Walk of the Week: Airthrey Loch and Hermitage Wood

A roe deer, then another, just a few yards into my walk on a sunny August morning. These animals are growing in number, especially in areas of the central belt, but to spot one still stirs the senses. In Hermitage Wood, above the campus of the University of Stirling, these animals thrive in the dappled shade provided by a canopy of deciduous trees. The wood is a surprise in that parts of it cover craggy outcrops with steep drops; a feeling of wilderness only a short distance from the civilised atmosphere of academia.

Higher up, the outcrops also offer a great vantage point over Stirling’s landmarks – its castle and the Wallace Monument. Amid the seat of learning Airthrey Loch draws the eye with Dumyat Hill standing above, an extension of the wildness provided by the wood. Why not take your children on this walk as an introduction to the varied attractions of the outdoors and if it’s a sunny day they will want to repeat the experience. n

DISTANCE 3 miles. HEIGHT CLIMBED 360ft. TIME 1½ to 2 hours. MAP OS Landranger 57.

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PARK Enter the University of Stirling’s grounds from the A9 between Stirling and Bridge of Allan then follow the main drive round to the right to the main car park.

IN SUMMARY Go to the left end of the large building below the car park, cross a road and take a footpath going left to the side of Airthrey Loch. On reaching a granite sculpture, take a path on the right to continue by the loch side then go right again after about 150 yards, along George Forest Walk. Don’t cross a bridge spanning the loch; instead continue on the metalled path that veers left, away from the water towards halls of residence. Ignore a path to the right and continue to a road, which you cross at Geddes Court.

Go left then take a rough path on the right, along a line of rhododendrons. As the path enters woodland, go through a doorway in a wall to the left, cross a track and walk up stone steps on the other side, going left at the top. Ignore a path going down to the left and continue up and round to the right.

As you gain height take a path going up to the right (almost doubling back on yourself). At a yew tree the path goes sharp left and then sharp right at a small rock face. Continue up to a fork and go left, up to another path, where you go left. Walk up to a viewpoint looking over the university to the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle then continue on the path, which starts to drop downhill.

Just before a wall go left to drop down fairly steeply then ignore a path going up to the left and continue to some wooden steps. At the bottom of the steps go left then look for a gap in a wall to the right, which leads you back to the university. Go left on reaching a road and follow it back to Geddes Court, going right here to retrace your steps to the bridge. Again, don’t cross it but take a rough path to the left which leads around the loch. After passing Airthrey Castle, cross a golf course to the left, ignore paths going left and keep by the loch. Go under the bridge and about 200 yards further on go left, away from the water, to retrace your steps to the car park.

Note: In places there are some steep drops by the side of the path so take care, especially in wet weather or with children.

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REFRESH There is a good choice at the university including the Macrobert Arts Centre.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA The Macrobert Arts Centre (www.marcrobert.org) on the university campus has a very good cinema and also hosts workshops and exhibitions. Alternatively, head just down the road to the iconic symbol that is the Wallace Monument (www.nationalwallacemonument.com).