.
The house was built in the 1820s, and even in its present ruinous state looks impressive. It was destroyed by fire in 1937 and has remained uninhabited ever since.
Due to its dangerous condition I decided not to venture inside, and not wanting to enter the farm at the rear I headed south, cutting through rhododendron bushes, on to the track and south again to pick up the cycle-path at the lodge at the head of the reservoir. Following the track for a few hundred metres I came off at Forrestfield Road and headed north to the crossroads at the entrance to Woodside Farm. The track heading east here is the beginning of a right of way to Blackridge (ROW SM23/LW105).
The track is in fairly good condition and heads north east-ish to Westfield Farm. Going round the farm the track goes north, past a low loader and through a gate, then after 200m heads east.
The track is wide and fenced on both sides and rises up to a bend in the track at grid NS 867 679.
I went through the gate, and the next section of track beckoned.Muddy and rutted due to recent forestry planting, it is certainly worth wearing gaiters for this stretch alone, which runs for about a kilometre to a crossroad track junction north of Bedlormie.
Continue east along the track to the car park at Blawhorn Moss at NS 878 676.
The right of way continues downhill to end on the A89, however I’ve decided on a different route. There is a map here showing various nature walks over one of the few remaining areas of peatland in Central Scotland.
There is a timber boardwalk which allows you to go out onto the moss without damaging the soil.
Some of the plant life here includes Sundews and Bog-Cotton. Dusk is a good time to visit, giving a chance to observe some of the owls which the area is renowned for. Apparently, although I’ve yet to see any, there are short-eared owls here, the only owls who hunt during the day. Going through the gate I head along the track which then bends to the north.
A track cuts off to the right (continue straight on for the boardwalk) and I take this across a small bridge and between the north side of the woodland and a drainage ditch, to the edge of the plantation at NS 892 678. Follow the treeline south to the fence then east to the monstrosity of the gate at NS 895 678.
You can go south to Blackridge from here, but I wanted to visit the trig point at NS 903 680 on Eastcraigs Hill so I headed east once more, disturbing a large flock of geese feeding in the fields north of the road. After about 500m it is possible to climb over the fence and up on to Eastcraigs Hill. The trig point isn’t in the best condition, being a bit rough around what is left of its edges.
You can continue on towards Armadale, but for me it’s time to head back to Airdrie. It’s a steep drop down the south slope of the hill, round the bing and past some ruins to Craigs. From here it’s only a few minutes walk to Westrigg, before crossing the A89 to the station, which you can see as you walk down through the housing estate.