SCOTLAND should be proud of its council-run country parks. I have no empirical evidence, but it seems the availability of wide open spaces – with well-laid paths covering interesting terrain – in the care of local authorities is much greater north of the Border compared with the south.
South Lanarkshire should be particularly commended for the 500 acres it tends at Chatelherault, as well as a great visitor centre and café.
There are a number of waymarked routes; this walk follows the Green Bridge trail, the longest. It leaves the centrepiece of the estate, a hunting lodge built for the fifth Duke of Hamilton by William Adam 250 years ago, and follows the gorge of the Avon Water to the Green Bridge (which is not actually green).
The return leads past the Cadzow Oaks. Some of these gnarled trees are more than 500 years old, pre-dating the lodge by centuries.
You may also glimpse some Cadzow White Park Cattle, an ancient breed which have grazed this spot since the 1500s – but be aware that the long-horned animals are known for their bad temper, so leave the fence between you and them.
DISTANCE 5 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 690ft.
TIME 2 to 3 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 64.
PARK Turn off the A72 just over a mile south of Hamilton to reach Chatelherault and head for the main car park.
IN SUMMARY Just before the main entrance to Chatelherault go left, then go left again at a junction to follow a sign for Green Bridge.
The wide path leads through woodland with a drop down to the Avon Water on the right and a golf course to the left.
After just over a mile go left at a fork, again following a sign for Green Bridge. A few hundred yards further on the path drops steeply down, towards the Green Bridge. When I was there a couple of weeks ago a detour was needed (through trees on the right) to avoid an area swamped by heavy rain. Either way, the bridge is reached and the return can begin. Follow a path on the other side of the bridge, up through woodland. As you climb, ignore steps on the left and continue uphill as the path veers right to go back along the top of the gorge carrying the Avon Water.
After crossing an old stone bridge over a tributary of the Avon Water, go straight on. (You can’t return to the start via White Bridge because of a landslip.)
After crossing Divoty Glen the path continues above the gorge, eventually reaching the Cadzow Oaks.
Keep straight on at the next junction to drop down to Dukes Bridge. A path on the left leads to the ruins of the 16th century Cadzow Castle which you can walk round before crossing the bridge. On the other side of the bridge follow a track up to a junction, where you go right to return to the start.
REFRESH The café at the visitor centre is of a good standard.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA The visitor centre and its exhibition is well worth a visit (www.slleisureandculture.co.uk/info/114/chatelherault_country_park).