Gargunnock Military Road
Start location: A811, West Carse (NS 732 942)
End location: Glentirranmuir, Kippen (NS 657 944)
Geographical area: Campsie Fells, Stirling, Clackmannan and Falkirk
Path Type: Military Road
Path distance: 8km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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Newsflash! The Heritage Paths (Campsie Fells) Project is very pleased to announce that we have a lovely new Campsies map leaflet showing this old military road and other paths in the area. To get your hands on one, simply send us an SAE c/o ScotWays (see address top-right) and we'll post one out to you.
The Old Military Road leaves the A811 at West Carse Cottages and heads due west along a right of way to meet the minor road just south of Mains of Gargunnock. It continues west along this minor road into Gargunnock, passing out of the village along Leckie Road. From the Bield Farm, a core path can be followed past Watson House; it crosses the Leckie Burn just north of the old bridge to reach Leckie Home Farm. Then head directly west towards Kippen.
Alternatively, to reduce the amount of on-road walking, from the centre of Gargunnock take the right of way which leaves the public road network on Stevenson Street. The right of way narrows for a stretch, then becomes a tarmacced road. Cross a bridge over the Leckie Burn before turning north following the burn, to meet the above route by Leckie Home Farm, near Old Leckie.
OS Landranger 57 (Stirling & The Trossachs)
The Old Military Road forms part of a route from Stirling to Dumbarton via Cambusbarron, Gargunnock, Kippen, Buchlyvie and Drymen, much of which is now the A811. Although it is known as an old military road, much of the route certainly predates military improvements to the road network. When the road was originally built is unknown, it first appears on maps as part of Roy's Military Survey of Scotland (1747-1755). However, settlements along the line of the route can be seen on earlier maps and the old bridge over the Leckie Burn has a date of 1673 on its parapet. Gargunnock was feued from around 1726 onwards and old feu documents are said to refer to the village's main street as the Kings Highway.
The line of this old route has evolved over time. Roy's map shows the road running past Gargunnock House* before it crosses the Gargunnock Burn and heads up the village's main street. It is thought that the road was realigned away from Gargunnock House in 1759. As the Old Statistical Account (1795) states the Military Road had been made 30 or 40 years before, it seems possible that the diversion could have been part of works necessary to upgrade the old route so that it met military requirements. Certainly by the time Taylor and Skinner's map was published in 1776 the route can be seen to enter Gargunnock village from the south-east, as it does to this day.
From 1770 to 1784 there were military working parties on the road mainly doing realignment work. The Old Bridge which carries Main Street, Gargunnock over the Gargunnock Burn is said to date from around 1775. After 1790 the army disclaimed further responsibility and the road became the responsibility of the county. However the deviation away from Gargunnock House was not the only significant alteration to the line of the road. The Old Statistical Account (1795) discusses the possibility of a new line for the Military Road, and also that it might be made a turnpike (more details below). By 1817, Grassom's map shows Gargunnock village to have been by-passed by the creation of a new road leaving the village north-west, this is today's Leckie Road.
The New Statistical Account (1841) mentions that some time ago a new line was made for the turnpike road, half a mile from the church and the village. Mr Moir of Leckie is also stated to have lately built a new mansion house. Ordnance Survey 25" and 6" mapping of the 1860s depicts the Glentirran Turnpike, now the A811. The maps also show the old road in its entirety between West Carse and Kippen apart from a missing section past the Leckie Mansion House. New Leckie (later Watson House) appears to have blocked the old route which had been superceded by the turnpike. Perhaps this explains why the right of way from Kippen to Gargunnock, diverts south at Old Leckie crossing the Leckie Burn further upstream, and heads into Gargunnock along the path known as the Beeches to reach Stevenson Street.
By 1936, the County Council were requiring proof that Gargunnock's Main Street was a public highway - testament to the decline in status of this once key arterial route between Stirling and Dumbarton.
The Old Statistical Account for Gargunnock, written by the Rev. Mr James Robertson in 1795, carries a strongly worded opinion about proposals for this route:
"The military road from Stirling to Dumbarton, made betwixt 30 and 40 years ago, and which passses through the centre of this parish, is now by Act of Parliament to have a new line of direction, and to be made a turnpike road. It is hoped the trustees will confine the exercise of their power to what is immediately useful and necessary. Any alterations in order to avoid heights, or to lessen the distance, where that can be conveniently done, would be readily submitted to by all, from the evident advantage resulting from them. But if new lines of considerable length are proposed, where the grounds must be purchased and reinclosed; or, if the road shall be so formed as to render plantations and improvements useless, which have been carrying on for years in the faith that the present line of road was to be permanent; if it shall be so directed as to abandon a number of thriving villages, or so unnecessarily widened as to break in upon many beautiful strips of planting, by which a debt must be incurred that can only be repaid by a heavy toll on the grain, the coal and the lime, it is doubtful, whether the good or the evil of such alterations would preponderate. The trustees have no interest but to act for the general advantage of the country, and there is no reason to doubt that this will be the object of their chief attention."
A bridge on the Old Military Road, just east of where it is joined by the Hillhead farm road is known as the Ghost Brig. According to the Rev William Turner, writing in the Third Statistical Account (1961), "it is said that, if one is at the bridge at the proper time on the proper day of the year, one will see again a carriage accident that occurred here many years ago. It has been said that, on the south side of the road at this spot, there was a burying ground for victims of the plague; if this is indeed so, one wonders whether this is the real source of the name, the Ghost Brig. A coach and horses are said to appear, sometimes, near an old tree on the closed section of the old road about one-quarter of a mile to the west of Redhall farm."
*Although the Gardens of Gargunnock House are only open to the public seasonally, there is a core path signposted by the Estate which in part uses an earlier line of the old road as described above. More detail about opening dates and times is available from: www.landmarktrust.org.uk.