(This kind of thing soon gets out of date, so apologies for any discrepancies with the Real World. Note that this page includes experiences over 10 or 20 years here, although I've made some effort to keep things up to date as appropriate.)
This part lists some useful bits and pieces that can be assembled to make pleasant tours. Of course it all depends where you are starting from (near Kelvinbridge in my case).
There are certainly some splendid places further out, but for those I'd normally take the bike by car to a suitable starting point. Here I'm concentrating on things that I would do close at hand.
Even before the Millennium project re-opening of the canal, there had been established an excellent cyclable path on at least one side of the canal pretty much throughout its length, both on the Main Line (Bowling - Clydebank - Maryhill - Cadder - Kirkintilloch, etc) and on the City Branch (Maryhill - Port Dundas).
(What a difference from when I came here in the 1970's! Then, the canal was firmly fenced off at every conceivable point along Maryhill Road, could only be accessed in a few spots where the fence had been broken etc.; and the paths were heavily overgrown, in places so much as to be literally impassible.)
A Google search produced a much better web site than my own modest effort: see James Perry's Forth and Clyde Canal page.
Follows one or other bank of R.Kelvin from its mouth (Ferry Road) to Dawsholm Park. Accessible throughout to cyclists (one or two spots call for dismounting).
Note: after cycling past the gate which leads (across a bridge) into the main Botanic Gardens, one soon arrives at a spot where the river bends sharply to the right. Here there is a new bridge (reinstating one which was washed away quite a number of years ago) across the river to "Ford Road". Take this bridge and turn sharp right into the Arboretum. Continue to the far end of the Arboretum, where another bridge takes you back to the opposite bank, at a children's playground. (One or both of these bridges might not be shown on your map, depending on its age.) I'd recommend cyclists to follow this pleasant route, in either direction.
If you attempt to stay on the same bank of the river for this section, then, beyond Kirklee Bridge, you will find the path narrow, rutted, often muddy, causing pedestrians to get justifiably annoyed.
SUSTRANS route from City Centre, to Balloch on Loch Lomond, The route follows R.Clyde to Exhib. Centre, crosses the Expressway by the footbridge at the far end of the SECC carpark, then alongside the Expressway to Partick. The route joined old rail embankment in an inconspicuous underpass at W. end of Beith St, but as of 2005 this section is being demolished... The old rail embankment continues parallel to the Clyde for some distance, and then forks, with one branch going slightly left, and the other fork to the right over a bridge across Dumbarton Road, close to the junction with Anniesland Road (for some reason, the bridge isn't shown on the Glasgow street plan, although it's perfectly obvious if you travel along Dumbarton Road). The cycleway takes the right fork, across the bridge: before the cycleway was built [footnote], it had been possible to take the other fork and explore old docks areas. Nowadays (2004), one can stumble ahead along the much-overgrown branch, passing above Burnham Road with a grandstand view of the Dumbarton Road junction and of the bridge which carries the cycletrack. But the old dockyard areas have enjoyed considerable industrial redevelopment, and are firmly fenced-off now. Let's leave that digression and return to the cycleway...
The cycleway then goes by Whiteinch and Yoker to Clydebank, and joins canal towpath to Bowling. Beware of carpets of broken glass laid by vandals in various places, especially underpasses.
A free leaflet was published by Strathclyde Regional Council, but that's a long time ago now. It's marked (green dots and dashes) on the OS 50,000 map. Recently (2006) one has been able to blunder one's way through the unspeakable URLs on the Sustrans web site and find, under Maps and Leaflets, Clyde to Loch Lomond Cycleway (PDF).
Signposting was quite good originally, but some are now missing. I got as far as Dumbarton once, and then missed the signs. Not that there's any real danger of getting lost, but it would be nice to be able to follow a calm route instead of getting mixed up in road traffic.
Incidentally this cycleway is never too far from a railway station; if you get tired you could always take your cycle onto the train for the return trip.
There's a cycle route, chiefly along track of old railway, from at least Milton of Campsie through Lennoxtown to Strathblane. Then there's the old road (not the A81) to Mugdock and the reservoirs, and into Milngavie. But from that point, there's no really attractive route into Glasgow.
One time I took that route, the peace was rather shattered by a crowd of yobs riding unlicensed and unsilenced motorcycles on the cycleway, but let's hope that isn't a regular occurrence.
A correspondent writes:
You mentioned the route that goes out past Lennoxtown to Strathblane which I have done on a number of occasions. You can actually pick it up near Moodiesburn on the A80. The track goes out to Kirkintilloch where it is a case of making one's way down through the town to the canal and then getting on the old railway track where it goes over the Luggie Water. Follow this through the old peoples' home and then down to where the demolished railway bridge is on the main A803. There is a set of steps that take you back up onto the old railway track which you can follow to Strathblane.
The track originally went to the Leckethill colliery near Annathill. Coming out of Glasgow, if you turn right at the Moodiesburn traffic lights go over the first hill, the track crosses in the bottom of the dip. Parking may be a bit tight.
And indeed the OS map at around NS715704 shows Leckethill to the south-east of the junction between M73 and A80. On my old OS map this is all shown as abandoned trackbed, but the newer version that can be seen at http://www.streetmap.co.uk shows the pathway to which the above is referring, starting at the unclas. road mentioned. At its other end, it appears that after passing under the railway and reaching the built-up area, the path evaporates, leaving one to make one's own way through Kirkintilloch. Must investigate this some time.
Waterworks road from Blanefield/Netherton to Dumgoyne Distillery and Killearn. Several rather high gates which are usually locked, necessitating lifting the cycle over the gate. Good surface, nice views.
This is a long-distance footway from Milngavie to Fort William. Cycling on it is deprecated in general (interference with walkers, liable to churn up mud), although there are parts of it where cycling would be harmless enough, and other parts where it's parallelled by forestry roads that offer good cycling.
Banks of Clyde can be followed upstream from Glasgow Green for a considerable distance; I haven't fully explored.
At Exhibition Centre.
Spooky side-tunnels for peds/cyclists (each tunnel one way). I found appallingly bad signposting from approach roads, but I'm told this has been improved since.
Despite the clear sign "Pedestrians only" there was provision for carrying cycles. There used to be an additional charge for the cycle, but later I was told the extra charge had been dropped.
Spectacular airy crossing on ped/cycle path (free), well separated from vehicles.
Towpath on S. side of City Branch can be accessed at various points: Applecross St., Garscube Rd, Firhill Rd., near Fire Station (opposite Murano St. Student Village), Ruchill St., but no access at Bilsland Drive. It can be followed E-wards past the Waterways depot as far as Spiers Wharf (warehouse turned into yuppie flats) but there it ends (the course of this part of the former Monklands Canal is now occupied by the M8).
A possible detour up Firhill Rd to Ruchill Park (steep) brings you to a good viewpoint. For a long while the summit flagpole was deemed unsafe and the area closed, but I'm told it's reconstructed and re-opened, so don't miss the spectacular view. Then exit to Bilsland Drive, and get on to Ruchill St to regain the canal at the bridge (near Maryhill Shopping Cen).
Following the towpath W-wards brings one to the junction with the Main Line (Stockingfield Junction). Here, drop down to Lochburn Road, pass under the canal and then regain the towpath on the N side heading E. The route to Kirkintilloch is then obvious.
At Cadder, immediately after the bridge there is a road to the left by which one can reach Balmore, by taking the road past the church (not the left fork into the Golf Club). Later the road becomes a rough track. But we leave that for another day, and continue on the towpath.
At Glasgow Bridge (A803) is Stables pub/restaurant. Soon afterwards, the built-up area of Kirkintilloch is reached.
Having passed through Kirkintilloch: a short distance E of the road jn. A803/B8023 there's a small tunnel under the canal. Three routes are then possible to Twechar: B8023 itself; Canal towpath on N bank; or through the tunnel and follow the track along S bank of canal through new Nature Reserve.
Variations E of Twechar: N or S side of canal to Auchinstarry, N side of canal to canal bridge near Dullatur, explore Barr Hill, Croy Hill, Antonine Wall etc. Or take unclas. road from Twechar N towards Queenzieburn for a short distance, take steep footway on the right to get onto track of old railway, head for Kilsyth.
Those with plenty of energy take the steep "Tak ma Doon" road out of Kilsyth to Carron Bridge. A less strenouous route would take the towpath to Banknock (I understand this is now feasible - it wasn't when I tried it years ago), cross A803, take unclas road to Drumbowie Reservoir, offering a useful and attractive cycle route to Stirling. (We tested the Stirling-Drumbowie Reservoir-A803 part with the Glasgow Cycle Campaign as an alternative return route for a day run to Stirling University, quite a few years back now, and that part of the route was perfectly fine, but back then the towpath was fenced off and we had to follow the A803 for a while. In the event, those of us who came back that way decided to follow Tak ma Doon road into Kilsyth instead.)
Approach the canal junction (Stockingfield junction) as before, but instead of dropping down to Lochburn Road, remain on the towpath to follow the Main Line across Maryhill Road to Kelvin Dock, an interesting area of locks and pounds since re-opened to navigation.
Shortly afterwards, the canal crosses R.Kelvin on a spectacular old aqueduct - that was a major engineering accomplishment in its day. There's access here onto the Kelvin Walkway, or after crossing the river there's an alternative path down to an area of new housing on the site of a former Paper Mill.
If you were to follow either of these routes, you reach Kelvindale Rd, where you need to take the path on the N bank of the river - access along the old track bed on the S bank is no longer possible. But take a look at its structure from the other side. Continuing along the Kelvin Walkway, one reaches a small bridge leading to the rear of the Botanic Gardens Arboretum (separate from the main Botanic Gardens site), of which mention was made earlier.
However, instead of dropping down to the Kelvin walkway, we continue instead along the canal towpath. In the R.Kelvin you may have noticed the footings for an old railway track which had crossed the river at this point and then immediately disappeared into tunnel. As we continue along the towpath, we see the other portal of this tunnel on our left, and its track bed continues in a cutting: the rail track formerly served the gasworks.
Immediately after passing the gasworks, the canal crosses the trackbed of the old railway line from Maryhill to Anniesland, which had been lifted quite some years back and appeared to be going back to nature, but by 2004 was being reinstated, at least as far as a terminating bay platform at Anniesland (apparently a junction with the existing lines was considered to be too expensive). So, in future we will no longer see the Maryhill trains trundling off empty almost to Westerton station in order to get onto the other track for their return trip.
The small bridge which crosses the rail bed a short distance to the S of the canal is accessible, and gives a good view back to the much more massively built canal bridge.
We pass (or visit!) a canalside pub, and continue under the main "Switchback Road" at Temple, along through Westerton, and then down quite steeply alongside a flight of locks. At the foot of this flight, the canal had been culverted for some distance, before re-emerging on the far side of Great Western Road. Which meant a rather inconvenient detour and a hairy main-road crossing for cyclists. However, the Millennium reconstruction has established a new cut here, and the canal now passes with a comfortable towpath beneath the roadway.
In due course we reach Clydebank. And are surprised to see a large boat concreted-in alongside the canal, serving as the "world's first sail-through fish and chip shop". In Clydebank there's a bit of fuss negotiating the Shopping Centre, especially if it's busy with shoppers, but otherwise it's plain sail... er, cycling as far as the Bowling Canal Basin. Much of this latter part is on the SUSTRANS Cycleway.
On reaching Old Kilpatrick (lifting bridge over the canal), apart from simply proceeding ahead on the canal path there's a variation or two which are worth exploring. The road to the left used to serve the old chain-ferry, before the Erskine bridge was built (and not surprisingly is called Erskine Ferry Road). Take a quick look at what little is left of the "Old Kilpatrick" railway station (see the Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire Railway at the RailScot web site), before proceeding past the Scouts HQ and down to the end of the road. The old ferry ramp gives a good view of the river, and of whatever is passing up and down it.
Returning from the ferry ramp towards the canal, there is a fairly inconspicuous track on the left (west) which gives access to a pleasant nature reserve (behind the rather unsightly "recycling centre" a.k.a dump): this "Saltings Ecology Park", with interesting explanatory signs, also leads through to an alternative route to Bowling along the track bed of the old railway line, which used to run along the strip of land between the canal and the shore. On a recent visit the reserve was in fine form, but the old railway line was somewhat torn up by works - nevertheless, it was easily walkable, and mostly cyclable with an ATB, and an interesting variation from the straightforward towpath.
However, some of the old bridge works at Bowling are unsafe, so when following the old track-bed westwards, fork left off the trackbed onto a path that follows the bank of the Clyde, and then swings to the right to pass underneath the old railway, rejoining the posted "Cycleway" route. If you stay on the old trackbed, it climbs slowly to the derelict opening bridge (unsafe) with steep drops either side.
(If following this route eastwards, then after crossing the canal by the bascule bridge, take the left-hand arch under the old railway - the right-hand one leads to the canal basin area - and follow the obvious path as it swings around to the left to run parallel with the river. The cycleway itself follows the canal towpath after crossing the bascule bridge.)
Continuing the route westwards from Bowling canal crossing, after a short detour through a small park, the cycleway rejoins the track of the old railway for a pleasant run past the rest of Bowling itself. At various points there are masses of wild garlic growing alongside the track, as well as other interesting wild shade-loving plants and garden escapes.
At the end of this section, the track rises to cross the end of the Bowling road at a rather hairy road crossing adjacent to a massive roundabout on the A82 (a pity - before construction of the cycleway the track used to run in a short tunnel, now filled-in, under the road) and continues on to Dumbarton and, eventually, Balloch/Loch Lomond.
Make your way to Yoker, e.g by following the canal towpath or the SUSTRANS Cycleway as far as Kelso Street.
Take the Yoker Ferry to the Renfrew side. It seemed easy to find one's way parallel to the river but it's hard to describe: the map says Meadowside St and Fishers Road. Work your way around the outside of the Golf Course to Blythswood Light and continue along the bank of the Cart Waters to Inchinnan Road. From this point towards Erskine, you have to cross the bridges here and, unfortunately, follow the main road to Inchinnan, where fork right onto Old Greenock Road. Then turn R onto A726; after about a mile (past large Hotel on shore of Clyde) there's a pleasant area of grassy shore before the Erskine bridge. At the bridge there's a steep ramp for pedestrian access. Cross back to the north side of the river, from where you can get onto the canal towpath/Cycleway for return towards city centre.
[footnote] Soon after I came to Glasgow, I had been exploring this area of Partick/ Whiteinch, and had spotted the old railway embankment, most of which didn't seem to be accessible at that time. I remember thinking to myself "what a splendid cycle route that would make, but nobody will ever have the sense to do anything about it". Well, I have to eat my own words, and admit how wrong I was! Well done SUSTRANS for proving me wrong.
Original materials © Copyright 1994 - 2006 by A.J.Flavell