Bringing it all back home

The rolling hill country north of Glasgow is a whole different kettle of fish from the city itself.  It's wide open, green and very pretty, all twisting roads, old villages and atmospheric scenery.  Mugdock has it all - lochs, castles, old-growth forest, and tracks leading just about everywhere.  If you have a gravel, cyclocross or XC bike, it's a fantastic place to explore. 

I grew up in this country north of Glasgow.  I rode here when I was a teenager, north from Jordanhill through Anniesland along the same paths I once walked with Mum as a toddler; then up through Dawsholm Park, Bearsden and Milngavie, and out to Carbeth.  Blanefield was as far as I got.  I was fourteen.  My Dad bought me a red 10-speed Raleigh Ace which he couldn't afford and which had drop handlebars, complete with chicken levers, and non-indexed gears on the downtube.  It was an actual racer, as we called them.  I kept that bike until I was 28, and I wish I had it now.  I rode it endlessly until I started uni, then didn't ride for nine years until I moved to Milton Keynes.  I won't hear a bad word against that place; I moved there when I was 26, and it had hundreds of kilometres of bike paths.  God, if everywhere had that.  I rode it the 11 kilometres to work often, and back, in all weathers... and then I moved to NZ.  I sold everything.  I gave the bike to the next tenant, in 1998.  I hope he still rides it.  

There were so many adventures on that bike.  I was once innocently caught up in a police sting operation in Fishermead and ran over an English policeman on it; but that's another story.  


The castle.  No bar, unfortunately. Sir Hugh might have been appalled

Hugh Fraser died young, but the life he lived... he left his Mugdock estate to the people, so everyone could enjoy it.  A farsighted guy with a big heart, I think.   It's a now a country park a few kilometres north of Glasgow, with serene lochs, two ruined castles, a great coffee shop, and kilometres of trails which link up with other trails, service roads and backcountry paths in all directions north, west and east, including the West Highland Way, a sort of pedestrian motorway from Milngavie to Dumgoyne.  It eventually goes to Fort William; I walked it with Dad years ago, during one of the best weeks of my life.  Now you can ride gorgeous trail in the park then jump onto the Way to head north quickly past the lochs at Craigallian and Carbeth, and up to the Trossachs, Kilpatricks and Loch Lomond.  If you go east instead of north, you can ride out through the village.  


Slack morning at Mugdock Loch


View south from WWII anti-aircraft battery

Mugdock village is a group of stone buildings and walls on top of a shallow hill overlooking green fields and could be in northern Spain or southern France apart from the incredibly crap weather and the fact that you can see Glasgow, just, from parts of it; this kind of spoils the effect.  But Mugdock village is much older than the parts of Glasgow you can see from here; it must have been truly beautiful before.  When the fields went more or less to the horizon, and there were no people in white track suits talking incomprehensibly through their noses at you, by the way.  


Leaving Mugdock village, heading west

The main north-south roads east of Mugdock village don't look all that bad, but they're narrow, full of blind corners and people driving too fast, and fearsome for cyclists.  Cross over and take the road east to Baldernock, keep going to Torrance and Lennoxtown, either by the Campsie road, or via the back roads and the occasional farm gate.  An even better way to Lennoxtown is north out of Mugdock village on the road that circles the country park, then turn right onto Old Mugdock Road for a few kilometres through lovely rolling fields to Strathblane.  Once there take the Strathkelvin rail trail to Lennoxtown.  When I was young this was called Pow Burn.  


Craigallion Loch

Note: the access to the rail trail shown on Google maps from Milngavie Road opposite Dumbrock Road didn't exist the last time I was there (September 2015) - it's a closed property built I think on the old station location and it's gated from the trail on the side you can't see from the road.  To get onto the start of the trail, turn right out of Old Mugdock Road onto Dumbrock, left onto Milngavie, then 1st right at the roundabout onto Strathblane.  70m along, the second access way on the right (opposite the church) takes you down to the trail which veers left from there.  

There are so many old roads in this part of the country that it's a paradise for cyclists.  I hadn't ridden any of them for years, and most of them not at all, until 2015 when I was there for a few months and took to a new bike to explore.  


I haven't lived in Scotland for nearly 20 years and have no particular wish to live there again, but this is the country I grew up in.  I found I knew it not at all, but occasionally came across a memory, from 30 years ago, a farm gate I'd climbed over, the volcanic cone at Dumgoyach, an old ruin, the strange village at Gartness; even just a bend in the road.  Rediscovering these things, feeling the heavy air, the dense smells of the forest, the cold northerly, the thump of the old roads under the wheels, pools of still water, slick oceans of pine needles and the slow drip of the hazels - it felt good.  On long rides I learned to judge the cold, damp northerly on long circular rides instead of the cool, dry southerly I'm used to in NZ.  Familiar, heavy air, harder to part but somehow easier to ride in; a known quantity, trustworthy.  I used to know thisClose to the bonk, a long day in, I turned south and rode it home.  


Cadder Church

Main picture: the West Highland Way passing Craigallion Loch (out of sight on the right), heading for Dumgoyne

vélo vino dodo