Walk the Three Lochs Way Part 2: Helensburgh to Garelochhead
In this second part of his guest blog on the series of walks along the Three Lochs Way, Alistair McIntyre describes the route from Helensburgh to Garelochhead.
With Helensburgh (pictured above) and its attractions well described in the official guide to the Three Lochs Way*, suffice it to take up the narrative at the point where we leave behind the tarmac and make our way along the Helensburgh Upland Way footpath from the car park near Hill House (pictured below). Contouring along the hillside behind the town, gaps in the woodland soon open up giving views south across the Firth of Clyde and before long our route makes a right-angled turn to the right, taking us on to the Highlandman's Road, an historic route leading over the moors to Glen Fruin.
A great deal of improvement work has recently been carried out on the track, thanks to the efforts of Helensburgh and District Access Trust. As we gain height, it's well worth while savouring the extensive views stretching out before us, when the quality of the landscape in which Helensburgh is set can be seen to great effect.
A gentle descent brings us down to the public road through Glen Fruin, (pictured below) a place forever associated with tragedy as well as beauty. Thelong and open nature of the Glen, much of which is inside the National Park, forms a perfect setting for the rolling hills which sweep down on either side. These hills, most of which are linked by convenient ridges, offer high quality walking. I look upon them as old friends - but friends to be treated with respect at all times, especially in winter.
As we soak up the character of our surroundings, it's worth realising how different it all might have been. In the late 1970's, with offshore oil and gas coming onstream, plans were announced to build a large petro-chemical complex here. Eventually, following a public enquiry, the plans were rejected, but it demonstrates that modern industry is never far from the door, even of the most treasured landscapes. With traditional farming the mainstay of the economy, the Glen is one of the best places in the district for watching wildlife. Birdlife is outstanding - you can see four species of owl, along with raven, various birds of prey, martins, swallows and many others. Even so, there have been big losses, and it's a far cry from the 1970's, when upwards of 70 pairs of nesting lapwing were being counted. Look out also for brown hare, and roe and red deer.
Approaching the summit of the road, we pass the cairn commemorating the Battle of 1603, when around 140 people lost their lives, some of whom doubtless lived nearby- glens like this once carried a much bigger population than they do now, and remains of large numbers of their summer dwellings or 'shielings' can still be seen by the headwaters of surrounding streams. Soon after reaching the highest point, we can drop down to Garelochhead, or carry on to the next section of the walk.
©Alistair McIntyre - Alistair McIntyre is a member of Helensburgh and District Access Trust.