Okay, so when I say Devon you probably start thinking about the beautiful English countryside, but there's an area by the same name here in Scotland. It's a rural trail through the county of Clackmannanshire, which passes some of the most interesting places in the area, like Sauchie Tower and the old mill on the outskirts of the village of Alloa, and March Glen. The trail is not a historical route, but has been promoted recently by the government looking to please more active tourists. Walkers, cyclists and motorists can all follow the Devon Way, which can be covered in a day. The road itself has everything, with history, nature and good places to rest and refuel. As a lover of mountains and trails, I think it is a great idea!
Of the various churches in this community in the region of Clackmannanshire, the Calvinist Tillicoultry Parish Church is possibly the most striking. It is perfectly preserved and, though small, has the decor that you'd expect from a cathedral. The cemetery is the oldest part of the complex; while the church is clearly a late Victorian building, there are graves from the seventeenth century. The cemetery is also notable for the existence of mass graves, where you can read: Lairs Four (4 bodies), which also indicates that the church served the lower class people of the area. With interesting architecture and a great location in the center of town, this church is a place where you really ought to stop to pay a visit.
In one of my favorite areas of Scotland, Clackmannanshire County, is where you'll find this little discount village. Its full name is Sterling Mills Outlet Shopping Village. You can find top brands at more affordable prices than normal here. Sterling Mills is a charming resort, even with its unusual design. It's very outdoorsy, and is formed by a network of streets, where some days you can find some places that serve food and local products. You can also find sports shops, accessories, food, fashion, and everything else along those lines. The area has more than ample parking and, with a little patience, you can find great things at a competitive price.
March Glen is a small village just next to Tillicoultry--one of the main towns in Clackmannanshire with several houses, farms, workshops and a small bar. Historically, the cattle passed through here as they followed the Devon River. It was a natural stop through the valleys during the winter. Today it is part of the new trail of Devon. Not very famous or well-known, it is a very quiet and has some of the most beautiful views of the Ochil Hills. It is an area I frequent a lot when I want a quiet walk near my home in Stirling. I am typically the only tourist there!
One of the most famous trekking routes in the Cordillera mountains and Ochil Hills is known as Mill Glen, with several different variations and degrees of difficulty to suit your preference. You can climb to Ben Cleuch, which at 721 meters, is the highest peak in the area. The longest route is more than 20 km, and climbs three peaks as well as several hills, but as I said, there are also shorter routes available. Beginning in the park where we can access Mill Glen, you follow the river and pass the old silver mines. From there you will have a beautiful view of Tillicoultry, one of the most important towns in the region of Clackmannanshire.
This is the moment when you have to choose which path to follow. Basically, if you continue straight on the right side (East) of the glen, you will follow the Mill Glen path. If instead you head for the left side (west), you will start in the direction of two major peaks: The Law and Ben Cleuch. As often happens in these cases in Scotland, these routes are not modern constructions, but instead follow ancient passages through the mountains. As a proud medievalist, I can remind you that 85% of the current roads did not exist 300 years ago, and illustrates the functions of these trails through mountains and hills. In short, it's a very Scottish route, with valleys, rivers, hills, silver mines, and great views ... just watch out for the weather.
Kirk means church and craig (in this context) rock or peak. So Kirk Craigs are literally "church spikes". Currently this is a small walking route, about 4 km, with an estimated 300 meter climb along the way. It is a short version of the Mill Glen path, and is easier and more accessible. Be careful because the land is full of quite unfriendly sheep. Don't get too close to them! At the top is a rounded area which is perfect for picnics.
One interesting fact about the villages in Clackmannan is that long ago, many were found on the mountains, rather than at the feet, where they stand today. So as you climb you'll often find architectural remains that show the old towns. As a lover of hiking and history, I can not imagine a better way to combine the two than by spending a day walking around these bens, munros, cuillins, and donalds!
Tillicoultry is one of the villages in the Ochil Hills along the historic route between Stirling and St Andrews. Documentation tells us that it was founded in the late thirteenth century, but many historians have acknowledged that most of these towns in the Ochils were first built on the mountains, before being moved to lower ground, so it could even date back to the time of the Roman camps and fortifications. Tilly, as it is known locally, was a thriving mining town all the way through to the time of the Industrial Revolution, but today it is one of the most attractive local towns with its famous furniture factory (Sterling Mills), and a popular outdoor mall. It is a quiet spot that leads to many walks through the surrounding area. My family and I come here regularly.
Clackmannanshire villages are often located at the foot of the mountains, known as the Ochil Hills. These are usually found next to a river or stream that flows down the glen or valley beside the village, as the water would have originally given rise to the town, with a ready supply of drinking water. Today, these are quiet villages with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
The river that passes through Tillicoultry is not as big as that of Dollar, but it is just as pretty and quite a bit quieter. We can see the way it leads into Mill Glen. It is most attractive during the post-winter thaw, when the water falls harder and makes for a more dramatic image. Its highest point passes the oldest part of the town, where you can see the old Woodpack Inn pub. Surrounded by trees and crossed by traditional bridges, it's charming and a real pleasure for the senses.
Traveling into the Ochil Hills, not too far from Stirling, we found this narrow pass in a series of gorges with rivers descending directly from the mountains. Daiglen Burn marks the point where two rivers come together, forming a waterfall that descends to our starting point, the village of Tillicoultry.
To reach this point you must either have a map or an intimate knowledge of the terrain. Even if you do know it well, it's still advisable to carry a map and a compass, as there are plenty of different paths through the area, and only one will take you where you want to go! The views are beautiful, right in the heart of nature, but it's not particularly easy, so you'll need to wear correct shoes and have your equipment ready. Right in the middle, where the two streams meet, there's a wooden bridge that offers spectacular views of the area. Take care in winter, when the ice and snow can cause problems. And of course, always look out for fog ... always a problem in Scotland.
Wood Hill Wood is in Alva, a village in central Clackmannanshire at the foot of the Ochil Hills. Today it is a pleasant walk of about 40 minutes, between trees with beautiful views of the mountains and marked by an unpaved trail that can cause slight problems in times of frost or heavy rainfall. We finished our walk quite wet and dirty with mud, so be careful. Historically, this was the simplest route between Alva and Tillicoultry back when modern roads didn't exist, and the two villages were separated by the mountains. The walk here is easy, so everyone can enjoy the beautiful scenery in what I think is one of the most picturesque parts of Scotland.