Category: Dauners

Dauner to Castle Hill

Thousands of cars pass over the bridge at Kittoch Glen, but few of their occupants will know that two mottes lie just off to their side.

To be fair, Castle Hill and Rough Hill look just like tree covered hills. It’s only when you get close that you notice the artificially flattened tops.

I like the idea that Rough Hill motte was built first as a sort of trial run, but there are suggestions that the buildings of Castle Hill motte were wooden, while those on Rough Hill were stone, which actually suggests the opposite.

There’s little known about these two, but they lie almost halfway between the tower houses of Mains Castle and The Peel, and both of those have earlier mottes close by. Does that suggest that these belonged to another family altogether, or was there just a whole mess of motte building going on roundabout?

We parked in Kittoch Muir, a modern estate designed to look old with lots of white peeling plasterwork, but great streetnames: Davie’s Acre is a wonderful name (which maybe explains why they’re so expensive).

There’s a steep drop from the level of the houses, with the hill rolling down into the glen itself on the right, and the motte straight ahead going down into the ditch and then up a steep incline. On top, it’s very clear that the ground has been flattened and there’s actually a surprising amount of space, with a great view in both directions along the glen.

Walking around the base of the motte, its position becomes clear, high above the water. I doubt if it would have taken long for medieval weaponry to catch up with its location though. I’m pretty sure a decent lowbowman would have been able to reach it from the other side of the glen.

The glen itself is just begging to be explored, and reminded me of the fields I wandered through as a kid, with wandering paths through waist high grass and stinging nettles and the smell of the water close by. As an adult I dread what’s hiding in that water, but my inner child was desperate to go look closer.

Additional material added April 2012


Strathclyde Park is massive. Covering land between Bothwell, Bellshill, Hamilton and Motherwell, it can be tough to figure out where exactly you are. As usual in this part of the world, the history of the place is pretty much ignored, but there’s plenty of interesting material around.

This afternoon was one of the first decent days in weeks – yesterday the weather couldn’t decide between hailstones, snow and blue skies so it attacked with all three – so we decided on a wee dauner round a part of the park we hadn’t been to before, mostly in the South Calder Glen.

There’s Roman antiquities all over the place round here, although they’re mostly invisible. The car park lies east of Bothwellhaugh Fort, we walk along the line of the Roman road (now called Watling Street) and we’ll circle back round eventually to the bath-house at the bottom of the hill. More of that later.

South Calder Glen is lovely with sandstone cliffs and winding paths, but as we walked upstream the path was mostly on the top of the cliffs so there wasn’t much to see. Except maybe the viaduct, which remained invisible to me until I almost tripped over it, much to the hilarity of everyone else. I was just too busy checking out the many lumps and bumps in the landscape. You’ve heard of not seeing the wood for the trees, but I’ve never heard of not seeing the 100 foot tall viaduct for the trees.

Further upstream the path descends to the riverbank and you can see a waterfall in the distance, which turns to be a dam or a weir. The derelict walls beside it belonged to Holm Forge – about which I can find remarkably little, except that they manufactured spades and shovels. The woods beside the Forge naturally became known as Forge Woods, and the subsequent housing estate was named Forgewood.

We crossed the South Calder at Holm Forge Bridge, an ugly beast, and headed back downstream, momentaily stunned by the aerobatics of a trio of ducks who landed in perfect formation on the river. Looking at Scotland’s Places later, I noticed an antiquity marked ‘Wallace’s Cave‘ just after the viaduct. RCAHMS says this is a mistake: there is no cave here, but the Ancient Family of Cleland describes it. We certainly didn’t notice anything, but then if you can’t see a flippin’ great viaduct in your way, a sandstone cave isn’t likely to jump out at you.

The path follows the riverbank before heading uphill and meeting Bellshill Golf Course. Nearby was located Orbiston House, and you can still see the walled garden, the doocot and the icehouse. The river loops back on itself here so there’s a bit more hiking before you cross again, most of it downhill until you reach the Roman Bridge and the bath-house.

The bath-house belonging to Bothwellhaugh Fort was discovered when Strathclyde Loch was being created, and it was subsequently moved from its original location to protect it.

The Hunterian Museum has a beautiful little bit of roof tile complete with a dog’s pawprint from the bath-house. The sort of artefact that everyone smiles at, especially people who wouldn’t smile at the word artefact (which is I suppose, most people). The tile was the Pop Up Museum’s Curator’s Choice for January 2012 (which reminded me of it)

If you look on old maps of this area, a road is marked as Roman, the current Watling Street. The continuation of this road leads back up to the car park from the bath-house. Is it still Roman? It’s certainly an old road, but how old remains a mystery.

The final tired stroll uphill was accompanied by silly stories of runaway Roman soldiers mixing up their words and calling Celts,  kilts and vice versa, complete with a dog that kept running across the potter’s handiwork.

It’s taken a long time to get out for the first time this year. Hopefully the weather will hold on another weekend soon 🙂

All roads lead to the farm

We caught up with a brilliant programme last night called All Roads Lead Home . Basically, natural navigation expert, Tristan Gooley, teaches Sue Perkins, Alison Steadman and Stephen Mangan how to find their way about without maps or compasses or satnav, but instead use clues from the sun, buildings and natural phenomena. It was absolutely wonderful and we spent all day today working out our directions from tree shapes and keeping an eye open for animal poo 🙂

Since it was raining, we headed undercover to the National Museum of Rural Life at East Kilbride. This is a wonderful museum, with lots of hands on stuff, tractor rides and of course the working farm of Wester Kittochside.

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We’ve been here a few times. The ride in the tractor trailer is a big pull (sorry) and today the driver pointed out the blue skies on the horizon,

looks like the weather’s improving, it generally comes in from that direction

The natural phenomena appear to be stalking us …

Anyway, he was right, which meant we spent a fair bit of time wandering around the farm. The calves were desperate to lick any hands that came near them. Son rushed about collecting hay and baaing at the cows – he reminded me of an English speaker trying to make himself understood overseas by sp-ea-king-more-loud-ly-and-sl-ow-ly – while Daughter just giggled.

The farmhouse is kept as it was in the 50s, so it looks a bit like my granny’s house. I even recognise some of the furniture :-).

It was a glorious autumn day yesterday, with warm sun, fluffy clouds and lots of blue sky; of course in the other direction the sky was solid grey cloud, so we grabbed the opportunity while we could and went exploring.

We headed for Cambusnethan Woodlands and wandered down the road with tall trees on either side of us. You can drive down, but there are a lot of deep holes, so unless you’ve a landrover or preferably a tank, I’d think twice.

There is a large boulder inscribed “Welcome to Cambusnethan Woodlands” ironically just as the trees end, but there’s no indication of which direction to go. We just decided to turn left since it wasn’t going downhill, with Daughter reminding me that our ongoing, make-it-up-as-we-go-along story hadn’t had a chapter added in a long time.

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The views from this place are stunning, especially looking northwards along the valley, even with Hamilton getting in the way a bit 🙂 You can see Dechmont Hill from here too: it is an amazing marker for vast stretches of  the Clyde Valley. You can understand why fires were lit there. One day I might even get round to climbing it and see the view in the other direction 🙂

Just a few hundred yards later we could choose to go downhill towards the Clyde on a tree hugged path or back up towards the car through a field. Trees or fields? No competition. And so one we go, creating the increasingly unlikely story of Ben and his missing parents as we go.

About half way down we met another path with the broken remnants of  gateposts on either side and the top of Cambusnethan Priory peeking over the trees. We headed on downhill for a bit but since we weren’t sure where the path turned uphill again, Mr Jenn called a halt and we trudged upwards (the path actually goes in a circle). However, if we had gone on, we’d have missed the horses (and their riders) and there’s always something special about being so close to a horse in the ‘real world’.

Back at the junction of the paths, we walked over towards the Priory, watching three large birds circling in the sky. They might have just been large crows, but something about them suggested otherwise. And then we were overtaken by an excitable labrador puppy and its owner, to the delight of Daughter and the terror of Son.

Cambusnethan Priory is miserable. It should be flaunting its considerable wares, but instead it sits there waiting for another round of vandals to attack it. It’s such a shame. The Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland outlines what’s been happening to it over the last 50 years or so. And as happens too often, the building will just lie there and rot and eventually have to be demolished.

While I would hate to see that happen, given that the Clyde Valley is a major tourist attraction, it’s important to do any renovation job properly.

Walking back uphill, we noticed a squarish enclosure with what appeared to be a number painted on a concrete cylinder. As we got closer, it just looked like rubble or maybe access for workmen, and the number turned into white paint drips. Very peculiar.

Looking around online tonight, I find that there’s no mention of the strange square on the hill. What I do notice is that there was a Mausoleum back where we were walking originally. Unfortunately, as this Panoramio shot shows, the Mausoleum has been smashed to bits. It would have belonged to the Lockharts (a family name from a long time in the past) who built the Priory on the grounds of an earlier building, and owned a lot of the land round about.

Unfortunately, it was time to head back home, so a visit to see for ourselves will have to wait. Today the weather has been completely miserable, so here’s hoping for a return to Sunday’s weather tomorrow.

Dalzell Mausoleum

Took a wander down to Dalziel Old Churchyard today as the BBC had reported lead thieves had caused £15,000 damage to the roof of the Mausoleum.


All of the lead has been yanked out, smashing some of the tiles on both sides. The figure suggested is £15,000 worth of damage for approximately £100 of lead.

Lead guttering removed from Mausoleum.

Since we were down that way, we took a wander round into the old graveyard, which  is sadly dilapidated, but full of interesting headstones. There’s a wonderful project there for someone.

The mausoleum was built on the site of St Patrick’s Chapel (which was probably founded here because of the nearby well, also named for St Patrick). Not that there’s much of the original chapel left, just some stones at ground level.

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On the way back to work, we took a slightly different path and I was astonished to see a bridge crossing the burn, sitting behind locked gates. There’s no word of this bridge on the Dalzell Estate website, or the iron gates that shut it off, but it’s a fascinating mystery waiting to be solved.