January has been pretty wet and windy but that didn’t deter the Inner Forth Futures team earlier this month from taking a day to get out of the office and explore one of our newly created ‘Wanderings and Windings’ trails; Route 1 First Forth Bridges.
With the team of three all coming from different directions, we met at Stirling Station; conveniently the start point for the trail. Heading south-east from the station, we easily picked up the route and were delighted to spot our first waymarking roundels. Following the route through Braehead we were aiming for Millhall; the site of Robert the Bruce’s defeat of the English army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, also taking in the hidden heritage of the Millhall bing and former colliary. There are some great interpretation panels from the Bannockburn heritage trail here that really helped set the scene.
We then wound our way round the edge of Balquhidderock woodland through to Telford’s Bridge; built in the early 1800’s and quite striking with its unusual, almost circular, construction. Where again we learned about the Skeoch mills and the importance of the Bannock burn in tartan production during this period.
Image: Telford's Bridge, Bannockburn. Kate Kirkwood/ IFF
Wandering west, we headed for the Bannockburn memorial and visitor centre in search of a cup of tea and some lunch – and they did not disappoint! The team dug into hearty helpings of vegetable broth and some delicious cakes, to keep up our energy levels of course! After a brief stop to see some of the props from the ‘Outlaw King’ we were on our way again.
The route then took us along Tinker’s Loan, a picture-esque track which was evidently popular with other walkers, crossing over a great wee 18th century packhorse bridge. The track follows the Bannock Burn before heading north-west towards Gillies Hill, a community-owned ancient woodland and site of former hill forts. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stray too far from the route, but we could have easily spent some hours exploring the area and keeping an eye out for red squirrels.
Image: Entrance to woodland at Gillies Hill. Kate Kirkwood/ IFF
Leaving the woods at Cambusbarron, we began heading back towards the centre of Stirling taking in the views from the edge of Stirling golf course. Looking west with the River Forth meandering its way slowly across the landscape and iconic Stirling Castle sitting proudly to the north-east, you can really begin to understand why it remained a stronghold.
By this point, the rain we had been forecast all day made its appearance and we decided to head back to the station. We all agreed that it was a great way to spend the day; taking in an area, some of the team know well, from different perspectives and finding some absolute gems of hidden heritage.
If you’d like to know more about this route or any of the other Wanderings and Windings trails, you can find them here – along with GPX files and further information about the project.
A call for keen photographers to share their pictures embodying the spirit of adventure and exploration was raised with the #WinterWanderings Photography Competition. Running from 19th December right through the holidays until 16th January, we received over twenty fantastic images that captured the many faces of the Inner Forth – from woodland cycles in Fife and riverside ambles in Clackmannanshire to candid moments with wildlife in Falkirk and exploring derelict buildings in Stirling.
Five shortlisted entries were then shared on Inner Forth Futures’ Facebook and Twitter accounts for a public vote which gathered fantastic support – thank you to everyone who took part!
The winning entry was ‘Day Break at Kinneill’ by Mhairi Mcainsh; depicting an early morning walk with her dog on Route 7: Bo’ness & Linlithgow Ramble.
Image: 'Daybreak at Kinneil' by Mhairi Mcainsh
The two runners up were; ‘Bo’ness in Winter’ showing a fantastically frozen scene by Charles Colliar and ‘Evening Reflections’ by Gordon Dochard showing a glassy Gartmorn Dam reflecting the evening’s shadows.
Image: 'Bo'ness in Winter' by Charles Colliar Image: 'Evening Reflections' by Gordon Dochard
Congratulations to all the winners and special thanks to everyone who took the time to enter their photographs. We will shortly be uploading the shortlisted entries to the Inner Forth Futures gallery. We hope that you will continue to explore the Wanderings and Windings trail and continue to share your adventures with us through social media.