Trusting the book

Weds 8 August 2012  –   I had to be back in Edinburgh by 4.30pm because I was performing in a show on the Fringe, so Debbie suggested we just do a little low-level walking instead of heading for a mountain. She had come across a booklet by John Davidson giving detailed descriptions of various walks around the Linlithgow area and proposed number 23, a 5 mile route starting from and returning to the Korean Monument near Torphichen .  She was highly skeptical that the walk  could actually be ‘strenuous’ as he classed it, (well both of us were doubtful I admit),  after all, the hills were really just pimples with only a tiny amount of ascent.

I left Edinburgh earlier than initially planned thanks to an unexpected telephone call which got me out of bed, so we were able to set off from Linlithgow pretty sharpish. The route was to be Korean monument / Witches Craig / Cairnpapple / The Knock / then back to Witches Craig and the Korean monument via Wairdlaw. We decided we would trust the book and follow his route conscientiously rather than devising any shortcuts.

According to http://www.scottish-places.info/features/featurefirst10318.html the “small wooden pagoda is surrounded by 110 Korean pine trees (one for every ten Britons who died in the conflict), 1090 Birch trees (one for each of the fallen) and picnic tables along a pathway named United Nations Avenue. This avenue is surrounded by 21 trees, representing the twenty-one nations involved in the UN force in Korea. The traditional Korean pagoda contains lists of those who died in the conflict, the vast majority of whom were young National Servicemen. Maintained by the Scottish Korean War Memorial Trust, the site opened on 27th June 2000, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the war. “

Further up the hill we came across the Witches Craig wall which is made up of rocks from all over Scotland.  Some of the rocks are lettered and details about them given on an information board.  Said board listed rocks lettered A to Q but we saw an R on the ground level.  We couldn’t see any further info though. There were three seats set into the wall but, apart from both taking a photo opportunity, we didn’t have much use for them – tough walkers like us didn’t need to sit down – hmmm!

Set into a wall nearby was the Refuge Stone  –  According to http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/24270/refuge_stones_of_west_lothian.html .  “ ‘Sanctuary Stones’ were at one time common in Scotland, mainly around large religious sites. Once a miscreant had entered within the bounds marked by these stones, he was considered ‘safe’ and could not be touched by civil law. It was then up to the religious experts to decide if he should be cast out! These stones were often of megalithic origin, re-used and ‘christianised’ by the incision of religious symbols. ”

From there we followed instructions which took us across a field and through a wood but then we just had to retrace our steps to Witches Cairn.  We were supposed to see something of interest but I confess I forget now what it was to have been and anyway we didn’t find it!  Duh!

We followed the crest then down through fields and woods along quite well defined paths to be stopped at the end of this section by a wire fence .

Debbie could clamber over with a large stride across it but I stood no chance with my  titchy legs .  I tried climbing it (leg over with foot lodged in mesh)  but it was too flexible to hold my weight steady while I lifted over my other leg.  Luckily Debbie spotted that further down it changed to a barbed-wire fence which had room underneath it so I was able to squeeze through there.

Across two minor roads then up a long winding road to Cairnpapple, the 4000 year old  burial mound.  There are steps cut into the side of Cairnpapple Hill to make ascent a doddle.

At the gate to the site I managed to drop the map into a cow pat – as you do.  Luckily it was only a tiny splash so it wiped off fairly easily (I just had to make certain I didn’t use that particular tissue for my nose!).

Sadly it was not open so we couldn’t visit the burial mound itself but we made full use of a bench there for eating our lunch. The site is run by Historic Scotland – http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/propertyresultsold/propertyabout.htm?PropID=PL_050&PropName=Cairnpapple Hill.

From there we rejoined the road and trundelled along to The Knock.  This road was definitely my least favourite section.

I found this wee video on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT40RUcqDvI –  which shows the views available.   I often make wee films myself but this time just took photos for stitching into panoramas.

I couldn’t find much information about it but according to another blogger – http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?p=330 – “Local rumour has it that this was the site of a coven of witches up until the 17th century. A little to the north you look down on a ring of stones in field which looks like an ancient henge, however it only dates back to 1998 as a birthday present to the farmer from his son.  “

It took us all of four minutes to get up the wee hump but we spent over 15 minutes at the top taking pictures and generally enjoying the views.  Three minutes to get down then off again retracing steps back to Cairnpapple then onwards to the edge of Beecraigs Country Park to Wairdlaw Path.

We saw a lovely well maintained path going in the correct direction so assumed that was it, but a gentleman farmer we met half way along assured us we were erroneously on the way to his farm.

I hadn’t registered that the instructions referred to crossing a stile at that point – double duh!    The track was a matter of inches from the farm path but not exactly that clear to see.    Following  said track we doubled sharply back on ourselves across more fields.  (That was one slightly unfortunate aspect of this route – there was quite a lot of retracing steps and doubling back rather than it being a genuinely circular route.)

We passed the old silver mines on this stretch but there wasn’t time to detour to them . Every now and then during the day Debbie enquired if I thought the route really was “strenuous” but by the time we had reached this point she had stopped asking – the answer being only too apparent!   I received a phone call so she grabbed at the chance to have ‘a wee sit doon’.   We were both  tiring by then to be honest because we had already been walking for 4 hours and were not finished by any means!  (The booklet estimates 3 hours but that is without the stops we took for photos and generally gazing aboot. )

The way was fairly level for a wee while but just as we settled into the level rhythm it changed to 45degrees (the kind of angle where you feel your feet just are not designed to bend up like that) and cruelly it took us up a short but steep stretch back up Witches Craig .   Down to the Korean Memorial and the car – phew!    Was it strenuous?  By gum –  – yes!  One doesn’t have to be scaling the heights for wee treks like this to be challenging.  Most importantly though, there are enormous rewards for making the effort.

And BTW, I did manage to get home for half four in good time to shower and get ready for my show without stressing.  Despite driving for an hour and a quarter and walking for four and a half hours I was fine – adreneline having kicked in by then.

Me as ‘Mrs Gamp’ in a short extract from ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ in ‘All About Dickens’ with The Mercators.

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