The Carbeth Hut Community

Discover a working-class Utopian dream near the West Highland Way




3 miles (4.8kms)

98ft (30m)
2hrs 30min

About the walk

Situated approximately halfway between Glasgow and Drymen on the A809, an old turnpike road, you'll find an ancient inn. Once called the Halfway House and now the Carbeth Inn, it has served the needs of travellers for over 200 years. Sir Walter Scott had the character of Baillie Nicol Jarvie in his 1817 novel Rob Roy describe the inn as a 'most miserable alehouse'. Things have obviously improved since then and for years it has provided a warm welcome to climbers, bikers, walkers and the nearby community of Carbeth hutters.

Holidays in the Country

The Carbeth hut community started after World War I, when the owner of the Carbeth Estate let three ex-servicemen found a holiday fellowship camp on his land. At first the holidaymakers lived under canvas but during the depression years unemployed Glaswegians, seeking an escape into the countryside, started to erect more permanent dwellings. These ingenious and often ramshackle affairs were constructed from any materials that were available free of charge or could be obtained cheaply. Conditions were a bit spartan but met the needs of the people and were probably as good as they had at home. During the summer the area round the Carbeth Inn was alive with activity as whole families decamped to the countryside for their holidays.

Peppercorn Rent

The land was leased from estate owner Barnes-Graham at a peppercorn rent, because of his desire to help people escape from what he saw as a squalid and depressing life in the overcrowded city. They became a tightknit community with organised games and activities; they even built their own open-air swimming pool, complete with lifebelts and diving boards. To get to Carbeth the hutters caught the train to Milngavie and then took a path which became known as the Khyber Pass. Coming from the Clydebank area the hutters just hoofed it over the Kilpatrick Hills.

Scottish Social History

Today the swimming pool, simply a dammed stream, is silted up. The hutters succeeded in buying their plots and maintaining a presence, but times changed and the huts no longer resemble the makeshift arrangements of the past. Some were replaced with new wooden cabins, while other hutters sold up and left. The old community has almost gone and Carbeth is now like many holiday parks, with cabins and gardens and fancy cars in the drives. But there are still a few of the old huts around, some derelict and fallen into disrepair, others evidently still used and cared for. A massive increase in the rents led to a rent strike by many of the hutters and court action was initiated to evict them. Against a background of recriminations and accusations, not to mention unsolved arson attacks on huts, the Carbeth community fought to preserve their foothold in the countryside, campaigning for public support and petitioning the Scottish Parliament to preserve this unique piece of Scottish social history and heritage.

Walk directions

From the car park at the Carbeth Inn turn right on to the A809. After 0.25 mile (400m) take the first turning right on to the B821. Continue ahead on this road for a mile (1.6km), passing a collection of huts on the left and ignoring a public footpath sign to the right.

Turn right at the signpost for the West Highland Way. Go through a gate and continue along a well-surfaced access road. Shortly on the left, there is a left turn signposted ‘The John Muir Way’. This path is the one popularly known as the Khyber Pass, leading to Mugdock Country Park. It was the favoured route of the early walkers heading out of Glasgow to the Campsie Fells and beyond. Go through a gate and continue along a well-surfaced access road.

Keep right to follow the West Highland Way along the access road to more huts. After passing the first of the huts, continue along the winding path to reach a public path signpost on the right beside a West Highland Way marker post.

Turn right here on to a narrow but well-surfaced footpath which turns back towards Carbeth Loch, passing a house on the right. Eventually the path reaches the junction with the drive leading to Carbeth House. This is a private house and is not open to the public. Turn left, pass a house and some huts on the right then take the next turning on the left through some wide gates.

Continue along this lane, then head uphill to reach another grouping of the Carbeth huts. Follow the main route through the huts and at a T-junction, turn left.

Keep on this road as it passes through the main part of the Carbeth huts, an extraordinary assortment of small dwellings, shanties and shacks. Ignore all of the smaller tracks branching off this road. They allow access to individual huts or other parts of the settlement.

Eventually go through a gate and downhill to reach the junction with the A809 beside the Carbeth Inn. Turn left and return to the car park.

Additional information

Roads, access tracks and footpaths, 1 stile

Hills, woodland and lochs

Suitable for dogs

OS Explorer 348 Campsie Fells

Carbeth Inn, check beforehand with landlord

None on route

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