Red Burn

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The Red Burn is one of two main streams which flow out of Cumbernauld. The Scottish New Town’s name derives from the Gaelic for “the meeting of the waters” and there is broad agreement that one of these waters is the Red Burn.

The Red Burn going through an arch of the Castlecary Viaduct

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The Red Burn’s headwater begins as a rivulet on the west side of Fannyside Lochs[1] known as the Glencryan Burn.[2]

West Fannyside Loch
Glencryan Reservoir

It flows west through Palacerigg Golf Course and becomes a significant geographic feature when it produces the Glencryan Reservoir[3] south of Forest Road in Cumbernauld. The name of the stream from its source until it enters the Vault Glen is the Glencryan Burn. It enters Cumbernauld behind Cumbernauld Academy[4] (formerly Cumbernauld High). The river then runs under Forest Road and its name changes to The Red Burn on the other side. The river takes a sudden turn to the east and is joined by a few nameless rivulets which come down from both the steep sided banks, the left bank being Kildrum and the right hand being Abronhill. The Scottish Wildlife Trust owns the land around the river at this point with the exception of a sewage pipeline which runs through the Vault Glen.[5] The Vault Glen has very steep sides with the stream some 25-30m below the brow of the hill and any rubbish dropped is difficult to remove although there have been some attempts to clean it up.[6] The Red Burn crosses the railway under a large viaduct before its confluence with the Bog Stank[7] just down river from the bridge over the path from the Park above.

View from the Bridge over the Red Burn in the Vault Glen. A few metres downstream it meets the Bog Stank
18th Century Bridge at Castlecary

After the confluence the Red Burn passes the dovecote and Broom Road, Abronhill before flowing back under the Forest Road Bridge heading towards Dunns Wood. From there the river passes through a sewage works. Work costing £3.8 million was completed on upgrading the water treatment system in 2013.[8] Its purpose is to clean water from the Wardpark Estate before it joins the river.[9]Scottish Water made a system of ponds which are designed to have the same effect as larger natural system. They contain the water then filter them and release the purified water slowly.

The system called Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS), prevents flooding by absorbing water from short-term storm flashes and releases it over a longer period of time. Theoretically pollutants are extracted and cleaner water is subsequently released back into the river. Because of the catchment area’s size six ponds were required. Beside the ponds, the £10.5million project constructed a £10.5 million pound extra treatment process.[10] This provides a higher standard of waste water treatment, and should allow for expansion due to population growth. In 2018 Scottish Water was fined £17k for a discharge of raw sewage into the Red Burn in 2014.[11]

Forth and Clyde canal passing over the Red Burn on aqueduct
Red Burn passing under Forth and Clyde Canal

The only significant subsequent tributary of the Red Burn is the Walton Burn which flows round the east side of Abronhill.[12] The river forms the border between Falkirk and North Lanarkshire councils[13] at this point. The Red Burn then flows under the M80, the B816 and the 18th century Castlecary Viaduct carrying the railway track. This is close to the historic Castle Cary Castle.

After the Red Burn has crossed the road and the railway it is then crossed by the Forth and Clyde Canal[14] on an aqueduct[15] close to Bonny Water.[16]

The Red Burn’s confluence with the smaller Bonny Water occurs just north of the canal and the river is now called the Bonny Water until it reaches the River Carron downstream. The Carron itself enters the Firth of Forth at Grangemouth.

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