Devilla Forest & Blaeberry Jam!

One weekend, back in late August, we went on a beautiful family walk in our nearby, Devilla Forest. The weather recently has been great, and we needed to get out on a walk, so we decided to visit again! (Previous trips – click here). img_6523-resizedWith the promise of afternoon tea at the end, and  an exciting walk, we set out – and began walking towards our first Geocache. As we searched, I began to notice something about our surrounding undergrowth – everywhere I looked – I saw blaeberries (aka billberries, essentially mini blueberries) growing in their hundreds or thousands – far more on each bush than I have normally seen! So we started collecting!! Very soon we noticed that one: we would hundreds of them to do anything, and two: they were staining our makeshift hankie-bag bright pink!


There are at least 20 blaeberries in this photo – the camera doesn’t make them obvious though – and they are easy to miss!

As well as our blaeberry collection, we were also after geocaches, and we found a lot of them – last year we found our 100th geocache on August —-, and we aimed to find a further hundred before then this year. After succeeding that challenge, we have set our target to 200 this year – approximately 4 a week! But the extra caches we collected, including the ones we found in Devilla – have brought our target down to 3.5 a week for the rest of the year.



On our way to Loch Moor, we really enjoyed the trees, the undergrowth, the bird calls in the distance – and this weird thing in a hole in the ground!! None of us are sure what it is, possibly an abandoned bee hive – or an insect mound? Along our walk we also ate some of the wild raspberries along the side of the path – it all felt very different to some other forests, because other than the path – it was just untouched wild forest. After around an hour of walking, we had reached the loch – but we didn’t feel like going all the way around – so after something to eat, we returned by a slightly different route. Then, after finally making it back after our 10km walk, we had some afternoon tea at the walled garden, before heading home.


300 berries – beginnings of the jam

Once we got home, we weighed our blaeberries – and we got the value of around 150 grams. We then weighed 10 berries, and calculated we had 300 berries (each one is about 5mm wide!) – and began our jam! And tasting the jam was (at least for me) a great end to our family day out!

Scone Palace

Sorry about the lateness of this post, I decided it was still worth posting though!

One weekend, beforeimg_5568-resized the summer holidays we decided to go out in the beautiful sunshine to Scone palace – but, just like Culzean Castle, which we did last year – when we went to Scone palace, the only thing we didn’t do was visit was the palace itself! The weather was just so brilliant we just took a walk around their stunning grounds and had some scones to eat afterwards (ba-dum crash??).


We had a delicious lunch, straight from the Tesco deli!! Pork pies, cheese, ham, bread – was very nice – and the perfect start to a great afternoon. From there, we went down past the castle to the river – the palace was in pretty good condition for its age, though it was covered in vines! Once down at the river – Megan and I went down onto the stone beach – while Mum & Dad walked through the bluebell covered forest. Looking up the river was pretty spectacular – one of the nicest views since New Zealand! It was so nice, in fact – I later turned it into a felt picture!


We then moved on to continue our walk around the grounds – and we encountered a huge hedge maze – in the shape of a clan tartan – using two different colours of hedge. Megan thoroughly bet me to the centre – she was waiting for me in the centre – because I essentially went the entire circumference of the maze, and some more! img_5612-resizedMegan took a more direct route. We also encountered a large wooden shelter, with a modelled pineapple on top – and inside it explained about how in the 17-1800s pineapples were known as the food of the rich!

Towards the end of our walk, we encountered white peacocks, roaming around – something none of us had seen before! They were just strolling around the park, where Megan and I were. After we had left the park and made our way back along the road to the castle – we went inside to get afternoon tea, and then came back out to enjoy it in the beautiful sunshine. And then, after a lovely day out, it was time to head home – but with the intention of returning at some point, in the future – to explore inside!

White Peacock!!!

White Peacock!!!



Castle Campbell and Dollar Glen

On the Falkirk holiday Monday (7th September) we visited Castle Campbell, nestled at the top of the stunning Dollar Glen.

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It’s a pretty impressive 15th-century castle, small but perfectly formed and clearly a rich and ostentatious dwelling.


The views from the top were remarkable – it was a bit hazy but we still had excellent views of the Forth Valley… from the opposite angle to what we usually experience.


At the top was a colony of swallows – many resting on the ridgeline, many swooping hither and yon. We found one in the upper bedchamber, unable to find its way through the window – it was surprisingly easy for me (Keith) to carry it to an open window and set it free. I’ve never held a wild bird before. It was surprisingly warm. Megan also found a beautiful butterly resting on a warm stone, and a colony of bats in the rafters.


The glen is also lovely – a network of paths on both sides of a Y-shaped burn, well developed but right in amongst the nature. Oak woods, moss, ferns – Aidan picked a bunch of blueberries as we walked which were delicious.

Aidan practiced his Bear Grylls technique on a fallen log across the burn.


Homeward bound at the end of the day – not just a castle ticked off, a fabulous walk, views across the valley, and a new destination for a return visit!

Not the walk we planned

Yesterday we’d planned to go for a walk as part of the 45-minute project. Carolyn spotted a lovely-looking walk just west of Stirling, around the North Third Reservoir.

When we got there, it was indeed lovely – but it was also very wet indeed!


Megan and the rest sensibly elected to stay in the car. In the ten seconds it took me to get this photo my jeans got soaked.


The rain radar showed there was no prospect of it letting up.


So instead we used our Historic Scotland membership and visited Stirling Castle. In the Great Hall at the moment is the Great Tapestry of Scotland.


This is quite some tapestry – 160 panels telling the history of Scotland from 450mya to present day, all stitched by local groups over the last four years. There were lots of beautiful details, and as a whole it told the story really well – I certainly learnt a few things!

The River Carron

The Forty-Five Minute Project is not dead! On 28th December we went for a walk past the Kelpies and up the Carron River.

The Kelpies were looking particularly awesome on this chilly sunny day. It was great to get out!


First stop was this pond near the Kelpies, which had iced over – hard to resist walking on water, and collecting sheets of ice!


Aidan loved the cold, but Megan wasn’t quite so keen.


This year-old swan was just standing on the ice sunning itself. We tried not to disturb it as we went past, but it decided to move over anyway.


As well as the river, we walked through a community woodland which had some interesting features. This human sundial was very clever – the equation of time is handled by a platform with month names – stand on the current month, and your shadow indicates the actual correct time! There are separate hour markers for summer and winter time. It was bang-on!


This sculpture / barbecue area commemorating the ironworks was also very impressive. I particularly appreciated the clever construction. Aidan and Megan are re-enacting the crucible scene on the plaque.



A wonderful winter walk. Thank you Falkirk Council, Abbotshaugh and Langlees Community Woodlands, and the Helix!


Helix Park, Falkirk

A couple of weeks ago the whole of Falkirk was very excited by the launch (at last!) of the new Helix Park. We finally managed to visit today, and it was splendid! It’s very popular. You’re supposed to walk or cycle via the Helix paths, a network of paths covering the whole of Falkirk, but it was a bit far for us today so we drove. Aidan and Megan did cycle once we got there though!

The canal end isn’t finished yet so we couldn’t get close to the Kelpies, but they were impressive enough from a distance. Two things that are finished are the Great Lawn (looking forward to concerts here – the stage and amphitheatre-style wall are very promising indeed) and the Lagoon – complete with kiosk on one side and beach on the other:

By the kiosk is a fountain of a type which attracts children of all ages – Megan soaked herself, Aidan and Daddy went through the middle without getting (very) wet, and Mummy stayed at the side and drank tea!


We loved this spiral path in one corner.

We’ll definitely be back – possibly with roller skates!

Black Loch, Limerigg

Today we visited a loch called Black Loch, the scenery there was beautiful –  we never even knew we had such lovely scenery so close to home. The walk itself  was 1.25km/0.8miles and 20-30 minutes long – though we decided to go back the way we came, instead of walking along the road. It was about a 20 minute drive from home, pretty much south of Shieldhill.

We started at Limerigg Primary School, we walked along the Lochside road up to a small path. We then walked beside the loch beside marshy area which used to be forested, then we turned off the path that went round the loch. We walked by a small marshy forest for a while, then we reached the road. Then we turned back and trampled through the forest. I came out a little later then the others. Then we went back by the loch.

Megan and Daddy fell behind on the return journey, both carrying lumps of snow, it turned out it was a head and body for a snowman! The snowman was named Billy and we put him at the gate, we wrote his name in the snow!


The kids had the Monday off school, so I took a holiday too and for a change we headed east, to Almondell & Calderwood Country Park. We followed the Almondell walk (but from the Mid Calder carpark clockwise, rather than the South carpark anticlockwise). It was a fantastically sunny and still day, perfect to discover yet another hidden gem of the Central Belt! We’ll definitely be back again once the foliage has appeared on the trees.

There’s a good formed path along the riverbank, multiple historic bridges, interesting industry and waterworks, loads of beautiful woodland, and a visitors’ centre that was open and sold icecreams! The visitors’ centre also has a great-looking playground, but we didn’t have time to stop. The walk around took us 1h40m.

This bridge was fascinating – it carried a small channel of water from one side of the river to the other!


Gargunnock House Gardens

A slightly different walk yesterday, in a mature and well-kept garden: Gargunnock House Gardens, in the grounds of Gargunnock House near Stirling. The garden isn’t open all the time, but it was open yesterday for the Scottish Snowdrop Festival.

We picked a beautiful sunny day for it, enjoying views of the Forth Valley, Stirling Castle and Dumyat on the way. The garden has a grand drive you walk down with impressive redwoods above, budding rhododendrons everywhere, and some promising acers to the side – and everywhere a carpet of snowdrops! Further on was the house’s main garden, full of the promise of spring. Beyond was the walled garden, and we chatted with Willie the very friendly gardener for some time, exchanging tales of old Wallacestone! We left refreshed and keen to return, and carrying three plants for the garden: a rhododendron for us, and a snowdrop pot each for the children.

The gardener assured us the snowdrops would be even more spectacular in a week; we plan to come back in May when the rhododendrons are out. Lovely!

Megan took some lovely pictures.

Blossom in the garden (pic by Megan).


The doocot (pic by Megan).

The fab weather continued into the evening; Megan got these two lovely photos:

Sunset at Grandma and Grandpa’s (pic by Megan).


Grangemouth from Wallacestone (pic by Megan and Daddy).


Carron Valley Forest

On Saturday we walked around part of the Carron Valley Reservoir, on a cold, lightly overcast but still afternoon. The winter greys and browns were subtle and beautiful.

There was only one marked walking trail – it’s mainly a mountain biking reserve – but both Megan and Aidan found plenty to amuse themselves: it’s very hard to bore them! Megan and Daddy took the high road through the trees while the Aidan and Mummy took the low road. True to the song Aidan and Mummy got there afore us.

Aidan was fascinated by the elongated vertical ice crystals (about 3cm long) he found in the patches of mud – does anyone know how these are formed? – and by the curved patterns in the icy puddles. [Update: this is called needle ice!]

Both Aidan and Megan assembled sculptures while we were there, from found materials:

Aidan was careful to read the signs, too.

Altogether, a great time was had by all! Given there’s only the one shortish trail and it was fairly flat we’re unlikely to return, but it would be a beautiful stopping point on the B818 for a leg stretch. (There appears to be a new attraction in development, the Duncarron Medieval Fort, which may draw us back when it’s ready!).