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Deer Park - 12 October 2010
The simplest way to approach these stones is to drive North out of Brodick towards Corrie. Pass by the Cladach Retail Outlet Village and continue along the coast road for a few hundred yards till you get to the vehicle entrance to Brodick Castle on your left.
Drive up to the Castle Carpark (there is no charge for parking or for simply passing through) and then exit the car park (there is a one way traffic flow system through Brodick Castle grounds) and continue through the castle grounds. You will pass a house on the right called Kennels Cottage and then descend to a small bridge at the start of a stretch of road bounded by Beech Hedges on either side. Pull in here and park. The field with two stones is on your right. The solitary stone stands in the field on the left. They are seperated by the Castle driveway exit road.
The largest stone A is about twelve feet high, stone B thirty yards away is 9 feet. Stone C in the next field is nearly eight feet (and leaning!)The three stones seem to form some kind of an alignment, but with the Beech hedges and road in between it is difficult to judge precisely what. There is sufficient space for two intervening stones. The Brodick Heritage Centre has on display, a cist which was found on the same alignment, thirty yards from stone B towards stone C. It was ploughed up in 1980 and contained an intact food vessel.
These fields are under barley almost every summer and usually you cant get near the stones till after the harvest. It is now under grass and yesterday was full of jumpy inquisitive stirks. Thankfully they have been moved elsewhere today and I can get right up close to these big stones. The tallest one has the traditional Arran Sandstone fluted and weathered top. The site reeks of having been something bigger originally but this flat, fertile land is at a high premium here in the more Northern end of the island and has been under the plough for many centuries. It is easy to imagine that there was once much more to this site than the three surviving roughly aligned stones and the cist. However it is what we have left and for that we should be glad.
October Moyish Frenzy - 16 October 2010
An hour till the ferry
Shaggy-haired Junior dodged a bullet, what with Jimmy the Brodick Barber being shut on Saturdays. So instead of a a much needed clipping, he and my OH popped off to purchase bespoke chocolates and play crazy golf. I checked my map and decided on Moyish. I had last been up to the Moyish stone more than half my lifetime ago, as a teenager on a camping holiday with my then girlfriend. Funny how things change, she dumped me in 1981 for her karate instructor and now lives in Australia. I'm still coming to Arran...
I had time for a quick scoot up the road beside the Co-op and turn right, then first left. Time was not on my side, the hot October sun beat down on me and I regretted wearing my fleece and jacket. I found myself puffing and panting my way up the street in a small housing estate. A children's play area lay ahead which hadn't been there thirty years ago, I climbed over the fence at the back, turned right through a hedge, crossed a deep, steep sided stream, over a barbed wire fence and through a gorse hedge.
An absolute beauty of a stone. A giant in the regular Arran monolith style, it stands with a slight lean to the East. Its top is fluted and weathered like the tallest ones on Machrie Moor. It stands on a fairly level field terrace high above Brodick with superb views East to Mainland Scotland and North to Goatfell and Cir Mhor. Set in a reedy field bounded on the West by a Beech and Hawthorn hedge with turning leaves and deep red berries. I lean against the stone and rest for five minutes drinking in the view, the peace and the last seven days spent here on Arran.
Wandering back down the hill with the car parked in line at the ferry terminal and Junior and my OH sitting waiting for me on the Co-op wall, it didn't feel too bad to be leaving Arran. I know we'll be back again next year and Moyish had hit me with a last minute boost.
11 October 2010.
We headed South through the forestry from the car park a mile or two south of Machrie. The car park is well signposted and a visit to the caves is best done as a circular walk. Over the years we have built a preference for walking in heading South and returning to the car park along the cliff walk to the North of the caves. It just seems easier, and this walk does involve walking over a few hills (The Big Hill of the King - Torr Righ Mor) on the way in and (The Little Hill of the King - Tor Righ Beag) on the way back. The shortened name Tormore is given to an area of farms a mile to the North.
Just three short months ago we were here in baking summer sunshine. Now today the wind is driving into us with an arctic blast although the sun is shining brightly. My other and better half thoughtfully carried my fleece and waterproof out of the car boot leaving it usefully hanging in a wardrobe in our cottage at King's Cross Point on the other side of the island. I pulled on my hat with earflaps and gritted my teeth as we marched into the wind. Junior ran ahead doing aeroplane impressions along the path. It takes about twenty five minutes of stiff walking to get to the cliffs above the caves and begin the descent.
(Anyone with kids who visits this site might want to detour up the first burn along the shore to see the dinosaur footprints on a sandstone slab. There are also more dino-footprint trails on the Cleats Shore below Bennecarrigan between Torrylinn and Sliddery on the South end of the island)
There were plenty of visitors on the Sunday lunchtime when we visited. They all really focussed in on the main King's Cave. Some christian person had thoughtfully painted yellow emulsion over an ancient incised cross. Although I dont do chalking of cups, rings, carvings etc I can understand why people used to do that kind of thing. But this emulsion is new since July, so what gives? Why? I suppose I should be glad they didn't daub their cornflake yellow Dulux over the human figures, cups, rings, Ogham writing, fish, deer and curly celtic snakes. There is also an enormous amount of graffitti from the last couple of hundred years. And everything is covered in a semi-congealed, cave-slime concretion which makes photography difficult in the deep darkness.
We picnic on the shore further along and then explore some of the other caves. A few of the others have graffitti and carvings. There are about twenty caves in all and a few natural arches. There is a superb cave, fourth in from the North, which has a twenty metre long "corridor", a metre wide, which ends with a great chamber off on the right of the "corridor". I got a bit ruffled in the very dark enclosed space and had to leg it out pronto. I would have been useless in a Chilean Mine.
The walk back out is an easy one, once you are up on the cliff top. Out at sea, the wind whipped the Kilbrannan Sound into a froth of dancing white horses and reminded me that I had no fleece or jacket. Once the path opens out beyond the forestry the views North are spectacular. Machrie is spread before you and in the distance the big solitary stone at Druid stands out like an exclamation mark near the mouth of the Iorsa.
The caves are well worth a visit, the whole visit can be done in about two and a half hours (taking your time) and while the site is listed here as of uncertain antiquity... you'll be in no doubt that these caves have been used by people for as long as they have been landing their boats on Arran's shores.
Dreva Craig - Wednesday 8 September 2010
This site is a cracker. Not least because it nestles on its hilltop, a mere two minute walk from the road (a very handy wee car park and fence stile). The fort is surrounded by many upright stones which form a chevaux de frise along most of the approaches. The chevaux de frise has survived incredibly well considering its closeness to the cleared pasture fields (with their excellent dry stane dykes) which surround it. Once I'd manouevred my way to the tumbled defense walls I found myself staring into the remains of some dwellings which had been inserted into the thick stonework. The view from the highest point inside the fort is spectacular.
There are steep crags which would have needed little in the way of defence construction on the Drumelzier side of the fort. The village of Broughton is only three or four minutes away in the opposite direction but this fort seems more to do with tiny Drumelzier across the Tweed in the valley below.
The twin forts of Tinnis Castle Hill and Henry's Brae sit perched on their conjoined hilltops across the other side of the Tweed beyond Drumelzier. Below, where the Drumelzier Burn flows into the Tweed, I could see the Whitethorn tree which marks Merlin's grave. On the way up the Dreva Road, I passed Merlin's huge, flat-topped altarstone by the roadside at Altarstone Farm. Far below and halfway down the Tweed to the altarstone sits the lonely menhir on Drumelzier Haugh. Folklore, Prehistory, Iron Age, Medieval. A very busy little stretch of my corner of Scotland.
I watched the sun set somewhere over behind the hills near Kilbucho and headed back home for hot chocolate and bed.
Pandemonium on Drumelzier Haugh Thursday 9 September 2010
This is not the easiest stone to get to. The last time I visited was about ten years ago and it was a simple walk across two fields of barley stubble between the stone and the Drumelzier - Dawyck road. Those fields are now under a ten – twelve foot high Willow plantation. When I looked from across the Tweed on Dreva Craig on Wednesday evening I could see the stone occupying a little fenced off corner still under grass.
I parked at a pull-in near Dawyck and started the walk in only to be met by a big herd of very flighty sheep with a big horned ram snorting and stamping at me. I live on a farm and I'm used to livestock, however the beast obviously felt I was a threat to his harem of a hundred ewes so I quickly moved myself to the other side of a fence and continued towards the Tweed. I was then chased by a barrel-bodied pony-horse hybrid which galloped up to me and kept nudging me in the small of my back with her snout. In order to escape Dobbin's attention-seeking behaviour, I carefully picked my way over a collapsing dry stane dyke injuring my shin and found myself faced with a six foot burn to traverse. Despite a long, limping run and jump I fell short of the far bank and ended up knee deep in the burn. Still a field length to go before I could reach the Tweed and the walk upstream to the stone, I picked up my pace and was met by a gang of stirks as I turned the corner to cut along the last field boundary. These young bullocks were very agitated by my presence and stamped and huffed at me from the other side of a too-low fence. I felt my enthusiasm for the lonely stone trickle away like the stinky water oozing out of my bootlace holes. But I squelched on anyway. The bullocks formed a guard of honour on the far side of the fence and mooed loudly as they accompanied me on the last stretch of my journey to the stone. The sun had already passed behind the steep hills which hem in this lovely valley.
Then the stone was in front of me. What a delight! Lichened, squat and sitting proudly in its little fenced-off reserve, its angular wedge top cocked a snoot at the sky's dying light. On one of its lower faces, the stone appeared almost glassy, like the blue-ish chert which I keep finding in my tattie patch. Now hemmed in by the willow plantation, the stone is sort of cut off from the wide valley floor which it used to look out on. Did it have any brothers or sisters originally? I could see no tumbled brethren and no big stones re-used in the dyke which propped up the low fence which was still holding back the bullocks. I was surprised to see the ring ditch and soutterain were visible close by in the stone's little fenced-off reserve. Their outlines were betrayed by deep curving lines of clover growth and they were exactly as they appear on Google Maps.
They proved impossible to photograph from ground level of course.
The return tramp to the car held a similar spate of livestock incidents as my outward journey had and I got wet twice more evading livestock and making unnecessary crossings of what turned out to be a loop in a burn. The fates continued to conspire as an engine warning light and a SRS seatbelt light came on simultaneously en route home. Pandemonium indeed.
This Is Very Steep... site visit - after tea - Monday 30 August 2010
The best approach to Arbory Hillfort is to take the minor road (Station Road) from Abington village and drive over the railway bridge and cross the River Clyde. Take a left turn at the junction after the caravan site, drive on for another third of a mile and pull in at the parking area on the left. Cross the road and head along the very straight track across the field below and to the right of Arbory Hill. This isn't the mighty Roman Road from Crawford Fort (it descends further up ahead). This field track ends in a large levelled area across a small burn from the foot of Arbory Hill. Descend to the burn, step across and start the climb.
It is steep.
Very, very steep.
I found myself having to stop for breath regularly and look South. I couldn't help it as the massive road terrace scar of Roman engineering had started to become a magnet for my gaze every time I stopped (which was a lot). It was seven o'clock or so when I started up from the burn and it took half an hour of hard climbing (with breathers) to get to the first line of the defences at the hilltop. The summit is at 1400 feet. The climb feels like twice that.
Arbory Hillfort is a mighty construction. The first scarped rampart bank is around a two metre climb up from the outer ditch. At one point it was easily three metres up. The ditch here is littered with tumbled stonework from the first rampart wall and some of these stones are large (5' x 3' x 2' was the largest I saw tumbled into the outer ditch). There are about five yards between the first rampart and the next ditch. The rise to the top of the next rampart is around another three metres up from the second ditch. You are now in the interior of the original fort. But five or six yards ahead lies yet another rampart which was inserted into the older fort at a later date.
This next rampart is not another steep grassy stony bank but an incredible eight or nine metre wide spread of tumbled stone which still stands around two metres high in places around its original wall line. This near circular stone rampart was originally three metres wide and must have been at least that height. There are two entrances both less than two metres wide.
I sat on the wall of one of the circular cell-like buildings built into this central stony rampart and looked across Upper Clydesdale as the setting sun turned everything a delicate orangey- brown. There was a distant hum from the M74 and the sounds of dogs barking in Raggengill Kennels far below. A buzzard soared above me, wheeling and staring down at me. There are a number of rather enigmatic features in this hillfort.
1. A series of circular, stone built chambers (about the size of a small room). Their walls stand to a height of two metres in some of them. One of them is around twenty feet long and rectangular with a rounded end. There are a series of much smaller scale ones just two or three feet across. The farm below the hill is called Cold Chapel and I wondered about those little stone chambers…
2. A row of cairns, facing West, built along the edge of the second rampart. They initially look like they have to be fairly modern but are well lichened and fast in the peat which has grown here. They stand up like a row of teeth. They are perhaps three to four feet across at the bottom and rise to four feet high or so.
The sun dropped behind Drake Law and Craighead Hill to the West and very quickly a deepening dusk sent me clambering down the steep slopes back to the present day. Arbory is an incredible construction. Atmospheric and enigmatic. I reached my car and drove home to cocoa, biscuits and a well deserved early night full of dreams about the strangeness of Arbory.
25 August 2010
Devonshaw is one of a string of hillforts planted along the western edge of the Upper Clydesdale Hills. Arbory, Kirkton, Bodbury are others within a few miles. I can see my work's cut out for the next couple of weeks...
There is a draw-in at the side of the A702 on the Northbound side of the road. Look for the gap in the crash barriers and draw in. If you miss it drive on, turn around a mile ahead and come back. This road is a death trap. There's a bit of nfty traffic dodging to avoid getting splattered by the stream of artics and juggernauts and a great opportunity for a barbed wire wedgey getting over the fence and onto the hill. The fort is then a ten minute scramble up the steep side of Devonshaw Hill.
Gradually the sound of the traffic disappeared as I climbed higher. On a terrace high above the road I paused for a breather and leaned back against an outcrop of rock. My nostrils were hit by the most hideous smell, when I checked behind the rock there was a half eaten, half decomposed sheep whose partial evisceration was spread across the green, green grass in a scene reminiscent of The Killing Fields meets Shaun the Sheep. My movement set up an immense cloud of blowfly and bluebottles from the carcass and I stumbled away across the maggot crawling grass trying to retain my dinner.
Like most sites in South Lanarkshire, Tinto is always somewhere over your shoulder and she looks onto Devonshaw Fort with a real massiveness. The fort itself is a delight, perched daintily like a fifty pence coin on a western spur halfway up Devonshaw Hill. The hut circles in the interior are clearly visible and the ramparts still very intact. The steep inner rampart is a real challenge to get up.
There are some big boulders which occupy the end spur of the outer rampart which look rather interesting. I'd often seen them when driving up the A702 and noted their monolith-like appearance. Frost shattered and earth fast, they are a group of sizeable stones which mark one side of an approach to the South entrance. On the hill above the fort there is an unremarkable grassed over cairn with a superb outlook.
I stretched out on the high western rampart of the fort for a while watching the lowering sun strafe the valley below, picking out its greens and setting diamond reflections dancing on the waters of the Clyde. Tinto looked on and said nothing.
Panoramic views and atmospheric. Highly recommended.
I'd photographed the main panels and was turning to go when I saw a strange looking crack in the steep step of rock in the ground between the cup and ring panels. I looked again. And again! My heart went into overdrive and I had to sit down. I thought it was going to burst out of my chest. I was looking at a three foor long, two foot high bird like a Raven. I stood up. I sat down again and approached it sliding along the peaty grass. I ran my fingers along the deeply carved beak and around the beautifully shaped head. I simply could not believe what I was seeing and touching. I took a photo with my other half's new camera.
When I looked back at the image on the camera screen under the trees, I saw what appeared to be a pair of bird's feet above the Raven's head. I walked over to check. As I looked in disbelief a Heron took shape. I could make out a bird below the Raven's beak. It looked like a Curlew. It wasn't carved out in deep relief like the Raven and Heron.
I resisted the temptation to wash off the deep coating of lichen, mossy slime and the peaty discoloured patina on the carvings and just started taking pictures as they were. The wind suddenly dropped and a horrendous midge attack ensued. I fled their bites shaking with utter joy. A sense of elemental elation carried me out of the wood and back to the car. I drove back to Lamlash. My head swam. I had to pull over at the top of the hill between Brodick and Lamlash and get out and get my breath back.
I returned a number of times that week. On the last day Mrs HD and The Boy came with me. They spotted the birds straight away (when I showed them the direction to look!). Suitably amazed, Alison took some nice photos. There had been a lot of rain the night before and that morning so the Raven was standing in a puddle of water and the carvings showed up better.
Reported the carvings by email to RCAHMS early in the week. Notified the Brodick Museum and Arran Heritage. Sent on the photos to both. I simply could not understand how these carvings sat in plain sight for so long without being noticed. A quick examination of photos on TMA and on BRAC showed the carvings visible but far in the background of Hob and Greywether's photos. In the 1901 PSAS illustration the carvings lie under a strip of peat and turf separating the known cup and ring panels. Hmm... I thought... When exactly did the peat and turf wear away? Drove to Edinburgh to examine Stan Beckensall's 2004 manuscript report and the photo archive at RCAHMS on Thursday. Beckensall never noticed them, his report contains no photographs. But I found M van Hoek's photo, it was exactly the view I needed and showed the strip of peat to be there in 1980 but a bit of the rock is beginning to show through. I paid the very helpful member of staff £1.18 for the colour photocopy of it and left.
RCAHMS got in touch today and asked me to pass the details on to Discovery and Excavation Scotland. So that's that.
So anybody going to Arran this summer, get along to Stronach Wood (very easy access and very close to Brodick) and catch some elemental revelation for free.
For about half the week this stone was flanked by a variety of wheelie bins. Wheelie bins need to be collected from the roadside and this stone has unfortunately found itself right on the verge so be prepared for your souvenir shots to feature a variety of coloured wheelies!
Park just across from the primary school and the the stone is right there by the car park. Dont get run over.
This stone had a partner. It lies tumbled in the woods across the road. Cross the road and go into Stronach Wood. Follow the low wall and fence line of the primary school into the trees until the school boundary fence turns to your left. Continue on your original bearing for the same distance again. Even in the undergrowth and trees it is hard to miss. I was out of battery power on my camera when I went... so no pic! Next time!
It was summer 1988 when I first visited this site. I'd approached it through deep plantation forestry and endured the clouds of firey midges which hung in biting clouds around it. Visits in the 1990's were no better. There were no views or any way to understand where this cairn stood in its landscape. All changed now!
The best way to approach these large Clyde Type Chambered Cairns is to follow the Glenashdale Falls path. Dont go up the steep signposted path if you want to avoid an excruciating climb! It is much gentler to walk on up to the falls and is really not much longer. You should walk the path right up to the falls then take a left along the smooth flat forest road which takes you around the hill. It makes for very easy walking and you are met with a spectacular view of the cairns as they sit in profile on the crest of their terrace with the Ayrshire coast behind them. The forestry has been completely clear felled allowing some wonderful viewing. You then walk down a gentle path on your left to the cairns.
The southern chambered cairn is aligned east/ west and looks directly to the black flat topped volcanic plug of Mochrum Hill near Maybole. These plugs/ igneous intrusions stretch from Scotland's West Coast to East Coast taking in Ailsa Craig, Mochrum Hill, Tinto Hill, Arthur's Seat, Bass Rock and the Lomond Hills.
The north chambered cairn sits on a north/ south axis and although only the massive cists are left in the centre, there are still large stones marking where the "horns" came out to. Views to the barbed peaks of Goatfell and Cir Mhor to the north are spectacular. If you are wondering where all the many tons of removed cairn material went... then on you way down the steep winding path look to your right and see the beautiful dry stane dyke which runs across the hillside! There's your cairn!
While munching a fish supper with my Mrs and kid the following evening, we could see the stumps of the north cairn from the path out to King's Cross Point in Whiting Bay far below. In its original state the cairn would have been very visible.
My 1994 OS Landranger map had not one but two sites marked at Stronach Wood - one being the main one here in Stronach Wood and the other a few hundred yards further up the hill. I decided to start with the one further up the hill then walk down to the next. The first attempt ended with me sunk in a bog, totally drenched, bearing many midge bites and harbouring a deep sense of failure and disappointment. Then I set up a big Red Deer deep in the insect infested bracken and heard gun shots break the afternoon air a few minutes later. My sense of failure and disappointment turned immediately to one of getting off the hill before I caught a stalker's bullet. I made my way noisily down to my car on the String Road determined toreturn and find the carvings. Getting changed back at the cottage I found a derr tick munching its way into my shoulder. Nasty creatures, they are difficult to extract without leaving the jaws in your flesh. It left a very painful bite which swoll badly and is still draining a week later.
The following morning I found myself back in the same mire and unable to find the stone as marked on my map. It took a third attempt to come to the conclusion that the old edition of the map was simply wrong or I needed new specs. I do need new specs but the old OS map seems to show two sites and I've posted the relevant map clipping to show folks where not to go (just in case their map is as old as mine was).
I bought the new OS Pathfinder edition and there was only one site marked! Once I had tracked down the deer stalker's access track off the main road I was at the carvings in a few minutes. But get this folks… there were quad tyre marks across the panels! (Once you shoot that deer on the hill you gotta get that yummy venison down to the butcher's shop and onto the plate somehow. Maybe Arran Heritage should take out a few of the plantation trees and take the path around the carvings…)
These carvings are groovy. I've seen many a cup and ring from Ben Lawers to Achnabreck but nothing had prepared me for the utter grooviness of these. Fluid and writhing… some of these seem to have a real sense of movement in them. A devastating midge attack suddenly ensued when the wind dropped and I had to flee the site but I was drawn back twice more during my week on Arran to look at and photograph some other stuff I'd seen up there - but I'll post about that once it has all been checked out and verified. If they are for real it will be a big WOW! But until things are verified then I shall temper my enthusiasm and say nowt!
The complete removal of the forestry plantations around Giants Graves above Whiting Bay has transformed the landscape they occupy. I'm sure this plantation at Stronach Wood will soon be due for clear felling as well. It will help with interpretation of the this site in relation to the megaliths in the immediate area and the notable landmarks in the landscape (Goatfell, Cir Mhor etc). There must be more art lurking under the peat on the red Arran sandstone which forms this hill!
The Air Cleuch burn tumbles down a steep sided gully in the hills above the Dalveen Pass. The Pass is an ancient routeway up from Galloway a few miles below. The rocky outcrop bears many cup marks and juts out above the right bank of the burn, about a hundred yards upstream from the wee bridge on the A702. The views are spectacular. The site looks across at the Daer/ Clyde watermeeting where the farm of Crookedstane has a standing stone. Together, the hills of Upper Clydesdale and the Moffat Hills mark the watersheds of the three main rivers in Southern Scotland, the Nith, the Tweed and the Clyde.
A couple of hundred yards above the outcrop, the Roman Road crosses the burn on its way from the lonely fortlet at Durisdeer to the fort at Crawford. Between the cupped outcrop and the A702 are three rather curious flat topped mounds. There are also earthworks of an ancient settlement a few hundred yards to the west and beyond that a ruined medieval bastlehouse. The hillside is littered with platform settlements, cairnfields and Bronze Age funerary sites. In the hills just a mile to the north, Lead, Gold and Silver were mined throughout the ages. This area is now pretty much deserted save for a few bored sheep, but it was a very busy place for us humans in the past.
Summer or winter, the site really has a desolate, empty feel and despite the nearby M74's best efforts, the silence of the empty hills wins over with peace, perfect peace.
Bizzyberry is one of those rather surprising hills, Not very high (363 metres) but commands extraordinary views over to the Tweedsmuir Hills, the Broughton Heights and in all directions. The views North on a clear summer night are breathtaking and you somehow feel that you should get such vbiews from a comparatively low elevation. To the far West you can see Ben Arthur (The Cobbler) in Argyll and panning acroos to the East there's Ben Lomond, The Trossachs peaks, Ben A'an, The Lomond Hills of Fife. And of course it looks over its shoulder forever at the might bulk of Tinto Hill with its massive cairn on the summit.
Bizzyberry Hill actually has two forts. The fort at the summit has a spectacular steep rock cut ditch on one side. Now under turf it is great for rolling chocolate eggs and children down. Some remnants of the defence wall can be discerned around the edge of the fort's footprint.
Further down the hill at its Northern end sits another fort, This has circular stone footings for houses and is protected by three deep ditches which are also useful for rolling children down.
The spring ("Wallace's Well") just below the summit fort is still there, though little more than a trickle from a crack in the rock into a boggy puddle.
The hill also holds a probable cremation cemetery on the saddle between the forts. There are also at least three cairns. I have located two of them. One yielded a bronze axe (now on display at the NMS in Chambers Street, Embra) and a jet bead in the 19th century.
I have climbed the hill many times and it is best done in sunshine with a picnic. My kid has been climbing it since he was three so its not very difficult. The "Ewe Hill Hillfort at the North End of Bizzyberry is the best preserved and the ditches and house footing are in very good nick.
Parking? Park at the layby a mile or so North of Biggar on the A702 signposted for Gladstone's Cottage Ruin, the hill sits across the road. Or park in Biggar and walk out past Loaningdales Outdoor centre to ascend the hill.
I visited this site today in a misty drizzle as the light was falling. Huge coal lorries flew past. Yet this mighty stone exudes a real timeless peaceful authority over all the passing traffic. The site stands in a landscape shaped by grassed over pit bings and slag heaps, old mine workings and deserted railway lines. The mining hasn't completely left and there are huge opencasts in the vicinity (one a few hundred yards behind the stone).
There are two massive stones on the skyline a few hundred yards above the Lightshaw stone which may just be there as a result of field clearance or the opencast. I'll check them out on my next visit. Forgot my camera today!
3pm Sunday 8 November 2009
The hedges along the tiny single lane B road were full of rusty orange beech leaves and crimson hawthorn berries. Myself and Samspade parked at the gate at the bottom of the field. A low winter sun strafed the stubble in the fields. The souterrain field has a crop of winter greens this year. This meant a longer walk along the field to the left side then up until we were level with the fenced in overgrown patch in the middle of the field. The souterrain's in there. We made our way across the crops along a tractor wheel rut to avoid trampling the crop.
Samspade had never been before and was looking forward to seeing this site. I'd been many times and had brought waterproof trousers, wellies, a torch and my wee camera. This souterrain can be very wet and the crawl/ crouch on the way in can leave you caked in Midlothian glaur. True to form, the floor was a sea of muddy water and squelching clay. Despite the damp and the hanging "bead curtains" of dripping wet grass roots Samspade was gobsmacked at the place and we walked around taking pictures and soaking in the quiet still calm of this unique place. Samspade picked up a beautiful flint scraper from the edge of a puddle.
The first lintel upon entering the souterrain is covered with many cup marks (one is huge). We wondered if it had previously been a standing stone nearby which had been re-used. The other huge lintel stones could well have been standing stones too, for although there is evidence of working/ shaping on some of them, their shapes seem in marked contrast to the neatly squared and dressed roman blocks in the walls. Perhaps originally the "Pegasus" was a bit of roman graffitti on a standing stone?
When we finally crawled out blinking in the last rays of the afternoon, the view out over the Firth of Forth was spectacular. The twin peaks of Fife's Lomond Hills sat high above the trail of smoke from Kirkcaldy. The strange hillock two fields below was illuminated by the dying rays of the sun making it look even more unnatural.
We rounded the day off with a trip to a garden centre to pick up bark chips for Samspade's garden. The centre was full of Christmas tack. We bought a bag of bark and left as quickly as we could, trying not to let the tacky tinsel and glitter outshine the quiet gloom of the souterrain.
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I live in Scotland with my other half and my eight year old son.