19/03/2013 - Starting from the church car park at Tundergarth Mains (NY 1754 8080) we headed south down the track to Burnswark Hill. If you have the time this is a lovely approach to the hill. What can I say about this hill apart from it has it all. A hillfort, an ancient cairn, a Roman fort and a Fairy Craig. There's probably much more. It's an amazing place. I had been looking forward to my visit here and it didn't disappoint. My favourite was the Fairy Craig. A must visit.
Burnswark is a Magical and very special place. Looking like some primeval ark sailing across the landscape, there is no excuse to miss it. Whatever direction you approach from, it stands out. Its importance to our ancient ancestors is highlighted by the Roman forts and roads which lie all around, still easily seen. Leave the M74 at Ecclefechan and go north on the lane past the Kirkconnel Hall Hotel. At the T junction, turn left and continue for just over a mile, till the road becomes a track, and park at the Y junction. Take the path through the firs, and climb to the top. The view is panoramic, and the landscape epic. I have had the honour of climbing Bear Butte, the Teaching Mountain of the Cheyenne and the Sioux, and was delighted to discover the same qualities here. The Lake District even looks like the Black Hills do from Bear Butte, with the Solway taking the place of the lake (I can't recall the name) that lies before them. At Bear Butte, the east end is where mystical encounters are reported, and Burnswark's eastern outcrop is called Fairy Craig! Like Julian, I resisted climbing my sacred hill, content to look with awe, but I lost nothing by doing so. There is a Teaching Mountain on my doorstep.
Like many other works whose origin is obscured in the dim and distant past, Birrenswark Hill was regarded with something of superstitious awe. An old man brought up in the vicinity told the writer that in is boyhood the hill was regarded as an uncanny place. Few were bold enough to stroll there on Sundays or after sun-down, and against such practices his mother frequently gave him solemn warning. Some, he said, thought the ancient Britons or the Romans had something to do with these inexplicable earthworks; but the common belief was that another potent influence had a hand in the matter, who, desirous not to have his part detected, visits with elemental manifestations of displeasure such as come there to howk for hidden treasure.
The profound present-day scepticism makes no allowance for such wanderings in superstition as these, but some measure of excuse is properly due in circumstances unusual which may sometimes occur. The writer having occasion to visit the hill for the purpose of conferring with an officer of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, on reaching the south camp, found the place wholly enveloped in a desne fog, and no one could be seen. Shortly, however, conversation was overheard, and the desired meeting ensued. The effect of the mist was curious and interesting. Normal dimensions disappeared, and the ramparts, ditches, and other details loomed hugely, gigantic and undefined. The writer seemed to perceive also fitful movements of something without shape or substance, and, whether preceding, accompanying or following, the motion had some sort of relation to his own - a rare phenomenon which arose from a quick flash of light from the sun casting trembling and uncertainshadows on the yet partially dense body of the mist. When the mist quickly unrolled, the sun broke out, and the whole place was bathed in the bright sunlight of the fully opened day.
And I think that's as close as he'll come to admitting he was a little freaked out. From James Barbour's account of Agricola's Well on Birrenswark Hill, in the 1911/12 Transactions and Journal of the Proceedings of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society.
A similar story to the one below (this time involving a brother kidnapped by the fairies of the Burnswark, with the sister left behind) is 'Elphin Irving - The Fairies' Cupbearer'. You can read a long version (including song) in 'Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales' by Sir George Douglas  - an online version available courtesy of the magnanimous people at the Sacred Texts Archive: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/sfft/sfft81.htm
The fairies here didn't like people much. They had a reputation for abducting young people to act as their slaves. They kidnapped a girl from Corrie [a settlement to the north of the hill]. Her family thought she was lying dead in her bed - but actually this was just a 'stock', or simulation, produced by the fairies - as her brother discovered when the real girl appeared to him in a vision (or a dream?).
She told him that to rescue her he would have to go to their barn the next night and wait until midnight. Then three figures would walk past, he was to grab the third (herself) and repeat some words she gave him. But when it came down to it he was too scared, and unfortunately the girl was stuck with the fairies Forever...
From Maxwell Wood's 'Witchcraft and Superstitious Record in the Southwestern District of Scotland' (1911), noted in Bord's 'Fairy Sites' book (2004).