CLV – Greenock to Glasgow

Hasteful MammalAT AN early hour on October’s first Monday, I bounded keenly out of my hotel to discover that the skies had clouded overnight and a bracing breeze had sprung up, throwing my choice of attire — a thin t-shirt — into question.  I dealt with this by ignoring the question entirely. I gave the chill wind the cold shoulder and remained lukewarm about the concept of wearing warm layers. T-shirts are cool.


Municipal Buildings

Not only was I less than entirely toasty but I was also lacking in cash and this set me off on a mission to find a cash machine that wasn’t out of service.  Initially, this was none of them — it would appear that I’d picked the exact moment when the banks were refilling their ATMs and had thus taken them offline.  While I waited, I enjoyed another view of Greenock’s Municipal Buildings, this time from the south side, which showed all too well the dangers of insufficient cash.

Greenock Municipal Building
This unfinished south-facing facade is known as Cowan’s Corner.
Cowan’s Corner

When the Municipal Buildings were erected in 1886, that bare-looking corner was the site of a draper’s shop belonging to Robert Cowan

Since the 1850s, the town council had been eagerly buying up the land that would form the Municipal Buildings site but Cowan, whose shop had then stood there for fifty years, stubbornly refused to sell and resisted all efforts by the council to compromise. After his death in 1867, the council attempted to negotiate with Cowan’s son-in-law, Lawrence Robertson, but while he was willing to sell for a price, that price was more than the council felt willing or able to pay. 

Eventually, Greenock Town Council was forced to accept defeat and built the Municipal Buildings around him, though they eventually forced him off the property by legal measures.  But, even with Cowan relocated elsewhere, the council was unable to develop the land before the outbreak of WW2, during which the shop was destroyed in the Blitz. Afterwards, post-war austerity brought restrictions on council expenditure, which prevented them from prettying up the gap with further Italianate architecture.

Lyle Fountain

Standing in front of the Municipal Buildings in the photo above is the ornate Lyle Fountain, a gift to the town from Provost Abram Lyle in 1880. On it, bronze shields which bear the arms of prominent Greenock families.

Wellpark Mid Kirk

The building on the left, meanwhile, is Wellpark Mid Kirk, also known as ‘the Toon Kirk‘.

Modelled on London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields, it was built in 1760, the steeple being added in 1787. The building was refurbished in 1878 and restored in 2000.

Ginger the Horse

I hung around in Cathcart Square, looking at the nothingness of Cowan’s Corner until one of the cash machines came back into service.  I then headed back towards the waterfront along Cathcart Street, in which I found this marvellous statue of Ginger the horse by Glasgow-based sculptor Andy Scott

Wire statue of Ginger the hoorse
Never ginger a horse.  The beast will be utterly wired.

In this case, Ginger the Horse is not an invitation to insert kitchen spices into equine anuses but is instead a reference to a carthorse that died in 1889, when its cart fell into the nearby Albert Harbour, taking the horse with it.

As noted on the plaque on Ginger’s podium, this event was referenced at the start of the novel Dancing at the Rascal Fair by American author Ivan Doig (1939-2015), which concerns Scottish emigration to America.  The plaque then seeks to tie in the theme of Greenock’s industrial horses to its famous son, engineer James Watt (1736-1819), by virtue of his use of ‘horsepower’ as a measure of work. 

Watt was born in William Street, just 100 m to the west of Ginger’s statue.  I must have walked right by it.

Custom House

The banks of the Clyde lay north of Ginger across the busy A8, where they were overlooked by Greenock’s imposing former Custom House.  Opened in 1818, the building saw use for almost two centuries until finally closed by HMRC in 2010.  The architect was William Burn (1789-1870) of Edinburgh and the structure cost £33 k to build. 

Greenock Custom House
No wonder they needed to levy customs; they had to pay for it somehow.

Today the Customs House is Grade A listed and now serves as commercial office space

Outside it stands a combined clock and harbour light, dating to 1860 and fashioned from cast and wrought iron.  I had finished my previous walk beside it and thus considered it my ‘official’ starting point for the day. Looking upstream, where I would next be journeying, I found myself suddenly dazzled by the sun peeping out between the clouds.

View up the Clyde from Greenock
‘If you want warmth, come and get it,’ it taunted.
Cartsburn Shipyard

Setting off, I followed the quayside eastwards but quickly ran out of riverside footpath as I entered the empty, windswept space that had once been home to Cartsburn Shipyard

This shipyard opened in 1796 under the ownership of James Steele and remained in business until 1883, when it closed and was bought by Scotts Shipyard, which had been next door at Cartsdyke since 1850.  Founded in 1711, Scotts built well over a thousand vessels on this section of the Clyde including over a hundred for the Royal Navy

The shipyard closed in 1984 and Scotts ceased trading altogether in 1993; the shipyard itself was demolished, leaving empty stretches of concrete and this forlorn-looking dry dock, built by James Steele in 1810:

Dry dock at Cartsburn Shipyard
Now neither dry nor in use as a dock; it is nonetheless Scotland’s oldest surviving dry dock.
Darien Scheme

Prior to its association with shipbuilding, the once separate settlement of Cartsburn saw the departure of the second expedition of the ill-fated Darien Scheme in 1699.  The scheme was Scotland’s great bid to join the European colonial powers and was about as ill-conceived a project as one could hope for. 

On paper it sounded great, if one ignored all the actual details — the plan was to colonise Panama and, in that pre-canal age, to become unimaginably wealthy by establishing an overland cargo portage route across the isthmus.  Provided one ignored a few little problems like the mountains, the jungle, the prevalent malaria and yellow fever, the hostile natives and the fact that Panama had already been colonised by Spain, it could hardly fail.  Oh, and the obvious fact that the other existing colonial powers such as the England and Netherlands were in no way minded to assist a rival in setting up shop, even if all three countries were run by William III (II in Scotland).  Or rather especially if William was in charge — he was at war with France when the scheme was announced and needed to maintain an uneasy alliance with the Spanish. On first hearing news of the scheme, he denounced its promoters as ‘raging madmen’.

Something like a fifth of Scotland’s wealth was invested into this insanity in a tremendous example of wilful blindness to the only possible outcome, which just meant that, when that outcome materialised, it pretty much bankrupted the country. The result was the Acts of Union in 1707, whereby England wrote off most of Scotland’s national debt (and basically bribed its Parliament) in return for Scotland joining with its neighbour in a union in which it would inevitably play the lesser part. 

This was wildly unpopular with the Scottish public who had mostly decided that blame for the failure lay squarely on English shoulders.  It was good news for Greenock though, as suddenly the colonies of English North America were opened up to Scottish shipping, and that in turn is why John Scott began building ships there in 1711.

St Laurence’s Bay

The pier that the second Darien expedition set out from had jutted into St Laurence’s Bay, the eastern end of which was the curved headland of Garvel Point, which I now approached by means of a promenade.  There wouldn’t be all that much of it, I knew, so I endeavoured to make the most of it while I could.

Promenade in cartsdyke leading towards James watt Dock
Whooohoooo! I’m making the most of this.
James Watt Dock

The promenade led me to James Watt Dock, opened in 1886 and named after the famous engineer (his 1781 steam engine helped kick-start the Industrial Revolution).  At the time, it was intended to accommodate some of the largest vessels on the Clyde. Today it is home to one of the oldest — TS Queen Mary.

TS Queen Mary
TS Queen Mary
No, not that Queen Mary. A different one.

Not to be mistaken for RMS Queen Mary, the Cunard ocean liner now moored in Long Beach, California, this aged monarch is the Turbine Steamship Queen Mary, built at Dumbarton in 1933. 

One of the last steamships to be launched from the Clyde shipyards, she conveyed passengers ‘doon the watter’ from Glasgow to various ports within the Firth of Clyde. A valuable transport link, she avoided being taken up for minesweeper duties in WW2 (unlike many of her contemporaries) but lost out to the rise of cheap flights and package holidays abroad in the 1960s and 70s. 

Retired in 1977, TS Queen Mary moved to London, where she became a floating restaurant moored at Victoria Embankment.  She was sold to a new owner in 2008 who planned to refit her (again as a restaurant) and remove her to France but she never got further abroad than Tilbury Docks before being sold again in 2011.  Four years later, a group calling itself ‘Friends of the TS Queen Mary’ succeeded in acquiring her and she was finally towed home to Greenock in May of this year.  She has since undergone renovation and refitting and it is planned that she will become a floating museum.

East Hamilton Street

It wasn’t possible to continue along the quayside at James Watt Dock on account of there being a dock crane blocking the way. Instead, I had to return to the busy A8 and follow it eastwards past the far end of the dock and various riverside industrial premises. 

Inchgreen Dry Dock

I trekked along beside the roaring traffic for maybe a mile, when a smaller side street presented itself beside the gates of Inchgreen Dry Dock

Britain’s largest dry dock at 1000 ft (304.8 m) in length, Inchgreen was opened in 1964 at a cost in of over £4 m and was designed to be able to hold RMS Queen Mary (that’s the big one in Long Beach, not the one a mile away). Today, it is owned by Peel Ports and infrequently leased out, often with years between projects.  This may change however…

Last year the billionaire entrepreneur Jim McCollScotland’s richest man and recent saviour of the bankrupt Ferguson Marine shipyard at Port Glasgow — showed an interest in buying it as Ferguson’s limited size was restricting the orders that they could accept.  The resulting negotiations are secret but Peel’s owner, Birkenhead-based ship-repairers Cammell Laird, are believed to be far from keen to sell, preferring to stick to their leasing model.  If they do succeed in striking a deal, large-scale shipbuilding could yet return to the Clyde.

Three cranes at Inchgreen Dry Dock
If these cranes had fingers, they’d be crossing them.
Inchgreen Gasworks Development

Next door to the dry dock was a shiny new housing development on the former site of Inchgreen Gasworks. So new in fact that at the time of writing the ‘earth’ view on Google Maps still shows half of it as waste ground.  The houses had been provided with another short stretch of riverside promenade connecting with the A8, which had swung out to briefly run beside the shore.

Port Glasgow

West Quay

A little further on, a small splodge of industrial back streets interpolated themselves between the Clyde and the A-road and I wandered through them to regain the river, passing a car mechanics’ garage.  It was at this point I realised that I had been expecting a certain amount of post-industrial decay and general grimness on this walk but thus far, it had all been quite interesting. Indeed, the only aspect I wasn’t enjoying was the noisy and dreary A8, everything else was just fine.

Perch Light, Port Glasgow
Clearly, I had seen the light.

This particular light is Perch Light, a 19th century beacon with a natty paint job that makes me think it wants to be a rocket when it grows up.

Situated at the western end of Port Glasgow, Perch Light marks a sharp bend in the navigable channel to the Upper Clyde and Glasgow.  It is paired with the West Quay Lighthouse:

West Quayl Lighthouse, Port Glasgow
Oh for a magnetic chess set, also a ladder.
Town Building

The industrial back streets gave way unexpectedly to a pleasant little riverside park, planted on the site of an old, infilled harbour, on the far side of which was the site of Ferguson Marine.  The shipyard was an obstacle that had to be gone around, not through, and this brought me back to the A8, where I found Port Glasgow arrayed in all its glory, with its distinctive Town Building taking centre stage. 

Built in 1816 by prominent Glaswegian architect David Hamilton (1768-1843), it originally sat right upon the waterside.

Port Glasgow Town Building
It’s not the building that’s been moved.
Evolution of Port Glasgow

Port Glasgow (Port Ghlaschu) was originally named Newark after the castle built there by Sir George Maxwell in the late 15th century — Newark means literally the ‘new work’.  A small fishing village grew up around the castle and in 1668 this became the site of an outport for Glasgow, the sandbanks of the Clyde making journeys further upstream hazardous at the time. 

The quays and docks were known as Newport Glasgow and prompted the growth and development of Newark into a town, which by 1775 became known as Port Glasgow.  The original castle’s still there though, to the eastern side of Ferguson Marine.

Newark Castle

Built in 1478, when Sir George Maxwell inherited the barony of Finlaystone, the castle was home to generations of his descendants.

Sir George’s son, Patrick Maxwell, hosted James IV as a guest at the castle in 1495.  This was no idle visit, however. James had learned that the Lord of the Isles, John Macdonald, had hatched an alliance with England’s Edward IV and he couldn’t let that stand. He launched a series of punitive raids upon the Macdonalds using Newark Castle as a stopover.

Montgomery-Cunningham Feud

Almost a century later, Patrick’s grandson and namesake, Sir Patrick Maxwell became closely involved in the feud between the Montgomerys and Cunninghams, which led to him murdering two of the former, namely Sir Robert Montgomery of Skelmorlie and his eldest son.  Montgomery’s younger son, also Robert, snuck into Newark Castle to avenge his relatives but was discovered and dissuaded by Patrick who protested that Robert should thank him for making him Laird of Skelmorlie. Incredibly, this worked and the two became firm friends!

This choice of friends does not reflect well on young Robert as Sir Patrick was an utter shit of a man, fierce, violent and so abusive to his wife that his own mother made a formal complaint to the Privy Council in 1595 (which they ignored).  Eventually, his wife fled to Dumbarton, where she died alone and in poverty.  Sir Patrick lived out the rest of his life warm and cosy in his castle.

Selling It Off

It was Sir Patrick’s grandson (also named Patrick) who sold off some of his land to form Port Glasgow in 1668.  Then, just as we’ve got a good pattern going, this Patrick’s grandson breaks it in two significant ways: 

Firstly he wasn’t called Patrick (he was John) and secondly he was the last of the Maxwells of Newark, dying in 1694. The castle was sold off to William Cochrane, who sublet it. It then passed through various hands before falling into public ownership in 1909.  Today it is owned by Historic Scotland; I found it closed with locked gates.

Newark Castle
Keeping people out is what castles are built for.

Until recently, Newark Castle was surrounded on its landward sides by shipyards but now stands in its own little park, the yards — apart from Ferguson — having been demolished.  I thus strolled merrily through what had once been Lamont’s Shipyard (1929-1966) but was now a delightful open, green space.  This became a tad less open when the path edged along past a car park and plunged into a sizeable copse of trees.

Timber Ponds

I emerged from the far end of the trees to discover what looked like a strange forest of wooden poles jutting out of the water in strangely regular pattern.  These were the remains of timber ponds, used to store timber for shipbuilding back in the day. 

In the 18th century, when shipbuilding began to demand ever more timber, it was imported from North America in special vessels fitted with bow doors. Upon arrival, it was dropped into the timber ponds, where the salt water seasoned and preserved it. 

The last wooden ship to be built on the Clyde was launched in 1859, after which the timber ponds were obsolete.  They’re still there though.

Kelburn Boardwalk

I was afforded a particularly good view of these poles — not that you can tell from the photo below — by the next section of path.  As the footpath curved around with the trees, the A8 moved to occupy the shoreline, leaving no space to safely walk.  This could have been a problem except that someone had already realised that and a handy boardwalk neatly dealt with the problem.

Kelburn Boardwalk
I’m not sure if ‘handy’ was the right word there; I wasn’t walking on my hands.

The Kelburn Boardwalk conveyed me to Kelburn Park, another bit of wooded park between the river and the A-road.  Upstream the path continued into Parklea, a further area of parkland.  That was a dead end, however, so I elected not to go there, instead ducking under the A8 and then heading east along a pedestrian footpath that was provided on its landward side. 

Clyde Coastal Path

Filling a Gap

I was now, I learned, also walking the Clyde Coastal Path, a route created by the local Rotary Club to fill in the gap between the Ayrshire Coastal Path and the West Highland Way.  My introduction to it was less than enthralling, as I trudged along beside the A-road following it out of Port Glasgow.  But what it lacked in say, peace and quiet, it made up for with excitement…

Decapitation Danger!

I was ambling along, minding my own business and admiring a small waterfall off on my right, when one of the speeding vehicles suddenly shed a hubcap. The plastic disc flew up and hurtled past my no-doubt shocked-looking face, missing my throat by inches.  I had foolishly been thinking of the A-road as ‘dull’ but this sudden automotive attack certainly remedied that, I can tell you.  Blimey!

Finlaystone House

According to my map the estate of Finlaystone House was situated to the south of the A8, presumably on the far side of a low stone wall that now bounded the footway.  I was aware that the house and gardens were open to the public (for a fee) and as my map showed a driveway cutting off from the A8 ahead, I thought I might pay my money and use their roads as an alternative route set amid the lush greenery. And then I reached the gate.

A badly-rusted and overgrown gate.
The greenery was lusher than anticipated.

I was initially perplexed — I knew the house and gardens were still open — but quickly surmised they must have stopped using this entrance (which they had).  With little choice, I pressed forwards, and before long I reached the other estate gateway, which was altogether more neatly manicured

Sadly, Finlaystone House was now beside me and I decided that reversing direction to see it was literally a step too far.  This was perhaps  a shame as it was the home of the Earls of Glencairn, the heads of Clan Cunningham. 

History of the House

The Cunninghams acquired it by marriage — Sir William Cunningham married Margaret Dennistoun in 1405, she having inherited it from her father Sir Robert, whose lands were split upon his death. Her sister Elizabeth inherited what would later become known as Newark and married Sir Robert Maxwell (their son George would build Newark Castle), which if nothing else explains why the Cunninghams and Maxwells were such good allies during the feud with the Montgomerys. 

Finlaystone house was sold in 1862 and again in 1882, becoming the property of George Jardine Kidston. His great-grandson George Gordon MacMillan, chieftain of Clan MacMillan, owns it today.


A little further on from the entrance to the Finlaystone Estate, the A8 passed under a railway bridge. Immediately thereafter, the path veered off from the A-road and into a quiet cul-de-sac that was clearly the A-road’s old route, long since bypassed.  The reason for the bypass was that this was also the main road of the village of Langbank which, prior to the 1970s, had to put up with the A-road traffic roaring past their front doors.

Langbank village grew up around its station, forming a dormitory village for Glasgow, which it still very much is.  It even still has the railway too.  Its main road is now the B789, and is joined to the A8 by a slip road, where the traffic roars past a few hundred yards away, still noisy but less likely to hit anyone. 

An unfortunate side effect of building the bypass was that it required that small streams emptying into the Clyde were culverted and these have since become blocked leading to annual flooding in Langbank village.  Fortunately, it was dry as a bone when I arrived there and I quickly decided that I was equally parched.  I thus parked myself in a bar and restaurant and enjoyed a refreshing gin and tonic along with an excellent lunch.

Leaving Langbank

Rested, refuelled and refreshed, I walked the main road to the far end of the village where the B789 veered inland.  A sign for the Clyde Coastal Path bid me continue beside the A8 but I’d had more than enough of that.

I followed the B-road as it climbed gently amid sheep-dotted fields until it joined the Old Greenock Road, which clung to the hillside above the Clyde, a reminder of days when the shore was too marshy and tidal to traverse.

The B-designated route soon swung off inland, heading for Johnstone, while I kept to the now unclassified Old Greenock Road.  This ran roughly in parallel to the A8 below, which split to spawn the M8 motorway beside it.  I was glad to be on my high country road, dodging just the occasional vehicle.


Old Greenock Road

Near the outskirts of Bishopton, my map and the actual road had a bit of a disagreement, despite the former having been printed as recently as 2014.  I came to a crossroads where I expected Old Greenock Road to continue as the main highway, crossed by a minor road, but the latter was clearly now a major thoroughfare. It was, in fact, a shiny new link road to Dargavel village, which is itself a new development on the site of a former Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF). 

As for the way forwards, well:

Old Greenock Road (closed to motor vehicles)
I think Old Greenock Road just got older.

With no traffic to concern me, I ambled merrily along the remaining half mile or so of Old Greenock Road as it led me into Bishopton (Baile an Easbaig).

Bishopton & Dargavel

Bishopton was formed in 1840 when two hamlets — Blackstown and Easter Rossland — merged and named their combined settlement after nearby Bishopton House.  The following year, the Caledonian Railway opened its railway station, confirming its place on the map. 

About a mile to the south of the village stood Dargavel House, a 1514 tower house built by a branch of the Maxwells.  In WW2, this became the heart of ROF Bishopton, the Royal Ordnance‘s primary manufacturer of propellants and a significant local employer.  Privatised in the 1980s, ROF Bishopton became a site of BAE Systems but was finally decommissioned in 2003, which is why they’re building houses all over it and new roads to get into it.

My road had led me into Bishopton proper, where I availed myself of a useful shop before heading back out again on the B815.  This was a fairly unremarkable road for the most part, apart from the whacking great monument off to one side in a field. 

Blantyre Monument
Blantyre Monument
Someone was clearly a pillar of the community.

It was, I’ve since learned, the Blantyre Monument, commemorating Major-General Robert Walter Stuart, 11th Lord Blantyre, who lived nearby.

Having served bravely under the Duke of Wellington and survived the Napoleonic Wars, in 1830 he was shot to death by accident in Brussels — struck by a stray bullet while observing the Belgian Revolution from a window. 

The monument was designed by William Burn (the architect of Greenock Custom House).

Mar Hall

The B815 took me past a side-road leading to Mar Hall, which as Erskine House had been Lord Blantyre’s home.  I had no time for diversions, though, as I needed to reach a larger and more recent construction, namely the Erskine Bridge

Erskine Bridge

About the Bridge

Standing 45 m high, this cable-stayed beast is the most dowstream bridge across the Clyde and was opened in 1971 at a cost of £10½ m.  It replaced the Erskine Ferry, established in 1777, whose operators can’t have been greatly pleased about that.  It is more efficient at getting vehicles across though, so I can’t fault it there. It’s just not very attractive.

Downstream view from Erskine Bridge
Unlike the view downstream.
K8 Telephone Kiosks

The bridge has the usual SOS telephones dotted along its length as quite apart from needing to clear accidents quickly, the bridge has been a magnet for suicides — not literally of course, or they’d never actually fall off — but it also has a traditional red phone box standing at either end.  Except these aren’t your typical archaic tourist-trap model, oh no. These are K8s, the up-to-date, cutting-edge, ultra-modern phone box design of 1968:

BT K8 Phone Box
The shining future needs a lick of paint

Whenever a new phone box was erected in the 1970s, it would invariably be a K8. Approximately eleven thousand of them were installed, only to be mostly ripped out again and replaced in the 1980s.  And then along came mobile phones that were actually mobile and not the size of a brick and three times as heavy and most of those phone boxes went the way of the dodo too. 

Today, just twelve K8s remain in situ, and two of those stand sentry at the ends of Erskine Bridge.

Old Kilpatrick

Historical Claims to Fame

In crossing the river I had changed county, descending from the bridge onto the soil of Dunbartonshire.  I was now in Old Kilpatrick (Cille Phàdraig), which claims to be birthplace of St Patrick

One thing that it definitely was is the western end of the Antonine Wall — the Romansother great British fortification, built twenty years after Hadrian’s and about three centuries before St Patrick was even born.  Constructed on the orders of Emperor Antoninus Pius (86-161), the wall was basically a huge turf bank rather than masonry but a significant engineering feat nonetheless.  It took twelve years to build, starting in 142 but was abandoned just eight years after completion when the legions retreated to Hadrian’s Wall in 162.

Directional Decisions

Having crossed the Clyde, I was now faced with a choice. I needed to decide not just which direction to head but the whole basis of my next set of walks. 

I could continue being more-or-less coastal, in which case I should now head west along the river to Dumbarton, or I could follow the Clyde Coastal Path north to Milngavie and join the West Highland Way.  I had already given this some thought and my conclusion was that I should defer the decision. Glasgow lay 11 miles east of my position, the largest city in Scotland (though not its capital) and the third largest in the UK (after London and Birmingham).  I would go there.

Lusset Glen

For road traffic, getting from Old Kilpatrick to Glasgow involved a more-or-less straight line journey along the A814.  But that was a pretty busy A-road and I had a quieter route in mind.  This first involved me heading back towards the river, which involved passing through a delightful stretch of wooded parkland alongside the gurgling Dalnottar Burn.

Dalnottar Burn in Lusset Glen
It was quite a contrast with the Clyde.

I emerged from the park into the streets of Old Kilpatrick, where I crossed the aforementioned A814 and then an old swing bridge over a canal.

Forth & Clyde Canal 

Canal History

The canal in question was the Forth & Clyde, opened in 1790 to link the two firths across the narrowest point, like a Scottish Panama Canal, only smaller and earlier.  Like most of Britain’s canals, initial success was eroded by the invention of the railways and killed off for good by decent roads.  It finally closed in 1963, becoming derelict, but was renovated in the early 2000s using funds from the Millennium Commission

Ferry Road Swing Bridge

The swing bridge I’d just crossed, for instance, was restored in 2001. It had been built in the 1930s by the company of the late Sir William Arrol (1839-1913), a prominent civil engineer (the company also constructed the Forth Bridge and Tower Bridge in London).  The road across the swing bridge led down to Erskine Ferry, forming part of an important cross-river route.

Ferry Road Swing Bridge, with Erskine Bridge behind it
Today that route is over.  Right over — it’s way up there on Erskine Bridge.
Ambling Eastwards

I headed east along the largely deserted canal path, passing only the occasional cyclist or dog walker. 

Forth & Clyde Canal
No need to barge my way through crowds.

My route looked like the photo above for most of the next three miles. 

Farm Road Bascule Footbridge

About a mile in, I passed another bridge, to which a dog was tied and barking excitedly. A small knot of onlookers were watching it, one of whom was talking into her phone with a level of excitement equal to the dog’s. It seemed that someone had tied the dog to a railing and abandoned it, hence its wild excitement at seeing new people. 

The woman on the phone had the matter pretty much in hand and I figured one more onlooker would hardly help.

Dalmuir Drop Lock

Half a mile later, the canal was crossed by Dumbarton Road, part of the A814.  This occurred in the Clydebank suburb of Dalmuir (Dail Mhoire), once a shipbuilding and paper-making town in its own right. 

I was naturally expecting a bridge, and there was one, but the bridge was at the same level as the canal.  As I drew closer, I realised that there was a lock on either side of the bridge and when I got closer still a handy sign explained how Dalmuir Drop Lock works:

It’s actually very simple.  The road stays level, and the canal drops down to pass underneath it.  And, because canals don’t cope well with ramps and slopes, there are locks to lower the water level.  A boat passes into one lock, drops to a level low enough to go under the bridge and does so then enters the second lock to be raised back up to canal level.  Simple. 

The drop lock is an old idea, mooted many times previously, but Dalmuir is the first one actually built.  It was constructed during the canal’s restoration after concern that restoring the original swing bridge would be too disruptive to traffic.


Abandoning the Canal

After the drop lock, the canal led me into Clydebank (Bruach Chluaidh), a town that sprang up out of empty fields in the 1870s, as the shipyards and related industries expanded out of Glasgow.  The canal led me through its shopping centre before I diverted away from it, following cycle route NCN 7.

Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway

This headed through an industrial-looking area before joining what could only be the line of a disused railway.

The railway in question was the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway, a subsidiary of the Caledonian Railway opened in 1896 and running between Dumbarton and Glasgow.  It was closed to passengers in 1964 under the infamous Beeching Axe but the line remained open for freight until 1993. 



As I followed its course, the old railway changed from a low-lying tree-flanked path to one upon a high embankment, punctuated by iron bridges carrying it over streets. If I’d had any doubts that this had been a railway (which I didn’t) they’d have been dispelled for sure at the remnants of Scotstoun East station.

East Scotstoun Station
We apologise to passengers for the ongoing delay to your service

I was now in the outer parts of Glasgow, which today is its own council area but traditionally falls within Lanarkshire.  The railway path ended in the district of Whiteinch, just short of where Whiteinch Riverside Station once stood, a site now occupied by a car showroom.

Whiteinch takes its name from an island that stood in the Clyde before it was dredged and narrowed.  It was one of the points where the Clyde was crossed by ferries until 1963, when the Clyde Tunnel was opened. 

To its north lies Victoria Park, which contains the famous Fossil Grove where, in 1887, the fossilised stumps of eleven extinct Lepidodendron trees were discovered.  These ancient trees were one of the most abundant trees of the Carboniferous period (about 359 million to 299 million years ago), living in the wettest parts of swamps.


With the railway path having ended, I now found myself walking alongside a busy road towards Partick (Pàrtaig). There I encountered Rise, my second Andy Scott sculpture of the day:

She’d look at home on the bonnet of a really enormous Rolls Royce.

An ancient village, dating back to the Cumbric-speaking Kingdom of Strathclyde, Partick is said to have been home to King Rydderch Hael, a heroic figure of the Hen Ogledd or Old North

Partick remained a tiny village until the nineteenth century, when the steep drop of the River Kelvin made it ideal for watermills. By 1820, it had grown substantially, providing much of Glasgow’s milling, and in 1852 it became a police burgh (a legal status creating a town with powers to establish paving, lighting, cleaning, water supplies and — of course — police).

In Partick, NCN 7 briefly became an awful adjunct to a roaring dual carriageway section of the A814 but this was only to get me across the River Kelvin.  On its far side, I crossed the A-road by footbridge and found myself on the banks of the Clyde alongside the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC), opened in 1985. 

City Centre

My last couple of miles were along a riverside promenade, where once industrial quays would have been.  The light was failing as I reached the heart of Glasgow and the city’s lights glittered on the Clyde.

The Clyde
Glasgow welcomes helpful mammals.

When I reached my hotel I was glad to sit down but not before the receptionist had expressed amazement that I had walked from Greenock.  Not at the distance, mind you. 

‘I’m amazed you’re alive,’ she said, ‘some of those parts aren’t safe’.

Distance Summary

Hasteful MammalThis time: 23 miles
Total since Gravesend: 2,622 miles

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