Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Kilpatrick Hills - The four stages of the Tour de Whangie

I'm not ashamed (well, maybe just a little) to admit to reading the Scots Magazine. For many years it's been squashed into my rucsack or panniers to provide some light reading as I head off to the hills for the weekend. Mind you, these days I more often take my smartphone having packed it with downloaded online articles to read. My favourite downloads at the moment are archived Tom Weir articles from the Scots Magazine during the 1970s and one of those really whetted my appetite for a wee place hidden away in the Kilpatrick Hills called the Whangie (it sounds good if you say it with a Glasgow accent). A quick look at the map showed a cycle tour between the train stations at Dumbarton and Milngavie with a short detour to the Whangie and I set out to ride it on a grey day in the middle of March. The mini tour broke down into four neat and quite distinct stages.

Stage 1 - North from Dumbarton
Be very afraid when the new man in your life (called Rob) arrives for your first bike ride together on wheels emblazoned with the words "Rapid Rob". Well, Rapid Rob and I cycled north out of Dumbarton following the fast-flowing waters of the River Leven passed dreary urban sprawl to Balloch. Beyond Balloch things got better and we meandered along a series of lovely country roads and a new bike trail that took us to the quirky Pipe Bridge. It was a slightly unnerving cycle across as the iron grid platform made us wobble high above the river below. At the end of the first stage, I shoud put the record straight and point out that Rapid Rob is the brand of tire on Rob's bike - a pure coincidence when he bought it!

Stage 2 - The West Highland Way
As we cycled away from the Pipe Bridge our route joined the West Highland Way and we turned south, cycling past groups of heavily loaded teenagers setting out on their long walk north to Fort William. Some looked miserable and sultry while others were in high spirits and belting out music. I envied them for their adventure ahead - there's nothing like that first big step into the great outdoors. The Way was a nice single track here that twisted through the woods but we cursed the endless, and often pointless, gates that forced us to keep stopping.

Stage 3- The Whangie
A short detour from the West Highland Way took us to the Queen's View where we chained up the bikes and set out on foot to find the much anticipated Whangie. A bit of contouring round the hillside opened up views of Loch Lomond, although Ben Lomond itself stayed hidden under low cloud. When we got there the Whangie was more than enough compensation. The Whangie is a bizarre rock feature on the side of the hill created by glaciers in the last ice age slicing open the crag. Although the local story tells that it was made by the devil flicking his tail as he flew past. Today the feature is a deep canyon with walls 50 feet high and a sliver of a path meandering through. It's a magical place with a primeval atmosphere.

Stage 4 - Mugdock Country Park
Back on the bikes, we continued cycling south and entered the wooded trails of this country park north of Milngavie. The routes were pretty churned up in places so I will affectionately remember it as Mud-dock Country Park! We got a little lost in the maze of routes here but as a chink of late afternoon sun broke through the clouds all roads eventually led to Milngavie and the train home.

Fact File
Start: Dumbarton Rail Station
End: Milngavie Rail Station
Route: Out of Dumbarton station follow national cycle route 7 signs north via Balloch on traffic free bike paths and quiet back roads. Just beyond Croftamie and the Pipe Bridge, route 7 meets the West Highland Way. Follow the West Highland Way in the direction of Milngavie. At Easter Carbeth the way joins the B821 - turn right and then right again onto the A809. After a couple of kms you reach the car park at Queen's View. The path to the Whangie leaves from the back of the car park and is a well trodden route up the hill. Return to the West Highland Way and follow it south to Milngavie where it ends in the vicinity of the train station.

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