Saturday, 11th January: Almondell Country Park

I’m afraid, the countryside is really muddy – in stretches quite dangerously – so after two reccés I’ve left the advertised walk for later in the year when, hopefully, some of the mud will have dried. Instead, I’ve resorted to tried and tested routes in roughly the same area. and we’ll have a relaxed start to the year.

Please meet in the car-park just beyond the Visitors’ Centre in Almondell Country Park at 10.30. (We have permission to drive CAREFULLY – IT’S ONE WAY AND THERE ARE PEDESTRIANS) down the main drive to park on the right in an open space beyond the Visitors’ Centre.

Getting to the park is very simple and should take about 50 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 roundabout also take the first exit on to Houston Road and the Houston Industrial Estate. At the traffic lights, go straight on – now sign-posted for the Country Park.

Go past a new housing estate and then travel about a mile along an increasingly countrified road to a cross-roads. There’s a big sign to Broxburn pointing left, a country road straight on but the sign for Almondell Country park is hidden until you’ve actually turned right! Drive down this single-track country estate road till you come to the Estate Entrance. Go past the North car-park, through the two-pillared Estate entrance, and down the drive past the Visitors’Centre. There are toilets here – and for once, we’ll have coffee!

The walk: First Half 3.25 miles

We go down to the river’s edge and turn right along the river to the magnificent Nasmyth Bridge which we cross, taking the main drive up to the South Car Park. Here we turn right for a short distance and then re-enter the park to walk through open farm land to the Camps Viaduct and the wonderful views of the River Almond below. This time, instead of taking the steps down as usual, we continue along what was an old miners’ path for about 0.7 miles, turning left at a junction of paths, through a gate and continuing through open farmland. This takes us along Powies’ Path (a track) to good steps back down to the main path in the Country Park. We turn left here picking up the canal feeder (see Second Half). We go under the viaduct and through a curious structure to protect walkers from anything falling from aloft. We then cross a bridge over the River Almond with the canal feeder under the footway. A good path takes us back to Nasmyth Bridge and the Visitors’ Centre.

Lunch: I have booked a room in the Visitors’ Centre from 1.00 pm to 2.00 pm for lunch in case it’s raining.

The Walk cont: Second Half 3.25 miles.

After lunch we go back down to the river and turn left to the Mandella Swing Bridge. A short, steep climb takes us up to the canal feeder again. This is a flat walk, in good condition, with lovely views across the River Almond and with the water running along beside us. There are several styles and one short very muddy stretch.

The path brings us to a set of steps now, I’m told very firmly, in the care of Edinburgh Council. I found these difficult but I did get up! If you prefer, you could turn round here. Once up, we continue a short way to the Lin Mill Aqueduct, again with magnificent views across the valley.

If you want to go under the canal to the other side, either return to a path sloping down or go down the stone steps (with a rail) immediately beside the stone wall of the canal. Then go under the canal and at some very tall gates, go up the stone steps on the right to bring you to the other side. We come back the same way.

We’re booked in the Deer Park Beafeater for a meal at 4.30 just before the M8 and on the way home. To get there, go back up the main drive to the entrance, turn left and go back the way you came to the Houston Interchange. Go straight on following blue signs to the M8 to Edinburgh and Glasgow. At the slip road on the left, signposted M8, just on the bend, watch for traffic coming from the right, and again on the dual carriageway. You don’t have right of way. Come back to the roundabout with the whalebone structure and take the first left to the Services and the Beefeater. Afterwards, to go home, it’s the first left to the M8 to Glasgow.

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