The Angry Corrie 11: Feb-Mar 1993

The Campsies, and why you should notice them

by David McVey

In the first week of my university career, back in the days when we had Yes albums, student grants and Gregory's Girl haircuts (speak for yourself - Ed.), I went to the Freshers' Fair, where student societies tout for members. I made straight for the Mountaineering Club stall, manned by two guys, one affable and friendly, the other a distant, grim-faced macho-man, hands in the pockets of his Javelin fleece jacket. The other bloke asked me about my mountaineering experience, and I answered, light-heartedly adding that I knew the Campsies like the back of my hand. The strong silent type threw in a sneering "Well, you won't be going to the Campsies with THIS club!", and went back to ignoring me.

Perhaps he was experiencing girlfriend trouble, or toothache, or had failed his spelling and join-the-dots resits; but I never went to any Mountaineering Club meets. I suspect he became the first man to climb the Old Man of Hoy solo while clubbing himself with a pick-axe handle. But his scornful attitude to the Campsies is typical. Not Munros, Corbetts nor even Donalds (missing Donaldhood by 103 feet), they don't have big macho rock climbs or jagged ridges. They're just too easy.

In fact the Campsies do have a few rock climbs, there are one or two well-defined peaks, the terrain is often rough, peaty and not at all easy - and as for not being Munros, this means that they lack clamouring crowds of list-tickers, even at weekends. A few popular routes do have ugly tracks leading to the summits; usually these lead up from lay-bys and car parks and have been trodden by the perfidious motorised hillwalker. Yet many spectacular and beautiful corners of the Campsies are lonely and little-frequented.

Spectacular? The Campsies?

Try the huge Corrie of Balglass, high above Balfron, and its smaller western neighbour; Tom Weir described them as resembling the coires of the Cairngorms. They are airy, evocative places, dominated by the croaking of ravens and fluted gusts of wind in the gullies.

And there's Dumgoyne, Strathblane's own Alp. Ignore the blinkered motorists' path from the Glengoyne car park, which follows quite the dullest route up this fine, rocky wee peak. Instead, take a bus to Strathblane and strike out for the summit from Cantywherrie.

The upper reaches of the Fin Glen are as unfrequented as any Highland valley. Coming down the Glen once in torrential rain, I had to cross a burn swollen to look like something out of Knoydart. I waded in as far as I dared, leapt the fast-flowing bit, and, landing in the shallows, fell on my backside. Twenty minutes later I was drying out in the warmth of a Kelvin bus at Campsie Glen.

Their nearness to the city explains why the Campsies are so valued (and, paradoxically, why many dismiss them). The upper Fin Glen is about twelve miles from the centre of Glasgow. Go the same distance from Central London and you'll find yourself in Potter's Bar.

For many years, the Campsies were surprisingly untouched by development, but the last 15 years have seen changes: tracks gouged out of the southern face by a mineral water company; hideous boxy private housing on the lower slopes; and the usual problem of bulldozed roads as well as more discreet argocat tracks which are seized on by the navigationally illiterate and turned into broad scars. Private and public forestry have blighted the Carron Valley, and limited approaches to the Meikle Bin, the second highest peak in the Campsies.

Like all countryside on the verge of big cities there are problems of dumping, litter (I once found a car battery high in the hills), and vandalism. The squalid car park above Campsie Glen is a favourite Saturday night haunt for the lads; wildly revving cars full of neanderthal males screech into the car park. Fifteen minutes later cardboard pizza containers fly out of windows, followed at regular intervals by lager cans and fag douts. The steep slopes down to the burn from the Crow Road are also a favourite place to dump unwanted, perhaps stolen cars.

What I'm saying is that the Campsies need friends, friends to explore them, enjoy them, appreciate them; most importantly, to speak up for them if need be.

TAC 11 Index