The Almondell and Calderwood Country Parks have been created from two adjoining estates and amount to just over 200 hundred acres of rivers and woodland hidden to the east of Livingston between the M8 and the A71. The Almondell Estate is exceptionally well-laid out with beaten bark paths, tarmac driveways, bridges, play-areas, toilets and a Visitors’ Centre. The Calderwood Estate is also way-marked and bridged, but is much wilder and rougher. In both, you would never dream that you are a few miles from the capital city and the rivers Almond, Linnhouse and Murieston are spectacular in spate. There are numerous waterfalls, weirs, tumbling rivers and burns, islands and quieter mill lades. It is all exceedingly photogenic and picturesque, not least the various aque-and-via-ducts and bridges of various kinds.
Park in the NORTH CAR PARK of the Almondell and Calderwood Country Park. To get there the postal code for the park is EH52 5PE and worked well with the satnav. Otherwise, getting to the North Car Park is very simple and should take about 40 minutes from Glasgow. Leave Glasgow on the M8 heading east towards Edinburgh, and stay put for about 30 miles until JUNCTION 3 (not Junction 3A which you come to first) where you leave on the left to take the A899 to Livingston (and West Calder). You swing around the slip road, back over the motorway and come to the roundabout with a whalebone structure in the centre. Take the first exit down the main Livingston dual carriageway but after 800 yards take the road to the left sign-posted Pumpherston and Uphall Stations. (There are a pile of Livingstone estate names – ignore these!). You come down to a main road where you turn left and at the next roundabout also take the first exit on to Houston Road and the Houston Industrial Estate. At the traffic lights, turn right on the B8046 (Pumpherston Road) towards the unprepossessing village of Pumpherston. The road on the left beside the Bay Leaf Restaurant, has been blocked off and is now a dead end. Instead, at the traffic lights in Pumpherston, go straight ahead and take the sign to Almondell and Calderwood Country Parks.
Turn left here left here and continue until you reach s big sign to Broxburn pointing left, but the sign for Almondell and Calderwood Country parks is hidden until you’ve actually turned right! Drive down this single-track country estate road till you come to the Estate Entrance with two traditional pillars and a lodge. You are not allowed to drive any further, but are encouraged to enter the North Car Park on the right.
When you are booted up and kitted out then make your way to the other side of the large car-park, opposite the car entrance, to a path between a dog-pooh bin on the left and a recycling bin on the right. Follow this made-up path as it curves round and down to the left (ignoring a small local path which goes straight on) to a set of steps down on to the main drive way. At the bottom of the steps you’ll come to a sign-post pointing right down the driveway to the Visitors’ Centre. At the Centre, you can have coffee, pick up a map and other useful information and use the loos.
After coffee, leave the Visitors’ Centre at the front entrance and turn right, through the garden past the toilet block and turn right again to the Nelson Mandela suspension bridge across the River Almond. A path along a mill lade continues to the left but you strike up the series of wooden steps straight on and up. On our walk these were muddy and slippery but there’s a good hand rail. At the top turn right to follow the course of the river, but high above it. This excellent path meanders through larch woods, with open fields on the left and the river below. By-pass the Nasmyth Bridge and come out on the main drive way to the South Car Park which is currently closed. Turn left to continue along this driveway to the imposing exit/entrance. Turn right for 50 yards along the pavement and then cut back into the estate on a path sign-posted ‘Camps Viaduct 0.4 miles’. (Your path is just by the metalled entrance to some houses – look for the angled sign-post on to the path.) The old railway line takes you through pleasant countryside straight on to the viaduct high above the River Almond. Immediately over the viaduct is a set of steps on the left leading down to a path across a hump-backed bridge (the Dale Bridge) across a mill lade and on to the main estate path along the river. You will see an attractive shelter to the left, and look up to appreciate the remarkable workmanship of the viaduct. If you dog-leg slightly left and right you can pick up a grassy and lovely path alongside the river.
At the Pipe Bridge, turn left across the bridge and then follow the path through a particularly attractive area. There’s a sewage farm on the left but you don’t see much of this on the outward leg. Just before a metal bridge going straight into the village of Mid Calder turn left down a lovely path, and just before it emerges on the road turn right, down some steps, under the road and across a purpose-built metal bridge. Almost immediately you turn left again across another such bridge and you’re into the Calderwood Country Park. There’s an information board and map, and the return path is seen coming in from the right. Go straight on here, following the path west, on the south side of the plateau and high above Linnhouse Water, to a junction of paths. Oakbank is sign-posted to the left and Murieston to the right. Turn right and at the next junction, continue downhill to the Murieston Water (sign-posted Murieston), turning right at the river bank. This muddy but delightful path takes you along an idyllic stretch of the river and then back up to the higher path at the Spottiswood junction and Information Board. Continue straight on here.
At the time of writing, there was a huge puddle but you should follow the general line of the path. It is easy to wander too far into the central part of the plateau which is pathless. Keeping in line with the direction of travel around the puddle will bring you back to the information board at the entrance to the Estate mentioned above. Then cross the first metal bridge, turn right across the second, under the road, up the steps and back along the path round the sewage works to the Pipe Bridge where you have to turn left to cross the bridge and right to take the path home. Go past the hump bridge which brought you down from the Camps viaduct, under the attractive wooden shelter to the aqueduct. You have a choice of routes here – either is pleasant. But to vary the walk cross the river at the aqueduct, walk up the side of the Mill lade, cross the Nasmyth Bridge since you by-passed it in the morning and take the Red Route path alongside the river. This is a lovely stretch, going along the back of the Visitors’ Centre to the path you took in the morning. Turn left here, go up to the driveway and turn right to go back to North Car park and the cars.