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Issue 50 - 10 Best Spring Walks

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 50
April 2010


This article is 8 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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10 Best Spring Walks

Put a spring in your step by Keith Fergus.

Portpatrick to Killantringan Bay After the cold of winter the freshness of spring is a welcome sight and a walk from the lovely village of Portpatrick to wild Killantringan Bay along the Galloway Coast is a great way to blow away the cobwebs. The route follows part of the Southern Upland Way and a line of great stone steps lead away from the harbour and up onto the cliffs above Portpatrick. A good path hugs the cliff top, the coastline remarkably rugged whilst the views on a clear day stretch all the way to Ireland. The path then continues past the magnificent Black Head Lighthouse and onto Killantringan Bay. To watch the waves roll in here on a windy day is quite a sight and a stroll along the beach is also recommended. To return to Portpatrick, steps can either be retraced or the Southern Upland Way can be followed to the B738 which heads south (there is no pavement) to the A77 and back into Portpatrick.

Minchmoor & the Three Brethren The ancient drove road of Minchmoor, near Selkirk, has been utilised by drovers, travellers and kings in the past but today it provides a superb walk with glorious views and fantastic wildlife. Beginning in the small village of Yarrowford, Minchmoor Road climbs through mixed woodland and then onto open hillside eventually reaching the Southern Upland Way. Head east here (along a route used by King Edward when bringing his army to Scotland) onto Brown Knowe which presents a magnificent view of the Borders and towards Galloway. A fantastic high level walk along the drove road continues over Broomy Law to the ten foot high cairns of the Three Brethren which is a good place to rest and look across to the small but perfectly formed Eildon Hills. A good track then descends south-east, skirting the slopes of Foulshiels Hill and back into Yarrowford.

St Abbs to Coldingham Sands Unbeknownst to many, the Scottish Borders has a small, but magnificent section of coastline stretching fifteen miles from St Abbs to Berwick.

This can be walked in one long day, the couple of miles between St Abbs and Coldingham Sands makes for an easy walk. From the harbour car park, steps lead up to Murrayfield which turns south-east to join the Berwickshire Coastal Path. It is then simply a matter of following the path down into Coldingham Sands to enjoy the beautiful beach and the distinctive huts which still survive. It is worth continuing south along the sands and taking the path a few hundred yards to Milldown Point to capture the superb view back to St Abbs. To return to St Abbs a short walk heads into Coldingham from where the B6438 can be followed for a short distance to reach the path which heads back into St Abbs.

Bothwell Spring is obviously the time for flora and fauna, and so a woodland walk is a must for this time of year. Bothwell Woods, on the outskirts of Glasgow, is one such walk taking you along the banks of the River Clyde and past some sites of real historical note. From the impressive remains of Bothwell Castle a path leads down into Bothwell Woods and to the banks of the Clyde.

During April and May your senses are assaulted with the smell of wild garlic, the fantastic carpet of bluebells and the ensuing birdlife. The Clyde Walkway continues through the woods and past the David Livingstone Centre eventually reaching Blantyre and then Bothwell Bridge, site if the famous battle of 1679. From the bridge turn left onto Hamilton Road and continue north along Bothwell Main Street before turning onto Blantyre Road then Castle Avenue and back to Bothwell Castle.

Knapps Loch, Kilmacolm Although lying only a few miles from the industrial backdrop of both Paisley and Glasgow Knapps Loch has a look and feel that is a million miles from both these places. The loch sits on the outskirts of Kilmacolm and a great walk takes you high above and around Knapps providing fantastic views across the immediate countryside as well as to the likes of Ben Lomond. During late spring, the environs are teeming with wildlife including deer, buzzards, dragon and damselflies as well as the common spotted orchid which doesn’t grow much further north than this. There is a small car park just beside Knapps and here a path heads east onto the higher ground above the loch.

Once here you can enjoy the wonderful views and follow the track through beautiful open countryside before descending west down to the loch side and following the path by the boathouse back to the car park.

The Cobbler The Cobbler (or Ben Arthur to give its proper title) is one of Scotland’s most iconic peaks, her distinctive profile rising above Arrochar instantly recognisable and has drawn walkers and mountaineers to her slopes for years. A walk to her summit is reasonably simple but it is a tough one – almost all of her 2899 feet has to be climbed. The best route is to leave from Succoth and climb the excellent path north-west up Beinn Narnain’s lower slopes until an obvious path strikes south-west towards the Allt a Bhalachain. Once the weir is reached then continue north-west past the enormous Narnain Boulders towards the crags beneath The Cobbler’s summit. The final few hundred feet are steep whilst the infamous (and very exposed) ‘eye of the needle’ which leads to the very top will only be attempted by the very brave. But even from below the summit the views are exceptional encompassing most of the Southern and Central Highlands and Ben Nevis on the clearest of days.

Retracing your steps back to Succoth is probably the best descent route.

Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers The mountains comprising the Ben Lawers massif can be climbed in one long day with nearly 6000 feet of ascent. However a less taxing but equally rewarding walk is to combine Ben Lawers with Beinn Ghlas. These are big hills (Ben Lawers is just short of 4000 feet with snow lasting well into spring) but the route begins at nearly 1500 feet which makes the ascent more comfortable. From the car park a good track climbs towards some shielings. Here the track splits and my favourite route is to traverse the slopes of Beinn Ghlas north towards Coire Odhar and then onto Beinn Lawers. A good track heads south-west from Ben Lawers onto Beinn Ghlas and you see wildlife as an excellent path zigzags its way back to the visitor centre.

Anstruther to Elie The East Neuk of Fife has a string of fantastic villages, all full of character with a pace of life and peaceful atmosphere hard to find in this technological, must do now age. The Fife Coastal Path runs from North Queensferry to the Tay Bridge but my own favourite section is between Anstruther and Elie, along a sublime section of coastline, full of beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife and culminating in one of Scotland’s best beaches. Although the route is linear a regular bus service will drop you back at Anstruther. From Anstruther harbour, walk west along East Shore onto Elizabeth Place and then down past the Craws Nest Hotel onto Shore Road to pick up the coastal path. The route hugs the coastline all the way to Elie, passing by the working harbour at Pittenweem, onwards to St Monans (via St Monans windmill) and then to Elie where you might want to enjoy a well deserved ice cream or fish supper on the town’s award winning beach.

Elie GR NT492997 Kinnoull Hill Lying on the outskirts of Perth, Kinnoull Hill may only rise to 700 feet, but like many smaller vantage points the views are superb. It is also home to the folly of Kinnoull Hill Tower which was built by Lord Gray in the 19th century and it adds to the magnificent view along the River Tay.

The walk begins at the Jubilee Car Park and there are a couple of way-marked routes that can be followed through magnificent woodland comprising of Scots Pine, oak, and birch with red squirrels scampering from tree to tree and a variety of wildflowers on the woodland floor. The paths provide a variety of wonderful views along the Tay and the Carse of Gowrie, towards the Ochil Hills, the Cairngorms and across Perth itself. The descent follows the way-marked posts back through the woodland and to the Jubilee car park.

Beinn a Bha’ach Ard Beinn a Bha’ach Ard is a striking mountain rising above Glen Strathfarrar west of Inverness. It isn’t the biggest mountain (2828 feet) but it has a fantastic craggy summit and beautiful heather clad slopes to climb. A path climbs from Inchmore near Struy and initially through a lovely birch wood which plays host to a myriad of flora and fauna during the months of spring.

Once past Loch na Beiste the path heads north before petering out and so a bearing of north-west leads onto Sgurr a Phollain. It is then a great walk south-west to the top of Beinn a Bha’ach Ard which provides an exemplary vantage point to view the brutish hills of the north-west Highlands and the flat plain of the Beauly Firth at Inverness. The descent is equally rewarding, a path leading south down through crags towards the Neaty Burn from where a final couple of miles through glorious mixed woodland leads back to Inchmore.