Cycling the old Aberfoyle to Buchlyvie Railway Line from Appletree Luxury Cottage Croftamie
Aberfoyle itself is about fifteen minutes drive from Appletree luxury self-catering cottage in Croftamie. A little longer if you take the picturesque back road from Drymen to Gartmore.
The start of the route at the east end of the car park. is easily identified by a railway signal and a blue sign giving the distances to various places along the line.
The first part of the route is tarmac and runs between birch trees which grow over the former goods sidings.
At this early stage there are a few walkers and cyclists but further along the track things become quite.
For much of the journey to Gartmore, the first former station which is about two miles from Aberfoyle the track runs between the main road and the early stages of the River Forth - which joins the sea on the east coast of Scotland by Edinburgh and Leith.
Aberfoyle to Gartmore
At the eastern end of the former railway yard we cross a wooden bridge over the Allt Vingen burn and pass a row of pretty cottages built for workers on the railway.
Aberfoyle is a great place to bring the family. As well as the large play park next to these cottages there is a BMX. cycle park, a golf course, boating on Loch Ard and the treetop experience of Go Ape just a mile north up famous Dukes Pass. Not to mention the excellent Maggie's Kitchen on the Main Street.
After the cottage and the play park the route takes close to the shore of the River Forth in its early stages - having started its course a mile to the west at the end of Loch Ard.
It takes the river another 29 miles (47km) to reach the North Sea.
Cycling between the lines of trees it is a pleasure on the smooth surface. There is plenty of room for walkers and cyclists to pass and although the route roughly follows the main road there is little traffic noise.
Every few hundred yards small pieces of artwork laid onto the tarmac decorate the path bringing a sense of cheer.
On the right-hand side of the track is the remains of pillbox defence structure. One of thousands built across the country during WW2 many by the Local Defence Volunteers which later became the Home Guard aka Dad's Army.
This building is in better condition than many of the others of the same style and vintage.
Sustrans Cycle Route 7
Cycle Route 7 takes a 542 mile long circuitous route from Sunderland in the north east of England via Carlisle, Kirkcudbright, Ayr, Glasgow, Dumbarton, Killin, and Aberfeldy to Inverness in the north of Scotland. Quite a journey!
More about the route can be found on the Sustrans website where they reckon the complete Sunderland to Inverness journey can be completed in 46 hours and 32 minutes. I think I would take longer - just looking at the fantastic vistas along the way!
Gartmore Railway Station
Gartmore Station was actually situated 1.3 miles from Gartmore village in an area known as Cobleland
There are few if any signs of ever having been a station here other than a short cobbled section at the entrance to the former railway yard. A station house has been converted into a modern dwelling.
Gartmore station, used as a filming location in the feature film Geordie (1955) starring Bill Travers and Alastair Sim. It is here Gordie is seen mounting a train to take him on the first part of his journey to the Melbourne Olympic Games where he is to compete in the hammer throwing event. (Sorry, spoiler there!)
The station closed in January 1959, about a year before passenger services ceased on the route and eight years before the Aberfoyle line closed completely. More about that later.
More about the Strathendrick Aberfoyle railway
One of its main reasons for existence was to transport slate from the Aberfoyle Slate Quarry tramway terminus to locations throughout Scotland.
The passenger service from Aberfoyle to Glasgow took an hour and a half calling on the way at Gartness, Buchlyvie, Balfron, Killearn, Dumgoyne, Blanefield, Strathblane, Campsie Glen, Lennox Town and Kirkintilloch before finally arriving at Queen Street Station.
The line was never a huge success. Its estimated build cost was £52,000 and in the first three months of operation the receipts were £138, £88 and £32 respectively (August, September and October). So not very profitable.
Trippers visiting the Trossachs, continuing their journey to either Inversnaid or over the Dukes Pass to Loch Achray and Loch Katrine boosted numbers substantially in the summer months before the 1920s.
However the railway suffered in a similar way to the Forth and Clyde Junction Railway (between Stirling and Balloch), with which it shared tracks for part of the route, in that the stations were often a considerable distance from the village which they purported to serve.
Particularly Gartmore, Buchlyvie and Balfron. The villages were tiny enough and the rail service sparse so it must have been hard to attract passengers.
As with many railways, road competition gained the upper hand and starved the route of passengers. The line finally closed go passengers in 1951 with total closure from Campsie Glen to Aberfoyle taking place in October 1959.
More can be discovered about the Strathendrick and Aberfoyle Line here: www.railscot.co.uk/companies/S/Strathendrick_and_Aberfoyle_Railway/
Gartmore to Buchlyvie Station
Forestry plantations lie on either side of the track but as they have been recently felled there is not the interruption to the view as there might otherwise have been.
The path from Gartmore Station south is almost dead straight and level
In the distance on the right-hand side we can see Gartmore House - a large former country house which hosts many activity holidays.
Soon we cross over the River Forth, still a meandering, picturesque small channel at this stage. A wooden footbridge has replaced the original iron railway bridge and is wide enough to cycle over comfortably.
A mile or so later we come to another bridge. This time over the Keltie Water, a tributary of the Forth flowing down from the hills in the west.
This bridge replaces a previous one, the abutments of which have partly collapsed into the water. Interestingly the current replacement bridge is built straight on top of the first bridge without any apparent effort to remove it.
Shortly after the bridge over the Keltie Water the line starts to veer to the right and heat towards the west. We are able to see some of the buildings in the village of Buchlyvie in the distance.
At the former site of Buchlyvie Station the station house survives as a private dwelling behind a high beech hedge. It is however possible to make out that the design of the building is almost identical to many of the former station buildings on the former Forth and Clyde Junction Railway.