SOME country parks are so well ordered they are more like very big gardens.
Others, such as Muiravonside, are places you can lose yourself in. Paths criss-cross what was once a large estate belonging to the Stirling family (the big house has been demolished but other buildings indicate a previous use of the area). The main natural attraction is the River Avon, which surges along the edge of the park, and below one of Scotland’s biggest aqueducts, carrying the Union Canal. The route described is a good way to see most of the park, including some of the quieter parts.
DISTANCE 2∫ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 200ft.
TIME 1∫ to 2∫ hours.
MAP OS Landranger 65.
PARK Take the A801 south from junction 4 of the M9. After a couple of miles go left at a roundabout, on to the B825. Follow this road for a mile to reach the entrance to the country park, on the right. Then, follow the access road to its end to find the main car park, on the left.
IN SUMMARY From the bottom of the car park follow a sign pointing right, for the visitor centre, along a grass path. Cross a track and then reach an access road, where you go left. The road leads to the visitor centre; cross the courtyard with a café to the right then go left on reaching a playground, following a path past buildings and then to the right.
The path you are following bears left then, at a fork, you should bear right. The path then leads high above the river before bearing left to pass through a burial ground for the Stirling family. From here, ignore a path going left and drop down. Descend one flight of steps then go up a second flight – just before the top of the second go right, down a path which leads to a junction. Go straight ahead to a modern building and turn left, up a track and past an older building used as an outdoor centre.
At a junction keep straight ahead, by the river. (To cut the walk short go left here to return to the car park.) The Avon Aqueduct then comes into view – built in 1820 it is one of the highest and longest in Scotland. It is worth going up steps to the left to reach the towpath by the canal and a great view of the river and surrounding countryside from the centre of the aqueduct.
Return to the path by the river and continue up it. The path climbs to a junction where you go left and then immediately take a path to the right, leading along the edge of woodland. At a fork go left to reach the access road you drove into the park on. Go left here, cross a small bridge then look for a path on the right, starting below a large beech tree. (Stay on the access road to return directly to the car park.) The path runs parallel to the road then bears right to climb up to a fork, where you go left. At a wider path go right to walk past a small pond then look for another path cutting off, and back, to the left. Follow this to a fork where you go right to drop all the way down to the side of the River Avon. Go left then keep by the riverside on a path which narrows as it re-enters woodland. Continue until you reach a sign for the car park, where you go left then left again to follow a sign for the visitor centre. From there retrace your steps to the start.
REFRESH Try a bacon and egg roll at the Steading Café at the park’s visitor centre. Otherwise, turn right out of the park and follow the B825 for a couple of hundred yards to find the canalside Bridge 49 café/bistro which sells a wide range of meals.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA Newparks Farm (www.falkirkcommunitytrust.org) is part of the park and worth a visit. n