Friday, 19 August 2011

My Favourite Half-Day

One of the nice things about living in Scotland is that wherever you live, it is usually possible to find a pleasant walk or cycle of between two and four hours just a stone's throw from your door. These days in Midlothian my favourite half-days are Allermuir Hill from Glencorse, the Water of Leith, or the River Esk from Roslin to Mavisbank. But of all my favourite Scottish half-days, the best must be from Glasgow. It's a triple-dessert of The Whangie, Devil's Pulpit and the Dumpling, showcasing the cool geology and heart-stopping views just a few miles drive from the city. If there isn't time for all three, then just one or two can be visited. (You can also have a great half-day just walking round the city centre and west end, looking at the people, parks and architecture.)

The first stop on this buffet of a tour is the Whangie. This is a feature on the side of little Auchineden Hill, taking no more than three-quarters of an hour to ascend (quicker if you aren't in company), with views across to the stumpy rhinoceros horn of Dumgoyne and distant Loch Lomond (the Whangie car park is called the Queen's View, as this spot on the road provided Queen Victoria with her first view of Loch Lomond). Turn south and you can see the towerblocks of Glasgow gleaming in the sun. But it is not the summit view that this place is famous for: leave the summit, heading west (be careful in mist!) and you will get to the unusual feature of the Whangie. This is a cliff that has peeled away from the parent rockface, forming a deep fissure that can be walked through. Geologists claim ths is a volcanic landslips. People in the olden days knew better though: the cleft was formed by a whip-crack of the devil's tail.

In the Whangie:

The least welcoming of the three short walks is the Devil's Pulpit, just 4km from the Whangie. It's dank, subterranean nature is a world away from the other two sky-walks, and difficult to photograph. But the short (it is barely half a kilometre) walk along Finnich Glen then down rock-cut steps to the bottom of a river gorge, winding walls above you and a rushing river at eye level, is highly atmospheric. Last time I visited the Devil's Pulpit access was not possible as a metal door had gone up over the hole-in-the-wall that previously gave access. However, it wasn't a high door...

Whangie View:

If you follow this itinerary then the best is saved till last. The Dumpling, a small, abrupt volcanic plug above Gartocharn is arguably the best viewpoint in the Lowlands. On the map it is called Duncryne, but I've only ever known it as The Dumpling.

Sign at the bottom of the Dumpling:

Park just south of Gartocharn where the road widens. You will know you are at the right spot because there is a stile with a notice that mentions teddy bears. The walk is short and popular with local families. In fact it was Gartocharn resident Tom Weir's favourite walk.

You approach the Dumpling via a short path through the 'teddy bear' wood, then a short but very steep path takes you right up to the top, where there is a trig point and ancient shielings hidden in the bracken. I recommend you keep your head down as you approach the summit, then lift it on touching the trig point. It is not just the steep ascent that will take your breath away.

View from the Dumpling - summer:

This half-day itinerary can be done over a long summer evening, reaching Duncryne as the sun sets on a golden day. It can also be done as a winter afternoon, taking advantage of any unexpected West Coast sunshine.

View from the Dumpling - winter:


blueskyscotland said...

Some of my favourite places as well.
Dont think I,ve explored Roslin to Mavisbank route yet so thanks for that Robert.
Always looking for new places to visit.

Robert Craig said...

Go in autumn, you won't regret it. Midlothian Council's logo is an oak leaf after all. Roslin Glen, Roslin Castle, Roslin Chapel, Roslin Gorge, Wallace's Cave, Hawthornden Castle, Mavisbank House, Laird and Dog pub.