Tag Archive: Fallburn Fort

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.



On Tintock-tap there is a mist,
And in that mist there is a kist,
And in that kist there is a caup,
And in that caup, there is a drap.
Tak up the caup, drink aff the drap,
And set the caup on Tintock-tap!

Chambers (1842) Popular rhymes of Scotland, p245

Even people who don’t know much about Lanarkshire hills seem to know of  Tinto. Perhaps because it stands proud of the surrounding landscape and is visible in unexpected places across Lanarkshire (there’s a great view from Strathclyde Park for example, especially in the winter).

Photo copyright J L Macfadyen

Whatever the reason, thousands of people climb Tinto every year, and finally I was getting my chance with a school trip to raise funds for St Andrew’s Hospice. While I’m no athlete, I’m capable of walking many miles and I’ve climbed a few hills in my time, arriving out of breath but delighted with myself. I figured so long as I took my time, I wouldn’t have a problem.

But I must have become much, much more unfit than I realised (which is feasible, if scary) because I was fit only to turn back after five minutes. To be fair to myself and others, it wasn’t the best day, with strong gusts, but in absolute honesty, I cannot allow the wind to completely take the blame. Fortunately, encouraging the kids up the hill was the order of the day so on I trudged, giving them (and me) little targets, and taking plenty of opportunities to stop, admire the view and take photos, ignoring the mountain goat-footed teenagers streaming past.

I knew a bit about about Tinto. I knew there was an Iron Age fortification, Fallburn Fort, not far from the bottom of the hill, so I was determined to at least get high enough to reach it, and then higher again to take some decent photos. Proper hill walkers will laugh, but that was my main target after I realised how difficult I was finding the climb. Seems strange that the fort is here rather than higher up, but it may just have provided an ideal location.

Photo copyright J L Macfadyen

Tinto is thought to be derived from Gaelic teinnteach meaning fiery, and there’s a couple of suggestions why. One suggests it gets its name from the underlying red rock, which I gazed a lot at as I trudged upwards. Others promote the idea of fires being lit at the top.

Long a beacon post and a place of Beltane fires, it took thence its name of Tinto, signifying the ‘hill of fire’

Groome (1885), Ordnance Gazeteer of Scotland, p442

Beacons on Tinto would certainly be clearly seen for miles around, but it’s not actually the highest hill in Lanarkshire, even though it felt like it; Culter Fell is. However, there’s an old rhyme:

The height atween Tintock-tap and Coulterfell,
Is just three-quarters o’ an ell

Chambers (1842) Popular rhymes of Scotland, p245

Afraid not. Tinto is actually 2333 ft / 711 m; Culter is 2454 ft / 748m. Since a Scottish ell is 37 inches / 94 cm (according to Wikipedia), they’re a few feet short.

At any rate, while encouraging myself and my fellow stragglers to go on another few feet, some of our mountain goats returned from on high to report that all walkers were being turned back about halfway up as the wind had become dangerously strong. This was too much temptation for my troops, so we turned down again, which if anything, proved more difficult for the feet, if easier for the breathing.