Our base during our Scottish trip was the very pleasant town of Largs, situated on the Firth of Clyde and about 30 miles from central Glasgow. I was pleased to see that in volume 36 of the Pathfinder Guides (Glasgow, Clyde Valley, Ayrshire and Arran) walk number 14 was an exploration of the town and its hinterland. This gave us the perfect opportunity to have a good look around the town in which we were staying. The whole walk was 5 ½ miles, which was modest enough in length for all of us to enjoy during a morning.
In keeping with the weather for the rest of our week it was rather a gloomy morning as we started by the pier. The route took us up the hill away from the pier through the rather pleasant housing that characterises Largs. Behind the town is a large area of moorland, reminiscent of the Scotland to the north of Glasgow rather than the lowland belt. This is quite a wild area, not one that you might readily associate with central Scotland but certainly one that adds to the charm of the Firth of Clyde coastal area.
It took some time to free ourselves of the housing but eventually we reached a gate to the moors at the top of the hill just beyond the main school. What followed was undoubtedly the highlight of the walk for we were to climb up and away from the town along a pretty well-worn path. In fact I wondered whether this path might once have been a road into and out of Largs? Before the tarmac road across from Kilbirnie it must have been quite hard accessing the town from the east.
We climbed steadily up the wonderfully named Gogo valley on a path high above the roaring river that we could hear but not see way down in the valley. Alongside was the pungent smell of bracken and I had a horrible feeling that this might have been harbouring all sorts of biting insects but to our relief we managed to get away with it. As we climbed it was very tempting to look back every so often at the magnificent view unfolding. We could see the Cumbrae islands, Arran, Bute and Kintyre from our lofty perch.
Eventually the path levelled out and we passed by some small woodland areas that looked deliberately planted although surely too small to be commercially viable? After we had passed the woodland the character of the walk completely changed as we were now fairly and squarely in the moorland area, with the view behind us having receded. The sun was desperately trying to poke through the stubborn clouds which swirled around the hill tops. We felt as if we had the whole place to ourselves, which was a great feeling especially for the children who thought we were epic explorers. That turned out to be a bit of an illusion though as when we got to Greeto bridge, spanning a tributary burn to the Gogo River, we found a couple of people camping . I thought that it was probably a pretty good spot as sufficiently lonely to feel like you were wild camping and yet close enough to civilisation to go and obtain some supplies.
|Douglas Park Colours|
The walk abruptly stopped at this point. The track obviously continued on over the bridge to somewhere else but for this walk I think the author only ever intended that we should get a taste of the countryside and enjoy the view back across the Firth of Clyde. I am not sure my children would have been up for anything more adventurous so that was just about perfect.
On the way back down the hill it was very difficult to balance the need to enjoy the view but also watch where to put your feet on the descent. The view was even better on the way down as by now some of the clouds had rolled away and the sunshine was lighting up the whole scene. We watched the ferries going backwards and forwards to Great Cumbrae, the trip we had done only a couple of days earlier. Further away we could see other ferries heading to Dunoon and Rothesay as well as some other shipping heading in and out of Glasgow. If there had been time it would have been fascinating watching the ships for quite some time.
At the bottom of the hill the path took a sharp left and crossed the Gogo river. A few streets of suburban walking followed before we reached the very colourful and well-kept Douglas Park. I have to say that the grounds maintenance in Largs was second to none – with lawns and flower bedding immaculately kept. We wandered around the grounds enjoying the colours of the bedding and the character of the park before heading off to see a small burial chamber tucked away at the back of the housing. Apparently this old tomb is more than 8000 years old. I wonder how the occupant likes being surrounded by houses these days?
This was another spot where we had to retrace our steps and head back to the park entrance. The path crossed the road and through another Park (Anderson Park), which apparently hosts the site of the Battle of Largs. This took place in 1263 and was the final act in a long running war between the King of Norway and King of Scotland, although the battle itself was indecisive. A few years after the battle the Vikings gave up territorial rights to the area and ceded it to Scotland.
|Arrival From Cumbrae|
We then dropped down to the seafront and away to the left we could see the Pencil Monument, erected in 1912 to celebrate what was seen as the decisive victory against the Vikings in the Battle of Largs. In the intervening 100 years, historians have long argued about the place of Largs in the war against the Vikings. Nevertheless the townsfolk of Largs are very proud of this piece of heritage and I cannot blame them.
|Arrival of Waverley|
Largs seafront is a particularly attractive place to walk, with plenty of open area in front of the housing and not spoiled by a road running too close, except for a short stretch leading to the ferry terminal. The official walk led us back only to the terminal but we also continued onward around Largs Bay to admire the wonderful planting schemes that characterise the seafront.
As an introduction to the area this walk was very good, even though it seemed a little contrived in places. While the nature of the walk seemed a little odd when viewed on the map in the guidebook the reality made much more sense as it took in the main places that you would want to see without taking you on a lengthy and unnecessary journey just to complete a loop. The views are magnificent and the character of the town as well as its surroundings can really be appreciated.