Imagine walking through the doorway of a walled garden to discover this incredible building. The Pineapple is one of the most fantastical pieces of architecture in Scotland. It is located by the village of Airth, near Falkirk, and is easy to visit by bicycle and train.
Your husband asks you to take a walk with him. It is a pleasant stroll in the forest. He tells you that he has a surprise birthday present. After about half-an-hour of an enjoyable walk you come across a wall. You make your way along this and come to a doorway. Your husband leads you through the door and you look in amazement. "Happy birthday, darling. This is for you."
This is how I imagined the day that the 4th Earl of Dunmore presented his wife, Charlotte, with her birthday gift. This was in 1761 and I wonder what she thought of her pineapple house. Charlotte was probably very impressed because in those days the pineapple was about the most exotic and expensive fruit you could get your hands on. It was a delicacy that only the very wealthy could enjoy, so sticking one on top of a building was a very powerful symbol.
Today you can rent the pineapple as a unique holiday home, or just come along and admire it from the outside.
Cycling to The Pineapple (map at bottom of page)
Take a train to Larbert station (43 minutes from Edinburgh, 33 minutes from Glasgow). From the station it is an 8 mile cycle to The Pineapple.
The start of the route is through a built-up urban area with some busy roads broken up by a tranquil section using pathways through a golf course that takes you by Stenhousemuir Cricket Club. The clubhouse has benches facing the lawn and I can imagine this being a nice place to watch a game in the sunshine.
You will soon be heading into the countryside on a B-road that crosses over the M8, the busiest motorway in Scotland. This is the strange thing about this part of Scotland- you are so close to industry, population and activity, but it can also feel very remote.
In fact, this mostly flat and straight road with a line of hills on the horizon and pale yellow fields made me feel like I was somewhere else. I thought of North America, somewhere with prairies where you can see the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on the horizon.
The hills are the Ochil Hills and their appearance is what makes this a stunning road to ride. The sun was shinning on the hills and highlighting their details; the crags, the trees, the greens and browns.
I didn't expect to find such a scenic road in this part of Scotland. It is a strange combination of countryside and urbanity. There are electricity pylons, wind turbines and the noise of traffic from the nearby M8. But there are also flocks of geese, horses, donkeys, hay bales and road signs that warn of deer leaping out from the forests.
Lots of Lycra
I was not the only cyclist out here. I counted at least a dozen during my time on these roads and this was a Monday, so clearly a popular spot, despite it not being a designated cycle route. They were mainly on racing bikes and kitted out in expensive cycle clothing.
The road entrance to The Pineapple is on the way to Airth, but I recommend taking the rough track directly opposite the road to the village of Dunmore. This way gives you the secret garden experience of taking a heavily wooded path to the doorway in the walled garden.
You cannot see the building from the surrounding woodland. It is completely hidden from view and I began to think that I was not going to find it. I asked a dog walker if I was heading the right way and she said yes, but I still doubted it as the place was so overgrown. This made it a surprise, like discovering a secret place, when I suddenly come across The Pineapple and the neat crab-apple orchard through a doorway.
Take a closer look at the pineapple shape on this building. It is remarkable because of the detail captured in stone. The tough waxy leaves of the fruit are perfectly rendered- this is exactly how a real life pineapple looks. Highly skilled stonemasons must have been employed to achieve this.
You cannot go inside the building, but you can walk into the portico where there is an information board to tell you a bit more about why a pineapple was chosen as the inspiration for this building.
There are forest walks behind the building and there are pretty flowers growing everywhere. The pond at the bottom of the orchard is home to an endangered species, the great crested newt.
There are two benches perfectly positioned at the bottom of the orchard with a view to this tropical building. A superb spot for a picnic, so it is worth bringing your lunch with you. There is no cafe here, but the village of Airth has a bakery.
I left The Pineapple by the tarmac road, which passes a gate house with castle-like roof. I turned left to reach Airth.
On first impressions Airth looks the same as many other villages of this size and there appears little to detain visitors, but it is worth a closer look. There is a pretty square with a mercat cross built in 1697.
There is a bakery where you can pick up something for lunch. This is popular with locals and various tradespeople parking up their vans to get something to eat. I can recommend the fruit slice with its thick layer of icing and even thicker interior of juicy fruit.
Head up the hill to take you behind Airth Parish Church where there are sweeping views over the River Forth to the Ochil Hills. There are some benches here, so I had my lunch from the bakery.
Despite being only a few miles from home I felt like I was far away. Spending a bit of time eating lunch in this village gave me a feeling of adventure, the chance to experience somewhere else and be away from what is familiar. That's why I travel. I am again reminded that I do not have to jump on a plane to some far off place to get that feeling.
On the way back to Larbert I stopped in Dunmore. I can't believe that I almost bypassed this place, because what I found turned out to be one of the most idyllic villages I have ever seen.
It is set around a village green that features a decorative well, floral displays and bowling green. All of the cottages are immaculate and I challenge you not to fall for this place. Look out for the unusual oval door on one of the cottages. This had been the village smiddy and the door was used to bring horses into and out of the building.
The village originally housed the estate workers for the Dunmore Estate, the same Earl who built The Pineapple.
What would make this village even more perfect is a tea room. Can you imagine sitting in the village green with an Earl Grey and a scone? Bliss.
Take a train to Larbert station and from here it is an 8 mile cycle to The Pineapple. Turn left when you leave Larbert station onto Main Street. This can be a busy road, but it is wide so cars can overtake safetly. Then take a left up Burnhead Road, which is a much quieter road.
When you reach the golf club turn right onto the path network through the course, which is completely traffic-free. This crosses over Tryst Road and then continues past Stenhousemuir Cricket Club to Bellsdyke Road. This is the worst road, in terms of traffic, of the entire route. There is a cycle lane for a large part of it, but it doesn't go all the way. I just used the pavement at the parts where the cycle lane ended. Continue along this road until you reach a left-turn with a sign for "Sth. Alloa." You take this road until it reaches the A905, where you turn right and continue until you see the sign for "Dunmore". Opposite this there is a rough track which you can follow to reach The Pineapple.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.