Since its inception in 1990, the Helensburgh Green Belt Group (HGBG) has been active in promoting paths, especially footpaths, but also bridleways and cycle routes.

The countryside around Helensburgh is crucial for the town’s landscape setting and as a recreational facility. HGBG has worked with others to create a “Ring of Recreation”. This is a network of footpaths around the town which link woodlands, moorlands, local hills and places of interest. There are two paths into the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and the local Access Trust is planning a 50km “Three Lochs Way” from Balloch to Inveruglas, via Helensburgh.

Being close to the town, access is easy without the need for a car. Walking is recognised as making an important contribution to health and helps to stimulate children’s sense of exploration and adventure.

HGBG Countryside guide

The HGBG produces a guide entitled “The Countryside around Helensburgh” showing footpaths and other features. Click on this image to see a larger version. Printed copies are available free of charge; a small supply is available in the Library, Scotcourt House and Victoria Halls.
View Helensburgh Green Belt Group in a larger map

Highlandman’s Road

Highlandman’s (or Church) Road is an ancient Right of Way which links Rhu Church with Glen Fruin. It was the route used until the 19th century by those living in Glen Fruin when attending the church. From various points on the road there are some fine views of the Cowal hills, the Firth of Clyde, the peaks of Arran, Ardmore Point, Ben Bouie and the southern end of Loch Lomond.

The Highlandman’s Road passes between the Highlandman’s Wood and the Ardencaple Wood on the hill behind Rhu known as Tom na h-Àiridh (pronounced Tom nuh Harry) which means hillock of the sheiling ie a summer residence for herdsmen and cattle.

Duchess Wood

There are numerous paths in and through the Duchess Woods in the west end of Helensburgh. This woodland is one of Scotland’s 49 Local Nature Reserves and is a long-standing and valued local recreational area, so that the paths are some of the best-constructed and most used in the Green Belt.

At the lower, flat part there is an appropriately-surfaced and drained all abilities path suited to wheelchairs and push chairs. Some of the paths on the steeper main part of the Wood are surfaced and drained, but others are rougher. There are five well-constructed bridges over the streams. A horse-riding trail is being developed. There is a small car park at the south-west corner, above Rhu Road Higher.

A new link path and bridge at the north-eastern corner of the Wood provides a link to the Ardencaple Wood, the Upland Way and the Highlandman’s Road, and thereby to Rhu westwards and to Glen Fruin and the National Park eastwards.

Upland Way

The Upland Way runs from Sinclair Street just above the old Toll House where travellers used to pay their dues for the upkeep of the road, past Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous Hill House, a masterpiece of domestic architecture, to the Glennan Burn which it then follows up to the Highlandman’s Road . It was initiated by Alan Day and put into effect by the old Dumbarton District Council.

The Access Trust has performed maintenance work on bridges, drainage and surfacing. This path is much-used. It illustrates how popularity follows provision.

Ardencaple Wood Path

The Council’s Employability Team completed construction of the Ardencaple Wood Path. This runs above the railway at the north-west of Helensburgh and links the Duchess Wood to the Upland Way, leading to the Highlandman’s Road and to Rhu and Glen Fruin.

The first section is a bridle path in the Ardencaple Wood, shown in the photo on the right.