WITH full lockdown conditions now in place across Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven, and the whole of mainland Scotland, local outdoor exercise, on your own or with your household, is one of the few activities still permitted under the strict rules for controlling the spread of the virus.

And as temperatures finally start to rise this weekend following the lengthy cold snap in the first few days of the new year,it’s the ideal time to get outdoors and improve your physical and your mental health. All you need is a waterproof winter jacket and sturdy footwear.

We’ve put together a list of our favourite walks in West Dunbartonshire to help you begin to work off the excesses of Christmas and the New Year…

River Leven – Dumbarton Bridge to Loch Lomond

A two-and-a-half-hour walk along the River Leven towpath from the centre of Dumbarton to the bonnie banks.

West Dunbartonshire Council has produced a River Leven Heritage Trail guide – available online – which points out the sites of many of the textile dyeing and printing works that employed more than seven thousand people at their peak, now all passed into history.

Starting out at Dumbarton Bridge (below), the route also passes by the Leven Marshes, where the fresh waters of Loch Lomond and the salty tides of the Clyde meet - one of the best sites for wildlife in the whole area, with fresh and salt water fish and a variety of mammals and insects using the area as their habitat throughout the year.

Other points of interest include the area where King Robert the Bruce died in 1329 – though the exact location of his manor house at Mains of Cardross is uncertain – as well as the Tuscan column of the Smollett Monument in Renton, erected in memory of novelist Tobias Smollett, born here in 1721.

Find out more at the River Leven Heritage Trail guide.

Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter: Dumbarton Bridge, as pictured by Reporter reader Rodger MacphersonDumbarton Bridge, as pictured by Reporter reader Rodger Macpherson

Overtoun House and the Kilpatrick Hills

The grand Scottish Baronial manor of Overtoun House in Dumbarton is an ideal starting point to explore the wild moors, crags and woods of the Kilpatrick Hills.

You can also marvel at the deep Overtoun Glen from the old bridge, wander through a new native woodland, or head higher up towards soaring Lang Craigs for stunning views along the Clyde and out to the open sea.

West Dunbartonshire Council has produced maps for two circular walking routes to Overtoun House (below), both passing near Dumbarton East and Dumbarton Central railway stations.

The shorter of the two follows a path into the hills off the A82 just to the east of Dumbarton’s police station, returning via Barnhill and Milton Brae.

The longer version continues after reaching Overtoun House and goes further into the hills to a view point on Lang Craigs overlooking the Firth of Clyde before descending on a forestry track to Milton House and rejoining the A82 near the Dumbuck junction.

Find out more about the walks to and near Overtoun House from Forestry and Land Scotland.

Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter: Overtoun HouseOvertoun House

Strathleven House

A short walk (two hours there and back) from the centre of Dumbarton to Strathleven House.

Starting from the car park off Overburn Avenue, near Dumbarton Golf Club, the route follows the River Leven for half a mile, diving under the A82, before diverting off the river and following the route of the Murroch Burn towards the Lionsgate Roundabout.

The final stretch takes you through industrial estates which are home to some of the area’s biggest employers, before arriving at Strathleven House.

Used today as a business centre, it was built in 1700 in the Palladian style and was inhabited until the middle of the 20th century. It then lay derelict for more than 40 years before being restored and put to its current use.

Find out more here.

Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter: Strathleven HouseStrathleven House

Pappert Hill

Starting from the car park at the rear of 138-147 O’Hare, Bonhill, this route passes the Pappert Well Community Woodland, climbing to a height of 800 feet.

The summit of Pappert Hill – just over a mile and a half into this four-mile walk – boasts spectacular views on clear days over the Vale of Leven, the Firth of Clyde and, to the north, Ben Lomond.

West Dunbartonshire Council suggests allowing between 90 minutes and two hours for this walk – find out more here.

100 Steps to the Carman Reservoir

This three-mile walk starts at the car park near Renton Primary School and after taking a pedestrian bridge over the A82 trunk road, climbs – as its name suggests – 100 steps upto a height of almost 450 feet before reaching the reservoir.

Today it’s used as a trout fishery, but it was originally created in 1886 from the former Carman Loch to provide a new supply of clean water for homes and businesses in Renton.

On your return to Renton, continue a short distance north once you get back to your start point and you’ll find the Smollett Monument in Renton’s Main Street, erected as a lasting tribute to the naval surgeon turned writer, born in the town in 1821. The monument has a Latin inscription composed by Dr Samuel Johnson, one of the most famous literary figures of the age.

Click here for more information.

Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter: The Smollett Monument in RentonThe Smollett Monument in Renton

Balloch Castle Country Park

The park comprises 200 acres of semi-natural and ornamental woodland, open parkland, formal gardens, meadow, play parks and shoreline. It is located directly on the south-east shores of Loch Lomond, on the northern edge of Balloch.

The park is quintessentially a 19th century private estate, developed as a park at the beginning of the 20th century. Its design and layout has remained largely unaltered since 1800, at the time the current castle was built. In the park you can explore the Fairy Glen, Chinese Garden, Pleasure Grounds, Quarry Pond, Kitchen Garden, Secret Garden, Woodlands and Parklands. Public toilets are available at Balloch Castle from 10.00am to 4.00pm every day.

A 'Fairy Trail' has also been established in the park by Patrick Muir which utilises the stumps of trees which have had to be felled.

It’s also the only registered ‘historic designated landscape’ in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park – click here for their handy leaflet to help you make the most of your visit.

The Shore and Castlehill

This five-mile circular walk begins at the car park on Woodyard Road at Levengrove Park. The anti-clockwise route follows the west bank of the River Leven for a short distance before cutting inland and turning south-west at Kipperoch Road.

After crossing through Castlehill and skirting the western edge of Dumbarton the route then follows the shore path along the Firth of Clyde back to Levengrove Park.

The mudflats of the Clyde at low tide are an important habitat for a wide range of wading birds, especially during winter – how many species can you identify?

More details, including a map, can be found here.

Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter: Levengrove Park and the River ClydeLevengrove Park and the River Clyde

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