The First Walk Of Spring

March 24, 2015

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Spring has settled in quite nicely already, treating us to a beautiful weekend of blue skies and much needed sunshine. Suddenly filled with optimism about life and the urge to get out there and make the most of what no doubt will be the fleeting good weather, on Friday night the husband and I made plans to get up early on Saturday morning and head out for a proper morning walk with Roxie. We jumped in the car and took the short journey to Mugdock Country Park - an old favourite of ours.

The park has a number of natural features including Allander Water, Drumclog Muir and Mugdock Loch. As you make your way away from the visitor centre and the noise of the children's playpark you are encompassed by rich green trees lining paths and huge expanses of fields, immediately surrounded by peaceful countryside. It's the perfect place to walk your dog or take the kids and just wander about for hours, exploring the little pathways and woods.
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The park also is steeped in history with two castles, feudal rights and still has what remains of the 14th century Mugdock Castle and the ruins of Craigend Castle. Despite it's name, the latter is not much of a castle at all but rather a Gothic Revival mansion. Unfortunately it is not accessible to the public as it is overgrown with foilage and in a state of ruin.

In the mid-17th century the lands of Craigend were sold to the Smith family and John Smith (could he have had more of a stereotypical name?!) became a merchant and the founder of booksellers John Smith & Son. After his death in 1816, his son, James, incorporated the original plain house into a a mansion with a Regency Gothic style.

In 1851, Craigend changed hands again, this time to Sir Andrew Buchanan. Over the years the house was leased to the Glasgow magistrate and fine art collector, Archibald McLellan, and Sir Harold E. Yarrow who was the Chairman and Managing Director of Yarrow Shipbuilders.

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Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Craigend land is the zoo that used to be there in the mid-20th century when Andrew Wilson and his zoologist son, William, bought part of the estate. It made an ideal day out when it opened in 1949 with 2000 animals on show and a large adventure playground for children. Various exotic animals resided in the zoo including the biggest elephant in captivity, cigarette-smoking chimps and a group of performing lions. The lion enclosure can still be found today near the ruins of Craigend Castle.

Despite an estimated 37,000 visitors passing through on its first day the zoo wasn't set to last. The typical, miserable Scottish weather put a dampener on its success with four dismal summers in a row causing the much needed visitors to stay away. There were also a number of incidents with the public being injured by the animals which did nothing for the reputation of the zoo. With the combination of rotten weather, the lack of (and the injuries) to the visitors plus dwindling funds the zoo was forced to close six years after it had first opened. The zoo grounds then became part of the park with the stable block being converted into the visitor centre.

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  1. Cigarette smoking chimps... at the zoo?! I must say, I'm very happy that zoo closed down!

    I haven't been on a good old walk like this in a while, we're usually walking somewhere, but we've not been out into the woods or just some greenery for a while. This weekend, it was a stroll down the side of the road!

  2. Wow, looks amazing =]

  3. Beautiful photos! Looks likea lovely walk and a very interesting place. Gorgeous dog by the way!


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