One of the first hills that I walked when I moved to Glasgow more than two decades ago was Dumgoyne, near Strathblane, Stirlingshire. Since then I have been up and down to the 435m summit countless times. Recently I even did a virtual Ben Nevis on Dumgoyne.
For years, I had wondered about doing a run-walk from Dumgoyne east across the Campsie Fells to Miekle Bin. I had heard of others doing this route, via Garloch Hill, Earl’s Seat, Hart Hill, Holehead and on to the Bin. I was also aware that there would be section of no path with lots of heather and bog.
Until lockdown, I didn’t have a clear idea of how the traverse was possible, but having explored the hills and paths of the Campsies for many months during the pandemic, I started to form a picture in my mind of a route.
With a permanent move to the Scottish Highlands on the cards, I chose my last weekend of living in East Dunbartonshire – and my birthday – to try a Campsie traverse. I am lucky to have a great group of running friends, who thought the adventure sounded great.
To add to the route and take in more summits, after Meikle Bin we headed to Cort Ma Law and Lecket Hill. The full route was around 26km (16 miles) with about 1500m of ascent.
Note, there are other runners who have included summits east of Meikle Bin. Notably, a runner Lynne Allan has set a Fastest Known Time for the 44km route, heading east to west. I didn’t have the time or the energy to run this full route and simply decided to do a traverse of the hills I know best in the Campsies.
Running a Campsies Traverse: Dumgoyne to Meikle Bin
Leaving vehicles on Crow Road, above Lennoxtown, earlier, a group of six of us – myself, David, Lynsey, Billy, Nic and Simon – met beside Glengoyne Distillery on the A81 at the foot of Dumgoyne at 8am. We headed straight up the front of the steep hill.
The plan for the outing was to walk the ups and run the flats, where possible, and the descents. We were not aiming to break any records for time, simply to enjoy the journey.
The weather was cloudy and drizzly but we hoped it might improve by mid-morning. In any case, we had plenty of chat to entertain us, even if we did not have the best of scenic views at this point.
From Dumgyone, we headed down the north-east shoulder of the hill and on towards a mini summit of Garloch Hill at 542m. The route to Earl’s Seat is very familiar to me, especially because I have run it many times over the past year.
It is a very undulating path and even in the low cloud it was fairly easy to spot the way ahead. Nic had childcare commitments and she turned around as we closed in on Earl’s Seat, heading back to her car.
There are a few boggy sections and while we tried to avoid these, by the time the rest of us reached the 578m Seat, we all had wet feet. We were aware there was worse to come so we accepted the soaked shoes and socks!
The next section from Earl’s Seat to Hart Hill is the area of the Campsies that I am least familiar with. I have skied from east to west but that was when there was a blanket of snow on the Campsies and a clear view.
David had previously run a similar route but because it is pathless, there are lots of options, such as setting a bearing and following that to the next summit, Hart Hill. I had spotted several fence lines on the map and they seemed to follow a fairly direct route towards Hart Hill.
Fences can be a great aid especially when you are running and chatting as part of a group. Every so often we made sure we were still following the right fence but, generally, we found it easy to hug the fence lines and head in an EES direction.
There was more walking than running for this section. The ground is uneven and tussocky with lots of heather and some bog. I was surprised there wasn’t more bog as the Campsies are famous for being very wet.
As we walked, we chatted and laughed and really enjoyed ourselves. The weather brightened and we had a much clearer view of where we were heading.
Hart Hill is at 571m and from here were ran towards another summit, Holehead. We were joined by Ali and Catriona, who had ascended from the Crow Road (B822) to meet us.
Holehead to Miekle Bin
From the trig at Holehead (550m), we traced our steps back towards a stone wall, which provided another guide for the route. The descent was fantastic with the temperature rising and patches of blue sky appearing.
A short run south on the uncompromising tarmac of Crow Road took us to the start of a forest track – and more ascending. We enjoyed a fairly sustained section of running on the wide track.
There are about five or six routes to the summit of Miekle Bin and this one is a favourite. There is a long section of track before heading into forestry and then using upwards on a steep and muddy path. By now my legs were starting too feel a bit fatigued.
I made sure I was taking on bits and pieces of food as we walked and ran so I would have enough energy for the final summits.
Meikle Bin at 570m offers lovely views and we stopped for a while to take photos. The company was easy and fun and I felt as if the time had flown by.
Another quick descent to the south took us to a fence, which we climbed over, and then a faint path heading south west. Again there was plenty of mud and bog but the trod was still easily visible.
Cort Ma Law (531m) is another high point in the Campsie Fells that I have frequently visited (in fact, I had run to the hill top twice in the previous week).
Now taking a north-westerly trod, we made our way to Lecket Hill. This is by far the boggiest section of the route and we laughed and squealed as we tried to traverse large areas of green and very wet ground.
We ran-walked on tiring legs and, impressively, we still had plenty to talk about. I am always delighted when a group of my friends – some who already know each other and others who have just met – find so much to chat and laugh about together.
Lecket Hill (547m) is marked by only a few stones in a small cairn and we were able to look at much of the route that we had just completed, including Meikle Bin and the weather radar at Hole Head.
From Lecket, we followed a mostly descending path west to our finish at Crow Road.
It was a brilliant route in fantastic company and the perfect way to celebrate my 53rd birthday and my last weekend living in Central Scotland.