The Campsie Fells Tour
The full circuit of the Campsie Fells is a tour which I have had in mind for a very long time. This excellent mountainous area between Milngavie, Stirling and Glasgow is a dominating feature to the north of Glasgow. It also has some excellent cycling. I have crossed over it numerous times. One of my favourite routes is from Fintry to Lennoxtown. I did not know the area between Fintry and Stirling that well, though. Missing too on my list was the Kilsyth hills between Carron Bridge and Kilsyth.
A full circuit of Campsie Fells would be too boring and too flat on roads with too heavy traffic. I therefore plotted a route where I went straight over from Stirling to Kilsyth over the old cattle roads. This made the tour both longer and far harder than a normal circuit through Stirling, Denny and Kilsyth on the valley floor. So I approached this tour with a great deal of joy and trepidation. Most of the trepidation was due to the road from Kilsyth to Renfrew. But that one turned out far better than expected.
The alarm clock woke me up at 0500 in the morning. I had a mug of coffee, some water and a breakfast. I took my bike outside and discovered a puncture. I changed tube in ten minutes flat and still managed to catch the first train of the day to Glasgow and Milngavie. I arrived in Milngavie and started the tour.
The tour started with the familiar climb out of Milngavie and over the hill to Strathblane. The descent down to Strathblane and the distillery some miles further up the valley was vertical. A rather strange bit of road so close to a major city as Glasgow. The road from the Glengoyne distillery to Killearn was unexpected steep. But it was still good fun on this overcast, but perfect weather. I reached the top of the climb at this small village and descended down to the Ettrick River which was also the foot of the pretty major climb up Balfron's main street. The views was excellent. The best views was though from a the top just after the village. Views that made my jaw drop to the floor.
A small descent took me down to the Dumbarton to Stirling main road. The next 25 km/17 miles was pretty boring through a small village called Bucklyvie and down to the valley floor. From here, the next 20 km/13 miles, the road was totally flat past the crossroad over to Thornhill and
Kippen without any hills whatsoever. It was pretty boring cycling where I concentrated on staying awake in pretty heavy traffic.
Looking back towards the 20 km/13 miles of flat road.
When approaching Stirling, I spotted the Wallace monument in the distance and mercifully soon; Stirling Castle. A small incline and a bridge over the motorway between Glasgow and Perth took me pretty close to the walls of this castle.
I did not enter the city center of Stirling because I was looking for the B road taking me over to Carron Bridge. I bypassed the city centre on a ring road and found a shop who sold me a bacon and egg roll. I had a break there where I also got directions to this road. I had to double back for one mile before I found this road. I crossed the Glasgow - Perth motorway again and headed up a pretty steep hillclimb towards the Campsie Fells.
The next 30 km/20 miles was epic, hard cycling on single track B roads. Mostly up and down where both my lungs and brakes got a severe beating. It was pretty hot in the forest. But I soon arrived on the mountains with no trees. Unfortunate, I did a map reading error and took the wrong road from a cross road. The road I should had taken would had taken me straight up to Carron Valley Reservoir. I went for a more adventerous route along a small lake and then down a road through a forest to a small crossroad. I lost a lot of height on this error and the climb from this crossroad over to the hill overlooking Carron Bridge and the pub there (which I visit) was pretty steep. The descent down to Carron Bridge was also pretty hairy.
Carron Bridge from the road over to Kilsyth. The road to the left is to Fintry. The road straigth on is to Stirling from where I came and the road to the right is down to Denny.
Carron Bridge is an idyllic cross road. The climb from this idyllic place over to Kilsyth was pretty hard though. But not as hard as the hillclimbs from Stirling to Carron Bridge. I passed a small loch and had to wade through a small river who crossed the road before I climbed the steep bits on this road. From the top of this hillclimb, I took the picture below which shows Carron Bridge as a white dot in the middle of the picture and in the distance hidden by the forest, Stirling and the whole climb up where I was standing now.
Looking back towards Carron Bridge and Stirling in the far distance
Just after I had taken this picture and with some help from some water, I was on the top of this climb at 300 meters over sea level. The road on the top plateau was a couple of hundred meters long before I reached the crest overlooking Edinburgh and Glasgow. My jaw dropped to the floor. I made my way to a viewpoint where I took these pictures. The first one overlooking Edinburgh. The second one is taken from the exact same spot, but is overlooking Glasgow.
I could had spent hours up here just enjoying the views. This is without doubt the best viewpoint on any roads in the Glasgow/Edinburgh area. It was a jawdropping experience.
Unfortunate, I had to return back to Renfrew before the end of the day. With a lot of trepidation, I made my way down the hill past a golf course towards Kilsyth. The road was mostly a vertical drop. The brakes on my bike got severe hammered and my fingers was not feeling good. But this descent was still not as scary as I expected. But I was glad when I reached Kilsyth. I zigzagged through Kilsyth in a hunt for the B 8023 road and the tour along the the Forth and Clyde Canal towards Kirkintilloch. The road was mostly flat here and I made good progress. I took this photo towards the Lennoxtown and the strange landscape here.
I soon reached the major road in the rush traffic. This road bypassed both Kirkintilloch and Bishopsbriggs. The road was climbing past Kirkintilloch too. I was starting to wonder where this road was leading me when it became a motorway and I bumped into a ringroad at Springburn taking me around Glasgow towards Partick and the Clyde Tunnel. A descent down this pretty busy road took me through Maryhill before I got lost. I asked for directions, got it, got lost again, asked someone else, got directions and ended down at Partick and the beginning of the
Clyde Tunnel which took me under the Clyde River to the southbank again and Renfrew. I reached my home after an excellent day on the bike.
This is an excellent, but still a very serious tour around and through some of the harder roads in the Glasgow area. Not enough good can be said about the Campsie Fells. It offers some absolute excellent cycling with jawdropping views. This tour, with the variations straight up to the Carron Valley Reservoir, is on my classic rides list. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough.