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Walk the Three Lochs Way Part 3: Glen Fruin to Glen Douglas

This third guest blog documenting Alistair McIntyre’s Walk along one of Scotland's Great Trails, The Three Lochs Way, focuses on the stretch from the head of Glen Fruin to Glen Douglas.

Arriving at the head of Glen Fruin, it's worth taking a few minutes to soak in the marvellous panorama- one of the most extensive you'll get in the Helensburgh area from a road. Look out for the peaks of Arran. The Gareloch is tucked away shyly at our feet, with even the sprawling Clyde Naval Base rendered modest by the sheer scale of landscape. 

As we head north across the busy Haul Road, our route takes us along the American or Yankee Road, a legacy of World War Two. On a more romantic theme, our whole route to Inveruglas from this point follows more or less the line taken by the forces of MacGregor en route to the fateful Battle of Glen Fruin. That we are now in a military training area gives some martial continuity to the story. 

Before long, the village of Garelochhead, with linking track to our route, comes into view. As I live here, this is the way by which I normally come. On half of my last dozen visits, I've spotted black Grouse on the stretch between here and Finnart. Other birds to look for include Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Short eared Owl, Snipe, Curlew, Raven, Jay and Reed Bunting, to name but a few. Most common of all are carrion and hooded crows. There's also a fine selection of wild flowers.  

As we proceed, the rugged outlines of Argyll's Bowling Green and the Saddle loom large to the west, a reflection of the changing geology. As a bonus fourth loch, and prelude to Loch Long, look out for a glimpse of Loch Goil and the hamlet of Carrick to the North West.  Cresting a high point, notice the branching spur from the line of pylons, carrying electricity from Sloy Power Station to Cowal - the crossing high above Loch Long is an unsung feat of civil engineering.

Soon we pass the old Garelochhead reservoir, and then part company with the Yankee road, as it drops steeply downwards, while our route continues onwards and upwards among conifer plantations - look out for glimpses of tankers berthed at the Finnart Ocean Terminal. In due course, there is a view ahead of Glen Mallan and the railway line. A low bridge called a cattle creep leads us under the latter, and alongside a burn with crystal-clear water. Notice the ruins of Alderigan, one of many deserted settlements hereabouts, and inhabited until around the late 18th century.

Once over the Mallan burn, our switch to the west side of the glen provides a new perspective, and we can take in the sweeping ridge to our right. This is the Fairy Hill, probably so-called on account of the distinctive hillock-like summit- certain hill shapes were associated with the “Wee Folk” of myth, legend and ill-repute.

However, it's soon back to the present with a varied scatter of buildings large and small below the flanks of the same hill-  part of an defence installations built in 1963. A pleasant downhill stretch leads on to the railway bridge, where the public road crosses over, announcing our arrival in Glen Douglas proper.

©Alistair McIntyre – Alistair McIntyre is a member of Helensburgh and District Access Trust.

Photos: Header photograph: Garelochhead from the Yankee Road. Mid photograph: The Yankee Road.

The Three Lochs Way guidebook is available online from Helensburgh and District Access Trust at in addition to useful information about the the walk, including smartphone apps for the route.  

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