Around Glasgow

I'm afraid that this is going to be very wordy, as the weather wasn't really up to photo-taking. It wasn't really up to getting out of the car if I'm honest, but I did in a couple of places. My mission was to escape the rain, and I failed, but I did at least find a few places that I would like to go back to in more favourable climatic conditions!

Aberfoyle & the Trossachs

The forecast had said that the weather around Stirling area would be pretty good early in the morning, so I set off early and headed straight down to Aberfoyle. The forecast lied. However, I did discover that the Trossachs are a very pretty place (little wonder that they made it a national park then), and that Loch Katrine and Aberfoyle are definitely worth another look. The roads were fun to drive too, so watch this space for another visit in the next twelve months!!


This is where you discover how sad I really am... I recently read a book on New Towns. There, I've said it. And the nearest new town to me? No, it's not Milton Keynes, its Cumbernauld, that wonderful dynamic, throbbing, vibrant town where the Co-op have their Scottish depot. If only.
What I discovered is an abject disaster. A monstrous lesson in how not to go about town planning. A town centre that had its heart ripped out of it before it even left the drawing board. If you are bored, skip to the
Riverside, which is much more interesting.

The worst thing about Cumbernauld is that there is almost nothing good about the place. The outskirts are a suburban sprawl that could have been any town, scattered with the odd supermarket or public building. They are all divided from one another to form 'villages' or 'communities'. The divisions? Tree lines roads, blocking pedestrian access to anywhere else.
Then you get closer in. I actually parked in an area called 'The Village', which appeared to be the original Cumbernauld village, and looks just like most others in the area. From there I walked into the new town centre, and only met one pedestrain all the way there and back. The reason? The route I took was scary. To start with, I walked round a pleasant park with bowling green and blocks of flats. The only people I saw were workmen diggin trenches. The path then crossed a thick line of trees and reached a road with a sports club where some lads were playing football. The road was deserted, and (it was the old A80, now a long dead-end), already appeared intimidating beacuase it was such a big, wide road, with no traffic.
The onward path took me up a steep hill. through trees, on a badly maintained path. A sign claimed that it was a millenium forest for the people, well, I'd be surprised if many of the townsfolk ever set foot in it. Litter, abandoned supermarket trolleys, dog muck, broken glass, and dense enough vegetation with no streetlighting to be a muggers paradise. Eventually, I returned to civilisation, or at least I found a moody looking tunnel which passed under a road. There were no signs, so I guessed that I needed to turn right. Fortunately I was later proved right. I followed this path as it wan alongside a block of flats that were shielded from the path by 6 foot spiked fencing with padlocked gates. Not inviting. Eventually, the path reached another tunnel, and then dipped into an estate road. I hesitated, still not sure which way to go, but ahead of me someone emerged and started walking away from me. I assumed that they were more likely to be heading to the centre than away, and so followed.
This next path ran through houses, but strange houses which were set in short terraces at right angles to the roads at either end. The path was parallel to the roads, and so cut through every terrace as a tunnel. All of the side alleys to reach the houses were empty, and the whole place felt oppresive and intimidating. I was relieved to get out the other end. The person I was following then cut through the next tunnel, before stopping at a bus stop. Fortunately, from there I was able to see past the derelict flats to some commercial premises ahead (a former motel, now offices as it turned out), and then saw the town centre on the horizon. It was not a pleasant sight.
Cumbernauld Town Centre is almost unreal. The best way I can describe it is that there are two shopping malls, neither of which are particularly inviting, surrounded by car parking. Between the two malls are a labryinth like series of tunnels through the buildings, linked together by steps, ramps, lifts, teleporters, escalators, that kind of thing. There are many side corridors which may or may not lead anywhere - again nothing is signed, there are no friendlt 'you are here' maps - and underneath it all are roads. Yes, roads. The main Cumbernauld Dual Carriageway runs straight under the whole lot (hence the ramps, stairs, etc), as does at least one service road. From the outside the whole thing looks like some kind of factory with flats on top. There is no real indication that there are shops in there.
I don't think that anyone ever designed the place, I think it kind of evolved as if they built it from Lego. The connecting corridors are far from straight, certainly not level, and balloon out into lobbied, before narrowing to little more than the width of double doors. It is truly the worst place I've ever been to.
I was extremely relieved to make it back to the car alive.

Glasgow Riverside

Now that the rant is over (or bypassed), I shall tell you a little about the banks of the Clyde - as seen from a car. It was drizzling as I meandered back and forth along the clydeside expressway, but as there was nowhere to park it didn't matter too much! I did, however, managed to get to the Clyde Arc (although due to a peculiar one-way system, I didn't actually drive across it), I saw the SECC and the Tall Ship next to it. I also saw the dereliction and wasteland of some of the former shipbuilding yards. Much of the landscape has already been revitalised with new developments, but just a few yards away the old tenement blocks survive, lining the congested streets. Its a completely different sort of place to Cumbernauld, but no more inviting.


Eventually I arrived in Dumbarton, one of Scotland's ancient Capital, with its Castle perched precariously on top of the rock overlooking the Clyde. The town is about half a mile inland, separated from the river by industrial dereliction and the railway line, which gives the castle a sense of escapism in the middle of a bustling city. It was actually sunny (almost) as I ambled along the riverside path, looking up and down the river, enjoying the day for the first time.

After half an hour or so, it was time to be heading back, but I decided to stick to the coast, and so passed through Helensburgh (drizzle), Garelochhead (rain) and Arrochar (torrents) before passing through Glen Tarbet to Loch Lomond and the familiar route home. As I came back through Glen Coe, the setting sun formed a golden patch of sky amidst the heavy black cloud ahead.