The traveller by car after leaving Thorn dips down into and passes through the busy industrial town of Johnstone, then across the Black Cart at Cartside, and for a couple of miles enjoy a “country drive” to Kilbarchan and the car terminus.
Kilbarchan is a celebrated village, which, despite tram and train, retains still a rural and ancient flavour. Architecturally it is a picturesque medley of early Scottish, Georgian, Victorian, and the aggressively modern. Its glory is the quaintly flanked Dutch-looking structure set on a knowe, and adorned with a quaintly carved wooden “colossus”—so called by a writer of 1782—of Habbie Simpson, the piper of Kilbarchan, immortalised in the ballad of 1640 written by Sempill of Belltrees. In the early years of last century Kilbarchan was a home of weaving. The weavers of Kilbarchan were a sturdy race, radicals to a man, and clever craftsmen. They vanished before the inroads of the big trusts. A few looms were wrought within the past half-dozen years, and the click clack of the shuttle may be still heard in at least one weaving “shop.” Shuttle Street leads us up a steep brae and out of the village on to a finely metalled highway, and a delightful stretch of wooded country over which the caller air sweeps. The rambler or pedestrian—of all mortals the most blessed—will find joy on and around this road. Bear always to the left and keep steadily westward. For the first quarter of an hour after reaching the top of the hill above Kilbarchan, you dip downward through open spaces between the trees from which you look out on the fragrance and greenness of the Renfrewshire uplands, down to where a little bridge spans the Lochar water, at this point a picturesque pool fringed with rushes and grass and bracken. Bridge-of-Weir, yclept Ranfurly, the scarlet-roofed outpost of suburban Glasgow, lies directly ahead. It crowns a bold bluffa headland to that post-diluvian sea which ages gone covered the valley of the Clyde from Old Kilpatrick to Cambuslang. An easy grade takes one to Bridge-of-Weir, and keeping the hill road and always to the left, we reach the old golf course of Ranfurly, whereon, over the latter Tinto Tap, mellowed by distance into the semblance of a delicate turquoise gem. Were it crowning the height, there stands an ancient Moat Hill, and by its side the crumbling walls of the Keep of Ranfurly. This moat hill is in wonderful preservation. It is an artificial mound, a defensive mound or moat hill, encompassed by a well-preserved moat, a hoary relic of centuries long past and of men who lie forgotten. Its site commands the vale of Clyde: its value for defensive purposes must have been as obvious to the primitive British village community or tribe of the Roman era as it was to that Saxon or Norman successor who, probably, reared the tumulus which has survived the summer suns and wintry gales of countless centuries. From the flag-staffed summit of the mound a magnificent panorama unfolds itself. On a clear autumnal day when the countryside around Glasgow is bathed in a crystal atmosphere, I have seen trom this vantage point Ben Voirlich, The Cobbler, Ben Lomond, and Argyll’s “bowling green” on the north, the heaving shoulders of the Kilpatrick Hills and the Campsie Fells, the Vale of Clyde from Dumbarton Rock to where it melts in the far east into a veil of floating blue, and south, the Braes of Gleniffer and the Cathkins, and peeping only to gaze upon this magnificent stretch of Scottish mountain and moorland, and rich agricultural land, the journey to Kilbarchan would be amply repaid. But there is a rowth of interest awaiting, and we have before us a long summer afternoon tramp.