The sloping flat top of Langloch Knowe almost seems (to my idiosyncratic mind, anyway) to represent the fledgling offspring of Cow Castle, the latter overlooking the site to the immediate north-west. Calf Castle it is, then.
According to Canmore Langloch Knowe represents:
"The slight remains of a fort.... Stone-robbing and cultivation have severely reduced the defences but enough remains to distinguish two structural phases, the earlier represented by two ramparts... and the later by a single wall which partly overlies [the earlier] rampart IA [RCAHMS 1978]"
Sure, there isn't a great deal of wall, rampart, or any other surviving archaeological detail remaining in situ. However Langloch Knowe is so compact it's impossible not to feel a direct human attachment with those occupying it in days of lore. Hey, perhaps the people of Cow Castle sent their children here to learn how to do 'adult stuff', whilst still keeping a beady eye on proceedings from across the way. And no doubt garrisoned some of their best marksmen (be it with bow or sling?) here in times of unrest to help guard the track through these hills with some lethal crossfire. Yeah, wish I'd brought my tent now. Always fancied being Ray Winstone in Beowulf... must be the six pack, I guess. But enough of that. The site accords a superb profile view of the mother enclosure rising above, whilst the steep flanks of Black Hill - or is it Gawky Hill? - tower above to the south. Not the place to stand a prolonged siege then, but handy to give that raiding party a damn good hiding.
As I sit in the sun, gazing toward the superb panorama of hills to the north-east, the farmer from Nisbet Farm comes careering along the track on a quad bike, with collies riding shotgun - as seems to be their modus operandi nowadays - engaged with moving sheep further along the valley. I'm relieved since I wasn't looking forward to stopping by and making him aware of the maternal distress of the ewe encountered earlier upon the Nisbet enclosure... nothing he hasn't seen before, of course.
Cow Castle. Don't you just love the name? I mean, you wouldn't want to attempt to storm any high ground occupied by the cantankerous creatures... but at least you'd die laughing, the slapstick comic possibilities being endless. Now, as it happens, I've visited another Cow Castle, the one way down south upon Exmoor, the wondrous siting of which is probably - in my opinion - superior to this. But not by much. In short, the South Lanarkshire version is superb, even when such contemplation follows a visit to the spectacular Whiteside Hill earlier in the day.
I approach from the west, from the village of Coulter, to be precise. Follow the minor road (approx SE) past the school and take the left hand fork beyond Snaip.... i.e not Birthwood Road... where Culter Water suddenly swings sharply, decisively south. I park here and walk down the narrow track to Nisbet Farm, although, judging by the cheery demeanour of the farmer, it might well be possible to park there with permission. The track continues beyond the farm, ascending the hillside to the left to subsequently fork right toward Cow Castle beckoning upon the skyline (incidentally this track eventually passes below Mitchelhill, site of another fabulous hillfort.... but that's another story). The slope, emphasising the defensibility of the location, is too steep to contemplate a full frontal assault, cows or no cows lining the ramparts. I'd therefore recommend persevering with the track a short while longer and ascending 'round the back, so to speak.
The defences are far more substantial than I supposed. According to Canmore:
"The complex remains have been damaged... and in consequence are difficult to interpret .. However, at least two structural periods seem to be involved... The earlier period is represented by two ramparts....which have enclosed a roughly oval area measuring about 85m by 46m. In a later phase the size of the fort was reduced by the construction of two new ramparts.. to enclose an area measuring 43m by 27m....best preserved on the SW [RCAHMS 1978]".
However, like its Somerset namesake, ancient archaeology very much plays second fiddle to the exquisite landscape context here. For starters it suddenly dawns upon me that the mountain rearing its massive bulk to the west is Tinto, home to, as far as I'm aware, the most massive upland cairn in all Scotland. Then, looking north-east past a small settlement, White Hill holds the eye, crowned by its own hillfort, whilst beyond Nisbet Farm can be seen Snaip Hill featuring... yep, another hill fort. Oh and just across the valley to the approx south-east is the small Langloch Knowe 'fort. There are others upon distant skylines, the whole forming perhaps the most concentrated and extensive area of Iron Age upland settlement I've yet come across.
What a great place to simply sit and watch people go about their daily business down below. The vibe is peaceful, the sun breaking through cloud cover glorious. In fact only the curiousity of seeing the Langloch Knowe and 'Nisbet' enclosures is just cause to eventually move on.
I neglected to come here when visiting the seriously be-cairned Greens Moor and environs a couple of years back... probably since the map, highlighting a nearby gravel pit and old railway cuttings, conjured up mental images of a more or less ploughed out remnant of a henge in less than salubrious surroundings. I mean, it's not exactly famous, is it? However finding myself likely to be in the shadow of Tinto again this year, I duly reappraised Tiompan's (and Bladup's now deleted) images and concluded my initial assumption might well be wrong. Suffice to say it was. Fair's fair. Yeah, in my opinion this is an obscure gem of a site, well worthy of consideration if a couple of hours of time out from the world floats your boat. As it does mine.
The optimum approach might well be from Newbiggingmill to the approx south-west, along the route of the disused railway line alluded to above. However, finding nowhere to park that wouldn't piss me off if I was in the landowner's (no doubt muddy) shoes, I take the Weston road at Newbigging itself and squeeze onto the verge near a track heading off into Firpark Wood... that is not the track crossing the clearing near the Firpark buildings further along. Seems this a haunt of local dog walkers, one such man returning to his car confirming that I'm literally on the right track. Incidentally he adds that there's also a monument to covenanters nearby I should see. Won't have time, but interesting nevertheless. The track emerges from cover, whereby I veer right toward the OS trig pillar, the trees here apparently recently cleared. From here the henge lies to the left of a prominent copse to the south-east.
As I approach the site it looks, for all the world, a reasonably upstanding defended settlement. Closer inspection, however, reveals there to be no ditch.... well, not encircling the earthworks, at any rate. There is one within, though, a demarcation of bank and enclosure. Yeah, clearly this is no hillfort but a well preserved henge featuring, as Tiompan notes, a pretty substantial surviving circumference, not only in terms of diameter, but also bank height. OK, a knackered old fence does bisect a section of the monument to the south-east... and there is significant evidence of damage apparently resulting from animal husbandry. But, all things considered, for a henge this size it is in remarkably good nick indeed. Most certainly not a virtually ploughed-out ghost in the landscape! Speaking of which, despite the gravel pit to approx south drawing parallels with the magnificent Thornborough trio, the monument's landscape context - and thus vibe - is far better than I anticipated, too, said workings being some distance away, albeit still noticeable. And of course I find that vibe is always enhanced with the sun periodically streaming through the cloud base and cows getting up to all kinds of bovine shenanigans in the next field. Some noises just sort of 'blend in', do they not?
Sometimes being proved completely wrong is good for the soul. Helps to feed my rock n'roll!