I know that many of you have been making the most of the glorious countryside around Killearn for your daily exercise during lockdown because I say “hello” to so many people when I’m out and about. For the locals, I am sure you know the route I am going to describe, but perhaps, after reading my previous two blogs: birdwatching in winter and Mammals, trees and signs of spring you will view this walk around Carbeth Estate like a treasure hunt and look out for the 20 things I have highlighted. For visitors, this relatively short and relatively easy walk is a good introduction to the area.
The route is mostly on roads, pavements and good tracks, with just a few areas that get really muddy. It is undulating, but not too strenuous and is about 4 miles long (with a few shortcuts if you wish). Perfect for an afternoon walk or for a summer’s evening. Boots are recommended in winter. Dogs will need to be on leads most of the time due to traffic and livestock.,
You start off from Killearn, walking past the Church, Community Centre and pharmacy on the Balfron Road – at the top of Drumtian Road 1, continue along the side of the Balfron Road, there is a pavement all the way, but it can be a busy road, so make sure you kep on the path. This is the best part of the walk to enjoy the scenery, taking in the Campsie Fells to the South and Ben Lomond and the Trossachs to the North. Listen out for the flocks of geese flying over and also for the call of the buzzards and jackdaws. Once you hear their call it is usually easy to spot them flying over the fields as you drop down to the top of Ballochruin Road.
Turn left down Ballochruin Road towards Balfron Station and keep to the right of the road – this is the only part of the walk that is on the road rather than a footpath, so beware of traffic. This takes you past Carbeth Home Farm on the left and you are very likely to see birds like chaffinches and blue tits in the shrubs around the farm. Keep an eye in the hedgerow too for signs of spring and some bright yellow jelly fungus called yellow brain.
Just past the farm you need to take Jenny Gunns Loan, the footpath to your right, 3 which takes you down to Boquhan. This is a lovely path (quite muddy) that takes you between two hedges. Look out for the flash of white that gives away the bullfinch. It is worth just stopping for a moment here just to listen and look – if you do this you are likely to be rewarded by the sight of blue tits and great tits. Walk past the houses to point 4 and turn left back along the Balfron Road towards the Endrick Water. To keep on the footpath you will need to cross the road.
Once you get to the bridge you need to cross the road again at 5 and follow the beech lined avenue along the river bank. This is a beautiful walk next to the river where you are likely to see a dipper bobbing up and down. You might be lucky to get a flash of blue too as kingfishers are resident all year round. The trees around you are a good place to see a jay, although sometimes you are more likely to hear them screeching! The river bank path can be a bit narrow, which, when it is icy or muddy can feel a bit too close, so pop into the field next to the path for an easier walk. Look out for alders along here showing both catkins and cones. This area is where I photographed a lovely newly made mole hill. As you get to the end of the field a small stream joins the river, there is a narrow bridge over this and into the woodland. This is the muddiest bit of the walk, so you will need to pick your way carefully. But it is not far until you come to the bridge at 6.
Just before the bridge climb over the stile onto a grassy bank on your left and rejoin the Ballochruin Road and turn leftonto the road for a few hundred metres. Take the second drive on your right and drop down into the woods. These are old woods of Carbeth House that are currently being restored and there are some stunning trees in this woodland. This is the best place to enjoy the mosses and lichens and to look out for roe deer and snowdrops. There are also numerous robins in this area who might follow you in the hope you will disturb some insects for them. In the last couple of days i have seen bullfinches and treecreepers in this area too. Keep following this path as you go past Carbeth House on your left, listening out for the chit chat of long tailed tits in the newly planted trees on your right.
Keep following the path down past the Stables Cottages 7 – there are bird feeders outside the cottages, so you can get excellent views of blue tits, great tits and coal tits and if you are lucky a nuthatch or woodpecker. As you leave the cottages there are a lot of daffodil bulbs coming up. Further along there is a turning back to the river, but you need to keep left and follow the road up the hill at 8. This is Drumtian Road and you need to follow this for a mile back up to Killearn and the finish. You will go through some lovely woodland, where you can look out for more treecreepers and you will go past the fields of Carbeth Home Farm sheep. As you get towards the end of the walk, a stop and look over the gate on your right gives another excellent view across to Loch Lomond. At the very end of the walk there are a few houses and the trees here are full of chaffinches.
I hope you enjoy the walk and the mange to see some of the wildlife I have suggested – you possibly saw more wildlife too. Please let us know what you have seen and your photos via the Carbeth Home Farm Facebook or Instagram using #carbethhomefarmwinter
Samantha Lyth is a keen naturalist and lover of the outdoors. Among her running friends she is well known for her nature trail runs, which involves a lot of stopping to look at birds, insects and flowers. Along with her husband Peter they run Red Kite Services, a business that provides administrative and marketing support for small businesses. They have recently moved to Killearn and are thoroughly enjoying exploring the area.