The following is an article I wrote last year for a magazine.
Spring is round the corner and what better way to enjoy the longer days than a brisk walk? Lanarkshire and the surrounding area has many enjoyable areas for walking which are suitable for all levels of fitness and ability.
Today, I will take you on a walk around Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton. This is a delightful walk which is popular with both beginners and experienced walkers. It is a circular walk on well established paths, so no special walking boots are required. I will be walking in an anti-clockwise direction.
Our walk begins at the Visitor Centre and takes us over the Avon Gorge via the Dukes Bridge. The bridge gives wonderful views of the spectacular River Avon and Gorge. We proceed over the Bridge to an ancient building which is currently being restored by Historic Scotland – this is Cadzow Castle. It was built around the 10th Century and was used as a royal residence until the time of Robert the Bruce. Mary Queen of Scots is believed to have stayed there before the Battle of Langside in1568.
We pass through a small gate on the left and walk along the ‘Cadzow Oaks Path’ towards the Ancient Oaks. These magnificent trees were planted in the 1400’s and we stop to admire them. They are easy to spot from the main path. As we continue along the tree-lined path, we listen to the sounds of nature around us. The birds are singing, the most veciferous of which is the ‘squeeky wheelbarrow wheel’ voice of the blue tit. We also hear great tits, blackbirds, collared doves and a woodpecker.
After about 25 minutes the path leaves its wooded surroundings and enters more open country. We continue walking for a few minutes and stop to take a rest at a small clearing near the White Bridge. This is closed due to a landslip, so we continue on the same path to the Green Bridge.
The more open surroundings allows us to enjoy the spring sunshine and we are aware of how peaceful our surroundings are. The lack of modern infrastructure makes us think how little the landscape has changed here in the last few centuries.
The path, which has been fairly flat for a mile now starts to descend towards the Green Bridge. We will be stopping here for a few minutes as this area is great for spotting otters.
At the Green Bridge we stop and scan the River Avon for otters. They are frequent visitors to this spot in the river and its environs. Today we are unlucky and don’t manage to see any of these naturally shy animals. Otters like clean water and their presence is a testament to the environmental measures being taken to clean the river. We do see some dippers perched on a rock, stabbing at the fast-flowing water in search of food.
We continue on our walk and start climbing away from from the river to higher ground. The steps seem go on forever and it feels like we are climbing to the top of the world. We finally reach higher ground with woods on one side and farmland on the other.
The tall trees to our left are redwood trees and are about 20 feet high. While these are very impressive, they are mere children compared to their big cousins in California. We continue along this path it until splits into two. Both of these head towards Chatelherault Lodge, one along the River Avon and the other along the boundary of Hamilton Golf Course.
We take the path to the left and descend the steps back to the River Avon. The path along the river is shaded by the giant redwood trees and we look out for cormorants, kingfishers and otters. There are some squirrels, but they are of the grey, rather than red variety, unfortunately. We also see many small waterfalls along the way.
Our walk is now coming to an end and we start the gentle climb towards Chatelherault Lodge. The Dukes Bridge comes into view and we notice what a feat of engineering this spectacular structure is. We arrive at a gate at the end of the path and Chatelherault Lodge comes into view. We have walked 5.5 miles.
We stop at the Lodge, which was restored in the 1990’s and is now owned by South Lanarkshire Council. It was owned by the Hamilton Family until the 1970’s, before passing to the state in lieu of death duties. Its name is derived from the French town of Châtellerault.
It has a visitor centre, exhibition room, shop and cafe. It is open on Monday to Saturday 10.00am-5.00pm; Sunday 12.00pm-5.00pm.
YouTube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxgyLT3MkKI
Address: Ferniegair Hamilton ML3 7UE
Travel Directions: By Road. A72 between Hamilton and Larkhall. Rail: Milngavie to Larkhall line to Chatelherault Station. Bus: Whitelaws 250 (exc Sun), 253, 254, 255 (exc Sun), Stuarts 317 (Sun only)