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The Great Outdoors: Pros and cons of modern technology on a gentle ride through the Greenock Cut

© GettyLooking over Gourock and Greenock
Looking over Gourock and Greenock

Ping! Ping! Ping! Do I stop to check my phone again or not? On the one hand, it might be my wife, Wendy, who is walking towards me from the other end of the path. I need to know she’s not desperately trying to get in touch.

On the other hand that’s quite unlikely and it’d probably just be the fourth time I’ve stopped to catch up on a WhatsApp conversation that I’m not really a part of.

Expanding mobile coverage has obvious benefits. Historically, my safety record isn’t strong. People have been in touch with mountain rescue on my behalf twice, but both times because I’ve wildly misjudged how long I’d be – notoriously difficult to do on wild rides and a skill that only comes with experience. Thankfully, they’ve never had to come out.

There’s no danger of losing reception up on the Greenock Cut. A short climb out of the back of the industrial Clydeside town, this aqueduct cruises around the base of Dunrod Hill for 6.5km (4 miles) in full view of the high-rises and cranes below.

Starting off with a short cruise between the Visitor Centre and Overton, there’s a brief climb over a low hill on a rough vehicle track. Surprisingly wild views accompany the way, before dropping down to the start of the Cut at Overton. This point of the ride is only a few hundred metres from Drumfrochar train station, just over a half hour from Glasgow Central, for anyone without a car.

Instead of joining the Tarmac road, the obvious start of the Cut takes you left through interesting folding gates. There are a number of these, and it eventually gets easier just to hoik the bike over them, if you have the strength.

I imagine there’s a great view of the Argyll hills and Ben Lomond from here on a clear day there was only a hint of the mountain scenery as the low cloud ebbed and flowed. However, watching Greenock going about its business below like a busy model village was just as entertaining.

I met Wendy coming the other way and we picked up the pace as the sun began to sink over the water. Shoes changed and cake eaten, I reached for my phone to help us get to our next stop. Not all innovation is progress, but you’ll never hear me say a bad word about sat-nav.


Location: Greenock

Distance: 11.9km (7.4 miles)

Ascent: 102m (335ft)

Maps: OS Explorer 341 or Landranger 63

Parking: Plenty of space at the Greenock Cut Visitor Centre, as well as a cosy café that does great, basic food for very reasonable prices.

Top tip: Keep an eye out for the paths that drop off the Cut and head down the valley. They’ll add a bit of excitement to an otherwise gentle day out – but only in return for a stiff climb back.