Places to Visit in Scotland
- Palacerigg Country Park
Palacerigg Country Park is on a hillside overlooking Cumbernauld in North Lanarkshire. Cumbernauld was once a small village (recorded as early as the 12th century) but in 1956 was designated as one of the "New Towns" taking what was euphemistically described as "overspill" from Glasgow. It is now a sprawling town of nearly 50,000 people, many commuting to work in Glasgow.
In the early 1970s, nearly 700 acres of bleak farmland on a hill to the east of the town were taken over to form Palacerigg Country Park. Thousands of native trees and shrubs were planted to create woodland areas as well as pasture for a variety of animals such as deer (red, sika, muntjac and fallow deer) and feral (wild) sheep. There are numerous nature trails and even a small golf course. The wilder areas now have a thriving population of badgers, foxes, squirrels, hares and birds of prey such as sparrowhawks, kestrels and owls.
Palacerigg specialises in environmental education and the visitor centre has displays showing what can be seen in the country park - if you know where to look. The centre caters for youngsters as well as adult groups and there is a thriving nature club. There is also a new "Secret Lives" exhibition, which allows visitors to see local wildlife close up! And of course there is a cafe for drinks and snacks with picnic tables in various parts of the country park.
There are "Millennium Longhouses" which were opened in 1998built to traditional designs in which there are demonstrations of a variety of crafts such as basket making, willow sculpture, charcoal burning, weaving, spinning and paper making.
Close by the visitor centre is a wildlife garden with a range of plants which are typical to Scotland - from thistles to birds-foot trefoil.
There are a good number of domestic animals in the Children's Farmyard including chickens, ducks, geese, goats, donkeys, wallabies, zebu, pigs, chipmunks, guinea pigs, rabbits and rare breeds of sheep. A number of the animals are quite tame and are more than willing to be fed!
Palacerigg Country Park is not just about presenting animals for us town-dwellers to admire. It is also carrying out conservation projects on a number of species, including the Scots Dumpy - this is said to be one of the oldest breeds of chicken in the UK, with documentation going back to before Roman times. The large boat-shaped body is what gives the breed its name, with a long back and a low heavy appearance. The Scots Dumpy is listed as "vulnerable" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust so Palacerigg is playing its part in keeping it in existence.
Feral (wild) goats are also an endangered species and Palacerigg has a small herd of these. While these are kept in a large field, I was amused to see on one occasion that one of the animals had made a bid for freedom and was outside the enclosure - living up to its name as "wild".
Aviaries - and Wildcats
Somewhat different from the fluffy, cuddly animals in the Children's Farm are the hunting birds and animals kept in cages in the carnivore area. This has a fine collection of Scottish wildcats, pine martins, Arctic foxes and seven species of owl.
Many of these species would never be seen by most of us in the wild and it is great to be able to get so close to these creatures. The wildcat is particularly impressive as it looks out at the passing humans with a baleful, watchful eye!
To The Woods!
We have all enjoyed a walk in the woods but Palacerigg offers something special - a walk in the treetops! A wooden walk-way has been built which allows visitors a close-up, birds' eye view of the woodland area and the countryside around. While any self-respecting bird is likely to fly off at the approach of humans, the walkway does allow visitors to get a view of the trees close up which is just not possible from the ground. And if you are very quiet and move slowly, you may catch sight of some of the birds - even if it is only the hedge sparrow (now, sadly, becoming rarer in our countryside).
How to Get There
Palacerigg is to the east of Cumbernauld. If you are coming from Glasgow and the south or from the north, follow the signs to Cumbernauld along the A8011. Palacerigg is well signposted along this road. From Edinburgh, take the M9 road heading towards Stirling but branch left at the M876 (signposted for Glasgow) and follow this and the M80/A80.
See also the Location Map (you can enlarge the scale of this map, if required).
Return to Index of Places to Visit
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
News & Views>
All Features Index>
Search This Site>
Scottish Pictorial Calendar>
Places to Visit>