Carnethy members organise a range of social runs, night runs, journey runs, group runs that you can join if there’s no races on or you’re all raced out. If the weather’s bad and you need an incentive to get out, or if it’s great and you fancy somewhere a bit different, there’s often a run to join in led by a Carnethy member.
Some are long standing routes repeated each year like the Eskapade, such as Nigel Rose’s journey runs, Keith Burn’s alternative John Muir Way and the Circumnavigation of Edinburgh. Others are more ephemeral; but they are characterised by encompassing all abilities of running and being very relaxed, the more alcoholic ones (like the Whisky Chaser) extremely so.
If you are new to hill running, information for beginners are covered on the beginners page
Carnethy operates an informal system for leading groups. However here are a few tips, and good things to do, if you are organising or leading a run in a group:
· At the start, summarise the route plan, likely conditions and expected weather.
· Agree what to do if any runner wants to leave the group early – such as telling someone and calling the leader or your buddy to say you are safely off the hill.
· Count how many are in the group and along the way check that you have everyone still.
· Keep a check on those at the back and re-group at regular intervals. Buddy-up slower members, especially if the weather is bad.
Have a great run, take some pictures and do a write-up to make everyone else envious.
I’d have liked to spend a little longer on the top of Mount Maw, the first hill of the Baddinsgill Round, taking in the crystal clear views of the stars, moon, distant red lit towers, sky glow from Edinburgh, far off sparkling lights on this remote feeling spot, but everyone shot off back down the squelchy hill to get back in time for a cosy feast at the Gordon Arms Hotel.
Sparkling night! We might have been OK at West Linton for the scheduled night run but this was a fine substitute. The crystal clear air showed off the lights of Edinburgh and Penicuik to the best, with wreaths of cloud here and there, the forerunners of the promised snow.
So I had my pie chips and onion rings at 6pm, (The Steading food was not available for after the run) so I was well fuelled as I prepared for the run. Moira turned up to give me a lift so pints after were on too. The Steading porch became the meeting point but with 27 or so we were causing a bit of a traffic jam.
The fast socials headed off for a clockwise climb of Caerketton and us slowcials ran up towards the ski slope. Passing below the slope I put on my Kahtoola micro spikes for the first time this season. After a regroup above the T-Wood, Nicola and Jonny went their own way and the other ten of us ascended Allermuir meeting the Socials just before the last climb. We had 27 Carnethies on Allermuir as we admired the view.
As the socials headed west the rest headed east following the ridge toward home, then we had our own Caerketton Downhill Race. We took roughly 5 times the record to do the descent, but what a night to be out.
After a pint the Socials appeared, and a second pint was ordered, A perfect night.
Tonight me and my mum split from the pack and just had fun by the form of snowballs, snow angles bum sliding and getting stuck in a snowdrift. We went 3 miles in total only .7 miles behind the slow group. Our run was for fun not just for the sake of running. Hope to do another one if it snows again🤞!!
What better way to spend Hogmanay than getting blown off the tops of Caerketton and Allermuir? Mike rallied us along and the dogs faired best with four paws to cling on against the gale force winds of Storm Dylan that hit us head on. With stops for mince pies and eggnog we continued our way over Capelaw, down the Scalextric track, over Torduff and up to the mast then down to Water of Leith via Poet’s Glen. We adjourned to the dog friendly Kinleith Arms for a quick drink and after wishing each other Happy New Year we still had time for a quick world record attempt getting six Carnethies and two dogs into a Mercedes A class. Good job Mark fitted into the boot! Thank you Mike for a great festive day out.
One of those days where you think the photos you’re taking are genius, only to be undeceived when you get home…
The met office forecast for lovely sunshine after showers didn’t quite happen but it was a splendid day out regardless. The first time we’ve been round the back of Mavisbank House, revealing more desperate ruination of a once beautiful building. What a shame.
The going was an odd mix of wet, mud and melting slick ice, precipitating Nick the lone cyclist to the ground on more than one occasion. The bacon roll stop in Penicuik was as welcome as usual and set us up for the more remote part of the run with lovely views over to the Pentlands. Penicuik sees some runners stopping and other appearing. Joel’s dog Merlin appeared, magically. We were a bit worried about the fasties but they had sped straight to the bar and rather slowly appeared clutching pints to nab the remaining rolls. Shane and Laura visited with new baby (nice pic by Alan below). I think everyone had a go with it as it processed around the tables – laid out unusually neatly this year, as for a wedding. A ring was even found on the floor, though no-one seemed to have lost it, and no-one was inclined to marry just at that moment.
Habbie’s Howe is the last part before Carlops where the river runs through a beautiful glen. My favourite part of the route. If only we could find a good way after this. The landowner is not at all keen for anyone to be on his land and makes it obvious with electric fences barring the path. They’ll shout at you too if they get the chance. Nevertheless we got to the cosy Allan Ramsay, with a very tasty IPA and an eccentric food system.
I enjoyed it all!
This year I ran down to Lasswade to join The Eskapade, two miles away from where I live. Willie’s ETA was 10.30am and sure enough, right on schedule, it was a sight to behold as Carnethys piled over the high stone wall there and shimmied down a sign post.
I love running most when it’s not a race but a sociable trot, and with lots of intermissions for local history and geology lessons, the miles flew by as Willie led us alongside Midlothian’s beautiful Esk.
A huge supply of bacon rolls at Penicuik were met with enthusiasm. Some of the speedier Carnethys, with a later starting time from Musselburgh, joined the party at this point, plus Merlin – Joel’s dog.
I opted to run back to Loanhead whilst most ran on to Carlops. A great few hours out at this hectic time of the year. Perfect!
Alan’s photos –
The fasties report:
The ‘long lie’ group set of from Musselburgh just before 10am in pursuit of the main group. This year, thanks to Graham’s laminated map, we managed to avoid a detour up the South Esk. Shortly after Polton we did make a deliberate detour to Stewart’s Brewery to take advantage of their Christmas open day. Samples of their festive brew Fezziwig and mince pies all round! Some of us also fuelled up on steak pies made with one of their ales. Those that hadn’t been to Stewart’s before got a quick tour while myself and Graham discussed First World Problems. Then it was back to the Esk, through Roslin Glen and up to Penicuik to finish off the bacon rolls. At this point I chose to bail and get a lift to Carlops (thanks John) as my legs were suffering after an Ultimate Frisbee tournament the day before, and 18 miles.
A most enjoyable run on tracks probably new to a lot of people, on a lovely crisp cold evening. Send us your report!
From Margaret...This run is part of my stamping ground, so it was nice to know where I was going on a Carnethy night run for a change. We ran from the disused RBS at Juniper Green down to the Water of Leith and over to Woodhall Farm. If you’re here in daylight, look out for the recently rebuilt dry-stane dykes around the farm. We followed the Edinburgh Circo route (now a clear, broad track instead of a burn) up to Tiphereth where we found another new path up to the old Torphin Hill golf course. From there we continued to Torduff Reservoir, across the dam, up the hill and then over to Clubbiedean Reservoir and on to Kinleith. We ran down the Poets’ Glen (another place worth visiting in daylight) and from there to Blinkbonny. Here there was a little discussion about alternative routes: 5 minutes back to Al Borge (and food!) or a “small” extension to the run. We chose the extension, of course and this is where I lost the route. Basically, we were running forever in a westerly direction, along a farm track which was new to me, and then we rejoined the Water of Leith and ran east to Juniper Green. It was a perfect night for a run. Many thanks for Euan for organising.
Alan Hogg’s pics –
On Monday night seven Carnethy Ladies ran from Philippa’s house in Morningside over to the Craiglockhart Hills via the old railway footbridge and Balcarres Street. We almost got stuck in deep, muddy excavations on the side of Easter Craiglockhart Hill, but managed to dig ourselves out and get to the summit. On the way down we saw a head torch approaching up the hill and later found out this was Bill, who was taking a slightly shorter route. After the second hill, we ran through woods and along tracks to the old City Hospital grounds (now an upmarket residential area). Back at Philippa’s we met up again with Bill and enjoyed delicious soup, bread and cake.
The met office map full of sunny suns proved less than true and it started to snow as we hunkered down by one of the engines. Willie had bought along a 12 person bivvie bag so we enveloped ourselves in that for lunch. We considered completing the run as a large orange centipede we were so cold. My hands went completely numb. But as we set off again the sun came out and we thawed. Read a fuller account in the journal! Oh and the pointy hill we couldn’t identify was Ben Lomond!
|When you are out round halloween
strange ghoulish runners can be seen
So watch for ghosts in every Neuk
Especially round Penicuik
We all gathered after dark
Into the woods all in the gloom
Then quickly off across the grass
|Then past the stable the Moon shone bright
The Ruined house came into sight
118 years ago
This massive house was all aglow
Destroyed by Fire it’s now a shell
toward the gate we all then hurried
We cossed the Esk above the weir
|In fear we dashed along the track
with out a thought of looking back
The bravest three of us were sent
To scale the Ramsay Monument
We headed on towards the gate
And then enthused, the group departed
Pubs and chips, it is the run that has everything! Well, assuming that your life revolves around eating and drinking. A swift pint in KB, then off over Blackford Hill to the Merlin, then Bennetts (with chips), then Waiting Room (or whatever it’s called now), then a long slog to the finest alfresco pub in all Edinburgh – Le Oz. Situated on a summit of the Braids, Le Oz serves the finest Pimms in all Edinburgh! Perfect for a summer’s evening! A flying run down to The Stables completed the official festivities for the evening, partly because the usual final pub has been replaced by student flats (booo!). Throughout the evening the rain threatened, and fell, but generally the run was dry and full of cheer. After the Stables Bar the social drinkers to disengaged from the serious drinkers, and headed home with a spring in their step and a fuzzy warmth to their thinking. The serious drinkers took a leisurely run to Leslies, for the usual post-Pub n Chips pint(s) of beer, and then some more, and then finally home without any memory of how they got there. Three cheers for beer (and chips)! And people! Hurrah! Many thanks to Oz!
Where was everyone? Just two of us turned up for the start of the Trossachs journey run. Alan and I set off up through the woods and into Glen Finglas. Although the weather forecast had been bad we had little rain throughout the day. We left the Glen Finglas reservoir and headed up the hill track into Gleann Casaig. On the far side of the valley we could see another track leading up to a small hydro dam higher up the valley. Near the dam we spent some time looking at a tiny dam on our side of the valley, up the hillside from the track. It was only a few feet wide and seemed to catch a small trickle from an area of boggy ground above. We couldn’t work out what it was for.
Near the top of the valley we came into the thick mist that hung over all the hill tops. When we reached the ridge between Ben Vane and Ben Ledi, Alan said he wanted to test an electronic gizmo. He wandered round in the mist holding a small box with an aerial above his head. Actually, I think he was trying to contact ET – didn’t work though, just made the rain come down heavier. We were very glad of the line of rusty fence posts that guided us along the ridge to Ben Ledi. When we couldn’t see more than 50 yards ahead the ground looked disturbingly lumpy and disorientating. When we eventually reached the summit it was surprisingly calm and mild so we sat on a grassy knoll for lunch.
We continued down the tourist path for a while, occasionally meeting walkers looming up out of the mist. We left the path part way down and with a combination of compass bearings & lie of the land we stravaiged our way down the hillside. Soon we came below the cloud base and could see our objective of a gate in a deer fence. This led to a path through a deciduous woodland plantation and out though another gate at the bottom. It was much easier than the climbing of deer fences I had to do during the recce. We were now on The Great Trossach Path which took us on a lovely high path overlooking Loch Venacher, all the way back to the car park. If we had gone a few days earlier, this is what it would have looked like. On the very last bit, just before the car park, the ground was totally blue – covered with a carpet of bluebells.
Short version – where the hell were you? Numbers were low this year, possibly due to Stuc, with just a dozen of us venturing out from The Steading. Even stalwarts like Nick, Gordon and Shane were missing.
More fool them. Personally, I think Oz excelled himself this year, with a set of ridiculously good malt whiskies and the finest weather ever experienced on a Chaser. Even better, despite multiple drams at each stop (for those that wanted them), there was still enough left to auction off at the end, for the benefit of the Friends of the Pentlands. I shall enjoy the remains of the Kilchoman all the more for knowing I outbid The President for it. Thanks Oz!
For the full story – read on.
|Mackmyra Brukswhisky – A Swedish Single Malt. Who knew?
Where : Above Boghall
Oz’s Notes : Nose – butterscotch, citrus, pear, liquorice, banana and mint. Taste – delicate spiciness with toffee, anise, ginger and sweet almond. Finish – vanilla and marzipan, with a hint of play dough.
Joel’s Notes : Nice, definitely worth a second helping
|Glenfiddich IPA – Mmmm, beer
Where : Sheltered slopes of Woodhouselee Hill
Oz’s Notes : Nose – green apple, spring blossom, some herbs and just a hint of aromatic hops. Taste – vibrant, with rich vanilla and zesty citrus flavours. Finish – enduring sweetness with an echo of green hops.
Joel’s Notes : not your typical Glenfiddich. Good enough to take a top up
|Ben Nevis 10 yr old – made from melt water from Coire Leis, Coire na Ciste and the CIC hut outflow.
Where : Castlelaw, with a glorious view the length of the Pentlands
Oz’s Notes : Nose – malt and nut (almond?) notes with some dried fruit and the faintest hint of coffee. Taste – rich and chewy with some caramel sweetness, honey and dark chocolate. Finish – fairly long, rich and sweet.
Joel’s Notes : Better than the miniature you get after the Ben race. Had a splash more for good forms sake
|Kilchoman Sanaig – sherried peaty smoke, smoky peat, with extra sherried peat and smoke
Where : The heathery slopes of Allermuir.
Oz’s Notes : peat, smoke and some soft cooked fruits with caramel and vanilla. Palate – toffee, peat smoke and citrus with a lingering sweetness. Finish – well balanced peat smoke fruit and more sweetness.
Joel’s Notes : Oh wow. When is the auction?
|Longrow – to be honest, it was all getting a bit much by now.
Where : Hillend Fort.
Oz’s Notes : Nose – very creamy, then the smoke develops gradually, followed by aromas of toasted marshmallows. Taste – rich and creamy with a fruitiness and herb note. Finish – long with waves of smoke and a little dash of iodine.
Joel’s Notes : Pretty good. But not as good as the Kilchoman.
|The aftermath – A bidding war for the Kilchoman has almost destroyed a great friendship between myself and Willie. I’ll need to make recompense, probably by letting Willie loose on it.|
Fiona and Geo’s Photos
It turns out Willie doesn’t think any one of these is an adequate reason to avoid dipping a toe into mountain marathoning.
Edinample was a great introduction into what is involved for a novice like me. In actual fact, it isn’t 26.2miles and Willie has a selection of spare tents.
The location was great (see picture of view from camp site), the company was lovely, the hills were spectacular and the lack of washing facilities liberating!
I would definitely recommend any worried novices like me give an event like this a go.
Thank you to all who put so much into making it a success- from Andy from marking the course, to Willie patiently trying to teach me to navigate, to Helen for lending me warm blankets.
I admit my navigational skills leave a lot to be desired, my fitness level could be better, and my limited camping equipment has seen better days; but after a bath and an uninterrupted 10.5 hour recovery sleep last night, I feel quite positive that I could be back to try again….
The routes taken by most people are below, uncharged watches aside, Ross Christie got most points both days with a fantastic 360 Day 1 and 270 Day 2. Alasdair Hood and Gordon Eadie won the oldies award with Alasdair celebrating his 59th birthday on Saturday with 220? points and 120 on a escape early day 2. Helen Wise was out on her own day 1 (230 Points) and with Fraser Day 2 (170 Points). Willie, Patricia and Tracey had a good Day 1 (120) and were joined by Jason Coombs for day 2 (110). Joel was out day 2 (180 points) , Cali and Bob got the OAP prize Day 2, and Jeff and Helen did Day 1 on Day 2. All in All a great weekend.
Ross Christie’s Report
With the LAMM fast approaching I needed to practice my navigating skills as well as spending a good amount of time on pathless, open hillside and carrying my pack. The Carnethy weekend at Edinample came along just at the right time, one month before the LAMM and on a rare free weekend. I set off at Midday on Saturday from the campsite with the intention of hitting as many controls as possible – in the end I think I hit all but 3 or 4 and totalled 360 points. The shorter navigational runs I’ve done over the past few weeks really helped! There were some great hidden spots on the route, particularly Lochan A Chroin below Stuc and Lochan Na Mna which I’ve often admired from the summit of Ben Vorlich.
A night around the campfire with plenty of beer and whisky was a great way recover but maybe not the best preparation for day 2!
The second day controls were dotted around to the west of Lochearnhead around Glen Kendrum and Glen Ogle. Again this was a great way of seeing some less visited hills and the ridge North West from Meall an t-Seallaidh was particularly dramatic. I managed to collect 270 points with some higher scoring controls tucked away in some farther flung locations.
I’d highly recommend a weekend like this for people looking to get a taster of mountain marathons as there are plenty of experienced people to show you the ropes but it’s also a great way for experienced mountain marathoners to sharpen navigational skills and explore new places.
Thanks to Willie for organising and Win for the excellent campsite.
We should do more of these!
So, the (hastily thrown together) Carnethy Winter Social Ultra Series finished with the Alternative JMW on Saturday! Hurrah!! It really does take a lot of organization putting-on something like this, i.e. basically adding an ultra-distance run among three already-established journey runs. Don’t you dare thank us! Having done a few of them, I can honestly say It was an excellent way to spend some of the winter months, and an excellent way to keep up the miles in some pretty awful, and also fantastic, weather.
So here’s a quick summary of those who completed each of the runs:
Completed on foot: Jeff, Mark, Lee, Alan Hogg, John Ryan, Dave Harrington, Sarah Robertson, Billy & Dorothy, Willie, (and loads others)
Completed on foot: John Busby, Jeremy, Dougie, Alan Hogg and Jim
Cyclists: Keith, Jonathan
Sea To Summit (26miles)**:
Completed on foot: Jeff, John Busby, Mark, Rachel Newstead, Jim
Completed on foot: Jeff, Lee , Peter, Nick, Nicola, Jeremy, Jim
Duathletes: Dorothy & Billy, Keith, Mark, Hilary.
Well done to all! Jeff Roberts gets the greatest kudos of all, as he started all of the organized runs, completing three and partially completing one. From rough calculations he covered just under 100miles (97.3) on foot. Nice!! Mark also ran all four in part, completing two. The abysmal conditions on the Sea To Summit run was in complete contrast to the AltJMW, which was like running along the Mediterranean coast, bathed in sunshine throughout. Glorious!
Jeff, Mark, Jeremy, John, Lee, Alan Hogg, Jim, Keith, Dorothy & Billy all get a beer for completing at least 2. Nicola Dunn has made an excellent case for getting a beer too (one completion, another partial, plus an ultramarathon distance of 30miles with the AltJMW). I’ll bring them along to the handicap on Wednesday. And then drink them if you don’t appear. Feel free for anyone else to argue their case!
So, the runs included: beaches, rivers, hills, railway lines, country parks, towers, castles, moors, estates, rubbish tips, harbours, golf courses, tramlines, dams, promenades, links, canals, canal feeders, garden centres, building sites, viaducts, aqueducts, fields (planted and grazing), woodlands, roads, sand dunes, and maybe the odd section of good ol’ generic mud.
Weather included: Rain, snow, sleet, gales, and glorious, glorious sunshine!
Food included: Bacon rolls, egg rolls, sausage rolls, cakes, coffee, naan-pizza, tea, juice, beer, crisps. i.e. nothing healthy.
Expletives included: “What the **** are you doing on this building site? How did you get in?! F*** off!” (Sea to Summit)
I don’t think you’ll find a more varied series. Many thanks to Mark Hartree for pulling most of this together, and forming a nice wee Sea To Summit route, too!
* Yes, I know that an ultra needs to be more than 26.2 miles. Who asked you, anyway?
**Arguably, nobody completed the Sea To Summit route due to extremely bad weather, but we all finished together and I guess that’s enough. Well, it’s enough for me.
The Alternative John Muir Way majors on scenic value and a variety of obstacles to keep you alert through dunes, beach, cliffs, boulders, barbed wire and electric fence crossings, a fortified castle to storm, breaking wave-leaping and a long dark spiral staircase to climb. A big anticyclone provided perfect conditions with sunshine and a light sea breeze to start. 21 appeared for around 55km of running and/ or cycling with the usual off/ on road variations for the cyclists. Patricia and Richard swopped very attentive sag wagon services throughout the route, Mark James having collected the van for us before rushing off to Norway.
We faced a rising tide that was to present some interesting route-choices for the first 30km as the field kept splitting between boulder-hopping wave leapers and cliff-top scramblers. The sun, breeze and gently lapping waves provided a fantastic first leg to North Berwick during which we inspected East Lothian golf courses, Uri Geller’s island with spoon bending powers, a golf course ghetto fence with land grab and vandalism of sea buckthorn on a SSSI site, and forest demolition to make way for golfing villas as a contribution to East Lothian’s golf coast hedonism. These were amply compensated by the superb sandy coves and strands extending all the way to North Berwick.
The North Berwick Sea Bird Centre provided a welcome coffee stop and van support point before we resumed the journey up and down the cliffs past Canty Bay and the old Gin Head radar station to the moat creep to get past Tantallon Castle. The rising tide at the boulder beach shoreline option to Seacliffe forced us to stick to the cliff top until we were able to return to the shore below the old ruin of 1750 Seacliffe House. The closing tide trap at the Sphinx rock was easily passed by about half the group with the others taking to the cliff top. Progress to the Ravensheugh van rendezvous was straightforward thereafter along the edge of a pounding surf at the foot of the dunes. The passage past Ravensheugh Rock needed a brief sprint timed between waves crashing against the rock wall, or a detour over the top. Around the corner we were greeted by a synchronised rhythmic drumming group performing some kind of meditation ritual in the acoustic crag corner. One or two enjoyed a final full immersion with a quick swim before we collected bikes and drinks at the van.
With all these diversions we were half an hour behind programme and made a swift passage through Binning Wood to lunch at East Linton. Eric demonstrated the formidable performance of his electric-assist bike, powering it through Binning Wood like a Sherman tank through the Ardennes. At East Linton, Barbel, Heidi and Kara had a great spread waiting for us, plus a gymnastic display for further entertainment (except Barbel, too busy in the kitchen). The group tends to fragment more after lunch, with the end-to-end runners taking an early start for the bucolic River Tyne path, with cyclists breaking up into a road and an off-road group timing a later start aimed at catching the runners before the Hopetoun monument. Mark H decided that he needed to rest a few latent aches before the London Marathon and borrowed Barbel’s bike to finish the circuit, off road on a road bike. The ground was dry and he managed very well. Barbed wire and electric fences tend to thwart the pace of the cyclists on the final ascent to the Hopetoun monument.
After a final feed and drink at the van the downhill finish was weary but routine. We were all in, in both respects, by 6pm at the bay footbridge, with the sun sinking and the oyster catchers calling as the falling tide exposed their evening feed on Aberlady Bay. The only injuries were a few blisters and sunburn.
Thanks to Carnethy HR for food and transport costs, to all cake/ bread etc. contributors, and to Patricia, Richard and Mark (James) for driver services. There may be photos from others.
Featuring – Gio Macdonald, Dorothy and Billy Elliott, Patricia McMaster, Peter Buchanan, Nick Williamson, Chris Henty, Jeff Roberts, Lee Murphy, Richard Lathe, Mark Hartree, Gordon Eadie, Hilary Spenceley, Eric Brown, Brian Waldie, Brian Dempster
The Autumn Equinox Run is well established now (and what a hoot it is!), so I thought it would be nice if its young upstart the Vernal Equinox could get in on the act. So I organised a run. My thoughts when doing this were that by the time it came around on Monday, 20th March, we would be looking at warm sunlight uplands, possibly going topless and sipping sparkling mead (that did happen) under birdsong. However the weather was Baltic (but it stayed dry, to be fair) and the next day saw snow blanket much of the north of Britain, so maybe we angered the Gods somehow. Digby had also pointed out (in his imitable style) that the clocks weren’t going to change until this Sunday, so we’d be better to delay it a week. But I was keen to make it on the day of the Equinox.
I decided on Cairnpapple, as it one of the most important Druidic sites in Scotland, and has an impressive structure on its top to prove it. More of that later. My only experience of the hill was running to its (almost) summit with Neil B when we did the comically-named Bathgate Highland Games Hill Race. I remembered it as basically a road race that had a bit of a climb. However, run leader Lisa assured me we’d be getting all down and dirty through woods and stuff, and so it proved.
I had hoped that someone from the Druid community in Scotland might come out to the hill to meet us, but they seemed very shy, but Jean, a lovely lady from the Pagan Network Scotland got in touch and sent me some words, which I read out on the run:
Most if not all of these belief systems celebrate the “ Wheel of the Year” which encompasses 8 festivals beginning on 31st October with Samhain/Halloween and ending with the Autumnal Equinox around 21st September.
The significance of Cairnpapple to most Pagans is that it is a burial mound. As modern day paganism is based on pre-christian beliefs, most Pagans would view Cairnpapple as perhaps a place to commune with the spirits of the pre-christian peoples whose remains are buried there. It was obviously a special place where the ancient people of Scotland may have held celebratory or funerary rituals. Pagans cannot and do not claim to know the exact format of these rituals, they can only guess. However the site has quite clearly been a fairly important one in pre-historic times.
And so to the run.
Lisa led the way up the hill from the Station into the wilds of the Linlithgow suburbs. We came to the edge of Beecraigs Country Park, where things got more interesting. There was lots of (gradual) climbing and it wasn’t long before we stopped to regroup and found ourselves pretty high, with good views over West Lothian.
Given the distance and time involved we were swithering at this point abut actually making it to Cairnpapple, as it’s a fair stretch from the start, but Jeff had stashed some sparkling mead in the gorse bushes near the summit that lunchtime, so that clinched it. In the end we adjusted our route to take in Witchcraig and Cairnpapple and we missed out Cockleroy.
The running was a mix of hard-packed trails through the woods, country roads, but also some minor hill climbs and mud. A good mix and Lisa kept the pace high. I think we all felt that we’d had a good workout by the time we sat down to eat. The Star & Garter were very accommodating and the food and service was good. A great evening and it’s been suggested we re-run the route in the summer again, perhaps taking in Cockleroy this time.
Some notes on Cairnpapple:
Cairnpapple Hill is a hill with a dominating position in central lowland Scotland with views from coast to coast. It was used and re-used as a major ritual site over about 4000 years, and in its day would have been comparable to better known sites like the Standing Stones of Stenness. The summit lies 312 m above sea level, and is about 2 miles (3 km) north of Bathgate. In the 19th century the site was completely concealed by trees, then in 1947–1948 excavations by Stuart Piggott found a series of ritual monuments from successive prehistoric periods. In 1998, Gordon Barclay re-interpreted the site for Historic Scotland.
Neolithic rituals began about 3500 BC with signs of small hearths, and precious objects left on the hill, presumably as offerings, including fine pottery bowls and stone axe heads imported from Cumbria and Wales. Probably around 3000 BC a Class II henge was constructed with the hilltop being surrounded by a bank outside a ditch about 12 ft (4 m) wide cut over 3 ft (1 m) into the rock, with wide entrances from north and south. Inside this an egg-shaped setting of 24 uprights (thought to have been timber posts, or possibly standing stones) enclosed an inner setting of similar uprights.
Some time later a Bronze age ritual added a small stone and clay cairn just off centre inside the monument, with a 7 ft (2 m) high standing stone to the east and a setting of smaller stones. Also aligned to this cairn were sockets for three upright stones at the centre of an arc of seven small pits, six of which contained cremated bones and two contained remains of bone skewer pins. Under the cairn traces were found of at least one burial, with wooden objects (perhaps a mask and club) and beaker people style pottery which indicates a date around 2000 BC. This cairn was later covered by a second much larger cairn about 50 ft (15 m) across and several yards (metres) high, with a kerb of massive stone slabs, which incorporated Bronze age burial cists, one of which contained a food vessel pot. Subsequently, more stone was brought in to increase this cairn to about 100 ft (30 m) diameter, enclosing two cremation burials in inverted urns and now covering the original ditch and bank, making the whole site a tomb monument. Lastly, inside the ditch to the east four graves considered Iron age are now thought to be early Christian because of their east-west alignment, and are dated to around 500 to 1000.
Interior of modern cairn:
The site is open to the public April to September and has a small visitor centre. The 1940s excavations have been partly covered by a concrete dome replicating the second cairn (although the dome is much higher than the cairn) so that visitors can go inside what was once a solid cairn and see the reconstructed graves, and outside this the surrounding post holes and graves are marked by being filled with colour-coded gravel like an archaeological plan, with the red gravel indicating upright pits, and the white gravel denoting the alleged Christian burials. The current display attempts to show all the main phases of the site at the same time.
Cairnpapple Hill is the 445th highest Marilyn (sub 2000′ peaks) in Scotland (Out of 571 total Marilyns)
Derivation of the name
Although there is still some confusion about the origin of the name Cairnpapple Hill, or the alternative Cairniepapple, its meaning can be guessed to a certain extent. It is uncertain whether the name comes from a Brythonic language, related to Welsh, a Goidelic one, such as Scottish Gaelic, or a mixture of the two. The first part, cairn- means cairn, either from Brythonic (e.g. Welsh carn) or Goidelic (e.g. Gaelic càrn or càirn). The second part -ie-, means of the, as in Welsh y or Gaelic a’. The third part is the most problematic, possibly meaning any of tent (Welsh pabell, Gaelic puball), people/congregation (Welsh pob(o)l, Gaelic pobull), or even eye (compare Old Welsh pubell). Thus, Cairniepapple is most likely to mean Cairn of the tent, Cairn of the people, or Cairn of the eye. Another meaning, put forward in the documentary Before Scotland (written and presented by historian Alistair Moffat), is Priest Rock.
Chronology (a different interpretation in a nutshell)
Late Neolithic: cremations (placed in an arc)
Copper Age: beaker burials and henge
Early Bronze Age: food vessel cairn
Middle Bronze Age: enlarged cairn with large cinerary urns
Early Iron Age: inhumations
A quick scramble up next to a waterfall brought us out on a small rocky ridge on the lower slopes of Mount Maw. After a pathless trudge up the surprisingly dry hillside we hit the track leading to the summit trig where we regrouped and looked over one of the less viewed vistas of the Pentlands back towards the Kips and west towards the Cairns and West Lothian. The drop from Mount Maw to the dam at Baddinsgill is one of my favourite descents in the Pentlands, the dry, grassy trail at a perfect angle makes for speedy running right down to the reservoir.
We raced up the grassy embankment to the waterline and trotted over the dam to the road leading back to West Linton. We made a quick stop for food orders before following the Cross Borders Drove Road all the way back to the Village with a speedy last kilometer on a dirt road right to the door of the pub. Great food and beer at The Gordon Arms, I think the pate with tattie scones was the highlight of the night for more than a few people!
Thanks to everyone who made it down. There is one more night run to go, Cairnpapple Equinox on Monday at 7pm – see you there!
There were initially fourteen volunteers for the run but by the time running day arrived our number had been whittled down to seven by injury, illness and a reluctance to brave the bad weather. Our logistics were delightfully simple – drive to Brig O’Turk, run round the route then drive home again although this didn’t stop Alan from making an interesting detour near the end. By the time we arrived at the start the rain had lightened up and soon fizzled out once we got going. We quite quickly split up into a fast group and a slow one and the two groups weren’t to meet much on the way round.
Once we had climbed out the head of Gleann nam Meann some slushy snow began to appear on the track. Further on there were a number of deeper snow drifts but they did little to slow our progress. What we hadn’t anticipated was that most of the burns running across the track were in spate so our leaping muscles were well exercised. We all regrouped by the cairn at the highest point of the track for a supposed lunch stop. It was agreed that walking and eating would be better than sitting & eating in the cold wind. There must have been some gobbling going on in front as the leading group soon disappeared from view.
Soon afterwards the sun came out but I couldn’t find anyone to photograph – the fast ones were mere specks ahead in the distance and the slower ones were way behind so I just took a few photos to show you what the terrain was like (plus a couple of photos from Alan). I was on my own for a long way down to the loch; as I got lower the sun grew ever warmer and I began to wonder if my face was going to get sunburned. We eventually all regrouped at the car park then stopped off for refreshment at the Lade Inn on the way home. A good day was had by all.
When your phone buzzes early on a morning and high winds and heavy rain is forecast, it is bound to be someone deciding they have better things to do than run a 30 mile route dreamt up in drier times. Quite understandable. Still, seven Carnethies made the 0744 train from Haymarket to Dalmeny for the inaugural Carnethy Sea to Summit as part of the winter 2016/2017 Ultra Series.
We got it bad. From stepping onto the platform to 20mins from the end, we were wet and battered by the rain-filled wind. Storm Doris may have passed but her tail was long. Why is it the day before is always nice than the actual day? Our route went down to under the FRB and dip our toes in the River Forth (the Sea bit) then followed the old railway line towards Newbridge, quite nice on puddle strewn trails. A fortunate wrong turn took us along the River Almond on a vague trail and a bit of bondoo bashing to hit a building site that looked like a battlefield. This was bypassed on account of an angry guy in high vis, past car salerooms and ways found to continue following the muddy torrent of a river, a bit of canal, then a lovely canal feeder stream till exiting the Almondvale Country Park to a great wee café at Almondell Garden Centre that Jeff Roberts had sweet-talked the owner to open on her birthday for us. He even took a present for her, nice touch Jeff, and we sang her Happy Birthday.
The next leg headed via tracks, waterlogged fields, woods, lots of gate hopping into quagmire, and the odd farmyard, wigwams and steadings out to Selm Muir Wood to pick up the Scottish National Trail to cross the A70 at Little Vantage where the Thieves Road starts. Graham Nash was struggling to keep up since he is not too fit (oh, tell I lie, that was me….!), and he decided to head for Listonsheils and back home to watch the Rugby. The remaining five thought ‘What a total lightweight, Nash can’t hack it’. After 100m along the Thieves Road the remaining five thought ‘What a git, he knew what was coming and didn’t fancy 4km wading through rivers and bog’. The wind was blowing, the rain not far from horizontal, I was weary and using poles to protect the odd niggle. Jim Hardie and Viv Busby were in shorts so wanted to push-on to keep warm. Wet slushy snow from the recent storms made the water very cold with regular wading through long sections cooled the toes till they were numb.
Then relief, or was it? The path climbing up East Cairn Hill was a waterfall. The wind did not relent. We ground it out and thankfully the cairn at the top gave shelter (the Summit bit). Jeff Roberts and Rachel has put their waterproof trousers on while waiting for me. Jim and Viv shivered in their shorts. A Summit piccy then off through wet snow and sphagnum moss holes and peat bog for the Borestane. I found it hard to run the tussocks and being so wet with the wind so chilling and decided to stop and put my Montane Primus (hollofil) jacket. Joy, some warmth.
Our route from the Borestane intended to drop North then head for Bavelaw Castle. We were going to turn right to head down the Cleuch, past the 2 reservoirs then up over Allermuir to the Steading. A team decision agreed to hit Bavelaw and turn left, not right, and head for Balerno. After 5½ hrs being wet and the pub closer that way, with the 44 bus back to town beckoning, we headed down Exponential Hill and on to the Grey Horse Pub in Balerno to dry out. A photo of a local outside is because the passer-by who I asked to get a team shot couldn’t press a button hard enough!
This route ended up about a marathon distance and just under 1000m ascent finishing in Balerno. The trails and paths are great and the scenery really nice with some great bridge architecture. It would be nice in the dry, or in summer, and of course various options from the Borestane to Hillend could add distance and add ascent by doing the the first or second half of the Pentland Skyline….if you want to make it ‘harder’.
Well done to the team for turning up and waiting for me.
Culter Fell is steeped in mystery. Some years ago a Carnethy runner became totally disorientated during the Culter Fell Horseshoe; I was always sceptical of these Culter stories about local magnetic anomalies and petrifying wells that disappear. Yet the same person succumbed again during the circumnavigation of Culter at the weekend. This time, like the Pied Piper, he led a group of younger members astray as well, all to disappear in the quiet mysterious hills of Know Kniffling, Trebetha, Gawky and Scawdman’s.
The weather forecast was wrong from the start, but it was at least an improvement on the previous Saturday at the Carnethy 5 – just cold, wettish and windy. We had hardly accelerated to cruising speed when Mike bust his chain, leaving the rider and Mechanic to freeze during roadside repairs as most of the 17 strong group buggered off up the glen to stave off hypothermia, with Hilary and Jane overtaking us on their alternative pedestrian ascent of Culter Fell.
The bikers regrouped at the Culter dam before continuing on the rough track towards the Holme Nick bealach, one or two already going into “are we nearly there” mode, “there” being variously the halfway, half effort, or half total height point. The rain and headwind was having a damaging psychological impact. The Mechanic made reassuring noises about the cold front passing through, the forthcoming turn downwind and the interesting technical descent from Holm Nick. Someone said it was already an hour longer than he’d ever been on a bike before and we weren’t any kind of halfway.
The leaders going for their Navigator’s badge pressed on to the bealach as the Mechanic boosted flagging moral fibre at the rear. The Navigators were so enthused by the steep climb that to the bealach that they turned right to continue up Glenwhappen Rig heading for the cloud base before a real navigator with a map called them back to what, after all, was the scheduled bealach and highest point of the day. The initial descent towards Glenkirk was trackless, muddy and steep enough to provide various methods of falling off a bike if you were still bold enough to be on it, – bar vaults, cartwheels, lateral slides and most variations except back flips were demonstrated. A peaceful lunch spot out of the wind caused dissent from the Navigators, who were eager to find opportunities to test their skills at navigating by maps they had mentally filed away, but otherwise left at home. So we had lunch instead at a wind blasted sheep fank another 2km down the glen where we could practice hypothermia survival more effectively. Meanwhile the Mechanic and his companion performed perfect somersaults and measured their lengths in the same ditch and swamp hazard only seconds apart from each other. There was a return to rideable terrain at the circular sheep fank and we recovered body heat as we sped down the track to Glenkirk and 3km of welcome smooth tarmac to the start of the pleasant forest climb up Swines Hope.
There’s a great open view at the top of this hill where you emerge from the trees between the hill forts of Knowe Kniffling and Mill Rings. The track sweeps down around the open flank of Trebetha Hill to old KIlbucho House and its impressive new timber lodge. The speed merchants couldn’t resist this fast descent, ignoring cautions from the Mechanic to re-group at the first ambiguous junction. Three ambiguous junctions later the group was fragmented into at least three parts, some of which were not to regroup until the pub at Culter. A range of random route variations followed, involving near full and superfluous circumnavigation around White Hill and other permutations to the direct and trackless muddy passage to Cow Castle Hill and a final swoop down to the pub.
A rinse in the river for bikes and bodies was necessary to make the team presentable for an excellent pub feed at the friendly Mill Inn. The chastened Navigators arrived shortly after at intervals from most points of the compass. These local Culter hills are well worth exploring for their wealth of hill forts and old hamlets.
27km + 715m ascent/ descent + random variations. Video clip here