Walk of the week: Plean Country Park, near Stirling

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THE industrial heritage of Scotland is rich, although many of the once thriving centres of commerce are now silent and have been reclaimed by nature. One such place is Plean Country Park, just south of Stirling, which was built in the early 19th century by East India trader William Simpson. The house was taken over in 1894 by mining engineer Wallace Thorneycroft, who ran the Plean Coal Company.

The final pit in the village closed in 1963, leaving behind huge bings that are now covered in woodland and home to roe deer and woodpeckers. They also form part of a country park established by Stirling Council in 1988.

This route

follows one of the waymarked trails around the park for most of the way. Leaflets can be picked up at the car park. Although relatively easy, boots are a good idea for this walk as it is muddy in places with exposed tree roots.

The first section takes you away from a walled garden to mixed woodland filled with rhododendrons. More open ground is reached as you walk along the edge of the country park, bordered by arable farmland with views to the Ochil Hills. A main drive of the estate then takes you along a burn until the return route follows one of the main bings, now virtually undistinguishable because of tree cover. A slight detour takes you to a view over the ruins of Plean House – which was last occupied by the Thorneycrofts in 1972 – before you drop back down to the start.

Distance

2 miles. Height climbed 200ft. Time 1-1 hours. Map OS Landranger 57.

Parking

Leave the M9 at Junction 9 (Stirling Services) and take the A872 south. After about a third of a mile go left, following a sign for Plean. Just over a mile and a half further, turn left again and half a mile later you reach the main entrance to Plean Country Park, on the right. The car park is a short way down the drive, to the left.

In summary

Go to the far end of the car park and follow a path to the left of some toilets. After about 50 yards, go right at a junction then left a few yards further on. Drop down for about 30 yards and at a bench go right, along a slightly rougher track.

Once over a small footbridge, go left, cross another footbridge and then right, on a path which turns left after a low stone wall. Pass through woodland, ignore a path going right and reach a gap in a stone wall. Go right, along a track, and turn left at the end. Just before a metal gate, go left at a sign for a horse trail. After only ten yards, go through a gap in a wall to the right and follow a path through trees. Ignore paths off to the left, then the right, and follow green waymarkers round to the left and down to a stone footbridge.

On the other side go right, along a wide track. Follow the track downhill for a few hundred yards and as it bends right, follow a green waymarker indicating a path going up to the left. At the top of a short slope the path bears left, through trees, leading to a fork where you go left.

On reaching a wider path go left again and continue in a fairly straight line, ignoring a couple of paths to the left. Just after a small cleared area on the right take a path on the left which drops down before climbing up through rhododendrons. At the top of the slope go through a gap in a fence and turn right, following the edge of a wood.

Keep to the side of the fence (don't re-enter the wood) and follow a grass path round to the right. Ignore a stile on the fence and continue to a waymarker, where you take the left-hand path.

Cross an open patch of ground and go right at another waymarker. At the next junction of paths, go left, drop down to a track and go right. After about ten yards, go left, over a small stone footbridge, and follow a path the short way to the car park.

Refreshments

There is nothing at the country park so your your best bet is Stirling. And while you are in the area Stirling, with its castle and the Wallace Monument, is the obvious destination.

This article was originally published in Scotland on Sunday on 28 February 2010