Scottish Climbs: The Crow Road

I picked up Ian Banks’ The Crow Road again recently – I couldn’t remember whether the road named in the title was the Scottish cyclists’ favourite, or the urban Crow Road in the Anniesland area of Glasgow. It turned out to be the latter, but the book is worth a read anyway.

Heading north, out of Lennoxtown, it’s a fairly long climb with changes in gradient that can be your undoing- overcook it on the long straight section after the golf course, and you will pay the price after the road turns right and steepens after the scenic car park. Most club cyclists won’t be looking back over their left shoulder to take in the beautiful views- to enjoy it properly you’d have to ride at a more leisurely pace. But where’s the fun in that?!

To most riders this climb is a stiff enough test, and riding up it once is enough, but Robert Millar would ride a dozen reps of it as training in preparation for the Tour. It is part of the Robert Millar sportive, a new challenge ride that took place for the first time last weekend.

The Tour of the Campsies Time Trial is one of the classics of the Scottish Calendar and takes in this climb with a timed section making up a separate prize within the main race.

Davy Miller climbs the Crow Road in the Tour of the Campsies, late 80s. Pic Harry Tweed

You can still expect a view like the one below, from an old photo. The landscape changes little but the road much more so. In fact it is arguably a poorer surface in many places today than as seen in this image.

Alex Hendry riding a hill climb up the Crow Road. image: Harry Tweed

An image from the ever-popular Paris-Roubaix flickr account (below) shows that road races were run here in the 1960s:

A soaking for Chryston Wheelers Tom Jardine from clubmate Dougie Melrose on a road race over the Campsie Fells via the Crow Road in the 1960s. Ice cold water from Jamie Wright’s Well! Not recommended. Note the unusual braking arrangement on Tom’s Flying Scot, with both back and front cables going into one lever, this was due to a cycling accident.

Crow Road Race
picture originally from Tom Jardine.

From welcometolennoxtown, I learned that the well sits high up the Crow Road, around the bend beyond the car park. I have ridden this road many times but never knew about the well until researching this peice. It was used to slake the thirst of weary travellers, and no doubt coal horses and other animals would also have appreciated it. The water is clear, cold, spring water, which filters down the hills into the well.

Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, 1910

The road above will be recognisable to cyclists as the foot of the Crow Road, but the main difference is the lack of traffic and parked cars.

The built-up towns and villages around the foot of the Campsie Fells make a road racing up here more difficult to organise these days. But there’s no reason why, without good marshalling and careful riding, that it can’t be so. And with a rolling road block, a Tour of Britain stage could go over here, through Fintry and back down past Glengoyne to finish in Glasgow – if we ever see the ToB come this far North.

And this year, a road race will go up the Crow again. GJS Racing, a (relatively) new outfit based in the Falkirk area are organising a race O’er the Crow ‘n’ Doon – 1st July 2012 and entry is via British Cycling website.

Two laps of a 40km circuit, that is flat/undulating, apart from the Crow road.

July is a good time to hold the race- although some people will be on holiday there is not a massive amount of events at this time, and it’s great to see a new club/team getting involved and putting an event on.

  • Colin Bark

    I rode a Junior Grand Prix on 2 laps of the circuit, probably 1991, finished just after the Kirkhouse Inn at Strathblane on the road heading towards Lennoxtown.

  • owen_p

    Interesting- same distance as this new GJS Event then. How big of a bunch was it Colin? Just Scotland or a National race?

  • Colin Bark

    I seem to remember a decent junior bunch, maybe 40 Scots, there was a Peter Buckley UK junior series event in Aberdeen that year I think. Try and think who’s still active that would have been in the race, your own Eddie Cowle, Gordon Murdoch, Phil Deveney, Stuart Grady….

  • owen_p

    Cheers Colin I’ll see if Eddie C can remember

  • AndyRaff

    I rode up here for the first time yesterday.
    Slow going and I did not have time to look around!As for overcooking it, for the first time in my bike riding life I had to chuck water over my head to cool down.

  • owen_p

     Cheers for the comment Andy. You might like this clip of an Italian TV movie about Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi:

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  • James

    I went up this from the Fintry side for the first time in the summer and being relatively new to road bike riding I was keen to do some ‘proper’ hills that were relatively local, I had tackled the ‘tak me doon’ road a few days earlier and thought why not give this a go. Great climb and honestly the feeling of exhilaration coming down into Lennoxtown was immense, could have just been the sheer speed as well (checked strava when I got home to find out my max speed was 46mph) probably not as fast as some of the more seasoned riders who go up and down here but I thought it was ok for the first attempt. I need to go up from the Lennoxtown side next time.

  • Many thanks for commenting James. Yes, that descent into Lennoxtown is probably the fastest section of road for miles around – you certainly need to hold your nerve. Well worth doing the other side too.