Start location: Gowk Stane Road, Strathblane (NS 557 789)
End location: A875, Ibert Road, Killearn (NS 525 858)
Geographical area: Campsie Fells, Stirling, Clackmannan and Falkirk
Path Type: Civil Road
Path distance: 9.3km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians, Suitable for Bikes
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The Heritage Paths (Campsie Fells) Project has produced a lovely Campsies map leaflet showing this interesting track and other paths in the area. To get your hands on one, simply write to us c/o ScotWays (see address top-right) enclosing an SAE and we'll post one out to you.
Our route survey of the Pipe Track is in two sections, both starting from the A81 in Blanefield:
(i) To head towards Killearn: from the A81 in Blanefield (NS555796), the route follows Campsie Dene Road (a tarmacked public road) in a northwesterly direction to a gate. From here it follows a cobbled track providing access to the water supply pipe from Loch Katrine, encountering numerous gates and bridges for about 5 miles. There is a final gate from which the route continues north along a tarmacked road to a stone gateway where it swings west to join the A875 in Killearn (at Ibert Road).
(ii) An additional section of the pipe track lies south of the A81 in Blanefield (NS555796); from Wood Place, a tarmacced path runs south-east bounded by a wall on the left and a fence on the right. A sign at the start suggests that horses be riden on the grass to the right of the fence. The route then crosses the Blane Water and heads south alongside a fine wall which separates the path from the King George V Playing Field. Reaching Thom's Lane, the pipe track again heads south until it meets the Gowk Stane Road (NS557789).
Accessibility: by Cantywheery there is a kissing gate, so any cyclists will need to lift their bike over this. We have been further advised that the rough track means that the route is not easy for manual wheelchairs. Motorised wheelchairs may be more suitable, but the terrain may prevent use. Sections of the route are used by horse riders. Please note that some of the gates are old and heavy.
Geocaching aficionados may be pleased to know that there is a whole series of caches along this route.
OS Landranger 64 (Glasgow, Motherwell & Airdrie) & 57 (Stirling & The Trossachs area)
During the nineteenth century, there was increasing need in Glasgow for unpolluted water. In 1832, Scotland's first cholera epidemic killed over 3000 people in Glasgow alone. After epidemics returned in 1848 and 1853, decisions were taken to resolve the problem by bringing clean water to the city. Loch Katrine was chosen as the source and in 1856 the building of an aqueduct 34 miles long was commenced. The scheme employed about 3000 people and was completed in three-and-a-half years, officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1859. By the 1880s the supply was insufficient, so work on a second aqueduct started in 1885.
The track between Blanefield and Killearn is thought to have been made by the Glasgow Corporation Water Department about 1885, which would date it to the time of construction of the second aqueduct. However, as both aqueducts appear on the OS 1" second edition mapping (surveyed in 1895), but the track is not mapped until the third edition (published in 1905), it is possible that it was constructed after the second aqueduct for the purposes of maintaining both pipes.
The pipelines still supply water to the City of Glasgow. Although the pipes are mostly hidden from view, there are many other structures visible along the route. The most obvious are where masonry aqueduct bridges cross the many burns flowing from the slopes to the east. However there are also Glasgow Corporation Waterworks byewashes, shafts, sinks, a valve house and even gates and stiles which date from the time of the track's construction. Further details about these artefacts are available from the Royal Commission of Ancient & Historic Monuments, but if anyone has photographs that they would be happy for us to use here they will be gratefully received.
Newsflash (October 2017): the story of Loch Katrine and the building of Glasgow's water supply features in episode 6 An Enchanted Land of the BBC series Grand Tours of Scotland's Lochs. If you'd like to watch the programme, be quick, as it's only on the iplayer until 13th November.