Tag Archive: Bellshill


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 🙂

Mary Rae’s well

After the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, wounded Covenanters escaped in whatever direction they could. The story goes that Mary Rae found her sweeheart, Robert Lambie, lying here at the well, and stayed with him until he died. I’ve also read suggestions that she brought him here to the well after finding him on the battlefield, and that she died here with him.

A photo of Mary Rae’s well was posted on Flickr, but all I knew was that it was in Bellshill. At that time, there wasn’t much information about it, so I gave up until coming home one night I noticed Mary Rae Road. It seemed obvious that it was here, but it still wasn’t easy to find. I eventually spotted it on Google aerial view: a concrete box stuck in the middle of a housing estate with no signpost, although there is an information plaque on the concrete.

Hunting around again today, I found a poster on the Talking Scot forum reporting that there was a natural spring here when he was a child.

I also found this entry in the Handbook of Hamilton, Bothwell, Blantyre and Uddingston,

MARY RAE’S WELL is an interesting memento of the battle of Bothwell Brigg. It is situated a little below the farm of Boggs, near the road from Bothwell to Bellshill, a little to the north of the railway. The tradition says that beside it are interred the remains of two lovers, Mary Rae and Robin Lammie. They dwelt on the banks of the Ayr, but Robin left his home to fight in the ranks of the Covenanters. Robin fell fighting bravely, but the spirit of his unburied corpse appeared to Mary in a dream, and besought Mary to get it Christian burial. Mary at once set off, searched for and found the mangled body. With an effort she bore it from the bloody field to the side of this sparkling well. There, with her own hands, she dug a grave, and buried her betrothed. There she built a bower for herself, and there she watched by day and slept by night. There she pined away until she withered into death, and was laid by the side of her brave lad. The well was covered in by Mrs Douglas of Douglas park in 1827, who, moreover, put its waters to some service, for they are conveyed underground in pipes to her house and offices in the low grounds.