Hamilton – South Lanarkshire

During the month of August my friends and I take a trip to the Edinburgh Festival to sample the atmosphere at this great event. However, today it was very wet so the visit was postponed until next Saturday when the forecast is for much brighter weather.

However, a bit of rain does not deter me from going out so I went to Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton where the ‘Scotland’s Festival of History’ event was being held. The rain was very heavy when I arrived and the park was very quiet. While I was walking over to have a look at the history event I met a neighbour who had lost her dog in the park due to it being spooked by a loud noise. I felt obliged into helping her find the dog which we eventually succeeded in doing.

By this time the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. I looked round the event and took a photograph from the top of the hill in front of Chatelherault House. It looked poorly attended, which was probably due to the earlier wet weather and the charging of an entrance fee.

Scotland’s Festival of History

 Cadzow White Cattle

Walking back to Hamilton, I saw some of the Cadzow White Cattle in a field. These cattle used to freely roam on the Duke of Hamilton’s Estate. There are only two herds of these cattle left in the UK. The other herd is in Chillingham in Northumberland.

Cadzow White Cattle

 Avon Bridges

Further along I came to the Old Avon Bridge which was built before the 16th century and enlarged about the beginning of the 18th century. The bridge has been extensively restored and is said to have been built by the monks from Lesmahagow Priory.

This bridge has three segmental arches and the roadway averages 9ft in width. It has a cobbled surface which can be quite slippery when riding over it on a mountain bike. The bridge was once used by travellers to London.

Old Avon Bridge

From the Old Avon Bridge can be seen the new Avon Bridge which was built in the 19th Century and became the main bridge for travelling south.

Avon Bridge on the A72

Railway Bridge

From the other side of the Old Avon Bridge can be seen the railway bridge from Hamilton to Motherwell. The railway line was constructed in the 1840’s and contributed to the growth of Motherwell to becoming one of the major steel producing areas in the world.

Railway Bridge over the River Avon  

Avon Mill

In front on the railway bridge can be seen a small dam. This was to provide large quantities of water to power a mill which was situated near the present road bridge. Although a ruin at present, there is potential for this to be developed in the future.

Avon Lodge

On one side of Old Avon Bridge is a very old building which is still in use today both as a dwelling house and dog kennels. This was probably used in the past by weary travellers on their way south. The present owners have retained the character of the building, but this is probably due to it being a listed building. (A listed building in the United Kingdom is a building that has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest).

Avon Water

 River Avon

The remainder of my walk was through woodland paths. A closer look at the water on the River Avon showed how clear it was – the brown colour is from the peat particles in the riverbed.

Butterfly

 Wild Flowers and Insects

There were plenty of butterflies and some Honey bees to be seen. The Honey bees were attracted to the Creeping Thistle plants which were growing in abundance along the riverbed.

Creeping Thistle

Although regarded as a nuisance by gardeners, the Creeping Thistle is important to many insects including Honey bees and their seeds form an important part of the diet of many farmland birds.

 Friendly Dogs

Just before  completing my walk I met two Labrador dogs – Weston and Quiver. Weston had been trained as a guide dog for the blind, but just before completing his training failed when he started eating food from the pavement.

Quiver was only 4 months old and was starting his training to become a guide dog. Both dogs were lovely and friendly. Hopefully Quiver makes it as a guide dog and allows a blind person to have some independence.

It had been a good day after all, considering the wet start.

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Virtual Walk From High Parks to Strathclyde Park

Our walk today is from Hamilton High Parks to Strathclyde Park. On the way we will see many objects and buildings of interest. The walk starts in the Barncluith area (the Baron’s Cleuch or glen) of Hamilton on Barncluith Road.

As we walk up this road, we pass some beautiful houses which were built at the beginning of the 20th century. I point out the manse for St John’s Church which was occupied by the Rev. John Brown from1967 until 1980. He was father of Gordon Brown MP, the former Prime Minister .

Start of Walk
Start of Walk

After 1/4 mile we come to Barncluith House, which was built around 1538 and has been maintained and restored through the years.

It is an impressive stone tower house which is now a private residence with terraced gardens which run down to the Avon Water.

As we walk along, the road becomes steeper and soon flattens out when we enter the High Parks. Until the 1980’s, entry to the area was by permit only, but it is now accessible to anyone on foot. As we walk up the small slope, we see on our left a monument known as the ‘Dukes Monument’.

Dukes Monument
Dukes Monument

This has been built with marble and sandstone and resembles a Grecian structure. It was built to the memory of William Duke of Hamilton, who died in 1863. We stop to look at it in greater detail before continuing on our walk.

The road we are walking on is well surfaced and allows us to walk quickly. We are in an area with woodland on either side and we discuss what wildlife may live in the woods.

After a quarter of a mile, the road ends at the gates to a private residence and so our journey continues on a path to our left. This path is now unsurfaced, but is still well defined easy to follow. To our right are fields with grazing sheep, while to our left is woodland.

As we walk along, we hear the singing of birds including bluetits, robins and crows. A songthrush can be heard singing nearby and a woodpecker is drumming somewhere in the distance.

The path is well used, judging by the number of footprints in the mud and we pass a number of people going in the opposite direction. We are now walking in the direction of Chatelherault Country Park and will soon arrive at Cadzow Castle and the Dukes Bridge, when we get to the end of this path.

Arriving at Cadzow Castle, we see that it is being restored by Historic Scotland and access is restricted. This was a royal residence until the time of Robert the Bruce (25th March 1306 to 7th June 1329) and is believed to be where Mary Queen of Scots stayed before the Battle of Langside in 1568. It was built in the 13th century and acted as a royal residence for Alexander II and Alexander III. It passed to the Hamilton Family during the time of Robert the Bruce.

Today all that remains of the Castle are the ruined remains of the keep. Traditionally it is claimed that this was the hunting lodge of the ancient kings of Strathclyde.

Mary Queens of Scots had connections with the area. The 3rd Baron Hamilton, James Hamilton, was given the French Dukedom of Châtelherault after supporting Mary’s marriage to the Dauphin. Mary’s third husband was the Earl of Bothwell, who allegedly plotted the assassination of her second husband, Lord Darnley.

There is not much to see of the Castle as it is surrounder by scaffolding, so we head down to the Dukes Bridge, which provides access over the Avon Gorge. At 100 feet, it gives a great view of the River Avon below.

Chatelherault Lodge
Chatelherault Lodge

As we leave the bridge, we make our way to Chatelherault Lodge, which was used as a hunting lodge by the Dukes of Hamilton.

It was designed by William Adam and completed in 1734. There is a steep slope in front of the Lodge which has been caused by the quarrying of sand. This was halted in the 1970’s but has caused subsidence in the lodge. Walking through the lodge makes many visitors feel unwell. We view this magnificent building from the outside and decide to visit it again soon.

Our exit from the Park is via the Huntsmans Ride to Old Avon Bridge. This is a pleasant walk through woodland and was originally used by the Duke’s hunting parties. To our left is a steep descent to the river Avon, and as we walk along, we pass a few dog walkers. The path then takes a sharp turn to the right, taking us into open country with fields of grazing sheep on either side.

Old Avon Bridge
Old Avon Bridge

As we walk along, we get good views of Hamilton and Motherwell before continuing to Old Avon Bridge which is said to have been built by the monks from Lesmahagow.

It appears on the maps of Timothy Pont, who spent the period from 1580 to 1583 travelling throughout Scotland mapping the country. The bridge has been restored through the years and still retains the cobble-stones on it’s surface.

To our left is a weir, a remnant from the days when there was a working mill in the area. The mill can still be seen from the main road, but is in a derelict state now. We continue along the recently-tarred cycle path to an area called Smithycroft. It is a pleasant walk, with the River Avon to our right.

We notice a pair of gooseanders in the water, which is unusual, as they are not often seen in this stretch of the river. As we walk to the water’s edge to take a photograph, these skittish birds fly away.

Smithycroft has a large bird pond and is home to a variety of wildlife, including some roe deer. We continue on the cycle path to our right and walk towards the bird pond. The river Avon is still on our right, with grassland to our left. A few anglers can be seen on the riverbank spending a relaxing day fishing. In the distance can be seen the busy M74 motorway, which provides a contrast to our quiet walk today.

As we approach the bird pond we notice how devoid of birds it is in comparison with a few years ago, when it was home to greater numbers of birds. We see mallard ducks, swans, geese and coots in the water. It is a peaceful scene and quite a desirable area for these birds.

Continuing on the cycle path, we are on our way to Motherwell and Strathclyde Park. This a busy stretch of the path with walkers, cyclist and even people with prams. The river to our right is still the Avon, but soon we will come to the junction where it meets the River Clyde.

Our path sweeps left towards Strathclyde Park and on our left a small patch of woodland separates us from the busy M74. The noise is not too bad and does not affect our enjoyment too much. The path is winding but flat and we soon arrive at the small footbridge over the Clyde.

As we cross the bridge, we can see in the distance Strathclyde Loch, a man made loch which is used extensively for watersports. The Loch has been host to many national and world rowing and sailing events and will be the venue for some events at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Strathclyde Loch
Strathclyde Loch

Approaching the loch, we see a large number of greylag geese sitting on the grass. The loch is home to a large number of birds including swans, ducks and geese.

The birds are quite tame and will take food from the hands of visitors when it is offered to them.

Looking over the loch, we notice that there are some sailing boats on the water and a few rowers can also be seen in the distance. We relax on one of the many seats in the park watching the activity on the water before making our way for some refreshments in the cafe.

Our walk was very interesting today as we learned some local history along the way.

A Virtual Walk Around Chatelherault

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.

Visitor Centre
Visitor Centre

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.

Ancient Oaks
Ancient Oaks

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.

Green Bridge
Green Bridge

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.

Redwood Trees
Redwood Trees

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.

Wood Carvings
Wood Carvings

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

Further Information:

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)