The final morning of this year's Scotland trip dawns somewhat overcast, but nonetheless dry beneath the mighty flanks of Tinto. So, an early start is required if I am to have enough time to do Cademuir Hill justice... assuming the lonious's camera did not lie and it is indeed as good as I anticipate. Yeah, some may wish to cram as many visits into a day as possible. But I could not imagine being so flippant, so irreverent toward our ancient heritage. No, it means too much. Experiencing the vibe, absorbing whatever 'echoes' may still remain from the lives of those that went before... is everything in my opinion. Suffice to say you do not bolt down a cordon bleu meal.
Approaching Peebles from the west (upon the A72) I'm - thankfully - unaware of just how many ancient enclosures I'm bypassing this morning.... suffice to say there are quite a few in retrospect, this area of The Borders clearly an unknown quantity for this weary traveller. Passing the B712 junction I take the minor road toward Kirkton Manor, crossing Manor Water (a tributary of the legendary River Tweed no less) before parking up just before Cademuir Farm, a little beyond a picnic site. As I put on the boots an elderly gentleman passes by... I bid him 'good morning' - as one should - and state my intention to visit 'the hillforts'.... he seems to think that is a good idea. Perhaps he's having a good inward chuckle at my naivety.... thinking 'but I wouldn't be starting from here, though!' Two female ramblers also appear to pick up the positive vibe, all tossing hair, exagerrated posture and sheer, vibrant feminine sexuality. So it is perhaps fitting that Cademuir Hill brings the flattered male firmly back down to earth by demanding a level of exertion far in excess of what I'd expected. Jeez, it is a steep ascent from here. Either that or I've more or less 'shot my bolt' this final day. Or chosen the wrong start point. Who knows?
Heading north-east, the first minor summit is (apparently) without monument. Suffice to say, however, that the second - at 1,050ft - most certainly possesses one.... a seriously powerful drystone-walled hillfort. The angle of ascent amply demonstrates the defensibility of the site in the most practical way possible, the ground falling sharply away except to the east. Here - according to Canmore - the single rampart is, or at least was, a whopping 20ft wide. I well believe it, the wall having collapsed both within and without the enclosure, numerous courses of original stonework remaining in situ. What's more, a fine chevaux de frise (an array of small stones set on end to impede offensive charges, be they equestrian or otherwise) accords further protection in this direction. One hopes the nearby rotting carcass of a sheep is not the latest evidence of the military prowess of such an arrangement?
Beyond, the ridge rises some 250ft to the 1,314ft summit of Cademuir Hill. This is crowned by a much larger enclosure, again defended by a drystone rampart, albeit of a more limited 10ft width (again according to Canmore). The views from this defended hill top - as in the case of its lower neighbour - are excellent, exquisite even, particularly when looking south-west (ish). Yeah, this is a place to sit and take it all in. Not that Cademuir Hill is deserted today. Oh no, not with the odd (ha!) mountain biker struggling past, not with a couple of lycra-clad lovelies running up, down, then up again. But there you are. Despite allocating some four hours, time runs out and I do not get to visit the third of the trio of hillforts which grace this ridge.
But as Meat Loaf once sang... you know, on the slow one without Cher on it.... 'Two outta three ain't bad'.
11/03/2012 - Parked car at NT 23763715. Headed up through trees to summit of Cademuir Hill (416m) then west to first hillfort, the Whaum (NT 23523794). This is more of a complex. A little hard to make out as most of it is grassed over. Next we went SW up to the highest hillfort, Cademuir Hill 1 (NT 23043748). Wow, this one is big and great views down steep southern slope. Then on to the slightly lower hillfort, Cademuir Hill 2 (NT 22473708). This is the pick of the three for me. Coming from the NE you have to cross a chevaux de frise before climbing over the best walls on the hill. Great forts. great hill, great walk.
... on the other side of the Tweed, is a hill caled Cademuir, anciently Cadhmore, signifying in Gaelic, "the great fight;" on the top of which are four British camps, one of them much stronger than the rest, surrounded with stone walls, without cement, in some places double, and where single, no less than five yards in thickness; without which, and out of the ruins of which, have been erected near 200 monumental stones, many of them still standing, and others fallen down, -- indications that in very early times [..] a great battle had been fought on that hill, and that at the strong camp on the top of it, numbers that had been killed, and were buried.
From the Statistical Account of Scotland by Sir John Sinclair, 1791-99, volume 12.