Location: Palacerigg Country Park, Cumbernauld

Grade: Easy woodland walk

Distance: 4.5 miles/7km

Time: 2 hours

Covering almost 700 acres of once derelict farmland, Palacerigg Country Park offers a wonderful ‘lung’ for the people of Cumbernauld and the surrounding area. The park was set up in 1974 by the then Cumbernauld Burgh Council and its first director, who did so much to establish the park, was the inspirational writer and naturalist David Stephen. He is commemorated by a large mural in the visitor centre, the work of Alasdair Gray.

David Stephen had very firm views about conservation and in many ways was ahead of his time. He wrote a column called The World Outside for The Scotsman for over 30 years and never pulled his punches. The mural at Palacerigg carries the caption ‘the future of wild life depends on man’ which becomes ever more true with every passing year. David Stephen died in 1989 but Palacerigg remains as part of his enduring legacy.

Having said that, the park is somewhat diminished from Stephen’s day. Keen to give local people, and especially children, as full an experience as possible, he set up a small zoo where you could see wolves, wildcats and birds of prey. In time this became too expensive to maintain but the park still features rare breeds of farm animals including the tough little Ronaldsay sheep and some exotic chickens called Scots Dumpys!

The walk described here covers much of the park area and is especially attractive in spring. Many thousands of trees have been planted at Palacerigg but it is the older trees which might draw your attention. The walk also features a couple of very attractive small gorges, the second of which has pretty little waterfalls.

The walk is a combination of two waymarked routes, red and blue, which are marked on the excellent free map of the park available at the visitor centre. You can study these routes while perhaps having a coffee in the café before you set off. It has to be said that some of the waymarking is not very clear but if you follow our directions you shouldn’t go wrong.

All of the tracks are well made though sections can inevitably become muddy after rain. Towards the end of the walk you get a good view over the Fannyside Lochs and an interpretation board explains how part of this area was once exploited for peat under the direction of a Dutchman, Anton de Vos. He used itinerant workers brought from Glasgow who lived in a shantytown called ‘the colony’.

On your way round the park you may well see roe deer and hear woodpeckers yammering in the trees. There is in fact a good range of wildlife, which would I am sure please David Stephen were he to return to the park today.

Considering how close it is to Cumbernauld, this walk is remarkably quiet apart from a short section which runs close to an industrial estate. One small niggle is the lack of any public transport to the park, which must be a deterrent. If this could be rectified more people could come and enjoy David Stephen’s legacy, bringing them closer to nature if only for a short time.

Roger Smith

ROUTE PLANNER

Map: OS 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 349 (Falkirk, Cumbernauld & Livingston). Free park map available at Visitor Centre.

Distance: 4.5 miles/7km

Time: 2 hours

Start/Finish: Palacerigg Visitor Centre (GR: NS787733)

Public transport: None to the park. Nearest is Cumbernauld Station, 3km away. Details from www.travelinescotland.com

Information: Palacerigg Country Park, 01236 720047 or www.northlanarkshire.gov.uk/palacerigg

Route: From the car park, walk left of the visitor centre and turn L on a track. In 800m just before a cattle grid turn R. Keep left at next junction. Turn R at Model Flying Club. At junction go ahead, slightly L (red marker). Follow main track above a small ravine then down to edge of industrial estate. Keep with path going R then uphill into woods, with ravine on R. At next T-junction go R, keep L at fork and continue to T-junction with Glencryan Woods sign. Turn L here on long straight track. At corner of woods go R, through trees then with views of lochs to L. Turn R at next junction and follow track past golf clubhouse back to car park.