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New John Muir Way - Bonnybridge to Lennoxtown

New John Muir Way - Bonnybridge to Lennoxtown

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Feb 13, 2024 11:09 pm

Route description: John Muir Way

Date walked: 11/02/2024

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Bonnybridge to Croy
Sunday 4th February 2024

I appear to once again have made a pact with myself to watch every Six Nations match on television, which meant that I was inside for most of quite a nice Saturday - I wanted a tiny hill on the Sunday, but the weather forecast stayed stubbornly bad for anywhere within reach, and I eventually came to the conclusion that a wet winter Sunday was exactly the right kind of weather for getting an uneventful stretch of Forth and Clyde canal, now under the guise of the John Muir Way, over with for the second time.

The bus from Falkirk to Bonnybridge took an unexpected route, sneaking up on it from the back, but I managed to get off in the right place, and figure out that I wasn't supposed to go back through the tunnel under the canal which was my last landmark - it was pretty dreich, although cheered up a bit by an optimistic mural.

Welcome to Bonnybridge

Then trudge trudge trudge along the canal path - it was fine, really, steady rain but not pouring wet, and with wintry views of greenish fields. The first lock surprised me, because I'd got used to walking on the Union Canal where there are none, but it made a nice marker.

A lock

A bit further on I came to a classic Scottish scene, a cormorant posing in the canal with a traffic cone.

Cormorant and traffic cone

It got a bit wetter, and I plodded on, past the lock at Wyndford where I left and rejoined the canal the last time round, and onto a long straight bit which stretched into the grey distance.

Canal in the rain

There were actually a couple of things to see, a little siding (if canals have such a thing), and the site of a horse drawn railway at Kelvinhead, and it got almost dry, so that I sat down on a stone bench to eat some lunch while I had the chance. From there it wasn't far to the bridge at Craigmarloch, where I was to turn off up Croy Hill - briefly onto a minor road, and then paths slanting uphill.

Onto Croy Hill

Somehow up here it felt like the very beginning of spring rather than the end of winter, although there wasn't much to show for it except the catkins - just something in the air. There was quite a good view back towards the canal, but the clouds were sitting so low on the hills on the other side that I knew I'd made the right decision.

This path met a bigger path, signposted as the Antonine Wall, and then there was a surprisingly large Roman head, together with some information about the area.

Roman head

From there a muddier path led up the hill, mostly accompanied by the ditch which once ran alongside the wall - although there's one stretch where the rock apparently defeated the Romans.

On Croy Hill

Croy station was my destination for the day, and Croy village was now in view down below, although it took a bit of reaching - past quarry buildings and some new houses where a link to the road was blocked off, and along another bit of path to the road to Kilsyth, where I left the JMW and turned towards the village.

Joining up

The path led on straight up the hill to the site of a little fortlet at the top, but the map there showed the JMW running round the hill a bit further down, where I could see that there were information boards I hadn't read in the site of the main fort. However, when I got back down there I discovered that the markers pointed straight up the hill after all - I decided I wasn't going up again and just followed the bigger path round until everything joined up again.

Croy village in sight

Croy didn't seem to share Bonnybridge's illusions, and had a very different kind of welcome sign, although it did also have a Roman shield or similar.

Welcome to Croy

It was about half a mile through the village to the station, and since I was so close I went off to Glasgow for cake and a look round the Celtic Connections CD stall.

Croy to Lennoxtown
Sunday 11th February 2024

The next weekend it was mist that spoiled my plans, along with having to be home by 3 for the rugby - still, getting on with the John Muir Way was fine, even if it would see me back on the canal. I was on the first train to Croy at 8, with the intention of getting through to Lennoxtown or Milton of Campsie by 1 to get the 2 o'clock train from Glasgow, and then I'd worry about the scrappy bit to Strathblane later.

Back through Croy village, where someone was running home from the shop with his breakfast bread, and the church had its lights on (Catholics being keener on early rising than protestants), and very briefly onto the main road to turn off again onto a farm track running gently uphill.

Farm track

This led to a gate which announced that it was a Protected Place and a path through the woods, then a little slope up and a corner which revealed Castle Hill rising up ahead - I knew it was called a hill, but I was expecting something more like the lumps and bumps of Croy Hill.

Castle Hill in the mist

The ditch is very distinct here too - it's a reasonably dramatic landscape on a small scale.


It still wasn't much after 9, far too much steepness for so early in the day, but I toiled my way up to the trigpoint - I'm sure there should be a wonderful view from up here, but, except in the way that mist is fascinating, not today.

Castle Hill summit

The way down was also pretty steep, and I lost the waymarkers again, but made my way into the Roman fort - definite remains this time, not just the site, and a bath house as well. I know Cramond, but I really hadn't realised that there was such a Roman mark on Scotland.

Bar Hill fort

By the time I'd wandered over to the bath house any waymarkers there might be were long vanished into the mist, but I did know roughly where I was going and headed down to the fence, where I could see a cyclist who had appeared from nowhere going through a gate in the corner.

(He waited for me to catch up, and asked me if I was going far - I said probably Lennoxtown, and he said reassuringly "well, that's not far" - I suppose it isn't on a bike, but it was still about 10 miles, which a lot of people would consider a decent walk.)

The cyclist shot off downhill, and I followed more slowly down the curving track into Twechar. According to the map I only had to turn right, but I was a bit fascinated by what a place that size was doing with three churches and wandered off to look for them, and also found a replica Roman distance stone beside the community centre.

Distance stone at Twechar

As I retraced my steps I seemed to be coming to a level crossing - once I'd realised that it was actually the canal I realised that of course I had been to Twechar before, but only as far as the swing bridge.

Twechar swing bridge

I now had about three miles of canal to go to Kirkintilloch, where the canal and the JMW parted for good, past the ruined stables at Shirva.

Back on the canal

For a good part of it there were houses on the south bank, but an empty landscape to the north, quite attractive even in the mist.

Misty landscape

The canal meets Kirkintilloch properly at the first of several bridges, just before the basin at Hillhead which was the first terminus of the canal before it reached on to Glasgow - I should have turned off not far after that, but the path was closed off and I didn't realise it was marked as the JMW, so headed on towards the centre of the town (also I was desperate for the toilet).

Hillhead bridge

Again, the detour was worth it - Kirkintilloch has an enormous church and a well which said 'Ca canny but ca awa' and a nice old church and a marker for the northern edge of the Roman empire as well as a shopping centre with toilets, but it did mean that I now didn't have much time to spare if I was going to get to Lennoxtown by 1.

Edge of the empire

I rejoined the JMW by way of a back street with a monument to a lad who drowned in a flood while trying to rescue a child and a house which claimed to be a theatre - it was briefly a very dingy little path between buildings, but soon joined the line of the old railway which it would follow for the rest of the way, crossing the young River Kelvin, and then following one of its tributaries up to the remains of an old bridge over the railway.

Old railway bridge

This was quick walking, fortunately - flat and solid and with a few signs of spring in the verges. I started to meet more people out for walks as well, including a daft but polite brown dog which came dashing towards me but bounced to a halt just in time - in fact from here to Milton of Campsie every single dog was brown, so that I was starting to think there must be a rule about it.

It was nice enough in the woods, but with this kind of path there's never that much to see - it wasn't very long though before the first houses of Milton of Campsie were in sight, and then I was in what was unmistakeably the old station, still with its platforms, and with a new train-shaped bench.

Milton of Campsie

I had enough time to make it to Lennoxtown, but not much more - no time to turn aside into the village. The path continued on and crossed the Glazert Water, which was looking more like a country river now, shallow and clear.

Glazert Water

There were occasional glimpses of what would have been very good views if the weather had been different, but not much more than that, although the clouds did almost get above Cort-Ma-Law once or twice. I crossed a minor road, and passed another couple of places where I could have turned off, but I was aiming for the junction near the Crow Road - when the road leading up to it came in sight it was on a bridge well above the path, but fortunately there was a path up the side of the playing fields.

Campsies in the cloud

I'd timed it perfectly in the end, getting up to the junction about 5 minutes before the bus was due - unfortunately it was late and kept on getting later, so that I started worrying about missing my Glasgow connection, but the bus stopped just before Queen Street on its way to the bus station, so it was fine. Not that the rugby was entirely worth rushing home for, I'm never keen on whitewashes...
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