March 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
Dumgoyne must have meant something to the ancients. Every time I have travelled north to Glasgow up the M74, just as you hit the flat reaches of the high ground south of Lesmahagow, its surreal outline, resembling the side-on view of a recumbent elephant’s head with its trunk extended, catches your eye and remains in sight for a few miles before you drop down into the farmland that lies beyond Larkhall. It’s not a high hill at 427m (OS Landranger map ref NS541827) but it sits slightly apart from the western end of the Campsie Fells which creates its prominence. Surely, in the dark past of this isle, when it was blanketed in native woodland, it must have served some purpose as either look-out post, fortified hilltop or perhaps as a place of ritual? I simply did not know.
Last September, 2010, on the 25th, a brilliant Saturday and perhaps the last decent day for hillwalking as autumn’s forlorn grip on summer was finally lost, I climbed it with Wulk’s sister, who, through thick and thin, has remained one of my lifelong friends. Her husband was in Ireland on family business (large Northern Irish Catholic families always have family business) so we decided to get out while the going was good. Our route was up the ‘pipe track’ from Blanefield so we parked behind the Catholic chapel at the bottom of Campsie Dene Road and put £1 through the letterbox before we set off.
This road reflects how well off people can be as the houses become larger and often more ostentatious the further you climb. Finally the tarmac turns to rough track and the last, vast, mansion is left behind. The road follows the pipeline that carries the public water supply from the Campsies to Strathblane, so there are Victorian waterworks features along the way to stop and wonder at. Eventually after strolling through several fields you arrive at a fork and take off to the right to head up the hill. The going is not difficult and after 30 minutes you stand at the bottom. From here you can decide to flank the hill and arrive the long way, or ascend straight up. We decided the frontal assault was best and in 10 minutes we were on the top, where the full extent of the hill’s prominence is betrayed by the 360-degree views. On this day they were remarkable, with perfect visibility extending all the way to Arran.
We spent some time just taking in the panorama and wondering who might have stood here surveying what must have been an entirely forested landscape way back in the Dark Ages. Far to the south-west I could make out the outline of Tinto Hill beyond Lanark. Someone atop that hill today could have been looking straight at me on a direct, unmolested bearing across Glasgow and the Clyde Valley. The same could be said of Goat Fell on Arran.
We descended by the flank of the hill before going back down to the pipe track and returning to the car. It was, indeed, the last good day on the hills before the onset of the weather that swept in from the east and froze the country solid last winter.
Later, the following week, I was reviewing some e-mails and came across one that suggested I look at a website which the sender felt might give me some pointers with regards to developing some web-based applications for a potential publishing project. I clicked through and over the course of the next hour, became transfixed by what I saw. The site was The Devil’s Plantation and as it gradually unfolded in front of me, an aspect of Glasgow and its surrounds was revealed to me for the first time. It is a bizarre and quite spooky site which takes some time to learn how to navigate through but the end result is both unsettling and yet quite enthralling. If you have time on a wet afternoon to spare, try to work your way through it to unlock ‘the secret’. The site won a BAFTA in 2010 and the reason I mention it in this post is that Dumgoyne is part of it. So too is Tinto. Prepare to be haunted.