Campaigners aim to revive historic Royal route in rural Stirling

Work has begun to re-establish what is considered to be a historic Royal route which once linked Stirling and Dumbarton Castles.

Named the Kings Highway, it aims to use centuries-old paths and roads for a cycleway and footpath across west Stirlingshire.

Gargunnock man Geoff Peart – of the Kings Highway Development Group and Gargunnock Community Trust paths manager – pointed out that the route’s name had been found in old documents which referred to Gargunnock’s Main Street as the Kings Highway.

He said: “Both Stirling and Dumbarton Castles were royal residences from the 12th to 13th centuries and there will have been movement between the two from that time.

“The Stewart kings James IV and V were recorded at both places, with Dumbarton being a base for the Scottish Navy and Stirling the main royal palace in the country.

“The movement of men and materials between the two castles seems highly likely.

“There is no extant map showing a route between the two castles, but maps from the mid-18th century show military roads established following the Jacobite rebellions.

“The Old Military Road from Stirling forms part of a route to Dumbarton via Cambusbarron, Gargunnock, Kippen, Buchlyvie and Drymen, much of which is now the A811.

“Although it is known as the Old Military Road, much of the route certainly predates military improvements to the road network.”

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The Kings Highway Development Group has been set up to advance the project.

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Its backers include Gargunnnock Community Trust, cyclepath development organization Sustrans, Stirling Council and the Carse of Stirling Partnership as well as Stirling MP Alyn Smith.

Mr Peart pointed out that the link from Dumbarton to Drymen already exists as part of National Cycle Route Seven and a preferred route from Stirling to Gargunnock has been identified with discussions “at an advanced stage” with affected landing interests on an agreement to move to a detailed design stage this year.

Other communities along the way have some parts of the proposed link in place, but require further work and agreements with landowners to link it up.

Sustrans will provide 70 per cent of the construction finance and it is expected that Stirling Council and other funding agencies will provide the balance.

Mr Peart added: “The development of active travel routes like this is a key national and council priority.

“Over the past couple of years the number of cyclists using the A811 has increased significantly.

“It is not a safe route for cyclists and the creation of a separate path would have road safety as well as environmental, health and recreational benefits.

“This is an ambitious project which will link communities along the Carse, will provide a much needed, safe environment for walkers and cyclists of all abilities, encourage more healthy lifestyles and help promote tourism in the area.”

When the road was originally built is unknown, but it first appears on maps as part of [Major-General William] Roy’s Military Survey of Scotland (1747-55).

However, settlements along the line of the route, Mr Peart said, can be seen on earlier maps and the old bridge over the Leckie Burn at Gargunnock has a date of 1673 on its parapet.

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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 up the village’s Main Street.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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