Walks on the way

Have a re­ally wel­come break next time you’re on a long drive.

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: PHILIP THOMAS PHOTOS: TOM BAI­LEY

LIKE EV­ERY­ONE WHO trav­els the na­tion for walks away from home, the Coun­try Walk­ing team are no strangers to Messrs Moto and Wel­come Break. Our long jour­neys by car are punc­tu­ated by the oblig­a­tory stops at bland and soul­less ser­vice sta­tions. For­ever faced with the fa­mil­iar fare of fast-food chains and fancy-pants su­per­mar­ket con­ces­sions, we be­gan to won­der: surely there must be a bet­ter way to take a break from the road? Prefer­ably one that in­volves a de­cent stretch of the legs.

Af­ter con­tem­plat­ing walks from ser­vice sta­tions, it soon dawned upon us that once parked up in th­ese cof­fee-push­ing com­muter cor­rals, it’s almost im­pos­si­ble to es­cape on foot – let alone to any­where you’d ac­tu­ally want to walk. But then came an epiphany. Why not skip the mo­tor­way ser­vices al­to­gether and in­stead travel a few min­utes from a junc­tion for a ru­ral stopover? Some­where you can park up, grab re­fresh­ments and

go for a gen­tle mi­cro-hike. Rather than add to the al­ready over­flow­ing cof­fers of Star­bucks and Costa, we could in­stead lend our pa­tron­age to a lo­cal café.

From our base in the East Mid­lands, it’s a bum­numb­ing drive to the ma­jor­ity of Bri­tain’s pop­u­lar walk­ing des­ti­na­tions, none more so than Scot­land. And so it was, that on a jour­ney to the High­lands, we took our leave from the M74 and scoped out the first of our ‘walks on the way’ – a new se­ries for our Routes sec­tion start­ing this month.

Park and stride

The in­di­ca­tor ticks cheer­fully as the car slows for the round­about off Junc­tion 12. Steer­ing away from the hum of mo­tor­way traffic, we’re quickly out into the La­nark­shire coun­try­side. A few min­utes’ drive along a mod­est high road brings you to the vil­lage of Douglas. Park­ing up be­side the par­ish church and stretch­ing out a full set of sore limbs, it’s time to boot up, put foot to path and go ex­plor­ing.

Traips­ing down a back lane and along an un­friendly stone wall, you come to a small lodge at the edge of the vil­lage. The gate­house guards the en­trance to the ram­bling acreage of tree-fringed parkland set around a man-made lake and the lazy, me­an­der­ing course of Douglas Water. It’s a back­drop be­fit­ting the grand­est of coun­try seats, but this is an es­tate that’s lost its stately pile. The big house is long gone, though the grounds re­tain much of their sculpted splen­dour.

Un­til 1938, the drive­way led to Douglas Cas­tle – an 18th-cen­tury man­sion which stood on the mound at the far end of the lake. Imag­ine some­thing akin to Down­ton Abbey, only in this ver­sion of ITV’s pop­u­lar pe­riod drama, sub­si­dence re­sult­ing from lo­cal coal min­ing prompts Lord Gran­tham (or ‘Douglas’, as he was round th­ese parts) to raze the whole lot to the ground. Af­ter the last heaps of rub­ble were carted away, it wasn’t long be­fore the es­tate was req­ui­si­tioned for a new pur­pose – a role that’s com­mem­o­rated as you pass through the gate­way.

WARTIME FRIEND­SHIP Over 4000 Pol­ish troops were bil­leted here in 1940. Grate­ful guests, they gifted three mon­u­ments to com­mem­o­rate their time in Douglas.

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