Searching for Gododdin (iii): Garleton Hills

There’s nothing like sliding into the Jet Garage at Haddington, popping some unleaded in the tank, & going, d’ya know what, if I drive for about three minutes, I’ll find myself in a gorse-swept bastillion above the county, virtually alone among triassic rock formations which plunge my psyche back millions of years to a time before Humans, all complemented by the most splendid of revolving 360 views. Or sometimes I just think that Daisy needs a pee & a poo. Either way, welcome to the next instalment of Walking East Lothian, & without further ado lets park the car on that small & sketchy piece of ground on the summit of the road over the Garleton Hills between Haddington & Athelstaneford.

The space is on the right as you drive from Haddington; there’s a little signpost pointing into a field, which is where this walk begins. I started to take notes a couple of weeks ago, well before the recent February heatwave, on a brilliant morning in icy conditions. Cue ethereally atmospheric early morning light-shows.

Hopping over the stile, one reaches a wide smooth field,  the gentle rise of which forms a u-shape against the sky. Turning around & looking backwards; Edinburgh is clearly visible, while in the foreground the Hopetoun Monument leaps vertically out of Byres Hill.  Even closer – just across the road – is the Garleton’s tallest peak, Skid Hill, upon which survive some of the the earthworks of a Gododdin hillfort – the rest have been destroyed by extensive quarrying.

The main point of these recent ‘Searching for Gododdin’ posts has been to identify placenames in East Lothian which correspond to those given by Aneirin as warriors of the Gododdin war party at the Battle of Catraeth. Among the warriors’ names, there is no match for ‘Skid’ but there is a possible match to Garleton. Garleton’s earliest recorded name was Garmylton, which is quite resonant of Gorwylam, who appears in Y Gododdin (my translation).

Thro’ days of long & strenuous exertion
Their bravery was rais’d, display’d & prais’d
But, following intoxicating mead,
No man was spar’d, tho’ Gorwylam fought well
Twas destin’d Fate decreed to break our charge.
North Berwick Law up ahead

Returning to our walk, once on the hill’s extensive plateaux I advise just wandering about to your heart’s content like my wee Daisy – perhaps not in the slightly deranged 100 metre arcs that she does, tho.’ At every turn there are simply stunning & extensive views, while even if there’s a bit of weather, this will mostly add to the texture of the vision. It does get a bit windy, mind, so wrap up on a  wintry day.

The rough idea is to pass beyond the ariels towards the woods to the east, skirting a fence while keeping the bales in the photo below to one’s right.  The woods are accessible by a gate that is generally tied. Its no problem for little dogs, but bigger dogs will  have to be heaved over.

Once over the fence, with it being Winter I was relishing the gnarly aspects of the skeletal trees. Then, after following a path through thick gorse, about a half-mile before Barney Mains Farm I reached the quite unexpected but completely enthralling remains of Kae-Heughs, another of the Gododdin promontory hillforts.

The path through the gorse

Barney Mains, downhill in the distance

Etymologically we can divide the name into two parts; the first name ‘Kae’ & the Scots word ‘Heugh’ which means a steep ravine or craggy precipice. For me, Kae is the Arthurian Sir Kay – remember Arthur’s Uncle Loth lived only a few miles a way at Traprain. An infallible chain of logic goes like this;

1: According to a set of Dark Age genealogies known as the the Bonedd y Saint, a certain Modrun, daughter of King Vortimer, married Ynyr, king of Gwent, from which union a son called Ceidaw was born.

2: Sir Kay is said to be the son of the union between King Cynyr Ceinfarfog & Anna, a daughter of King Vortimer.  Interestingly, the Bonedd y Saint give Modrun a handmaid called Anna. There are enough tallies to assume Ynyr & Cynyr were the same man, as was Kay & Ceidaw

3: Kays’ father, Cynyr Ceinfarfog, was said to have held Caer Gynyr in Wales, which was later renamed after his son as Caer Cai. An old stone was found here which reads; Here lies Salvianus Burgocavis, son of Cupitianus.’ Confirmation that Sir Kay was Cupitainus comes from a memorial stone found at Castlesteads Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. It tells us that ‘Gaius Julius Cupitianus restored a temple.’ It is clear now that is from Gaius that we obtain the name Cei, with Geoffrey of Monmouth also calling Kay, ‘Caius.’

4: That Cupitianus was Kay is inferred from the discovery of a stone in the Liddesdale in the Scottish Borders, not far from Castlesteads, which reads, ‘Here lies Caranti, son of Cupitianus.
The Liddesdale Stone

Space doesn’t allow to explain why, but all evidence points towards the Liddesdale as being the site of the battle of Catreath. This means we can link the name Caranti with that of Garanwyn, who appears as Sir Kay’s son in the 9th century Welsh poem Culhwch & Olwen. In the following stanza from Y Gododdin, the death of a son of ‘Keidyaw,’ (Garanwyn) should be the true origin of the grave of Caranti at Liddesdale.

I loved his fame who forced the blood to flow
& thrust his sword thro those who violence loved
& could ever a valourous tale regaling
Leave out the son of Keidyaw, man of war

So essentially, if Kay’s son was Gododdin, then Kay himself was either Gododdin or married to one. Indeed, the Arthurian romances record his marriage to Princess Andrivete of Northumbria. Their Haddington home, then, Kae Heughs hillfort, marks the eastern point of the walk. To proceed onwards there’s a nice path just to the north, which heads back west under the nose of the crags. Again the views are stunning. I’d been so snap-happy, however, that my phone battery ran out & I had to return on another day to finish the photos.

The above photo shows the whitewash of Kilduff Farm. Some scholars assume that this is where a pregnant Thaney was tossed off the cliff in a chariot by her faith-crazed father, Loth, mainly on the fact that its name sounded like Kepduff. However, if we read the account of Saint Kentigern by Jocelin (12th century), we can spot a couple of red flags.

The pregnant girl having therefore been handed over to the executioners, there arose a dispute among them who should throw the first stone at her; but because none of the officers presumed to cast one at one’of the royal family, and yet dared not in any way neglect the judicial sentence, if such it might be called, they brought her to the top of a hill, which is called Kepduf, that, placed in a chariot and precipitated from the top of the hill, she might be consigned to a terrible death… in full faith, and signed with the sign of the life-giving cross, as she gave way in no wise to lust, although being over come by a man she conceived, so when violently cast down in the chariot from the top of the high mountain, she came down to its foot unhurt.

Now the king was again greatly excited against her by those who administered his law, who imputed this miracle to the sleight of the magic art, and, in order that he might not appear to prefer his love for his daughter before the justice of his kingdom, said, ” If she be worthy of life, let her be given over to the sea, and then her God will free her from peril of death if He so will.” They brought her therefore to the firth, which is about three miles from Kepduf, to the mouth of a river which is called Aberlessic, that is the Mouth of Stench, for at that time there was such a quantity of fish caught there that it was a fatigue to men to carry off the multitude of fish cast from the boats upon the sand, and so great putrefaction arose from the fish which were left on the shore, where the sand was bound together with blood, that a smell of detestable nature used to drive away quickly those who approached the place. She then was accompanied to the sea-shore by many men and women weeping bitterly. Some said, “O what a dreadful judgment is this awarded by a father to his child! What hath the king’s daughter done that she should undergo such deadly ills as these! It is cruelty to exact punishment twice for the same crime. Let the judge who maketh no distinction perish; he is entirely cruel.” And as she was consigned to the waters, the voice of all who bewailed her was heard saying, “May the Lord Who delivered thee from death upon.land also free thee from peril in the waters!” And as the innocent woman consigned to death heard the voices of those who bemoaned her, she began to cry unto the Lord, saying, ” Judge them, O Lord, that hurt me; fight thou against them that fight against me. Take the arms and the shield and come unto my help.”

Luckily Aberlady doesn’t smell even half as bad as what it did in the Dark Ages, but what we do know is that the the cliffs at Garleton are a better candidate for flying chariots off towards its passenger’s doom than the more sedate slopes of Kepduff. The Garleton Ridge is also exactly 3 miles from Aberlady, with Kilduff being about a half mile closer. Thus, it makes sense that the Garleton Hills werethe original Kepduff.

Heading west now, with a sheer slope to your left, one has to climb over another gate, before entering perhaps the most gorgeous place in the county. Aesthetically, you encounter deep-history in a glance; carboniferous tuffs and trachytic lavas all converging in one picture-frame scene

Eventually, one comes to a curious bit of concrete & a pool. To the right of here rises the flat-topped Craigie Hill – like something from Arizona, but a bit greener. It was here that William Wallace was supposed to have hidden while on the run from the Sassenach hordes. These are a few lines from my ‘Scotiad‘ describing such an occasion.

Fae the forest to the city
Scottis lot obsess’d with pity,
The conquest of their contree done,
But for one spirit on the run,
Its native saviour, brightest son,
For of all brave & ancient Scots
Whose glories knew no bars & blots,
‘Wallace!’ is name known most of all,
In him was Scotland’s very soul,
As evening shades drape slowly down,
Wrapping the glades in sylvan brown,
Night owls awaken in the dell,
Fox-barkings heard upon the fell,
Enough remains of dusk’s half-light
To guide the fugitive aright,
Yet not enough from far to show
His figure to the watchful foe,
For Wallace is a hunted man,
By gudemen help when e’er they can
With food & shelter, news & knives,
For while he lives Scotland survives.

After Daisy quench’d her thirst, we turned upwards in the direction of a gap in the ridge, as if the blade of some diety had chopped it in two. Its better to not follow the path – which is pretty much overgrown with gorse – but instead go across the field & join the path just before it begins its ascent through the gap.

At the top, we reach’d one last gate, which gave us access to the field we had first entered. Cue Daisy sweeping about  the verdant canvas like the strokes of a painters brush, a wee nip over the stile & the drive downhill from the delectable Garleton Hills.


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