The Gododdin Heritage Trail: White Castle to Green Castle

Phew, getting closer, just this & two more sections to go! My year-long dalliance with the Gododdin has been fruitful on many levels, the chief of which has been the hacking out of a workable causeway throu’ thro Scotland’s supremely engardened county for us all to enjoy. The following walk, btw, was conducted on different mornings, hence the variety in the photography!

I last left us at the impressive grassy sentinel of White Castle. The plan now is to break directly onto the Lammermuir ridge & head towards Green Castle thro the blustering breeze, to the cries of wild gander. Earlier in the year I’d been scouting out this particular iron age fort & its near neighbour, Black Castle, upon which occasion I first began imagining linking them up with the hillfort on the Garleton Hills – Kay’s Heughs – in one pedestrian lap of the heart of the god’s ain country.

This section of the walk is probably the best really, a slice of Highland loftiness with the most immensely pleasing views; on a clear day they float off into the misty distance as far as Montrose to the north & Stirling to the west, while to the east the North Sea rolls off into infinity… well, Norway.

To proceed, head downhill along the inanimate road to Garvald for a while, where you will come to a gate on the left. Heading through this you reach a steep track to the left that takes you up onto the hilltops. The track eventually peters out, but the idea is to keep nominally to the right of ridgeway & head west. The views from this point are the best in Central Scotland.

Eventually one reaches a big heap of gorse, which you need to keep to your left until you reach a great view of Lammer Law in the front-distance. After an aethereal traversement of sorts, You will soon see a meeting of fences; one crossing your view & the other coming in from the Lammer Law side, as if Nelson was crossing the T at Trafalgar. Head for this point.

Lammer Law appearing in the distance

Crossing over the fence at the junction, the idea is to head for the windmills roughly south-west, & to the left of Lammer Law. Eventually you reach a deep stream & a convenient plank which more or less points a gate in the distance. You should head towards this gate, picking through tangl’d gorse & boggy bits – take some wellies!

The wee bridge is centre-left

Passing through or over the fence drops you into an alien-like landscape of gorse & fern & rough tracks. There’s enough of the latter to lead you west for a wee while, where at a junction you turn right. This new track brings you to a stream & then, after a bit more gorse, you reach fresh grassy bits & a gate into a field on the left.

Keeping heading west, this new field eventually reaches another gate, the passing thro’ of which brings you to an area with a lovely bending road. Dropping down into the neat valley & rising again brings you to yet another gate, & then into the wastelands that mark the edge of the universe that is the Snawden-Danskine section of East Lothian.

Lammer Law holds a fascinating history, & this is a great view ofjust how regally its towers over the county. In an earlier post I showed how Lammer Law was originally known as Mount Badon, the site of King Arthur’s most famous battle. Just for fun I’ll give all the evidence again.

From that time, the {Britons} were sometimes victorious, sometimes the {Saxons}… This continued up to the year of the siege of Badon Hill (obsessionis Badonici montis), and of almost the last great slaughter inflicted upon the rascally crew. Gildas

516: The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors. Annales Cambraie

The twelfth was a most severe contest, when Arthur penetrated to the hill of Badon in which there fell in one day 960 men from one charge by Arthur NEN


  • On the lower slopes of Lammer Law there are three hillforts; The Witches Knowe, Kidlaw & The Castles. Flowing around the latter goes the Dambadam Burn, which transchispers into Dun Badon, & also the ‘the siege of Mount Badamor’ variant of the battle’s name as given by the medieval Scottish chronicler, John of Fordun. This system of defences guarding Lammer Law comes alive in the mind when reading the phrase, ‘Arthur penetrated to the hill of Badon.’
  • From Badon & the antique interchangeability between the D & TH sounds, we come Bothan. This is the ancient name of the parish of Yester, which the Lammer Law forms a part. In the Transactions of the Antiquarian & Field Naturalists’ Society (1963/v.IX), James Bulloch writes of Yester church’s chispering dedication to Saint Bathan;

In the course of the centuries this church acquired a spurious dedication because of the similarity of its name to St. Bathans on the southern slope of the Lammermuirs. Even in the late Middle Ages the name Bothans became transformed into St Bothans but there is clear evidence that the original dedication was to Saint Cuthbert. It is told in the Lanercost Chronicle that in 1282 the woodwork of the choir of the church of Bothans in Lothian was being carved at the expense of the rector, ‘in honour of Saint Cuthbert, whose church it is.’

  • From Bothon/Bodon we come to Boderia (also Bodotria), which is the name given by Ptolemy for the Forth estuary. With Lammer Law being the largest ‘mountain’ in East Lothian, & that it overlooks the Forth, then it should well have been called Mount Boderia in the 2nd century AD, transchispering to Badon by the Arthurian era. Also relevant is the name ‘Mur nGuidan’ given to the Forth by the ‘Irish Tractate on the Mothers of Saints.’ So just as the Gododdin derided from an earlier Bodotria, so the name Guidan would have evolved out of Buidan.
  • The Annales Cambraie mention a second battle of Badon being fought in 665. According to the Annales of Ulster, in 664 there was fought, ‘The battle of Luith Feirn i.e. in Fortrenn.’ Luith is clearly Lothian (‘feirn’ means land), while Fortenn (sometimes Fortriu) is essentially the Pictish world south of the Great Glen including the breadbasket plains that stretch up the east coast to Moray. The Roman writer, Ammianus Marcellinus, describes, ‘the Picts, divided into two tribes, called Dicalydones and Verturiones,’ from which passage we see the foundation of Fortrui in Verturiones. Fortrenn, naturally, is the etymylogical root of Forth.

A couple of hundred meters down the track you reach the Duns-Gifford road, which you take for a wee while to the left. After about 100 meters a track veers off the road to the right & heads towards a hengelike sheep-circle thing, & a ruined hut. Here the path is really well made, & you must follow it for almost a mile.

Left = Duns, Right = Gifford

This is a great stretch, with the Lammermuir ridge & Newlands Hill rising steeply to the left, & the plains of East Lothian gallumphing away to the right. There are also birds of prey above – one of them was eyeing up Daisy, hovering only 10 meters or so above her head – probably out of curiosity more than wanting to snatch her, but it was a scary moment!

In the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for 1959-60, Angus Graham talks with some erudition about his field-work upon the ancient tracks which postively riddle the area. With that being the season of Burnley FC’s last title win, it’s a perfect opportunity to slip in a video about a remarkable title win which saw Burnley hitting the top of the table for the first time in the final match of the season, winning away at Man City. Indeed, this part of East Lothian should be twinned with the heathery Pennine moors to the east of Burnley which form the border of Lancashire & Yorkshire.

At Darned House (on the older maps this name is attached to a house, now ruined, near the head of the Papana Water) the highway comes down to an area of flattish or gently sloping ground, bounded on the north-west by Snawdon Hill and the rise topped by Black Castle fort, and on the south-east by the steep face of Newlands Hill. In the northern part of this area rise two small tributaries of the Papana Water, the main stream of which crosses its north-eastern end; its centre is traversed by the head of the Danskine Burn, which rises in two steep scars on Newlands Hill; and at its south-western end are the headwaters of the Newlands Burn, also fed from Newlands Hill. This ground carries a bewildering number of old tracks, and they are the more difficult to trace out as much as the surface is cloaked in moss or broken up by drains…

Two well-marked hollow tracks which descend from the cultivated fields east-south-east of Black Castle, and cross a gully which rises from Green Castle, some 500 yards distant. On the opposite side of the gully these tracks appear to have found their way to the face of Newlands Hill and joined the assemblage there, as one of the tracks can be seen continuing in that alignment. A number of hollow tracks emerging from the headwater streamlets of the Newlands Burn where these coalesce at Green Castle.

After passing a quarry on the left, the path eventually comes to another ruined hut, & it is at a gate there that you enter a rough field, following a path to another gate. Once through or over this, turn sharp right & a m for Green Castle directly ahead. This is a really cool spot & where we’ll be leaving the walk for now. The Gododdin Heritage Trail continues towards Gifford from this point, but it is also possible to head back to White Castle on a loop, via the Tweed-dale Fisheries, even stopping in the cafe there for a refuel  – but please make sure you don’t disturb the fishermen & get caught in  barb’d cast!

Turn right after the gate

Green Castle up ahead

The summit of Green Castle

A toilet & a cafe only a stone’s throw away

On Hacking out the Gododdin Trail

O for a walk along a printed line!
Remove the vagueries of random paths,
For when we from the city disincline,
Soul-peace in reach away from public baths!

There’s so much pleasure in a trodden route
That stays unhidden in the memory
Of generations, perrennial fruit
Ripens afresh, ever-exemplary.

With each footstep a sort of hypnosis
Descends like manna on the pacing host
That enters into cute symbiosis
With nature, rills & forest, hills & coast,

And history! The ghosts go with us too,
Enacting deeds, phantasma in the dew.

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2 thoughts on “The Gododdin Heritage Trail: White Castle to Green Castle”

  1. Amazing work. And even a little bit of footie history!

    We missed you at our party on the 9th. Hope to catch up soon.

    My regards, George

    *George Mackintosh*

    PO Box Papple, East Lothian, EH41 4QD +44 (0)7785 924 824

    On Sat, Nov 23, 2019 at 10:40 AM Walking East Lothian wrote:

    > yodamo posted: “Phew, getting closer, just this & two more sections to go! > My year-long dalliance with the Gododdin has been fruitful on many levels, > the chief of which has been the hacking out of a workable causeway throu’ > thro Scotland’s supremely engardened county” >


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