There’s a magic about the countryside around Kincardine. So close to the industrial heartland of Grangemouth,yet solitary, open, rolling woods and moors,beautifully offset by the Ochil Hills and River Forth.
Okay, it’s taken me a while to write this, I admit (insert guilty smiley face) but it was just before Christmas when I caught the Stagecoach to Kincardine. Ha!Ha! That made you pause. Don’t worry, no time travel is involved. The bus you need it you’re travelling from Alloa is Stagecoach service 28.From elsewhere, other bus services are available.Anyway, I had one thought in mind, a wee dally, a daunder through Devilla.
Devilla Forest is close to Kincardine.Kincardine itself is a large, sprawling village. It had a mix of industries,-saltpans, shipping, shipbuilding, fishing, stone quarrying and before the creation of its bridge, a ferry service. what’s little known about this area is that it was the cradle of the professional whisky industry, which was born in nearby Kennetpans . Sadly, the old distillery is now in ruins but production moved to nearby Kilbagie.
Kincardine’s major landmark is its bridge. Opened in 1936, it was the largest road bridge in the UK.Originally a swing bridge -to allow access for ships to the harbour at Alloa- its 346 ft span madeit the largest swing span in Europe.Despite that, in 1936 it cost a mere 3 farthings worth of electricity to open it – less than 50p today. Sadly, with the closure of Alloa Harbour, to put not to fine a point on it, the Bridge ain’t swinging any more.It’s presence led to the development of Kincardine as a commuter town. Increased pressure on the bridge meant that an alternative was required, and so along came the Clackmannanshire Bridge, which allowed traffic to by pass the village.
I’m fond of the old Bridge, it was part of my childhood. Crossing it meant that we were headed for the motorway and the promise of adventure. In later years it meant that I was getting a lift to Glasgow, Dad’s old Lada crammed with books and yes, even furniture, to start a new university year. It was on one such trip that I noticed an animal trailer in front of us, bearing the legend ‘Big Bear Ranch.’To my consternation, I realised that our little Lada was stuck, in.a traffic jam, in the middle of a bridge, above a treacherous tidal River, with a trailer containing…A 30 stone grizzly bear. Yes, Hercules the Bear was one of our local heroes, raised on Sheriffmuir near Dunblane and at that time living on a farm near Muckhart. Luckily for my Dad and me, Herc was the original gentle giant and we escaped our precarious situation unscathed.
But back to the village.Take a wee stroll around Kincardine’s old village centre. It’s charming, homely, unpretentious. Kincardine is not a tourist town and its sixteenth century homes look lived in.
As to the walk, well now you have to head out of town towards Tulliallan- Tullach alluin, the beautiful Knoll. What a lovely name for a beautiful old estate, once the home of the noted Douglas family and at a later date by Admiral Lord Keith who used prize money from capturing enemy ships to buy it. By this time, the estate’s castle was a ruin, so the admiral built a new house. I stopped to for a moment of contemplation
Now this is where I feel the need to issue a warning. You may know that Scotland has a right to roam, but people who inhabit Tulliallan can tell you all about this. As a sign near the entrance point to our walk informs us, these people have the right to stop and question you at any point. Should we be afraid?
I wouldn’t worry too much, it’s nothing sinister. Tulliallan is now the headquarters of the Scottish Police Headquarters. It’s where my Dad trained in the early 1960s, as have so many others since the 1950s. It’s a dangerous job, the polis.I stopped for contemplation at the memorial for those police who have been killed in action.
Prior to this the castle was not used by the polis, but the Polish. The Polish Armed Forces in the West used the castle as their HQ during World War II.
As you wander through the woodland, following the tracks, you will eventually reach Devilla Forest. At first you may think you are walking along a private driveway, but bear with it – it is a public footpath. Soon you will come to a detailed interpretation panel which shows you different waymarked trails through the forest, as well as archaeological remains to look out for. I followed the trail to Moor Loch but you can easily pick up the Red Squirrel trail (and try your luck at spotting one) or many others.
Devilla itself is mixed coniferous and deciduous. You do see the serried ranks of Sitka spruces. The trail, however, mainly takes you through mixed woodland, and it has the same effect as a walk in the hills – it feels timeless. The walker is so close to civilisation , yet feels so far from anything. Then you stumble across pretty little Moor Loch, hidden away in the trees….
Altogether it was only about four miles from the bus stop to Moor Loch and back.I’ll be back many times.