A visit to Cleghorn Glen & Cartland Craigs

It’s dirty work, but someone’s got to do it.

Filed under News
Date posted: Saturday, 06 February 2016

It’s dirty work, but someone’s got to do it. Mountain path creators Upland Access Scotland have been working to improve the eroded and mucky paths through Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve. It’s a far cry from the dizzying heights of Cairngorm summits, but when it comes to constructing tough paths what more could you ask for?

The reserve is unique in that it is comprised of six different woodland areas, located in steep, dramatic gorges. Recently I accompanied reserve manager Martin Twiss, of Scottish Natural Heritage, to see the path regeneration project partially funded by Clyde and Avon Landscape Partnership, improving the linear trail through Cleghorn Glen and Cartland Craigs woodlands.


As a newcomer to the area I’m very keen to see the sites of a very different landscape to the North West Highlands I’m used to. To start the afternoon we park the car and head off into Cleghorn Glen, through which flows Mouse Water, now running high and fast after last few weeks (or is it months?) of rain. After crossing the river over a steel bridge we head along the riverbank and soon we are on the freshly cut trail which winds its way along the top of the gorge. While very muddy due to the constant rain of the preceding days it’s still fairly easy going, the trail builders have taken care to maintain the natural feel of the trail and contours of the ground, using dead wood found in the forest to construct steps and edging to prop up the trail sides, helping to prevent erosion.

Martin assures me that while it may not look much, the work really has made a tremendous difference to the quality of the trail, which is now wider, shallower and has steps in place of the difficult, slippery slopes there before. Despite the thick mud (I’m now very glad for my walking boots), I’m assured that in due time the dirt will dry and settle, creating an elegant and natural feeling trail in-keeping with the narrow, winding aesthetic of the forest. I’m happy to come across some very highland-like pine and heather, in contrast to the broadleaved, lush vegetation all around. Martin explains that the acidic geology of certain areas better suits these hardy plants, creating miniature highland scenes.

As well as recreating the forest trail, the path builders are digging long ditches to ensure that the earthy path is able to drain well, and should stay pretty dry. Visitors to the NNR should soon feel the benefits of clear and easily negotiated paths through some of the most stunning and unique scenery in the area. It’s hoped that by the end of the project nearly all of the path through the NNR will have been noticeably improved, making for a much better visitor experience, and ensuring the longevity of the trail.

Finally, it’s off to Cartland Craigs to take in the stunning views of the Cartland Bridge, already busy with rush-hour traffic, seemingly unaware of the nearly 130ft drop to the gorge below them. Built in 1822 by Thomas Telford, the Cartland Bridge lies at the foot of the gorge through which Mouse Water flows, winding its way towards the Clyde. The gorge contains the questionably named Wallace’s Cave and, a little further north, is overlooked by the remnants of the mysterious Castle Qua. Unfortunately the light is fading fast and we don’t get that far. However, with the improved path the linear walk through the two parts of the NNR makes for a great there-and-back adventure through some unexpectedly dramatic scenery.

- Ewan Bachell, CAVLP Development Officer

Area Guide

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