Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kilpatrick Braes

Entry for 6 February 2010:

For last week's Saturday Adventure, we took the train to Old Kilpatrick, down the River Clyde, just past Dalmuir. We got off at the Kilpatrick station, turned right down the main road, crossed under the rail line and the A82, and walked up and up and up into the Kilpatrick Braes. We walked uphill for at least an hour, pausing regularly to look around as Glasgow and Firth of Clyde gradually unfolded around us. Although it was a grey, misty day, the view was still stunning.

First, we saw the Erskine Bridge emerge from behind the village, looming over it. Soon, however, we were above it, and we could see the River Clyde twisting away east behind it, into the distance, a ribbon between the buildings Glasgow lining both sides.

We passed a farm and then the path became rough and steeper. We passed a little tree shrine by the side of the road, with children’s toys and Christmas ornaments nestled in the branches, telling a story that we could only guess at. As we walked further, the Erskine Bridge seemed to shrink beneath us, and we could see further east as far as the grey and mist would let us. We could see the Campsie Fells, and Bearsden and Milngavie. At this distance, it was the highrise blocks of flats and the tall buildings of the city centre that stood out to view. We looked west down the Firth of Clyde, but the ridge of the brae was in the way and we couldn’t see much. We pushed on, and finally reached the ridge so that we could see beyond it.

There in the distance was Dumbarton Rock, actually looking rather small from where we were. Beyond it, on the far side of the Firth, we could see the sweep of the coast and there was Greenock, a bit to the left of the point where the Firth makes its sharp left turn and heads south toward Ayrshire. And beyond that, the uplands that run west of Glasgow, forming the rest of the rim of the great bowl into which Glasgow is nestled. It was magnificent.

We look down the other side of the ridge into a little valley where sheep were small grazing patches far below. We followed the path as it ran up along the ridge, away from the Clyde, and as we did so, the land became wilder, craggy and bracken-covered. Canny, alert, wild sheep watched us suspiciously from further up. The path entered a little valley between low, craggy hills. We walked just a little ways further, turned around and came back down, experiencing the whole thing in reverse and front of us this time.

* * *

Four days later, as I flew out of Glasgow on the first leg of a trip to Portugal, the plan took off to the northeast, as happens when there is an east wind. I flew over the same territory that we’d walked on our adventure, but from even further up. Starting from the Erskine Bridge I retraced our walk with my eyes, and saw what was beyond the little valley where we turned around and went back: Loch Humphries perched amid the hills, and further to the right, rocky Duncolm. How many times have I flown over these hills in the past 4 years? And only now do I begin to really know them in my body, my legs and my feet, as real places, rough and grassy, craggy and smooth, lonely spaces with occasional sheep.

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