Across the world the Covid-19 pandemic has caused untold damage to people’s lives and livelihoods. Scotland has not been immune to this and so for the last two months instead of travelling around our beautiful country we have been in lockdown at home. Woodland walks around Gillies Hill near Stirling has been our daily chance to explore the nature around us.
We are sharing here some of the highlights of our time at home. Winter turned to spring and now spring has turned to summer. During the first weeks we could still see the patches of snow on the mountains in the distance. Ben Ledi, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin to the north in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
Rolling farmland of the Carse of Stirling
Gillies Hill, Cambusbarron
Our greatest joy was exploring every day our local woodland. Seeing for the first time the woodland burst into life was amazing. Watching each day bringing new life, as the weeks of March turned into April, was wonderful.
The ground was covered with bright bluebells around the sycamore, oak, silver birch and beech trees. As April merged into May the bright yellow of the gorse bushes lit up the rocky cliff edge.
Viewpoint over the Carse of Stirling
History of Gillies Hill
Today the local mountain bikers enjoy the challenge of hurtling down the slopes over ramps and manoeuvring around tricky banked up corners! The mixed woodland leads to the site of an iron age fort. It is good to stay alert on these trails and then carry on to the long pathway which leads to the ruins of Polmaise Castle.
The last heir to the estate was sadly killed at the Battle of Loos in 1914 and the castle slowly became a ruin before being blown up by the army, for safety, in 1965. It is still amazing to see the rubble and to witness the excellent work now being carried out to restore the gardens and stonework.
The Castle driveway must have been spectacular in the late 1800’s when the monkey puzzle trees, beech trees and spruce were planted for the Murray family. Today they provide a peaceful, shaded woodland walk, a home for 85 species of birds.
Lockdown continued and May merged into June. As a result the stunning colours of the rhododendrons once again brought brilliant colour to our walks in the woods.
The Murray family who built Polmaise Castle in 1860, also planted a number of exotic trees around their estate. We found Sierra redwoods, Coast Redwoods, Douglas Firs, and South American Monkey-Puzzle trees. These are all tucked away in this hidden gem of a woodland just outside of historic Stirling.
Sierra Redwoods, Gillies Hill
The lockdown in Scotland is starting to ease and we are hopeful of some normality returning soon. We have missed our tours very much and for all those whose trip to Scotland has been postponed to 2021 – we will be waiting with open arms.
To finish our story of the woodland walks we enjoyed all the many brightly coloured stones popping up at the bottom of a tree, or tucked behind a flower. We are grateful to those who took the time to leave an inspiring message which always made us smile. Thank you.
Inspiring painted stone, Gillies Hill