Ahead of this year’s Extravaganza I hope this account of a recent run across the Campsies helps build up enthusiasm (or at least reassures that the route won’t be entirely bog and tussocks!)
The skyline of the Campsies is a familiar friend: the small separate lump of Dumgoyne, crags of Slackdhu and featureless high ground stretching out to Cort ma law and beyond, broken only by the Crow Road. I’ve thought about running that skyline for years. However, there are many more appealing routes with less bog and fewer tussocks. Finally lockdown and the absence of more interesting hills in my life made me decide to give it a go. Looking at the map my eye was drawn to the trig points – seven of them – Dumbreck in the west to an unnamed mini-summit above Kilsyth.
Trig point 1: Dumbreck
Cycled out from home in Milngavie to Strathblane and locked my bike up in the Kirkhouse Inn car park. Then followed the old railway cycle path out to Ballagan Farm. Here a track zig zags up the side of Dumbreck. Ellie Homewood and I had run down this track a fortnight ago returning from a circuit over Slackdhu and Dumbreck. This time the field gate was open, on our previous run the gate was locked and we climbed over. Despite the locked gate and lack of footpath signs as far as I am aware this is the normal route up Dumbreck. The zig zag track gains height quickly and relatively easily. It turns into a quad bike track at the top which then follows a fenceline to the trig point.
Trig point 2: Earl’s Seat
New ground for me as previously I’ve always run to Earl’s Seat from Dumgoyne. A runnable trod follows the fenceline and then climbs up a grassy slope to the trig point. Encountered my first small boggy bits and peat hags of the run. Also quite a lot of well camouflaged rusty loops of fencing wire to watch out for.
Trig point 3: Holehead Hill/Radar station
An obvious trod headed downhill next to another fenceline from Earl’s Seat. This was handy as I’d hoped to stay high and contour rather than descend into the stream bed for a more direct route to the next trig. I found myself running downhill through hundreds of cloud berry plants, quite a few with berries. Sadly, these turned out to be unripe (if there’s a next time it’ll definitely be later in the season!) Although the trod continued after the stream it was poor and I was walking through tussocks to get to higher ground. I hoped that there would be a trod along the ridgeline but it was not to be. Tussocky grass, heather and a bit of bog meant I was walking most of the way up to the Holehead trig.
Trig point 4: Cort ma Law
Downhill! A surprisingly dry mossy carpet meant I was running again, but in fits and starts as disappointingly there was no path on my direct route down to the road. Wading through rushes, thistles and nettles wasn’t exactly the most fun bit of the outing. I was very glad to cross the bridge onto the grassy path up Leckett Hill and back on familiar, runnable ground. A couple walking downhill greeted me with a cheerful ‘You’re mad!’ To which I replied silently ‘Probably more than you imagine given I’m only halfway!’ I found the usual boggy bits between Leckett and Cort ma Law, although not as boggy as I’ve seen it. The path is now wide and obvious, I suspect it has seen many more people than normal during lockdown!
Trig point 5: Meikle Bin
In hindsight, I should have looked at my map but instead I set off confidently from Cort ma Law following a trod which turned into a quad bike track. I’d run this way with the Westies once previously, on a foul day and following someone, I think probably David Riach, who knew the way. I missed a right turn onto a trod which follows the high ground before descending to the forest. Instead, I ended up a bit too low and traversing on a faint and less runnable trod. The path to Meikle Bin is steep and muddy through the woods then turns into a wide grassy path to the summit. Suddenly there were lots of people! I touched the trig and ran away back down the way I’d come.
Trig point 6: Tomtain
More new ground for me. Thankfully there was a good trod running along the fenceline above the forest, over Garrel Hill and up to Tomtain. It was fairly wet and narrow in places but quite runnable. Some optimist had cycled it, I am not sure how much fun that would have been! Reaching the cairn and trig point on top of Tomtain felt good!
Trig point 7: pt 351
A wide grassy path descends from Tomtain to the Tak-ma-doon Road. It was a lovely descent (and I recommend finishing here!) My heart sank on reaching the road and seeing what lay beyond. I climbed over a wooden gate and set out again on a faint trod through tussocks. It got worse before it got better. The trod improved to be runnable alongside a deer fence, over a small hill and descending down through less and less runnable rushes. I waded through the vegetation, crossed a small stream and climbed a short, steep grassy slope to the final trig point. The Ochils and the River Forth looked very close! I could also see the crag above North Third reservoir not too far away. Turning round, I headed back the way I’d come, wading through the rushes and running back along the deer fence. The family had come to meet me and we all ran back up the road to the viewpoint car park.
So after all that, I still haven’t run that classic skyline of Dumgoyne and Slackdhu! But I did cross the Campsies and had a very good day out which was more runnable than I’d expected (I had very low expectations!)
Overall I climbed 1484m and descended 1242m, according to the Viewranger app on my phone. Distance 35.5km. Took me 6 ¾ hours. Although I sure I can’t be the first Westie to link these trigs I’d love it if this description inspired more folk to run the Campsies – the route would be much more enjoyable if lots of running feet created a nice path between Earl’s Seat and the Crow Road! Roll on the Extravaganza!
ps. Maps of the route are here as I haven’t been able to include them in this post at the time of writing.