|This Is Very Steep... site visit - after tea - Monday 30 August 2010
The best approach to Arbory Hillfort is to take the minor road (Station Road) from Abington village and drive over the railway bridge and cross the River Clyde. Take a left turn at the junction after the caravan site, drive on for another third of a mile and pull in at the parking area on the left. Cross the road and head along the very straight track across the field below and to the right of Arbory Hill. This isn't the mighty Roman Road from Crawford Fort (it descends further up ahead). This field track ends in a large levelled area across a small burn from the foot of Arbory Hill. Descend to the burn, step across and start the climb.
It is steep.
Very, very steep.
I found myself having to stop for breath regularly and look South. I couldn't help it as the massive road terrace scar of Roman engineering had started to become a magnet for my gaze every time I stopped (which was a lot). It was seven o'clock or so when I started up from the burn and it took half an hour of hard climbing (with breathers) to get to the first line of the defences at the hilltop. The summit is at 1400 feet. The climb feels like twice that.
Arbory Hillfort is a mighty construction. The first scarped rampart bank is around a two metre climb up from the outer ditch. At one point it was easily three metres up. The ditch here is littered with tumbled stonework from the first rampart wall and some of these stones are large (5' x 3' x 2' was the largest I saw tumbled into the outer ditch). There are about five yards between the first rampart and the next ditch. The rise to the top of the next rampart is around another three metres up from the second ditch. You are now in the interior of the original fort. But five or six yards ahead lies yet another rampart which was inserted into the older fort at a later date.
This next rampart is not another steep grassy stony bank but an incredible eight or nine metre wide spread of tumbled stone which still stands around two metres high in places around its original wall line. This near circular stone rampart was originally three metres wide and must have been at least that height. There are two entrances both less than two metres wide.
I sat on the wall of one of the circular cell-like buildings built into this central stony rampart and looked across Upper Clydesdale as the setting sun turned everything a delicate orangey- brown. There was a distant hum from the M74 and the sounds of dogs barking in Raggengill Kennels far below. A buzzard soared above me, wheeling and staring down at me. There are a number of rather enigmatic features in this hillfort.
1. A series of circular, stone built chambers (about the size of a small room). Their walls stand to a height of two metres in some of them. One of them is around twenty feet long and rectangular with a rounded end. There are a series of much smaller scale ones just two or three feet across. The farm below the hill is called Cold Chapel and I wondered about those little stone chambers…
2. A row of cairns, facing West, built along the edge of the second rampart. They initially look like they have to be fairly modern but are well lichened and fast in the peat which has grown here. They stand up like a row of teeth. They are perhaps three to four feet across at the bottom and rise to four feet high or so.
The sun dropped behind Drake Law and Craighead Hill to the West and very quickly a deepening dusk sent me clambering down the steep slopes back to the present day. Arbory is an incredible construction. Atmospheric and enigmatic. I reached my car and drove home to cocoa, biscuits and a well deserved early night full of dreams about the strangeness of Arbory.
Posted by Howburn Digger
31st August 2010ce
Edited 1st September 2010ce