Tag Archive: Dechmont Hill


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.

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.