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