A run on the wild side in Glen Finglas

Glen Finglas

In the heart of Scotland, this glen is a treat for walkers, runners and mountain bikers

Photo: Matt Saywell

Ancient woodland, open moorland and stunning lochs make the Woodland Trust’s largest estate, Glen Finglas, a real gem.

In the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, which is part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the glen is great for walkers and mountain bikers, as well as the odd madcap runner (that’s me!).

Easily accessed from the village of Brig o’ Turk, which is handy for people in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling, Glen Finglas is also a haven for wildlife, in particular birds such as redstart, warblers and grouse.

Routes for all

A wide-ranging network of trails at Glen Finglas offers walking and mountain biking for all abilities.

Three 30-minute walking trails include Lendrick Hill, Little Drum Wood and Drippan.

Lendrick Hill: Start from Little Drum car park, to the east of Brig o’ Turk. This short but steep hike reveals fantastic views over Loch Venachar to Achray Forest and Ben Venue.

Little Drum Wood: Also starts from Little Drum car park. This walk heads through ancient woodland to a viewpoint overlooking Lendrick Hill. Walkers can also make a short detour to a wildlife watching hotspot.

Drippan: This walk is accessed from Glen Finglas car park, between Brig o’ Turk and Little Drum. The route explores more ancient woodlands and takes in an old farmstead that was once part of the farming township of Drippan. Again, the views of Loch Venachar are well worth the stroll.

Bluebells in Little Drum Wood

Photo: Warmer weather in Little Drum Wood by Allan Bailey

Hike a longer trail

A longer walk of 90 minutes or a short-ish mountain bike outing is found on the Brig o’ Turk Loop. This trail starts at Little Drum car park and heads through woodland, across moorland and boasts great views.

You’ll also discover the Brig o’ Turk Mines, which were once the village curling pond and now a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Look out for wetland plants and dragonflies in summer.

A winter run on The Mell

The longest charted trail in Glen Finglas is The Mell, a 15-mile (some say 16 miles) route. To walk this beautiful yet hilly trail takes around seven hours. Mountain bikers can expect to complete the route in less than half the time although a number of easy gears will benefit your speed on the ascents.

On a chilly winter’s day recently, I decided to run the Mell route. I had read that the trail reached a height of 600m and I had heard that it was an “undulating” walk but I knew little else.

I had no idea that there would be snow, many hundreds of feet of extra ascent and run-stoppingly steep sections.

Equally, however, I had no concept of the amazing wildness, beauty and variety of landscapes that I would encounter on this splendid trail.

The route starts at Glen Finglas car park and heads towards Drippan on a path before joining a surfaced path around the base of Lendrick Hill. A private road then ascends towards the dam at the southern end of Glen Finglas Reservoir.

A surprisingly undulating route follows the eastern shores of the picturesque reservoir before climbing on a very hilly path through Glen Finglas. (I took the western route around The Mell, while others might choose to head north-east first.)

As the path climbed I was rewarded for my efforts with fabulous panoramic views (looking over my shoulder), pretty woodlands and fast-moving streams.

I also encountered far more snow than I had expected. The higher sections of the path are at 500m to 600m yet other places of the same height nearby showed very little snow. I imagine that the sheltered nature of the glen helped to preserve the white blanket that had formed in the previous weeks.

As I ran I felt my feet break through an icy crust on the top layer before sinking, sometimes up to my knees, into the deep snow.

The snowy running was actually great fun and found me giggling as I attempted to “high knee” my way along without slipping over.

I met several mountain bikers travelling the route in the opposite direction and bravely negotiating the snowy path. But for the most part it was a quiet outing.

At the height of the trail, and at around the halfway point, the glen feels as remote and wild as many Highland glens much further north. The views are also as spectacular.

From the summit, the route continues north-easterly before turning back towards the south and heads through dramatic Glen Meann. Further views of The Mell (a hill of 674m and officially known as Meall Cala) provided an eye-catching distraction as my legs began to tire.

All the ups and downs (and there are many, many ups and downs on this route) were taking their toll on my leg muscles. Again the route through Glen Meann surprised me with its numerous undulations and it wasn’t until I returned to the dam at the end of the reservoir that I was able to enjoy a long downhill stretch.

The final section back towards the car park was a heady relief and I returned to my car dreaming of coffee and lots of cakes. If you do this route in the spring or summer you could pop into the wonderful Brig o’ Turk Tea Rooms. The tea rooms shut for the winter season, though, so instead I made it to Aberfoyle by car and re-fuelled with a tasty lunch at Liz McGregor’s restaurant.

Whatever the season the trails in Glen Finglas are a wild treat amazingly close to the towns and cities of the central belt.

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