Tag Archive: hills


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.



The Langcausey was an old road between East Kilbride and Rutherglen. The 1773 Ross map of Lanarkshire clearly shows a road running from Torrance House through East Kilbride, then past Mains Castle over the Cathkin Braes, past Castlemilk House to Rutherglen Main Street.

Unfortunately, Glasgow City Council are building a huge flippin’ landfill right over the top of it (and btw, Guys, can you dump your rubbish in your own back green please?). So it’s a shame that this historic route was ruined for the future – and for me too, cos I only missed being able to walk the whole thing by a year or two. Poor me.

Roman road?

There’s a local tale that it’s actually a Roman road. Naturally this has come about because there are stretches of it that are very straight, and the road was apparently paved, while the majority of local routes were still mud and there’s also known Roman activity nearby, so it’s not an impossible story. The latest excavations suggest that it’s not, although it does seem to have been repaired on a few occasions.

Markethill Road

When the plague raged in Glasgow the people in Kilbride, and in the neighbouring parts of the country would not approach nearer the city with their marketable goods than a hill about half a mile to the north of Kilbride, on the old road to Glasgow, to which the inhabitants of Glasgow consequently resorted, as a temporary market-place, and which has ever since retained the name of the market-hill.

Rev. Henry Moncrieff, New Statistical Account, 1834


I’ve been trying to trace the route of the road right through to Rutherglen, but once it’s crossed the Cathkin Braes, it’s not obvious. There are numerous references to it being there, but it must have been one of those obvious things that required no detailed information, cos everyone knew about it, until of course, fewer and fewer people did.

If anyone in the know reads this, feel free to leave a comment.

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.


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.