THE River Avon is not the best-known stretch of water in Scotland but, tucked away in a bucolic corner of the Central Belt, it is a tranquil place for a stroll.
The 11 miles of the River Avon Heritage Trail were laid out by the Central Scotland Forest Trust and this route follows part of it between a viaduct and aqueduct dating back nearly 200 years.
Wildlife, including the easy-to-spot goosanders, abounds and the feeling of being a lot further from the urban and industrial sprawl of Falkirk and West Lothian is strong.
More evidence of the industrial heritage of the area is seen on the return, along a section of the Union Canal towpath. But again, the peace and quiet of this stretch of water is enhanced by the rolling hills and farmland next to it.
DISTANCE 4 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 100ft.
TIME 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 65.
PARK There is roadside parking near The Bridge Inn, off the A803 at Linlithgow Bridge, at the western side of Linlithgow. Otherwise, head a short way into the town to find more spaces on the road.
IN SUMMARY From The Bridge Inn, head towards Linlithgow across the road bridge over the River Avon. Go right at a set of traffic lights then right again after about another 50 yards, down Burgh Mills Lane – there is a green sign opposite the turning for the River Avon Heritage Trail.
Drop down the lane and just before the bottom go left to pass through a wooden gate and on to a path under an impressive viaduct. This is the Avon Viaduct, built in 1840 by the North British Railway Company and still carrying trains today. The path then drops down to the side of the River Avon and heads upstream.
After about a mile, you reach boards over wet ground and then a steep bank which leads high above the river. Eventually, you reach the towpath of the Union Canal and the route goes left, towards Linlithgow. However, it is worth taking a short detour right to cross to the middle of the Avon Aqueduct and views back down the river towards the town. The aqueduct was built in 1820 and is one of Scotland’s highest and longest.
Before you reach Linlithgow the towpath passes playing fields to the left. Just after these, go left, down steps and turn left at the bottom to follow a path next to a small burn. When the path becomes surfaced, go left to head towards a red-roofed building – Linlithgow’s leisure centre. Just before the leisure centre go right, down the entrance road, then cross a road at the bottom and turn left. Go straight ahead at a small roundabout to follow a road under a railway bridge and down to the traffic lights at Linlithgow Bridge. Go left to cross back over the River Avon and back to the start.
REFRESH The Bridge Inn is the obvious place.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA Linlithgow Palace, cared for by Historic Scotland, is the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk).