After a year or so of stop/start hillwalking I’ve started this year in determined mood. We will make every effort to get out and about in the mountains…albeit probably smaller mountains. Too many days have been missed through worry about legs/back/dog/weather/long drives…the list goes on. This year’s planning has helped.
We have a new philosophy – Carpe diem. This involves seizing any crappy diem as long as it’s not tipping it down…well…as long as there’s at least a chance of the summit being clear…ok…I’m prepared to go out if the sun isn’t shining. But I’m definitely not going on a rain lashed day; The Fatdog objects to the smell of wet human.
The spreadsheet (and the man from mwis) dictated that today we should make an attempt on Tinto (711m). Heading south for a hillwalk? That was new. I hoped “The Tank” could be convinced to turn left onto the Bellsdyke Road.
Today’s venture south to Lanark brought us too near to Carstairs for my liking; that last port of call for the criminally insane. I meant to look out for that infamous establishment as we climbed…but forgot all about it. Mind you I expect the inmates are of the opinion it’s the mad hillwalkers who should be locked up in a secure unit not them.
I discovered that others had, much earlier in the day, been battling snow, sleet and rain on their way up Tinto…roughly about the time J, The Fatdog and I were tucking into our lazy Saturday breakfast of porridge, blueberries and maple syrup, washed down by a rather nice latte, courtesy of our ageing Gaggia coffee machine . There’s something to be said for a late start after all.
Tinto has quite a history. A bronze age burial mound at the summit, an iron age fort at it’s foot, an “enclosure” (of unidentified use) shown on the OS map and the wonderfully named fatlips castle (ruin) on the SE flank of the adjacent Scaut Hill. Today we planned to visit the cairn and the fort.
This was more dog walk than hill walk. Unfortunately the dog wasn’t walking very well. FD’s troublesome ear was bothering her which involved her lurching up the hill leaning over to one side while one back leg twitched alarmingly. Sheep looked on in bewilderment as The Fatdog, ignoring them completely, rushed towards the nearest ditch and plunged her head underneath the water. I didn’t have her drops with me so it was time for some exploration with a finger wrapped in a paper hankie. A few minutes later The Fatdog seemed more at ease with the world.
The initial part of the track, still holding a narrow central channel of water from yesterday’s serious rain, was suffering from decades of run-off scour and heavy boots. Having said that it there was not as much water as I had expected given recent weather but it was noticeable that the track is widening as feet avoid the rough gravel and look for better purchase on the grass either side..
Once past Totherin Hill the rough gravel trail gave way to a beautifully even path of finely crushed red rock, near red cinder in its appearance. We took a shortcut above Maurice’s Cleuch (gorge), this track running parallel to the original.
By now we weren’t far from the summit and the gradient, which had throughout been too scared to rise above gentle, appeared to be lessening. Cloud covered the last couple of hundred metres and soon our view back over the Clyde disappeared.
The wind had a wee bit bite as it whipped across the domed hilltop. A quick dash up the bronze age burial mound (now taken over as a hillwalker’s giant cairn) and then it was quickly down to its base for lunch in one of the improvised dry-stane shelters out of the wind.
This was the 3rd hill in a row on which I had mobile reception. J was sent a summit photo announcing our arrival, this time of FD attempting to raid the rucksack. Lunch was a drizzle-threatened affair, the odd spot suggesting more to come; we ate quickly and departed.
On the way back we took the very short diversion to the summit of Totherin Hill…the whole 60m round trip. The flooding on the Clyde was evident from here…as was the iron age fort we’d missed on the way up.
The Fatdog invaded the fort having successfully routed the defences guarding the outer earthwork. The remains appear to comprise 3 circular earthworks which form 2 outer ditches. We strutted triumphantly around the perimeter of the internal earthwork, resistance having crumbled and vanished some…eh… two thousand years ago.
It was only a hundred metres or so back to the car from here. On the way we passed the most useless fence in Scotland.
Back at The Tank I changed out of the boots and jackets, dried Maisie poured the tea and switched on the radio. I was in the process of texting J with the news that we hadn’t had any rain on the walk, when down it came, bouncing off the windscreen.
As I sat, smug look on my face, from the speakers The Proclaimers belted out cheerfully…
“I’m on ma way..ay…ay…”