The Greenock Cut

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What is The Greenock Cut?

The cut is a narrow 5.5 mile long non navigable canal which once fed water from Loch Thom to Greenock for industrial and domestic use. Built by Engineer Robert Thom, it opened in 1827 and supplied drinking water to the town until it was replaced by a tunnel in 1971.

Amongst the industries fed by the cut were mills for wool, flax, paper and flour as well as a distillery and some heavy industries in the east of the town. The Fleming Reid mill near Overton had a 70 foot water wheel which powered more than 30,000 individual spindles.

The cut runs around Dunrod Hill and Cauldron Hill, at a height of around 500 feet, passing high above Spango Valley on the way to Overton. It was recently restored and the footpath improved to enable wheelchair access for much, if not all of its length and is also an ideal traffic free route for young cyclists.

A second related cut, known as The Kelly CutExternal link can be found nearby.

How to get there

By road: Cornalees Bridge is clearly signposted in both directions from the A78 main road from Greenock to Largs.
NS2273 : The A78 dual carriageway at Spango Valley by Thomas Nugent

By train: Take a Wemyss Bay train from Glasgow Central and get off at Drumfrochar to join the cut at Overton which is half a mile away. Or, stay on the same train to Inverkip and it's a three mile journey from there, up the picturesque Shielhill Glen Road to Cornalees. Either way, be prepared to climb some hills along the way! Bikes are carried free on these trains and there is no need to book. Look out for the cycle logo on the side of the train to show where the bike accommodation is located.
NS2675 : Drumfrochar railway station by Thomas Nugent NS2675 : Drumfrochar station signs by Thomas Nugent

Greenock Cut Visitor Centre

The centre was renamed from Cornalees Bridge to the present name in 2010. It lies within the Clyde Muirshiel Regional ParkExternal link. Much of the park is desolate moorland, which is an attraction in itself, but there are many other areas which can be easily accessed on foot or by mountain bike. Greenock Cut is one of several ranger manned visitor centres within the park which stretches from the moors to the Clyde Coast beaches.

The visitor centre is at Cornalees Bridge which makes an ideal start and finish point since a circular route is available if returning over the hill from Overton on the dirt track (not suitable for wheelchairs).

Hot and cold snacks are available at the centre or at the adjacent Ardgowan Fishery which appears to be open 24 hours all year round.

NS2472 : Greenock Cut Visitor Centre by Thomas Nugent NS2472 : Cornalees Bridge Centre by Elliott Simpson NS2472 : Cornalees and Dunrod Hill by Thomas Nugent NS2472 : Ardgowan Fishery by Thomas Nugent

Loch Thom

This large reservoir fed the cut and still supplies drinking water to the town today. Water ran from here to the Compensation Reservoir before entering the cut.
NS2571 : Scroggy Bank and Loch Thom by Thomas Nugent NS2571 : Loch Thom and Compensation Reservoir from the air by Thomas Nugent NS2573 : Loch Thom by wfmillar NS2572 : Loch side of the reservoir dam at Loch Thom by Elliott Simpson NS2472 : Dunrod Hill and Loch Thom by Thomas Nugent NS2572 : Loch Thom overflow channel by Thomas Nugent NS2572 : Water tunnel at Loch Thom by Thomas Nugent

Compensation Reservoir

Water flowed from the adjacent Loch Thom into this reservoir which in turn fed the cut, keeping the water there at a constant level. The first photo below shows the outfall from the reservoir which marks the start of the cut.

The reservoir is a stocked fishery which attracts anglers from many parts of Scotland and beyond.
NS2472 : Cornalees Bridge Centre, Clyde Muirshiel by wfmillar NS2472 : Fishing Shack by Thomas Nugent NS2472 : Ardgowan Fishery by Thomas Nugent NS2471 : Cornalees Farm by Thomas Nugent NS2572 : Compensation Reservoir by Thomas Nugent NS2572 : Compensation Reservoir by Thomas Nugent NS2572 : Compensation Reservoir by Thomas Nugent

Start of the cut

The cut starts across the road from the Cornalees Visitor Centre where the Compensation Reservoir feeds a header pool via a dramatic waterfall. It heads south briefly before turning sharply northwards towards Shielhill Farm where it passes under the road on the way around Dunrod Hill.
NS2471 : Waterfall at Cornalees by Thomas Nugent NS2472 : Head pool at Cornalees Bridge by Thomas Nugent NS2472 : Head pool at Cornalees Bridge by Thomas Nugent NS2472 : Top sluice gate on the Greenock Cut by Elliott Simpson NS2471 : Greenock Cut in Shielhill Glen by Thomas Nugent NS2471 : The Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2472 : Dunrod Hill by Thomas Nugent NS2472 : Greenock Cut at Shielhill Farm by Thomas Nugent NS2471 : The Greenock Cut at Shielhill Farm by Elliott Simpson

The cut skirts around Dunrod Hill and Cauldron Hill on its journey northwest towards Spango Valley. The canal is lined with clay and has stone walls for most of its length.
NS2372 : Overflow control device by Thomas Nugent NS2372 : Shielhill Glen by Thomas Nugent NS2372 : Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2372 : Old waterworks building by Thomas Nugent NS2372 : Bridge on Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2372 : Water control building on Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2372 : Small building on Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2372 : The Greenock Cut approaching Shielhill Farm by Elliott Simpson

Some of the views from this section of the cut.
NS2272 : Majeston farm and Inverkip from Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2272 : Langhill Farm by Thomas Nugent NS2372 : Inverkip and the Firth of Clyde by Dannie Calder NS2272 : Inverkip and the Clyde from Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent

Spango Valley

Mention Spango Valley around Greenock and people immediately think of IBM and computers, but that industry has now gone too, joining the mills as just a memory. Fortunately, the derelict shipyards are not visible from the cut.
NS2273 : Bargane Hill from Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2273 : Field at Bankfoot by Thomas Nugent NS2373 : Bridge over Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2373 : Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2273 : Cauldron Hill From Dunrod Farm, Inverkip by Thomas Nugent NS2373 : Cauldron Hill by Thomas Nugent NS2373 : Cyclists on Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2373 : Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2373 : Waterfall on Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2373 : Derelict building on Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2374 : Heather at Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2374 : Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2374 : Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2474 : The Greenock Cut by Elliott Simpson NS2474 : Bridge over Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent

Some of the views from this section of the cut.
NS2274 : Three farms by Thomas Nugent NS2174 : Spango Valley by Thomas Nugent NS2374 : Spango Valley by Thomas Nugent NS2374 : Spango Valley by Thomas Nugent NS2374 : South west Greenock by Thomas Nugent NS2474 : Rosneath Peninsula from Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2474 : South west Greenock by Thomas Nugent NS2474 : The new Inverclyde Academy by Thomas Nugent

Southwest Greenock

The cut enters the town high above the Branchton housing scheme from where it is a short run to the end at Overton.
NS2374 : Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2474 : The Greenock Cut by Elliott Simpson NS2474 : Sunset at Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2574 : Path by the Greenock Cut by Dannie Calder

Overton

The cut ends at the Long Dam at Overton (first two photos below) which in turn fed the mills further down the hill in the town. It also fed the water works dams at Cowdeknowes.
NS2674 : The Greenock Cut at Overton by Elliott Simpson NS2674 : Greenock (Overton Reservoir) by william craig NS2674 : Greenock Cut at Overton by Thomas Nugent NS2674 : The Greenock Cut at Overton by Elliott Simpson NS2674 : Overton drinking well by william craig NS2674 : Centenary drinking Well at Overton by Thomas Nugent NS2674 : Cottages at Overton by Thomas Nugent NS2674 : Overton Reservoir by Thomas Nugent

This part of the cut offers views over the south of the town and the Tail o' the Bank.
NS2675 : HM Prison Greenock by Thomas Nugent NS2675 : Greenock and the Clyde from Overton by Thomas Nugent NS2675 : Greenock Prison and the River Clyde by Thomas Nugent NS2674 : Loch Long from Greenock Cut by Thomas Nugent NS2674 : Greenock, Helensburgh and the Firth of Clyde by Thomas Nugent NS2674 : Greenock and Ben Bowie by Thomas Nugent

Dirt track back to Cornalees

From Overton, it's a short down hill half mile to Drumfrochar station, or you can return to Cornalees Bridge by taking the dirt track over the hill. This road passes many of the small reservoirs which dot the area.
NS2574 : Two motor bikes climbing the hill towards Loch Thom by Elliott Simpson NS2674 : The Waterman's Road by Thomas Nugent NS2674 : A drained reservoir at Overton by Elliott Simpson NS2674 : Allum Dam by Thomas Nugent NS2674 : Young cyclist on The Waterman's Road by Thomas Nugent NS2574 : Reservoirs and Ben Bowie by Thomas Nugent NS2574 : Fancy Farm, Kilcreggan and Loch Long by Thomas Nugent NS2574 : Greenock and Argyll by Thomas Nugent NS2573 : The Waterman's Road by Thomas Nugent NS2573 : The Waterman's Road by Thomas Nugent NS2573 : Track beside Loch Thom by Gordon Dowie NS2573 : Stile and gate at Loch Thom by Gordon Brown NS2573 : Well on the Waterman's Road by Thomas Nugent NS2573 : Plaque on the well on the Waterman's Road by Thomas Nugent NS2572 : The Waterman's Road by Thomas Nugent NS2572 : The Waterman's Road by Thomas Nugent.
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