Walk of the week: Cambus to Menstrie

The rail line between Cambus and Stirling. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
The rail line between Cambus and Stirling. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
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CAMBUS, the southern suburb of Tullibody, is fringed to the west by the River Devon. The road across the Devon, map ref 853940, is adjacent to the currently boarded off Cambus Iron Bridge; a rare Scottish example of a single span prefabricated lattice girder bridge, 68ft in length.

It was constructed in the early 19th century to link with the west bank distillery, founded in 1806 but which closed in 1993. (The far bank is now an extensive area of bonded warehouses). The iron guide rails, allowing a wheel gauge of 4ft, are still in evidence on the bridge, which was used by horse-drawn wagons and pedestrians.

For those interested in wildlife, just across the road is the entrance (signposted, path to Blackgrange 1¾ miles) to the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Cambus Pools Wildlife Reserve, situated by one of the broad large undulations made by the River Forth. This offers a 4½ mile clockwise stroll.

On return, an out and back 4 mile stroll to Menstrie follows the trackbed of the former branch railway line from Tullibody to Menstrie (and Alva), now a tarred path/cycleway, opened in 2012.

FACTFILE:

Map Ordnance Survey map 58, Perth & Alloa

Distance 8 1/2 miles

Height Negligible

Terrain Riverside path and Tarmac path/cycleway

Start point Road across the River Devon, map ref 853940, on south side of Tullibody

Time 3 to 4 hours

Nearest town Alloa

Refreshment spot Ochils Coffee Mill, Glentana Mill, West Stirling Street, Alva

THE ROUTE

Cross the road bridge and turn left as signposted. The path goes by a narrow wooded strip between bonded warehouses and the widening calm waters of the Devon. Despite the immediate industrial area, the salty ponds, wet grassland and reed beds are a haven for migratory and breeding birds and many a swan.

Ignore a path to the right, the return route, and continue clockwise on a narrow muddy path round the edge of the Forth; a clockwise route passing Haugh of Blackgrange, then by track past Haugh Cottage to reach a minor road. Turn right and later follow National Cycle Network Route 76 (Cambus 1¼ miles), on a narrow path between warehouses to return to the Devon.

Still part of Route 76, the broad Tarmac path by the east bank of the Devon is liable to flooding and the river is not at its most attractive at first. The path goes under the present railway to join the branch line trackbed, then curves right again to pass by the impressive ruins of the 17th century New Mills Crossing Doocot.

The straight line of the trackbed passes under two bridges; a graceful arched stone bridge carrying the old A907, then the unattractive concrete one carrying the new A907. From this point cycle Route 76 heads towards Stirling. Make a brief detour westwards along the old A907 to Tullibody Old Bridge, an early 16th century toll bridge that spans the Devon. Consisting of two main spans and three flood arches, it is 442ft long and varies in width from 11ft to 30ft. Redundant with the building of the new bridge in 1915, it was restored for use by walkers and cyclists in 2003.

Return to the trackbed and head north, now on Route 768, Menstrie 1¼ miles. With the Ochils as a backdrop, cross the Devon, an interesting place not seen from the road, after which the trackbed curves east on its attractive approach to the minor road on the east side of Menstrie.

The trackbed passes under the road to what was the site of Menstrie railway station. At this point Route 768 heads left. Retrace steps for a short distance then walk into Menstrie to have a look at Menstrie Castle, the birthplace of Sir William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling, who established a colony in Nova Scotia in the 17th century. Despite being more of a castellated house that lacks many fortified features, it stands bizarrely amid modern houses.