Monday, 30 December 2013
Bathgate Hills. Linlithgow. The Kelpies. Grangemouth. Cockleroy. Cairnpapple hill.
Mention 'The Bathgate Hills' to any hill walker and they either give you a blank stare before saying "What Bathgate Hills?" or they dismiss them with a smirk without knowing anything about them or even where they are. I first discovered them cycling through this area and although they are not high [ Cockleroy is 278 metres and Cairnpapple Hill just over 300 metres or 1000 feet ] they can form a delightful and interesting walk...or a challenging bike tour with many spectacular ups and downs starting from the handy base of Beecraigs Country Park.
Ron had never walked in this area before and as I had only discovered this route myself a couple of seasons ago I was keen to go back again. We parked in Torphichen village which lies tucked into a fold of the Bathgate hills where there is a choice of parking, next to the ancient Preceptory. From here a farm track heads north to Wester woodside and Craigend then along past Lochcote reservoir to Cockleroy.
It does feel like walking across the rooftop of Central Belt Scotland up here, yet sheltered enough if you pick your day to be warm in bright sunshine even in the winter months. A hazy view over towards Arthur's Seat, the City of Edinburgh and 'Shale Mountain', a man made pit Bing formed by red coloured waste hills dumped here after shale oil extraction to make paraffin, among other products, in high demand worldwide a hundred years ago. Scotland's very own Uluru when sunset or sunrise falls over the slopes. I met a local here a few years ago who had been out to Ayres Rock and he claimed this was better! Far easier to get to- no tourist's- no cars and bus parks or hotel chains to deal with- less flies, dust and heat :)
This area is famous for its Bings and some of them are spectacular mini summits in their own right. I've covered several of them already in this blog in previous years, including 'Shale Mountain'. I also notice that a couple of them are disappearing fast due to their commercial worth as road and infill products, presumably used in construction. The Bing near Philpstoun beside the canal is a diminished shadow of the one I explored years ago so see them all now before the lesser ones disappear by the truck load.
http://www.armadale.org.uk/cockleroy.htm Good links to the areas extensive past here and its buried treasures.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairnpapple_Hill Cairnpapple Hill is one of the most important ancient sites in Scotland and a fantastic viewpoint with a hundred mile panorama. One of the interpretations of its name might be 'Cairn of the People' as it was used for important rituals and as a burial site through the Neolithic period then into the Copper, Bronze and Iron Ages.
Ron and I reached here by descending Cockleroy to the visitors car park near Beecraigs then waking along the fairly quiet road to the Korean War memorial and then up over the Witches Crag.
http://www.thehelix.co.uk/discover-helix/the-kelpies/ A good video and all the details of one of the largest art projects in Britain here. (The Helix park and access to the sculptures up close opens to the public in Spring 2014.)
This open plan structure left me cold in more senses than one as it was freezing inside this wind tunnel and you didn't want to linger around it anyway as there was not much to read on its walls, compared to the old one. A real shame. Maybe they could put the old one inside the Helix Park if they still have it? Or somewhere where it can be supervised or locked up at night?
In the photo above Torphichen Preceptory rises from the trees surrounding it. Former home of the 'Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland'. Try saying that after a few drinks at New Year.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torphichen_Preceptory A brief history of these crusader knights in here who eventually transformed themselves through the ages into the St John Ambulance Association and Eye Hospital we know today.