The Campsies and the Land of Lennox by Iain C Lees


Extracts from The Campsies and the Land of Lennox by Iain C Lees, describing walks around Strathblane.

(Blackie & Sons, Glasgow, 1933)

Secrets of the Campsie Fells

The rich valley of the Blane, which can be traced to its junction with Strathendrick, is the finest place for trampers within easy reach of Glasgow. The wooded banks of the river, the crags behind Blanefield, the Cuilt Brae and Dumgoyne offer scope for the lover of the open-air. The wooded heights of Dumgoyach, the standing stones behind Duntreath, and the Muckle Tree of Blairquhosh are well worth a visit.

Down the southern slopes of Earl’s Seat rises Ballagan Burn and by following a fence you can reach this stream which, lower down, becomes Blane Water. The most interesting point on the river’s course is Ballagan Spout, a fall of seventy feet, by which the water plunges into the valley below. When the stream is in flood the fall presents a magnificent sight as the water, with a voice of thunder, tumbles in foam into the rifted and rocky gorge beneath. The hollow into which the water plunges is filled with a collection of gigantic stones piled upon each other, and is adorned on its sides with many alternate strata of various hues.

A shortage of water has its advantages, for iti enables the wayfarer to approach the bottom of the waterfall, and examine more closely the geological wonders of the Ballagan Beds. More than two hundred beds of limestone, sandstone, and marly shale are seen tier on tier in a slightly inclined position, and capped by massive beds of whitish sandstone and trap.

An old castle of the Earls of Lennox stood near Ballagan Spout. Its foundations may still be traced near the garden of the modern house below. The Lennox Castle known to the present generation stands on the wooded slopes of South Brae across the valley. It was built about the middle of the nineteenth century, and was recently acquired by Glasgow Corporation for use as a hospital.

There is another well-known landmark in the Blane Valley, not far west from the Spout of Ballagan. It is Jenny’s Lum” on the crags behind Blanefield. When it “smokes”, so the natives say, rain is not faraway. The “smoke”” is the spray from the Netherton Burn which tumbles over the rocky heights.  It is only seen from the valley when a west wind blows, and it is a natural barometer for the district. The rocky fissure was named “Jenny’s Lum ” after a worthy villager called Jenny Brash who lived a long time ago at Netherton.

It is only five miles from Campsie to Dumgoyne, but it is a region on which many days can be spent. The Campsie Fells, with a few exceptions, are as free as the air you breathe. You can roam them as you please, and no one will challenge you. Fin Glen is one of the exceptions, but a permit is readily obtained. No hili region that I know surpasses this one for accessibility and charm. In little more than half an hour from Glasgow you can begin exploring Campsie Glen and the secrets of the hills above. This region has been a poet’s pleasaunce. It is also a wayfarers’ paradise.

Weird Caverns of the Stockiemuir 

The region between the Blane Valley and the Kilpatrick Hills is an interesting one. It has a Gowk Stane, a Deil’s Craig and Deil’s Dam, a Devil’s Pulpit, weird caverns, splashing waterfalls, a chain of lochs, gentle glades and sullen moors. And then this is the part of the country which holds the elusive Whangie, where some convulsion in an undated past cast huge rocks into grotesque forms.

The Whangie – a name which, in itself, should arouse the curiosity of everyone who hears it–is a distinctly fascinating place, and stands in the heart of an expansive but charming moor. It is easy of access – if you hit the proper trail. I discovered it years ago almost by accident.I had been wandering round, taking tracks here and there, By chance, I struck one after wandering about the moor, and soon found myself confronted by an unexpected spectacle – a yawning chasm.

The Whangie was my objective when I set off from Strathblane. The direct route is by the Cuilt Brae from the heart of the village. I chose a more circuitous but none the less interesting road. I passed under the railway at Strathblane Station, took the former Milngavie road on the right, and climbed to the top of the hill behind the post office.

A lane then led me down to the Children’s Home beside Milndavie Mill a delightful place with a long, if uneventful, history. A tale is told of how one day corn was cut, threshed, ground, baked and eaten within twenty-four hours through the enterprise of one miler. That is, perhaps, the only bit of real excitement the mill has ever known. The miller was probably aided by the witches who lived hereabouts. Tradition has associated the Devil with the sheet of water on the old Milngavie road, about a mile from the mill, which bears his name. He is said to have lived in the darn and to have used the curious crag beside it as a table when he entertained the witches.

The Devil resented the preaching of St. Patrick when that missionary began his teaching in Strathclyde, and sent the witches after him. They cold not reach him, however, and as he stepped into the boat which carried him across the channel to Ireland, they tore a large piece of rock from the Kilpatrick Hills, and hurled it after the escaping missionary. It fell short, and afterwards formed Dumbarton Rock. The Devil was so angry and disappointed when the witches returned and reported failure that he plunged into the sheet of water under the crag, and disappeared.

Out on the hillside above the Children’s Home I was on the road that leads to the Gowk Stane. It rises steadily, but it is not tedious, for there are many things to mark. Every new step revealed a fresh picture, and when I reached the Gowk Stane I sat down. There were rolling hills as far as the eye could see. Fold on fold they stretched, tipped with the gold of a brilliant sunshine, interlaced with patches of smoky black hovering over the hamlets and farm-touns in the whole length of the Blane Valley, with its succession of detached conical and wooded hills that guard it like so many sentinels.

I watched the shadows sweep over the landscape, and admired the pictures the sun can make out of the neighbouring woods or the more distant and wonderfully varied view. The wealth of colour in the woods, and the number and variety of the birds added to my enjoyment. And nobody came to disturb my peaceful contemplation of the scene.

Up this road probably came the pleasure seekers when they attended the comic plays at Cockmylane. The Jesters’ Stane is a link with an age when amusements were simpler. The Gowk Stane it has since remained. I do not know whether I am a gowk, but I could not come this way without following the example of so many who had passed before me. I slid down from the top of the rock. The King oft he Britons of Strathclyde and his warriors may also have come this way to oppose the Picts. Under the shadow of the Cat Craig, a short distance beyond the Gowk Stane, these two tribes met in the eighth century, when the Picts were defeated and their king was slain. In the woods at a later date probably lurked the MacGregors, waiting for nightfall to make their raids on fold and farmstead.

I walked on until I came to the Pillar Craig, whose summit is crowned with basaltic columns regular in shape, as if man had contrived with Nature to give them definite forms.

A track runs down the side of Craigallian Loch from this point to the Khyber Pass, but I turned in the opposite direction for Balacalery Yett and Carbeth, where I joined the Stockiemuir Road to Drymen. This was the road along which Sir Walter Scott made Baillie Nicol Jarvie and his young friend travel on that eventful journey to the Clachan of Aberfoyle. They halted at the Halfway House at Carbeth, a few yards south of the junction. The inn in those days does not seem to have been a place of comfort, friendliness, or decent entertainment. It is described in Rob Roy as “a most miserable alehouse”.

Francis Osbaldistone, who until then had thought that birds shunned the desolate part of the country through which he had travelled from Glasgow, soon learned that the lapwing and the curlew were not the only birds that nested in the Stockiemuir. “The gudeman had been at the hill “and that little party sat down to a meal of “broiled moor-game, a dish which gallantly eked out the ewe-milk cheese, dried salmon, and oaten bread”

No doubt the inn was a convenient resting-place for Highlanders on their way to the city, and in later times it became a change-house for the mail-coach horses. It is still a stopping place for travellers – after three centuries’ service. What an interesting story could be written round the parties which have met here, if only a record had been kept!

Every week-end in summer and autumn happy groups of Boy Scouts trek over this road to their camp at Auchengillan. Their merry laughter fills the air, and you would gladly turn up the lane with them when they leave the highway, but the path to the Whangie is about a mile farther on. The track starts near the entrance to Auchineden, and is easily followed as it rises on the left. The way is neither long nor steep, but its roughness makes you pause and rest occasionally.


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