Pipe Track, Loch Katrine to Drymen Road Cottage
Start location: Royal Cottage, Loch Katrine (NN 421 090)
End location: Drymen Road Cottage (NS 505 935)
Geographical area: Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
Path Type: Civil Road
Path distance: 23.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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Just west of Royal Cottage beside Loch Katrine, a path heads SSW, passing up a wooded glen, across open moorland and into the forest to reach the B829. In places the route is less clear but it is marked by a series of stone-built towers and circular air-shafts. A little further south along the B829, a track and then forest rides follow the general line of the Loch Katrine aqueduct. Several small streams have metal bridges, while a major burn has a wooden bridge adjacent to the aqueduct. Beyond the shore of Loch Chon, the route goes over the hill and descends the forest road behind Loch Dhu Cottage. Continue southeast through the forest on the west side of the Water of Chon heading in the general direction of Loch Ard. From Blairhullichan, a rough stony vehicular track leads SSE giving views of Loch Ard and climbing gradually through woods to a X-roads junction at NN452003. The pipeline service road continues ahead through the forest to the Duchray Bridge, where it may be necessary to lift bikes over the stiles provided as the viaduct's gates are likely to be locked. This potential barrier can be avoided by turning right (WSW) at the afore-mentioned X-roads and following the forest road via Blairvaich to Duchray Cottage. From here, the forest road which services the pipeline continues generally southeast. At NS487983, turn south then southeast then southwest to pass to the west of the Drum of Clashmore to join the Rob Roy Way (RRW) at NS485969. The RRW follows the general line of the aqueduct to the public road just south of Drymen Road Cottage.
A further stretch of the Pipe Track is described on the Heritage Paths website, the section from Killearn to Strathblane.
OS Explorer 365 (The Trossachs) and 364 (Loch Lomond North)
- the Langranger series also takes two maps (57 & 56) to cover the whole of this long route, but doesn't show the relationship between the forest tracks/rides/paths and the aqueduct's features so well.
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, was completed in three-and-a-half years, and was fully functional by 1860. By the 1880s the supply was insufficient, so work on a second aqueduct started in 1885.
Immediately west of the Royal Cottage jetty and pierhead is the point on Loch Katrine where the water intake is located, feeding the aqueducts and supplying Glasgow's water. The cottage itself is so-named because it was built to accommodate Queen Victoria when she officially opened the aqueduct in 1859. Reportedly though, the 21-gun salute fired in her honour shattered its windows, so she never stayed there.
The track between Loch Katrine and Drymen Road appears to predominantly service the first aqueduct, but the track mostly isn't shown on the OS 1st edition 6" map which was surveyed in the early 1860s. The 2nd edition OS 6" mapping, surveyed in the 1890s, beautifully illustrates the relationship between the first aqueduct and its now mapped service track - manholes, tunnels and towers and so on are marked. The immensity of this vital engineering project can be seen on these images taken from re-discovered glass photograph slides.
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 en route. However as noted above there is also other Glasgow Corporation Waterworks infrastructure to look out for. Further details about these artefacts are available from Canmore, but if anyone has photographs that they would be happy for us to use here they will be gratefully received.
The pipelines still supply water to the City of Glasgow. Scottish Water is currently undertaking a £12.5 million refurbishment project that will see each of these two Victorian aqueducts closed in their entirety at different times
In October 2017, the story of Loch Katrine and the building of Glasgow's water supply featured in episode 6 An Enchanted Land of the BBC series Grand Tours of Scotland's Lochs. If you'd like to watch the programme, keep an eye on the iPlayer as there are occasional repeats.