Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe © 2008
A Visit to Duncryne
I have a well thumbed copy of 'Tom Weir's Scotland' on my bookshelf. It was bought from a second hand bookshop but much of its scuffing is through my repeated reading of this lovely book. Before moving to Scotland my passion was for the big hills of the Highlands but this book made me explore some of the areas on my new doorstep in the Central belt.
I read an illustrative tale of Tom’s outlook somewhere else that I can’t recall. A well known international mountaineer is interviewing TW and in the warm up he waxes lyrical about his latest exploits. His bubble is burst when Tom interrupts him and asks “Aye, but what have ye done in the Campsies?” All hills attract the true mountain lover.
And one of his favourites was Duncryne – a towering peak of 142m – 469ft in old currency and known locally as the 'Dumpling'. Situated just a few hundred yards from his home Tom would walk to the top every day when at home and several chapters of his books describe these visits. I wanted to go there but the map revealed no paths – being a conformist by nature I left it. Then, delight - a magazine revealed the access situation – a permissive path from the west with parking in a newly developed lay-by. The following day I was there with a poor forecast but I had to go. Immediacy is genetically implanted into my psyche.
There was just one car in the small space so I parked up and set off. My first impression was influenced by some of the most polite entrance signs I have seen. It may be permissive but it is unusually welcoming – not always the case when private land is available for access. Not having a pushchair or supermarket trolley to leave at the nearby cottage I press on.
There is a short sharp pull through bracken up the back of the hill – several alternative path exist but I stick to the main route and eventually crest the rise to the point of revelation that draws so many people to this hill. There before me is the most complete view up Loch Lomond to the Arrochar Alps & Ben Lomond with the islands beautifully placed in the foreground. Even in today’s poor light it is spectacular and the composition is excellent. The flask perched on the Trig Point tells me that I am not alone and a couple sitting quietly looking at the Loch are the owners. They withdraw as we wish each other well and I settle into absorption of the view.
Eventually it is time for me to leave and I retrace my steps back towards the road. At a gate I stop for a few moments to listen to the sounds of this still morning. Cows in a nearby field snuffle & munch the grass, builders working on the house across the road hammer & chatter as they work, traffic on the road is a background but not intrusive, a skein of geese fly overhead honking as they wheel and turn to drop into the fields near the Endrick. A robin bravely defends his territory with a clarion call and an alarmed blackbird clatters through the trees shouting his annoyance at me for disturbing him. The trees groan and creak as a developing breeze begins to agitate their boughs – an almost human sound.
The sun breaks through and a few shafts of sunshine illuminate the undergrowth. I snatch a few pictures of new growth in dead leaves that prove to be quite successful – the green red contrast works well in a softish light diffused by the trees.
I return to the car and vow to return in different conditions to explore the full photo potential of this small area. But – Oh to be so close that you could visit it daily and respond to its seasonal whims – 20 miles is too far but better that the 300 miles I used to travel to get to Scotland to appreciate its beauty.
© Keith Ratcliffe
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