What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?

Tow-path near Dullatur

With Last-born at T-in-the Park, a weekend of rain was expected and indeed forecast, so you can imagine our complete lack of surprise to have a lovely walk in hot sunshine.  A bit of a change this week with a nice circular walk taking in a bit of the Forth-Clyde Canal and the Antonine Wall near Kilsyth and so getting two engineering marvels in one go.

Jazz cooling off in the canal

Jazz and I have been doing stretches of the Forth-Clyde Canal since she was a puppy and this stretch was the nicest yet.  The canal east from Auchinstarry  is pretty wide and mostly straight which made it suitable for rowing teams to be out training. They was the first active water vehicles we’d seen using the canal 1  The tow-path was edged with wild-flowers and on this sunny, summer’s day all would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the cyclists.  The path was just infested with them and what a bunch of inconsiderate gits they were.  After Jazz and I stood out of the way to let them pass (sometimes 2 abreast), did we get a “thanks”?  Nope. When they silently came towards us from the rear did they warn us? Nope. As they passed did anyone shout a cherry “Hello”?  Once again, nope.  This was in marked contrast to the other path users and so led to Jazz and I developing our Friendliness Theorem.

Old canal structure, Dullatur

Mute Swans on canal

The K+J Friendliness Theorem relates the friendliness of the people with the speed they are going at.  Walkers are friendly and bid you good-day 2;  same for horse-riders and joggers.  When you get to runners it starts to tail off and by the time you get to cyclists you have distinct unfriendliness. 3  So the theorem states that the slower the other person, the friendlier they seem to be.  However, this does not necessarily mean that stationary people will be the most friendly: we passed a whole stream of anglers and they were uniformly grumpy, but being anglers they have other issues to deal with.  Clearly, this theorem has the odd exception:  for example I am friendly at all speeds, and a cyclist friend of mine is friendly so long as he’s on a titanium alloy bike, but I think you’ll find it is generally applicable.

Ditch of the Antonine Wall

Jazz on Croy Hill with Bar Hill beyond

So it was a pleasure to leave the canal and its unfriendly cyclists and head for the next bit of impressive civil engineering.  The Antonine Wall takes roughly the same route as the canal for the same reason: it is the narrowest part of Scotland and has the easiest geography.  This wall has a different structure to Hadrian’s and today all you can really see are the earth ramparts and the ditch.  The stretch we were going to follow goes over Croy and Bar Hills with the best preserved structure being the fort and old bath-house on Bar Hill. 4  The entire wall has World Heritage Site status and there is a signed path over these hills.  Once on the top you get a good view of the Kilsyth Hills and the Kelvin valley.  However, you soon realise that you are in the Central Belt and there are towns all over the place – but if you blank them out the view north is very pleasant.

Kelvin valley and Kilsyth Hills from Bar Hill

The path drops down into Twechar where we rejoin the Forth-Clyde Canal and a pleasant wander back to the car.  This stretch of the canal is more winding and narrow, and we preferred it to the morning’s linear stretch.  This walk was a nice mixture through some attractive lowland scenery that was only blighted by the bicycling hordes.  It would therefore be best to avoid summer weekends in future.

Previous section of JMT: Strathblane to Kilsyth
Next section of JMT: Castlecary to Linlithgow


  1. As opposed to the tied-up floating caravans.
  2. Dog-walkers are usually going particularly slowly waiting for their canine to emerge from some river/bush/etc and so are the friendliest bunch to meet.
  3. We are not talking about the people out for the day for a slow wobble on a bike for the first time in a decade, but rather the numpties on the expensive kit wearing yellow shirts and thinking they are on the Tour de France.
  4. Although they are just low wall outlines and you need the interpretation boards to give an idea of what it really looked like. Don’t expect children to be over-joyed at being dragged up to see this though.  Or spouses!
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