Category: Hillforts


Atlas of Hillforts

The Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland is a brilliant wee website that plots the hillforts of the British Isles (4174 of them according to DigVentures post).

Dearest to my heart of course is Dechmont Hill above Cambuslang, a place I’m relatively obsessed with (its hilltop trees can be spotted from all over North and South Lanarkshire) but there are quite a few fortifications within the local area, including a fair few I didn’t know about in Lanarkshire. It’s amazing to follow the Clyde and see the forts appearing on either side of the river. Even more wonderful to zoom right in and see the remains or marks for yourself.

Love it.

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More Fallburn Fort

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A couple of views of the lumps and bumps that mark Fallburn hillfort. Strange to have a hillfort low on the flank of a hill.

We were told to stay strictly to the path, so I couldn’t clamber over to get some better pictures.

A beautiful afternoon when I finally got to leave work tonight. I kind of wish that I’d left earlier to grab some opportunities for photography, but then I’m still sore from a fall down the school stairs yesterday, so perhaps not. But the hills were golden and hazy in the sunshine as I drove home, so I grabbed a couple of shots as the traffic stopped, including one of Dechmont Hill.

I first heard this name from my Dad, whose grandfather (Grampa Paterson) worked at Dechmont Colliery (among many, many other places). Dad later identified Dechmont Hill for me in the background of a photo taken at Bothwell Castle a couple of years ago.

It’s fascinated me ever since – even though I’ve not had a chance to climb it in person yet. It’s so clearly visible from miles around and stands proud of the landscape below: it must have been a pretty important place at one time. In fact, the CANMORE record reports a slight mound or cairn, surrounded by a shallow ditch; the remains of a hill fort, now almost impossible to see.

Part of its current pronounced shape is actually due to a old quarry, which has destroyed an entire flank (vandals!) but it must have been an obvious landmark in the past, before the current suburban sprawl hid it behind so much housing and roads.

Mind you, I shouldn’t complain. After I became aware of Dechmont, I started spotting it from all over the place, including the dual carriageway above Blantyre. Then, waiting in the traffic this winter, I realised just how clearly I could see Tinto Hill to the south.

So?

Well, I recently read an intriguing book called On the trail of Scotland’s myths and legends. Author, Stuart McHardy, spends a few pages discussing Scottish fire festivals, including Beltane, celebrated on May 1st.

In traditional Beltane celebrations, fires were lit on hilltops, which made them more visible… The dominating hill of Tinto in Lanarkshire was the site of the ancient fires, its earlier name Tintock deriving from Gaelic, teinteach, fiery.

McHardy, 2005, p41

I’ve been wondering ever since whether Dechmont was used for a similar purpose. Imagine my delight then, when I found a mention on The Modern Antiquarian website to an old book of 1885, called Old Scottish customs:local and general by E.J Guthrie.

Check it out:

Dechmont Hill, situated in the parish of Cambuslang, was a place where our forefathers lighted the Beltane. In the Statistical Account of Scotland (1848) it is stated that a thick stratum of charcoal was discovered underneath a structure of fine loam on the summit of the hill. When the country people saw it they expressed no surprise, as the tradition was familiar to them that it was here where the former inhabitants of the country had been in the habit of
lighting their Beltane.

Guthrie, 1885, p231

It could be just a story rather than oral history or folk memory, but it’s intriguing all the same.