Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mugdock Wood and Drumclog Moor: The Beginning of the West Highland Way

Entry for 5 Oct 2007:

For this week’s Saturday Adventure, we decided to take a walk on the West Highland Way, and in the process encountered some very interesting local place names and a ruined castle we had never heard of.

Even on Saturday, trains run from Hyndland to Milngavie, which is the beginning of the trail. (By the way, Milngavie is pronounced, “Mull-guy”, and is a confusing transliteration of the Gaelic for David’s Mill.) From there, we blundered about the town centre a bit until we found the trailhead.

The West Highland Way, at this point parallels the Alland Water, a busy stream flowing between often fairly steep banks. The beginning of the trail is not very nice, leading through an abandoned car park, complete with drunk sitting under a porch, then following a path between two walls. Then, an industrial park came into view on the other side of the river, on our left. Soon, however, we left the town behind and the views opened up on either side. Drumclog Moor, full of dying bracken, green and brown, lay on our right, sloping up the hill.

We came to two curved stones set in the path and carved with cursive writing, which we eventually (on the way back) figured out marked the boundary between Drumclog Moor and the Mugdock Wood. (Where do they get these names?; I have been unable to find this out…) We walked on, passing many people out with their dogs, all different kinds of dogs. Mugdock Wood is one of the heritage forests consisting of the original mixed trees, including many old gnarled oaks. It felt peaceful. I entertained myself with fantasies of walking or running the whole trail, which goes all the way to Fort William, 95 miles to the north.

We walked until we reached a road (Kyber Pass, this is called on the trail, an imperial allusion), about 2.5 miles from the beginning of the trail. We turned around and walked back to where we had seen a steep trail going off to the right (now our left), sign-posted for Mugdock Castle. I am a sucker for Scottish castles (of which there is said to be some 3000), so we headed in that direction, up the hill, then along a rather ratty and uneven board walk, and finally up a quite rocky path to the top of the hill.

… Where we found a large ruined castle, with a tall, intact keep and outer wall mostly intact, and the ruins of a large Victorian era mansion, last inhabited in the 1940’s. In 60 years, it had mostly fallen down, so that only the ground floor walls now remain, the rest of having been carted off in the form of rubble. We had no idea that there was castle here, and found ourselves sobered by how quickly it had fallen apart.

There were many people there, out enjoying the pleasant day; a south Asian family was being video-recorded by one their members. Small children ran noisily about, while teenagers climbed on the remaining walls, ignoring the signs warning them not to do so. Various signs indicated to that we had emerged into the middle of Mugdock Country Park, a large parkland which will require much more time to fully explore.

However, we needed to head back before our feet got too sore, so it was back down the hill, past more of stones with flowing, poetic writing set into the path. Back onto the West Highland Way, back through Milngavie, onto the train, and home again, another successful Saturday Adventure concluded.

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