Linking Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, the Darn Road is an ancient trackway that mostly follows the east bank of the Allan Water. (Dobhran is the old Gaelic for water.)
Thought to have been used by the Romans, unlike the modern road it does not cross the Allan Water. Ordnance Survey map 57, Stirling, covers the well-signposted walk, but it would be sensible to have a more detailed local map.
Rhona, arriving by car, met me at Dunblane railway station. Strolling up High Street, we passed the Andy Murray golden post box then turned right into upper High Street and so to the Public Library where the staff were most helpful in plying us with informative leaflets and maps of the area.
Dunblane and Bridge of Allan are readily accessed by a frequent train service so flaunt your green credentials. My day was completely car-free. We started from Dunblane on a there-and-back walk, a distance that can be halved by using the interconnecting train.
Map Ordnance Survey map 57, Stirling
Distance 5 miles
Terrain Mostly riverside path
Start point Dunblane railway station
Time 2 to 3 hours
Nearest towns Dunblane and Bridge of Allan
Refreshment spot Choices Delicatessen and Coffee Shop, 21 High Street, Dunblane
From Dunblane railway station, follow Stirling Road, cross the Allan Water, and turn right by the Riverside Hotel to Beech Road. Cross with care the very busy B8033 dual-carriageway and turn left for 50 yards to the signpost – Heritage Public Path, the Darn Road. On our December day, affixed to the signpost was a warning of closure to a railway bridge, despite improvement completions expected by August 2013. Worry not – that bridge is not required on this walk.
At first walk by the perimeter of Dunblane New Golf Club course on the left and to the right, being high above the Allan Water, there are lovely open aspects overlooking Kippenross (Gaelic, Ceapan Ros, the promontory on the small hill). As the walk progresses beyond the golf course, it becomes more obvious that this is indeed an old road. On the right is an attractive high old wall, to the west of which is Kippenross House, a Georgian mansion.
A gentle, though stonier, descent by a line of beech trees leads to Kippenrait Glen (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and a footbridge over the Wharry Burn. On the far side is a 3-pointed sign – back the way, Dunblane 2 miles; to the left Dunblane via Glen Road; and straight on Bridge of Allan 2 miles. The burn joins the Allan Water, a noisy river on our day, and a most attractive and secluded section. Ignore the footbridge on the right (the return route) then pass on the left a hillside cave known as Robert Louis Stevenson’s cave, thought to be the inspiration for Ben Gunn’s cave in Treasure Island. A path, stepped at first, climbs high above the river then crosses Cock’s Burn (no footbridge), with a cutting leading to the far bank.
Pass on the left the outskirts of Bridge of Allan to reach a Tarmac road and another sign – back the way Dunblane 2½ miles. Head down the road, which turns out to be Blairforkie Drive, then turn right and cross the river and impressive weir to reach the A9. Continue by pavement and pass Bridge of Allan railway station on the left. Immediately turn right at a children’s nursery, Lecropt, and a sign Dunblane 2½ miles. Continue to the road end and another sign. The path goes left of Milsey Bank House whose garden gate has a sign, “shut the gate, the penalty is 40 shillings for leaving this gate unlocked”.
The walk continues high above both railway and river, hidden to sight but not to sound. A high footbridge spans the railway line, and then a gentle rise leads through charming mixed woodland. Descend to the Allan Water crossed by footbridge and so back to the 3-pointed sign and on to Dunblane.