Making tracks to Arbirlot
By Colin Hogarth
The trackbed of an old Angus branch line provides a well-graded pathway for this easy leg-stretch from Elliot to the pretty village of Arbirlot.
The walk starts in a small public car park at Elliot, just off the A92 as it enters the outskirts of Arbroath from the south. Cross the busy main road and go through a white gate on the other side.
The path heads north, running parallel with the Elliot Water. It passes the remnants of an old railway hut - just an old brick chimney stack remains - before skirting between the burn on the left and a wooded embankment rising on the right. There’s a makeshift kissing gate to negotiate before the path heads out over an open field, often used for cattle grazing. After rain, the way can be very muddy here.
At the far end, the old line passes through another gate and skirts by a small reservoir occupying a curving hollow. Continue on over another open field and through a gate at the far end. To the left are the wooded policies of Kellie Castle and very shortly the walk leaves the railway by taking a narrow path on the left. This starts at a metal gate and, hemmed in by fences on each side, drops through leafy woodland to cross a small stream at a wooden footbridge. It rises up and skirts alongside an open field, finally descending to the tiny hamlet of Arbirlot, a cluster of small cottages gathered around a pretty little kirk. To finish the walk, retrace your steps to the old railway and follow it back to Elliot.
The railway line originally ran to Redford and quarries a mile or so north of the village. From the late 18th century, farmers in the Redford, Greystone and Carmyllie areas mined stone roof slates from small pits on their land and took them by cart to Arbroath and Dundee.
In time, larger quarries were opened by Lord Panmure at Carmyllie to supply stone to the city tenement builders. He decided to built a private railway down to Elliot and in May 1854 horses started hauling wagons of stone from Caramyllie down five miles of temporary track to join the main Dundee to Arbroath line at Elliot Junction (where the overbridge next to the car park stands today).
A proper line was established in February of the following year and steam locomotives replaced the horses. The Scottish North Eastern Railway Company operated the line from February 1, 1864 and at that point some 300 men were employed in the quarries.
Passenger services were introduced on February 1, 1900, by which time the branch became known as the Carmyllie Light Railway The gradient, as severe as 1 in 36 in places, limited the length of the trains which could run over the line and the journey was a scenic, albeit slow, one. Arbirlot had a station and there were stops at Cuthlie Halt, Denhead and Redford.
Passenger services were withdrawn on December 2, 1929 and freight continued until May 24, 1965, sometime after the quarries closed. Elliot Junction also closed to goods traffic in 1965 and passenger facilities were withdrawn in 1967, although a short spur remained in place to the Carnaud Metalbox factory until 1984.
Distance 4 miles/6.5km (there and back).