Category Archives: 2019

The Gododdin Heritage Trail: The Lennoxlove Loop & Back to Haddington


So here we are at last, the final leg of the circuit of the Gododdin Heritage Trail. Its been quite the thirteen months, reigniting my interest in the Gododdin, then slowly applying it to a golden circle of pathways around the heart of the county.



We were last at the edge of the Colstoun Estate, ready to turn left along the tarmac road. This takes you by a the main gates to Colstoun on the left & alonside a tall wall on the right, beyond which lies the Lennoxlove Estate. After a hundred more metres or so, at the edge of the Lennoxlove woodland, a road splits off to the right in the direction of some cottages. Take this.

Beyond the cottages the road drives forward towards Lennoxlove House. About half way there you come to a bridge, where if you peel off to the right you begin what I have called the Lennoxlove Loop, which I’ll detail more at the end of this post.

Turn right at the bridge for the Lennoxlove Loop

Carrying on along the Heritage Trail, you will eventually reach the grounds of Lennoxlove House, keeping left of it until you come to a fork in the road. Turn left at this point.

But before you do, its nice to bask in the open glory of magnificence-clothed  Lennoxlove, communing with the ghosts who flitted down from the abandon’d their 15th century tower, to whisper in my ear of  the past (via wikipedia). Lennoxlove House is built around the original 15th century tower house of ‘Lethington,’ which the estate was once call’d. It is now the seat of the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, but were in the hands of the Mailtand family for many centuries after its acquisition by Robert Maitland of Thirlestane in 1345. Among his descendents is a quality poet, Richard Maitland (1496–1586),  quite unknown these days, but positively worth transliterating out of Old Scots into modern English.

After his father had died at Flodden, the young Richard made the fateful decision to obtain a formal education and attend university in Paris. This set him up for a career in the Law, & he would become both a councillor for Mary, Queen of Scots & one of the top judges in Scotland as a Lord of the Privy Seal. As a poet, like all the best bards he went blind, but unfortunately I couldn’t actually find any of his poetry online. This forced me to pop up to the Rare Books section of the National Library in Edinburgh for a wee peruse. It turns out the guy was really, really good – his set pieces are intense with canny observation & wordplay. I find some of the old makar stuff of say, Dunbar &  Henryson, a little too formulaic, too courtly – but Maitland has a genuine & funky poetic voice.

The Rare Books room in the NLS

After the Maitlands, the house passed through several hands before finally ending up in the possession of the Dukes of Hamilton.  The 14th Duke bought it in 1946, & not long after clositer’d the fascinating relics of his bizarre brush with Rudolf Hess,  the Reich number 2 & the guy who transcribed Mein Kampf while Hitler dictated it during the fledgeling Fuhrer’s imprisonment at Landsberg prison in 1924.  Almost twenty years later,  their worldscape was very different, embroiled in a fatal war which would eventually kill 55 million people  including Hitler himself.

Perhaps envisioning all this, Hess flew on his own to Britain on May 10, 1941,  in a desperate attempt to broker a peace between Britain & Nazi Germany. He was heading for the Duke of Hamilton, & crash-landing in a field south of Glasgow was picked up by a pitchfork wielding farmer, & then the army.  Hitler was furious, Churchill simply ignored him, & Hess went on to lead a solitary life as the only prisoner at Spandau Prison in Berlin until his death in 1987, more than four decades after his ill-fated flying mission. The relics at Lennoxlove include the map & compass found in Hess’s possession & a bit of fuselage from the plane.

Back on the Heritage Trail, the road runs through the estate, passing cottages, farm buildings & really cool petrol thingy, before reaching the main road to Haddington.

Crossing the road brings you to a pleasant roadside path. Turn left here BUT, if you want to check out the site of Gilbert Burns’ cottage – that is to say Rabbie Burns’ brother – if you turn left & bob along a couple of hundred metres you’ll see some interesting memorial stuff. The following is an extract from a walk that never made it to the final W.E.L….

Gilbert Burns Country

The walk begins in a wee carpark off the 6137 (between Haddington & Bolton), in the vicinity of the long-swept away cottages in which members of Rabbie Burns’ close family were to spend the closing decades of their lives.

A few years after Rab’s death in Dumfries, his mother Agnes, his brother Gilbert, & his sister Isabella, along with multiple spouses & bairns & dogs & stuff, found themselves as the tenants of ‘Grants Braes,‘ with Gilbert running the Lennoxlove farms. Grants Braes stood roughly on the site where the carpark is today, & one may still sense their ghosts huddled around a fiery phantasma, reciting Rabbie’s poetry in the earliest, perhaps purest, versions of the Burns Supper.

After spending a  few years in Scotland, by 2009 I had finally managed to penetrate Rabbie’s thick dialect & realised just how good a poet he was. Inspired to eulogize somewhat, I created some stanzas in imitation of his standard hubbie during the year of the Homecoming celebration (2009). There’s a few in particular that would shine a light onto the farming life experienced by the Burns family.

Of poesy & her best of men
I sing, a name that maist must ken,
Its notes still sound through street & glen,
From fame’s flaught horn;
What years are flown, twelve score & ten,
Since Burns was born.

His father toiled thro’ snow & sun,
Crafting an marvellous garden,
Grafting for friendly gentlemen,
Of small estate,
Whose first born, Rab, tho’ poor man’s son,
Was rich in fate.

The home of young Rabbie, Ayrshire

They settl’d by the gentle Doon,
With kettle-happy Granma’ Broun,
Who whistl’d muckle lip-suck’d tune
While cooking neeps,
Or mutter’d tayles neath bright’ning moon
To frighten sleeps.

He wove his rhymes through thankless work,
Or blanking out the Sunday kirk,
Or in romantic woodland walk
By Aire & Doon;
His style; fourth verse, fourth prose, fourth talk,
Fourth lover’s croon.

So onto the walk. You park the car directly before a monument to the Gilbert Burns-East Lothian connection, behind which you access a woodland trail. Taking the slope down to the right, me & Daisy found ourselves in a leafless wood, coloured only by shocks of bright yellow daffodillies.

The well which nourished the Burns family

After a short while we came to a well, the same one used by Burns’ mother, drawn by the very hands that fed the great poet. After a moments delicate musing, we carried along the undulating path, which eventually reached the main road.

Back on the Heritage Trail, the path eventually bears left at a signpost, in the direction of the River Tyne. Me & Daisy had trodden the very same path early March 2018, in much snowier conditions.

On reaching the bridge, turn left then rigth & head towards the Aubigny Leisure Centre. Across the road from it is the entrance to the very fine Neilson Park.

George Neilson was a Haddington shopkeeper. He died in 1897 and left a sum of money for public beneficence. His trustees purchased an area of ground known as Mylne’s Park for a public park and recreation ground: it was in use by 1910.

Nielson Park Road

From the park, one enters Nielson Park Road & its award winning toilet – then you are the heart of Haddington & the circle is finally complete! For the rest of 2020 me & Daisy will be exploring other parts of this fabulous county – so thanks for your patience & tune in soon.

Daisy’s Lunch
Human Lunchtime in Haddington


At the bridge, on looking east there appears a great surge of woodland, into which the walker must pass via a track that appears on the left, just as you cross over an old bridge above the Colstoun Water. This path leads you pleasantly towards a wee bamboo plantation situated beside a zipline & a derelict bridge, the accoutrements of a Scottish Environmental Protection Agency unit.

Turn left here after the bridge

Carrying on, to the left of the path are some curious topographical depressions , while everywhere is blankets in leaves, creating a chip-board effect underfoot. Turning right at the troll tree, & keeping an old wall to one’s right the path continues with a veer to the left into spiky dense greenerie. As you head towards a gate in the distance, eventually a path breaks off to the right, which should be taken.

The Troll Tree

The path is half way along here on the right
The new path

Our new path led us thro’ a gorse tunnel of sorts to a tarmac road. Following this to the left leads to a bigger road’s T-junction, which we took to the right. A hundred meters later we came to a lodge house & the entrance to the Colstoun Estate. Flush with wild garlic & with the moles building a metropolis, its a wild corner of Colstoun, not quite as primly kept as the rest of the estate across the river..  You glimpse it’s manicured acreage thro’ the trees; the agricultural wind-tunnel thingy, the glamorous old house, but for me & Daisy we were heading directly  to the far right corner of the woods

Back at the road from whence one came

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The Gododdin Heritage Trail: Green Castle to Gifford

This next leg of the Gododdin Heritage Trail sees us heading downslope in the direction of Haddington, in order to close the circuit. As one descends, the views are sent divinely searing into the distance & the Pentlands, Fife, Edinburgh, etc. This is the chief reason that it’s better to do the walk clockwise I feel.

Climb over the fence in the centre of the image

We were last at Green Castle, popping into the café at Tweeddale Millennium fisheries for a pee & a brew. To continue the Trail find the far western corner of the westermost of the three fishing lochs. You should then find yourself at a grassy track leading to a gate. Head this way.




Over the gate, if you like to explore (outwith shooting season), a gate on the right leads to the excellent remains of Black Castle, which I looked at last April. This fort is quite large – bigger than White & Green Castles – & I believe it was the main settlement of a certain Serguan, from which we get Danskine after the ‘Dun’ of Serguan. This guy’s name does not appear in Y Gododdin, but in the Harleian genealogies, & specifically the Welsh kingdom of Ceredigion, we may observe;

Serguan Serguil son of Iusay son of Ceretic son of Cuneda

Cunedda was famous for leaving Lothian (Manau Gododdin) as given in the following passage in The Historia Brittonum of Nennius as .

Maelgwn, the great king, was reigning among the Britons in the region of Gwynedd, for his ancestor, Cunedag, with his sons, whose number was eight, had come previously from the northern part, that is from the region which is called Manaw Gododdin, one hundred and forty-six years before Maelgwn reigned. And with great slaughter they drove out from those regions the Scotti who never returned again to inhabit them.

Cunedda, you’d be interested to hear, was the grandfather of King Arthur. We begin with the eevidence for the Pictish matrilineal succession as stated by Bede, who tells us;

Now the Picts had no wives, and asked them of the Scots; who would not consent to grant them upon any other terms, than that when any difficulty should arise, they should choose a king from the female royal race rather than from the male: which custom, as is well known, has been observed among the Picts to this day.

Now here’s the Pictish King List, where Cunedda appears as Canutulahina, & Arthur appears as Garthnach.

Wradech uecla
Talorc son of Achivir
Drust son of Erp
Talorc son of Aniel
Necton morbet son of Erip
Drest Gurthinmoch
Galanan erilich
Drest son of Gygurnus
Drest son of Uudrost
Garthnach son of Gygurnus

According to the Jesus College genealogies, Cunedda Wledig had two daughters, Tegid and Gwen. The latter then marries a certain Amlawdd Wledig, so the matrinlineal Pictish royal line should flow through their children. Another genealogy in Peniarth MS 177 shows their daughter to be a certain Eigr, otherwise known as Eigyr, Igraine or Ygerne. This woman, of course, is the father of King Arthur & appears in the Pictish king list as Gygurnus mother of Garthnach.

Cunedda Wledig / Canutalahina
Eigr / Gygurnus
Arthur / Garthnach

The only conclusion we can make now is that Cunedda was King Arthur’s great grandfather & that if Im correct about Danskine being the home of Serguan, then Arthur’s great uncle was an East Lothian boy!






Returning from that historical digression, if we continue along the track for a very pleasant half a mile, you eventually come to a wee mini-hamlet about Newlands Farm. Here turn left along the tarmac road.




After a bend the road opens out into a long straight, which you should follow to the end. At this point Lammer Law rises up in the distance beyond gorgeously opening fields. Here, turn sharp right into the field & head along the field-fringe towards the trees in the far distance. These fine specimens belong to Yester Estate, at the other side of which lies the village of Gifford.







Once you reach the treeline you will see a broken wall, which you should pass through & into the splendid forest of Yester. The rough idea is to step through the wild & feral woods along a fading trail about 20 metres parallel to the wall until you reach the corner of an old bird pen.






Carrying on in the same direction as before, with the fence hard on your right, you will come to the next corner. Here again carry on & you will eventually reach a main path.




We’ve traversed this very ground before on the search for the Goblin Ha.‘ Today we’re turning right, descending down the ridiculously muddy path & over the rickety bridge. Reaching the main Yester path, turn left & imagine Daniel Defohere on his Grand Tour of Great Britain, who recorded his visit with the following ;

Here we turn’d out of the way to see the Marquess of Tweedal’s fine park, and which is, indeed, the main thing, his fine planting at Yester, or, as Antiquity calls it, Zester;

The old Earl of Tweedale, who was a great favourite of King Charles II. tho’ not much concern’d in politic affairs, at least, not in England, yet took in from the king the love of managing what we call forest trees, and making fine vistas and avenues: The very first year after the Restoration the king laid out, with his own hand, the planting of Greenwich and St. James’s parks, and several others, and the said earl had seen them, and was extremely delighted with the method.

This occasion’d his lordship, as soon as he went down into Scotland, to lay out the plan and design of all those noble walks and woods of trees, or, as it might be call’d, forests of trees, which he afterwards saw planted, and of which a gentleman, whose judgment I cannot doubt, told me, that if ever those trees came to be worth but six pence a tree, they would be of more value than the fee simple of that estate; not meaning by that estate the land they grow on, but the whole paternal estate of the family: Nor is it unlikely, if it be true, that his lordship, and his immediate successor, planted above 6,000 acres of land all full of firr-trees; and that, where-ever it was found that any tree fail’d, they were constantly renew’d the next year.








What follows now is an extremely pleasant amble through Yester Estate. First up is a series of bridges & real-life  moving water pastoral paintings on ether side of them. Quite wonderful! Then the path rises to the right somewhat & sends you cruising through splendid avenues of forestry until you reach something of a path T-Junction on the very edges of Gifford. Here turn left & drop down towards a gate which takes you into the serene streets of Gifford proper.













The deer-fence gates




Turn left here


The right path leads to Gifford

After about 40 metres theres a ginnel (thats a Lancashire word_ to the left which leads you into the magnificent greenerie of Gifford’s public park. This is lined on your right by a Portmeirion style array procession of houses. In the 17th century a large estate and farming community flourished after the first Marquess of Tweeddale had enclosed the Yester Estate with a 7 mile wall and laid out a park within it. He demolished the old settlement of Bothans which lay near his house, and the village grew outside the gates to accommodate estate workers.

For those traversing the Trail Gifford is an amazing port of call. There’s two hotels, a brilliant uberfriendly newsagent, a co-op, a deli AND a cafe. I know I said earlier that its best to go clockwise, but anticlockwise works as well & Gifford could work a bit like base camp for Everest.

It is also possible to get to Gifford by bus from Haddington & Pencaitland – its a circular route. So hypethetically teh pedestrian citydweller can catch a bus to either East Linton or Gifford in the morning,  then hike up into the hills to the other village & catch the bus home!

My sketch of Gifford church

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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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The Gododdin Heritage Trail: Nunraw to Whitecastle

In the past couple of weeks Autumn has roar’d in all its rainbow glory, then shook its head in mad defiance at the wild weather systems resulting in widespread leaf-fall across the county. O, & Daisy had her second birthday! Walking East Lothian is, on one level, the story of Daisy’s walks… arguably the luckiest dog in the county. I started doing them when she was old enough to go out after her injections, a veritable Snowy of companionship & enthusiasm. Happy Birthday Daisy!

We last left the Gododdin Heritage Trail at the gorgeous Nunraw Falls, so where next? At this point you would have two choices. The first is to head south through the woods of Nunraw, where we’re gonna enjoy a really quality adventurous walk through varying terrain up to the gloriously preserved & immensely evocative White Castle. I will describe this as ROUTE A.

The other course, ROUTE B, is to meander through Nunraw Estate to the Sancta Maria Abbey, being fully aware of the Access Code Scotland as you do so – ie there’s no popping up to the Big House anymore, saying I’d love to have a look at the medieval roof please. The previous owners, the Cistercian monks, accepted all-comers, but its in private hands these days, so its only the grounds where the Scottish public has free access. The fields are also accessible as long as you stick to the edges, keep dogs on leads & don’t disturb the cows – who are pretty docile at Nunraw, to be honest, quite a divine bunch still.


We have now arrived at what I feel is the principle core philosophy behind the Gododdin Heritage Trail. Across Britain there are a number of beautiful but long-winded country walks, such as the Southern Upland & the Pennine Ways. Most folk don’t have the time or inclination to decamp from modernity’s comforts & rough it for a week or two of hiking. One or two days, however, & yeah, they’re up for it, especially if they can get back to feed the cats! My Heritage Trail will cater for those wanting the hiking experience in miniature. You can drive to Gifford, East Linton, Papple, Nunraw, Haddington, wherever, & get yourself up to this section of the Trail, where natural beauty, healthy hiking & the serenity of solitude intermingle in a singular soul-warming session. You could take one, two, or even three days traversing the ground – its open to many variations – but I am sure it will be to the immense benefit of the individual Trailer’s well-being, & a decidedly positive boon to the local economy.

From the Falls, return to the rickety ‘Laird’s Bridge,’ at which point you must take the right bank of the burn & head east up the slope. You will found yourself in a forested world of long untread paths; sometimes visible, sometimes overgrown with fern. The general idea is to head towards the wall & enter the field beyond, where heading right along the line of the wall the going is far superior to hacking your way through the forest – altho’ that method can be much fun, Daisy loves it.

A good place to hop over into the field

Through these gates please (shut them behind you if you don’t hop over)

Through the gate & head up & left towards the deer fence

Eventually one comes to an open gate, which is tied to the wall-area by rope. At this point look up & to the left & you will see a fence which you should head towards up the steep slope. At the top you will see that the fences are actually the extremities of deer pens. At the corner of the fences turn right & head towards the treeline. At some point you’ll have to hop over a fence, roundabout the place where Routes A&B intersect. It is now time to enter a lovely stretch of forestry, which very occasionally is being worked, so be aware of that & don’t get under anyone’s feet when you’re there.

Hop over the fence here

There’s a track under the fern somewhere

Keeping Thorter’s Reservoir to your right thro’ the trees, you will reach a fine track which will then take you to a gate & thus the spacious and panoramic glory of the Lammermuirs. Yes, we’ve finally made it! From East Linton, lets say, where we hopped off the bus from Edinburgh, lets say, we’ve been on a lovely walk, seen some jolly cool things & filled our lungs & spirits with nature, with barely inch of tarmac stepped upon. And now, before us, spreads the  untameable splendour of East Lothian’s mountains like a phalanx of medieval men-at-arms.

Turn right

Thro the gates, turn right & hop over another gate

Passing through the gate,  turn sharp right & head over another gate, then veer up & to the left. At some point we have to cross the Thorter Burn, which hews its way thro’ a deep-gouged ravine. Keeping the Thorter to one’s right, the views are amazing & the mental ability to leap back 20 centuries to the age of the Gododdin & imagine yourself as one of the the tribe is particularly good fun.

Reaching the head of the Burn
Migrating Geese

What it looks like in the valley (we explored it & changed our minds – too boggy)

As you head south, you will eventually be able to make out the sleek curvatures of Whitecastle Fort, still defending the pass from Saxon nonsense & busybodying. You will soon enough come to the ideal crossing point. A clutch of gorse marks its beginning, which you enter via paths & meander down to the burn at the best & easiest place to cross. Over the Burn, & a fence  & up a slope, you are soon back on the tops, ticking off the final steps to the fort. Towards the finale a path bleeds out of the turf, assisting the final steep climb to Whitecastle & its epic views. Just beyond the fort, by the way, is a wee car-park, which is a perfect staging post for folk wanting to do only a small portion of the Trail.

The clutch of gorse – there is a cool path thro it, or just go around it to its left

Looking down on the crossing point
The crossing point
Daisy leaping over the Thorter Burn

Lookin back along the Thorter Burn
Whitecastle is on the right

The view north over the still fertile plains of the Gododdin
Some of the old fortifications – the road to Whiteadder is in the top right corner

The Carpark


Back at Nunraw Falls, return the way we came in the previous post a little while & back over the fence gate into the field with the adorable monkey puzzle trees. Turn sharp left here & keep the fence to your left as you climb a wee slope. Following the line of the fence you will eventually see Nunraw Tower & then come to a wonderful spot of ground that reminds me of the Italy-Slovenia-Croatia land border where there’s loads of different rules & languages within meters of each other. The photograph shows how within centimetres of each other, you are either in Scottish countryside, where only pooping dogs are frowned on (& disco-raves), private gardens & agricultural terrain opened to the Scottish public by its Access Code as long as certain tenets are adhered too.

Looking at the access point to the monkeypuzzle field – centre right. Then head towards where the photo is taken from

The handsome, red sandstone building the baronial style that is Nunraw is largely a Victorian mansion incorporating a 15th century tower house with its six foot thick walls rising four floors to a parapet carried on chequered corbelling. In the 16th century Nunraw is described as the ‘place and fortalice’ which the nuns of Haddington were obliged, by royal charter, to “fortify the nunnery and have guns aye loaded to shoot at our aulden enemies of England.” The interior has a painted ceiling executed in tempera which has been dated to 1461, emblazoned with the arms of medieval European kings. Originally it measured 30 feet by 18 feet and was composed of 14 strong oaken joists supporting long panels on which the colours had been laid. The ceiling today is somewhat smaller, 20 feet by 17 feet 6 inches, but two other sections are preserved in the National Museum of Antiquities.

Catholic Hist Gazelle 08.jpg

In each panel the prominent feature is the title and armorial bearings of monarchs who flourished in medieval days. The shields give the arms of the kings of Scotland and England, the kings of France, Arragon and the king of Sicily & others. There are two shields to each panel, the remaining space being filled in by representations of birds, beasts and allegorical figures. In the centre of the ceiling, the words “Gratus Esto”are printed and the monogram “P.C.H.” Experts are of the opinion that these letters refer to Patrick Hepburn and Helen Cockburn, his wife, who were owners of Nunraw from 1595 to 1617. Mr. M. R. Apted, M.A., Her Majesty’s Inspector of Ancient Monuments, in a recent article (1958) on “painted Ceilings in Scotland,” is satisfied that “the date of the Nunraw ceiling can be narrowed down to the years following the Union of the Crowns, since one of the emblems depicts the lion and the unicorn seated on either side of the thistle and since the arms of the King of England, although defaced, can be seen to have been quartered with the tressured lion rampant of the Scottish Royal arms.” I have seen ceiling myself, about 2009 I think it was,  a catalystic moment for the following sonnet.


Go thee to Garvald, go up to Nunraw
Summit of Cistercian activty
Gain’d from the Hayes of Hailes & Traprain Law
& many a Ravenswood dynasty.
Dally, then pass thro the Fortatrice door
Friends enter a centre of sanctity
So go thee to Garvald, seek out Nunraw
Summit of Cistercian acticity

As chapel-roof’d cherubim spread their wings
Thro the heraldrics of Christian kings
Far from the golden glow of Gallilee
Fathers offer coffee & compassion
To those souls tired of vices & fashion
Cistercian essence of god’s destiny.

So a Leither has moved into Nunraw – well kind of, the property was bought as something of  a holiday home by Linda Leith, who lives and works in North Carolina through her membership of an epic automobile-selling dynasty.  Her acquisition of Nunraw is a fascinating slice of religious real estate.

The Nunraw Doocot

Nunraw Tower was most recently used as a guesthouse by the Cistercian order of monks.  In 1945, the previous owner, Marcus Spurway, was willing to sell the old house and the surrounding farmland. His Grace the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, knowing that Dom Camillus Claffey of the Cistercian order, the Abbot of Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, in Ireland, was seeking a suitable site for an abbey, informed him of several properties then for sale. The second one inspected was Nunraw, &  on February 2nd 1946, the first six monks arrived. It is apt that an Order moved in, for the first records in the annals of Nunraw is when it came to the Cistercian Nuns of Haddington. A convent had been founded by the Countess Ada, mother of two Scottish kings, sometime between 1152 and 1158.

By the Tweenies, with repairs starting to mount up, & a shiny new abbey a half mile away built between 1952 & 1969, it was time to sell up. In steps Leith, paying £2 million in 2014 for the Abbey & grounds, & also ready to invest in full restoration of the tower and its cottages, as well as restoration of the property’ 19th-century glass house & its 16th-century beehive dovecot with its 450 nests & string courses which prevented rats climbing up and inside.

Of all the owners of Nunraw, the coolest geezer has to be Robert Hay, a gentleman antiquary whose adventures in Egyptology lasted eight years & produced some of the most wonderful early drawings of the discipline. Hay first visited Egypt in 1824, the same year that Lord Byron died at Missolonghi in Greece. He would spend more than eight years recording the ancient temples and tombs along the Nile, not merely with sketches and brief descriptions, as earlier travellers had done, but completely, with architectural plans and detailed copies of the murals and inscriptions.

“I am obliged to strip to my drawers and then I am perspiring as much as in a Turkish bath which is no agreeable thing for drawing,” wrote Hay wrote in his journal.  A man of some wealth, he had engaged more than half a dozen qualified artists and architects to do the copy work, which he checked closely for accuracy, while he reserved his own talents for the panoramic views. These provide reliable documentation of the small villages that bordered the Nile almost 200 years ago, and his artists’ evocative drawings of Islamic monuments, many of them no longer standing, show them as they looked in the 19th century, not yet hemmed in by the modern buildings of Cairo.

Hay married a Cretan girl – Kalitza Psaraki, the daughter of the chief magistrate of Apodhulo, Crete – who he rescued from a slave market in Alexandria. Like many of her compatriots, Kalitza had been captured by the Turks during the Greek war of independence (1821-1829) and transported to Egypt. Alarmed by their plight, Hay ransomed Kalitza and several other young women, and went on to pay for their education at an English school.  “I should counsel all travellers never to travel with any other companion than a wife,” wrote Hay in September 1829, before bringing her back to Nunraw for a long, happy, child-swelling marriage.

Unfortunately, the life of an East Lothian gentleman sucked the adventurer out of Hay, who remarked of the circumstance, ‘there is no great wonder, living as I do in the most unhealthsome atmosphere of the Lammermoor Hills!—my head being now only full of Hunting, Fencing, Draining, etc etc. We are all the creatures of habit: and if we happen to fall into bad company, we are too apt to get out of the good track and follow the bad! That is my case; no Egyptians or Syro-Egyptians live about the Lammermoors, so that my spirit is dried up within me!—and I go the way of all flesh, & do just as others do about me!’

Many of Hay’s copious manuscripts are held today in the British Library, and many of his plaster casts in the British Museum, though some objects were sold to a Boston banker and collector whose son later bequeathed them to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where they formed the basis of that museum’s Egyptological collection. In 2001 archaeologist Caroline Simpson asked Dr. Michelle Brown, curator of manuscripts at the British Library, whether the library could contribute a work by Hay to an exhibition recreating the history of the people of Qurna. The library responded by donating what now serves as the exhibition’s centerpiece: full-size reproductions of two of Hay’s largest panoramas, each extending over seven folio pages and some three meters (10′) in length. The panoramas open a window on the daily life of 19th-century Qurna, showing the tomb dwellings of the Qurnawi people, the Theban hills, ruins of tombs and temples, and the villagers going about their daily tasks.

After admiring the history of Nunraw Tower, its now time to get out over the field, either hopping over the fence at the iron gates, or simply heading west a hundred meters to the normal field-gates, depending on the presence of cattle. We are now in the grounds & by turning left along a fine road, one comes to a track through the woods. Take this & plunge into the trees, passing a cool pond & eventually coming to a hole in the wall – a clear shortcut created by the monks since the building of their new abbey.

A Meeting of Borders

Take this track

“Let all guests be received like Christ himself, for He will say I was a stranger & you took me in,” said Saint Benedict, one of the initiators of the monastic life, at Monte Cassino in Italy during the 6th century.  In the 21st Century,  at the new Sancta Maria Abbey, there are large, south-facing several bedrooms en suite, reasonably priced, with disabled access, & full board refectory fare. The Abbey also has a teashop, which will next year be moving into a fabulous soon to be built frontage for the abbey. For Trailers of the future, this is an amazing oasis of duvets & brews before setting off on their hikes into the hills.

The temporary teashop

Nunraw Abbey is made of stone quarried from “Rattlebags” near Dirleton. Work began on the Abbey in 1952, & on the 22nd August, 1954 the Archbishop laid the Foundation Stone of the Abbey in presence of over 13,000 people from all over the country, happy to be there despite rain and mist and some women losing high heels in the mud. 65 years later the head honcho is Father Mark, a very cool chap indeed.  He is the leader, I guess, of a group of vegetarian gentlemen who rise at 3.15 am & pray up til 7.30 AM – the best time, they say, for during early hours the mind is quiet & open.

The monastic life is quintessentially a mix of espirit de corps & devotion to God. The Cistercians in particular have always opened their doors to anyone, & have provided many a wounded soul sanctuary from their sufferings due to the stresses of the modern world. “Let people be themselves,” says Father Mark, who showed me around the precincts with a key card, which completely tickled me & showed how the Cistercians in particular are keeping up with the churning timewheels of modernity! The only drawback is that dogs aren’t allowed in, & I know why. Watching Father Mark’s attempts to swat away Daisy’s overenthusiastic muddy paws from his immaculately white gown was pretty funny (sorry father).

On leaving the Abbey after your cup of tea or whatever, there are two ways to continue the walk. The first is to loop round to the right along the road a little while, then enter a farm area. Its road leads you back into the Nunraw Grounds to a place called the Avenue. Instead of following the tarmac as it curves to one’s left, there’s a muddier track to the right which will eventually lead us to the ROUTE A intersection. This involves a brilliant woodland path overlooking the Thorter gorge. Eventually you take a rough course downslope to the Burn itself, & reach a bridge in much better condition than the Laird’s Bridge.

Crossing the bridge, veer right a little & head towards a wall, at which point you will enter the forest of ROUTE A. Once through the wall, turn sharp right & head to a gate, over which you will enter the field with the deer fence. There’s no need to head to it, just return right & aim for the trees & our inevitable confluence with ROUTE A.

Entering the farm on the left
Entering the grounds of Nunraw Tower
… & definitely no disco-raves
Continue straight at the road-bend along a track
Over the gates, turn right

At this point take the loose path & down to the left

On entering the field you will walk up hill along the line of the trees to meet the Nun’s Walk route

OK, nearly there. A bit of a bumper edition, this one, but all bases need covering & I’m the only one hacking out a Trail at the moment, so its gotta be done. This final course is the easiest way to get from Sancta Maria to Whitecastle, whether on the tarmac or via the woodlands & verges by the roadside. Its a straight shot really, just a little uninteresting. If I were you I’d just get cracking on into the woodlands & then up onto the moors – that’s why we’re here, right!

The road to Whitecastle

Enter the woods in the centre of the picture

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The Gododdin Heritage Trail: Papple to Nunraw Falls

We last left the Gododdin HeritageTrail on a quiet road junction just to the south of Papple. Heading north along the tarmac, or the wide green verges, you soon come to a hillcrest, beyond which unfolds a splendid view of Arcady.  The Lammermuirs  crown the distance, while in the bottom foreground of this perfect scene stands Papple House & its gorgeous Steading, the latter of which is currently in a state of renovation.

George Mackintosh is already a legend in these parts. He had grown up on a farm near Inverness, which had a steading. Unfortunately, that particular steading is now a carpark, but when the Papple property came up for sale he determined on some sort of personal paean to his childhood & bought it in order to create a not-for-profit heritage centre dedicated to the history of agriculture .

Papple Steading was acquired for the purpose of saving and preserving a farm steading. Our agricultural built heritage is fast disappearing and there are no significant complete farm buildings of this grade in Scotland which are open to the public. Furthermore the stories of Scotland’s agricultural revolution and the “Improvement Movement” are not told with authority in any single place.
George Mackintosh

That by next year there will be accommodation & a cafe at the Steading, & that the Gododdin Heritage Trail goes directly by it, is surely no coincidence! My walkers are gonna need such establishments of succor, & it all seems meant to be! On hitting Papple, then, the will also discover nuggets of wisdom (kindly provided by Mr Mackintosh) such as;

1. Did you know that the world’s first threshing machine was built in East Linton by Andrew Meikle?
2. Did you know that the Laird of Whittingehame at the time of the building of Papple Steading was AJ Balfour, British Prime Minister 1902-1905?
3. Did you know that Lady Eve Balfour, niece of AJ and brought up on the estate, founded the Soil Association?
4. Did you know that during WWII Kindertransport children learned the business of farming on this estate?
5. Did you know that the world’s first Chair of Agriculture was created at the University of Edinburgh?

Visit the Papple website

Papple just oozes history. The antique records show how the Cistercian nuns of Haddington once owned lands in ‘Popil,’ while in the 19th century, self-made Madras-money-man James Balfour of Whittinghame Estate set in motion the building of the steading, completed on the watch of future prime minister, Arthur Balfour.

Daisy meeting the Mackintosh dogs

After a pleasant wee chat with George & his architects – they were all having lunch together when I popped mi ‘ead in – I left Papple in the direction of Garvald. Passing by the farmhouse you come to the road, where you must turn left. In October 2019 the walls to Papple/Whittinghame are being restored by a lovely local lad called Giles, who expects his work to be finished by next March.

Following the road down the hill leads you to a junction – the North Lodge of Whittinghame is on the left & the road to Haddington on the right. Ahead is the uphill road route we took today – turning right at the junction in the direction of Gifford first photo below).  It is also possible to enter the field across from North Lodge, head along the valley bottom to the gate, then take a sharp left up the hill.

The road to Gifford
Looking back through the field towards North Lodge

Both routes bring you to a gate, across the road from which is the entrance to some big fields. At this point commences a public pathway marked on all the maps, altho’ difficult to access in the summer – its been left to seed I think.

The entrance to the big field is on the left, Gifford is a few miles straight ahead

The public path clearly marked out

Heading south, the path brings you round the back of Garvald Grange & into a field where sheep are often found. At this point its a good idea to introduce a wee code of conduct for the rural portions of the Trail.

1: Close all gates behind you

2: Leave no litter

3: Dogs on leads around livestock & game-birds

4: Avoid certain paths during hunting season (mid October to January)

I put our guest dog for the walk on her lead for the short distance through the sheepfield to a gate on our right. Once through this I let her off again as we traversed a narrow slip of green between the Grange on our right & a wonderful pond on our left.

Garvald Grange was once part of the Whittinghame Estate – having bought Papple, Papple Westmains and Bogend from Lord Blantyre;  James Balfour then purchased Garvald Mains and Garvald Grange from the old family of Douglas of Garvald. By the middle of the twentieth century the Grange was in the hands of agricultural conservationist Ken Runcie, who ran the famous Rosslyn pony stud, here with his wife, Margaret.

With the Runcies heading into retirement, into the Grange stepped the Strakers – Hugo & Caroline – who went to work planting flowers & trees like crazy. These attracted bees, who are well into the tiny white flowers of the Eucalyptus gunnii, planted by beekeeping Hugo Straker many years ago. When the Strakers bought the mid-19th-century sandstone farmhouse and 35 acres in 1991, there was little on the land except grazing for the Welsh Mountain ponies bred by the Runcies.

There was a cherry tree, a walnut and a few big mature oaks, sycamores and elms, but everything else we’ve planted,’ says Caroline. Initially, with three small daughters to look after, she found the exposed location a trial. ‘I would take the children out in the morning and they were almost blown away. I can remember saying to Hugo “That’s it. I’m going to stay here for 10 years, but, after that, we’re moving”. But, of course, you create a landscape, then you get accustomed to it and then you begin to like it.’

At the end of  the wee green belt you meander through gates & a farm track to the Garvald road, where one should turn left.  At the bottom of the road sits the ‘Hidden Village,’  nestling in serendipitous & serpentine glory in the valley of the Papana Water, & built almost entirely from bright reddish stone hacked out of the nearby Rattlebags quarry.  For Trailers, there are public toilets. car parking, & even the tasty fare & friendly vibes of the  Garvald Inn.

Leaving Garvald Grange

Trail to the left, pub to the right
The Garvald Inn

The name Garvald was first used at what is now Garvald Mains farm – about a mile west from the village along the Papana.  Garvald village was actually called Garvald Kirk in John Adair’s map of 1692. That there is an amazingly well preserved hill-fort at Garvald Mains leads to my translation of Y Gododdin, which contains the name, I believe, of the man after whom Garvald is truly named – Gwrvelling.

No shield unwielded in that spear-flung field
They met war-waging equals, eye for eye
In gory battle’s struggle raging fall
Unshaken in the shield-storm surged his shout
Full faultless honour as he fought his foes
In phrenzied force until his will there fail’d
Before the grave of Gwrvelling the gargant
Some swardy heap of green fore’er became

The hillfort at Garvald Mains

Back on the Trail, it doesn’t actually go into the village,  however, but turns left at the bottom of the road, passing the extremely old church & heading along a path by the left bank of the Papana. This is also named after a member of the Gododdin contingent, I believe, called Bubon. The stanza reads;

From yonder Sea of Iodeo, battle-bold
Comes man thrice-times more fierce than fiercest lion
Brave Bubon, mightiest in battle’s mire

Capture 2.PNG

Take the left path

Just as a wee historical digression here, the ‘Sea of Iodeo’ is the Forth estuary. There is also a stronghold of ‘Iudeu,’ which Bede places ‘in medio sui’ – ie in the middle of a sea-strait which can only be the Forth. Much academic ink has been spilt over its location, but the fact this stronghold would also have been known as ‘Guidi’ leads us naturally to the island of Inchkeith (Inch-Guith / Inch-Guidi). The name alteration can be found in  the ‘Irish Tractate on the Mothers of Saints,’ which states;

Alma, daughter of a Pictish king, the mother of Serb mac Proic, king of Canaan of Egypt; and he [Serb, i.e., St Serf] is the venerable old man who possesses Culross in Strathearn in Comgellaig, between the Ochil upland and the sea of Giudiu (Mur nGuidan).

Image result for saint adomnan


There is no archeological record of a Brythonic ‘Urbs’ fortification on Inchkeith, but then again there has not been a serious attempt to find anything. We do know it was a religious center at that time. Walter Bower, in his Scotichronicon, writes of an ‘island called Inchekethe’ in which Saint Adomnán  ruled as abbot, & it was this holy man who  welcomed St Serf on the latter’s arrival in Scotland. Serf would be the guy who saved King Loth’s daughter, Thaney.

I’d just like to chuck in a little something here. According to the Historia Brittonum of Nennius, in the 7th century, King Oswy of the Northumbria ‘gave back all the riches that were with him in the urbs right into the hand of Penda, and Penda distributed them to the British kings, to wit, ‘the restitution of Iudeu.’ ‘ This places King Penda at the Forth, & it may even be the historical reason that Traprain Law was also known as Dunpendyrlaw.

Back in 2019, the Gododdin Heritage Trail rises & falls for a while before reaching a bridge. Crossing it you see a couple of woodland trails, one of which climbs a steep slope up a valley. This one’s for us!

At the top of the slope one reaches Nunraw Estate & its funky Monkey Puzzle trees. One must head left now, by either hopping over the fence – theres a hole for dogs – & skirting the field, or following a very grown-over woodland track once trodden by the Nunraw monks, more of whom I’ll be chatting about next time.

The hole for the dogs
The woodland trail
… or aim for that gate by skirting the field to the left

For now, the field is best, & you eventually reach a gate, over which we go. Turn sharp left & head down towards the trees where you soon come to a  a crazy rickety bridge. At this point enter the river itself, turn right & in the style of the great explorers hop across the rocks & pebbles to the one true natural wonder of East Lothian – Nunraw Falls.

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The Gododdin Heritage Trail: Hailes to Papple


We are now entering a most salubrious section of the Gododdin Heritage Trail. We last left it at the bridge over the Tyne on the Haddington-East Linton riverside walk. I had to pick Daisy up & carry her across the slightly rickety construction – she has a curious fear of bridges, I think its down to the gaps in the metal platforms which her paws slip easily through.

The red line is the ideal route

We were soon across & staring at a path up a slight rise, which we took for 100 metres or so, reaching a hole in the wall on our right. Feeling adventurous we took this, following a path acrown a steep riverbank, to find ourselves at an ancient gilled entrance to Hailes Castle. Unfortunately it was unopenable (without a wrench) so we had to enter the castle grounds through & over the fence. This route is doable, bending the fench allows larger dogs through – but let us for now get to Hailes via more conventional means instead.

The house is fu the bigness of suche excellent bewtie within as I have seldom sene any in England except the Kinges Majesties & of verie good strengthe
Lord Grey of Wilton, 1548

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell

Back at the hole in the wall, instead of talking this like just shown, carry on until you reach a road, & turn right. This soon brings you to a small car parking area & the entrance to Hailes ‘fortalice’ Castle, which is well worth a look. I mean, its definitely the coolest ruin in East Lothian, one of the Seven Warsteeds that has seen its fair share of action over the histories.

Built in the 13th century, for two hundred years it was in the hands of the Hepburns, the last of whom – James, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was the principal instigator of the plot which murdered Darnley, second husband of Mary Queen of Scots. The Queen did sleep here during her lifetime. Another Hepburn of note was Sir Patrick of Hailes, who rescued the banner of Douglas from the hands of the English at Otterburn.

Where the path from the Tyne hits the road


Looking towards Pencraig

Leaving the castle, to continue along the Gododdin Trail return to the car-parking spot & cross the narrow road to the opening of a rough path-track going up the way. Keeping the garden wall of Hailes Cottage to the right, this is a handsome & wild section, with trees growing like banyans out of an old dry stone wall. It kinda reminded me of the abandoned imperial buildings on the Andaman Islands I had explored in my adventurous youth.

Take this path


The path follows a gurgling silver burn on our right, which Daisy & our guest dog for the walk availed of its crystal advantages. You then come to a section of bramble-hedg’d fields where the public path takes some grand right-angled turns among resplendent views, especially of Traprain Law which starts to peep over the horizon to the south.

Picking Brambles with a patient Daisy

Personally I believe there is one grand turn too many – one section of the final square is far shorter & makes the much efficent walk than the circuitous ‘hike-for-ages-then-hack-your-way-through-a-rarely-used-overgrown-track-then-turn-back-along-the-road-to-the-point-where-you-would-have-appeared-ages-ago-if-you-had-simply-just-walked-up-the-side-of-the-field.’

The ideal route = straight ahead
The long-winded route arriving at the road
Looking back along the road from the access point to Traprian

Whether taking the ideal route or assaulting the long-winded one, you eventually arrive at a wall entrance to the Traprain universe. I’ve covered walking the summit & chatting about the famous Hacksilber hoard back in January, with that particular route tackling the slopes from more or less the point the Gododdin Trail arrives in the locality. The Gododdin Trail, however, will not be climbing Traprain – I don’t want to wear people out to much, there’s quite a few miles to do. Instead, follow loose paths through a boulevard of botany – Foxglove, Primrose, Brittle Bladder Fern, Peppered Rock Tripe, Tormentil & Ladies Bedstraw – beyond the cool ruined cottage & round the foot of the Law, passing other earlier W.E.L avatars on the trail of the Loth Stone only a pebble’s throw away.

In recent weeks I’ve been researching the Gododdin & have come up with some interesting stuff. For a start, it seems that the Gododdin might have been Picts. The giant silver chain found at Traprain, dated to the 5th-6th century, such as those used to mark Pictish kingship, adds solid support to such a notion. There also are some references in the old histories which, when placed side by side, indicate as much. The Pictish King List tells us, for example, that the Picts ‘came from the land of Thracia; that is, they are the children of Gleoin, son of Ercol. Agathirsi was their name. Six brothers of them came at first, viz, Solen, Ulfa, Nechtan, Drostan, Aengus, Leithenn.’  This places a section of initial Pictfall in Lothian, with Hektor Boece in his ‘History & Chronickles of Scotland’ stating ‘thee seeis betwix Cathnes and Orknay war namit Pentland Firth ; and all the landis, quhilkis ar now callit Louthiane, war callit than Pentland.’ Through the Old Scots we can learn that the Lothian Pentland Hills & the Pentland Firth are named after the Picts, or Pehts.

William Camden provides more information about a Pictish Lothian, recording that at, ‘the time of Reuther King of Scots,’ a battle was fought in which the death of a certain, ‘Gethus King of the Picts… constrain’d the Picts (who perceived themselves unable to resist) to fly, some by land and others by sea, to Orkney, where they abode for a time, and made Gothus, brother of the foresaid Gethus, their King. And after a few years, having left some of their number to people and plant the Countrey, they return’d to Louthian; and having expelled the Britons, settled themselves again in their ancient possessions.’ Here we see that the two main bases of the earliest Picts were the Orkneys & the Lothians, the latter name linking to Leithenn, one of the six Pictish brothers who first came to settle in Britain. We also have a Gothus, after whom the Gododdin may have been named, & his arrival in the Lothians roundabout the year zero totally fits with the archeological record of Traprain being refortified in the first century AD. What is also fascinating is that in the History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, King Loth himself was recognised as a king of both Lothian & the Orkneys. Food for thought indeed!


We also have the presence of Cunedda in the Pictish King List, where he appears as Canutulachama. His successor in the King List, Wradech, reflects the name of one of Cunedda’a sons, named in the Brythonic traditions as Ceretic. Canutulachama is dated to the mid-fourth century, which fits perfectly into a passage from m Nennius (9th century) , which has Cunedda leaving Lothian for Wales

Maelgwyn, the great king, was reigning among the Britons in the region of Gwynedd, for his ancestor, Cunedag, with his sons, whose number was eight, had come previously from the northern part, that is from the region which is called Manaw Gododdin, one hundred and forty-six years before Maelgwn reigned. And with great slaughter they drove out from those regions the Scotti who never returned again to inhabit them.

Recent, widely-trumpted DNA analysis has shown that 0.8% of all Welshmen have close links with the Pictish marker of the Maeatae, which is cool support, but that’s enough of that for now, I think I’ll have to write a book to support the trail – maybe do a cool app for phones & stuff. First things first, I have to traverse the entireity of it, taking photos & everyfink!


Another bit of research I’ve done is on the origins of the fabulous treasure hoard found at Traprain, a portion of which is currently on display in the John Gray Center, Haddington. Its basically a case of joing the dots & seeing what you see, but the coincidences are quite canny. We begin with the poet Claudian who describes in a couple of texts the Roman General Stilicho putting an end to an assault of Britannia.

The Saxon conquered, the Ocean calmed, the Pict broken, and Britain secure. In Eutropium… When I too was about to succumb to the attack of neighbouring peoples – for the Scots had raised all Ireland against me, and the sea foamed under hostile oars – you, Stilicho, fortified me. This was to such effect that I no longer fear the weapons of the Scots, nor tremble at the Pict, nor along my shore do I look for the approaching Saxon on each uncertain wind. On the Consulship of Stilicho

Parts of the Traprain  Treasure as found.

These events happened in 398, the same period as when the last coins in the Traprain Law could be dated. To my mind, the Traprain treasure helped buy off the Picts, for a highly similar hoard dated to the same period was found at Coleraine.  This would of course be to appease ‘the Scots had raised all Ireland.’  Strictly numismatically speaking, the Coleraine hoard’s latest coin is Constantius III (407-411), but its still the end of Roman rule in Britain time & the Scots were attacking Britain after Stilicho’s intervention – & the coins might simply have been added to the bribe hoard later.

As for the Saxon invaders, we get to them via certain elite status silver fittings, whose rare double-triangle containing a flower motif was found at Coleraine & also at Ejsbol in Denmark. ‘The round strap-end from  {the Traprain hoard},’ writes Sonja Marzinzik, ‘is one of the few chip-carved silver belt fittings & is related to the Esjbol strap-end.’ That the weapons of about 60 warriors were discovered in the Esjbol bog suggests they could have belonged to the Saxon warriors who no longer harrassed the British shores. There’s more to my studies, but the coincidences can’t really be ignored.

Back on the Trail itself, the path we were following at the foot of the craggy slopes of Traprain turns west in the direction of a large & wobbly stepping-stile into a field, which had been thoroughly harvested on our arrival. It tosses one onto a crude path, which in the cornucopia of summer leads you through elbow-brushing crops to another quiet slice of country tarmac & a small yet practical place to park the car. Once here turn left for a couple of hundred metres or so.

Park Here
Plenty of space on the left-hand verge

As we pass’d Traprain on our left, I couldn’t help but feel what an intelligent piece of stone she is. You can really feel her personality. Then, as soon as we reach’d the trees that line the road on the left, turning right brought us to a fine farm-road leading down into the valley of the Luggate Burn & back up again. This is where the Trail continues.

The view of tree-topped Lawhead Hill here is splendid, with the escarpment-topping obeliskean Balfour Monument piercing the sky to its right like Cleopatra’s needle. It was erected to the memory of (1820-56), the father of both British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour (1848 – 1930) who we’ll be looking at more in the next post.

Looking back the way we came

You now come to the wide & spacious fields of Cockielaw farm, with a lovely solitude descending as a psalm for the soul. Again we had to follow wide-sweeping right angular tracks which eventually reached another road, which one should turn right along. After a wee while you come to a fork, the left turn of which is pointed out by a shiny new sign saying PAPPLE 1/2 A MILE… which is where we shall be heading in the next post.

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The Gododdin Heritage Trail: Barnes Castle-East Linton-Hailes

We have now arrived at the first tricky section of our proposed Heritage Trail around the central parts of the county. We were last out & about on the path down from Barnes Castle towards Athelstaneford. We were at the junction where, if one turns left one will soon enough come to that famous old village, named after the battle where Saint Andrews Cross was seen in the sky, & thus the Saltire was born.

Alas for us, we don’t really want to turn left, but are instead heading towards East Linton. Another alas comes with the complete deficiency of a path network in this area. The images above were taken from the end of the one short stretch of decent track, tho, which fits snughly into the idea of our Heritage Trail. In the distance is the path from Barnes, which hits a busy road. Ideally, the trail would enter the fields, skirting the edges either north at the Cogtail Burn, or to the south, before arriving at the track (blue-staggered route). I think the owners are at Beanston, so lets hope they’re amenable to a wee harmless walkway around the edge of a field.

Presupposing that there will one day be a pristeen path connecting this track & Barnes – opening up a vital East Linton to Athelstaneford pedestrian connection – let us continue to the end of it in the direction of East Linton. We soon come to another road, much quieter tho, which I’ll call Point A for a moment. Turning right will take you up to the wee hamlet-strip at Markle, & join the road one has to take today (red route) seeing as the afore-hoped for paths remain as yet unplaced.

Approaching Point A
The ideal route takes the road to the left

The entry point to the ideal route thro’ the field
The ideal route would follow the hedgerow

The name Markle connects with the Y Gododdin-East Lothian theory I have been builind up throughout 2019, in which a number of 6th century warrior’s names equate to topographical features in the county. It is likely Markle the name derives from Marchleu as found in Y Gododdin (my translation).

It was as true as the old songs tell us
When no mans’ mare dare overtake Marchleu
Whose lances, hurl’d by grand Earl, commanding
From prancing stallion, thick hack-paths form,
A soldier rear’d for slaughter & support
Full furious his sword’s defensive arc
Whose grasp sent ashen shafts a-shattering
Atop the stony pile in solemn stance
He spreads destruction with a dark delight
With blade well-bloodied midst the verdant furze
As when the reapers in fine weather flock,
So Marchleu made the sleepers’ life-streams flow.

From Markle, the road winds towards Markle Quarry, passing the northern tip of the retirement haven Monks Muir Park. We are just about to reach a really nice path up towards the wooded heights of Pencraig. At the main opening to this path, if one looks north into a field, there is a line of hedgerow that would be the ideal path back towards Point A. This would go through Markle Farm’s land, I think, so yet again lets hope they’re amenable to a wee harmless walkway around the edge of a field.

Where the ideal route would emerge
The ideal route would have followed the hedgerow in the distance

From here the path climbs for almost a mile towards Pencraig,  passing a series of different shaped benches plonked Portemeirion style by the path, whereupon entering its wood we find ourselves in Wolfstar territory, East Lothian’s premier field archery club. Just beyond the targets we arrived at a superb spot to view Traprain Law, which shall be the constant centrepiece of the Trail.

A little while after this we come to a wooden table, the so-called Pencraig Picnic Area – & a cool parking spot by the A199, with its very own toilet. I steered the Trail in this direction as people might get caught out on a hike & a toilet offers some redemption. It is also a great spot to join the Heritage Trail just for a wee while – as we shall see Pencraig is a key junction that works as the figure-of-8 hinge for people conntemplating shorter walks.

Pencraig was the scene of a quite forgotten but essentially very cool bit of Scottish history. In February 1401, during the reign of Robert III,  Henry Hotspur invaded Scotland. They got to Papple & then Linton – what East Linton was called back then – & burnt the granges at Markle & Traprain. Hailes held out, tho, it would have been a tough nut to crack, one of the “seven warsteeds,’ or  castles, of East Lothian.  To meet the English, a force of Scots under Archibald, Master of Douglas marched out from Edinburgh Castle. As they began to pour over the ridge at Pencraig, the English in Linton took fright, turned tail & ran for it Johnny Cope style.

At the western end of Pencraig’s parking spot a path drives thro’ some foliage, before bursting out overlooking the eastern quarter of the county roughly where the Scots appeared backin 1401. There’s a little old gate in the wall to the left which takes you into a field for a bit, or you can just stick to the slightly noiser path. They meet up at the edge of a field – it was potatoes when we in attendance – which has a signpost pointing downhill though the fields towards East Linton. This of course, should be taken.


About half a mile or so, passing Pencraig Standing Stone on one’s right, you arrive in East Linton via some new builds, then under a bridge into a large playing field area. The village is a true jewel of civilisation. You never really need to leave the village, actually, its got everything as far as ameneties go, all colacted in a completely unpretentious & picturesque settlement.

Beyond a handsome primary school & a communal park is the hilly, happy high street which hasn’t chang’d aesthetic, one expects, for a century or more. For walkers on the Gododdin Heritage Trail, this is where one would spend a night, availing of the local eateries & accommodation. Plus, if there’s been ankle sprain or something, there’s frequent busses back to Edinburgh & Dunbar.

East Linton has a reputation of being something of an artist’s paradise, among whom Robert Noble is the most famed. Noble was born in 1857 and worked as an apprentice lithographer before studying in Paris and becoming a painter committed to the Barbizon School of painting in the forest of Fontainebleau – a group of realist artists who believed that painting should be undertaken outwith the studio. Indeed, by 1906, East Linton had taken on the monicker of ‘The Scottish Barbizon.’

The ‘pastoral tradition’ evoked a century ago by such eminent painters as William Mactaggart, Arthur Melville, Robert Noble, William Miller Frazer, W.D. McKay and others, remained in evidence amongst later painters, but the landscape was seen for its contemporary vitality and relevance without nostalgia for a past age. Sir William Gillies, 1898-1973, who was born in Haddington, painted the Lothian and Border landscape he loved with a distinctive vision that profoundly influenced painters in the second half of the twentieth century. Previously, easy access by railway had added to the popularity of East Linton and Dunbar as favoured locations for artists but no collective artistic ‘school’ as such developed; most artists then, as at the end of the period, worked as individuals. From, The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian, by John Busby ARSA RSW

These artists worked directly in the landscape, recording rural scenes in villages with farmworkers. Inspired by his experience and training in France, Noble returned to Scotland and found that the landscapes of East Lothian, and the countryside surrounding East Linton in particular, fitted his ideals of subject matter perfectly.

Robert Noble: Dovecot

The next morning, or whenever really, follow the high street south to the T-Junction. To the left are the water-tumbling Linn Rocks – a great rush to witness after heavy rains – around which there has been over 5000 years of settlement. We instead are turning right here, crossing the road, passing under the heavy iron railway bridge & walking about 100 meters to a signpost which points towards left Traprain Law & Hailes Castle.

If you’re here on a Sunday, the market at the Mart is a stone’s throw from the Trail

This is one of the most beautiful stretches of the Trail, right on the banks of the Tyne, flush with woodland & high-banks & just pure serenity.  After a good way, passing under the spelndidly-hewn motorway bridge, straight from the playbook of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one comes to a much smaller wooden bridge, which is where I shall leave this segment for now. But this is a key link to the Pencraig hinge of the 8 I’d mentioned earlier – from here one can walk all the way back to Haddington along the Tyne, or even head back up to Pencraig itself, the red route in the second of this post’s maps.

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The Gododdin Heritage Trail: Haddington to Barnes Castle

Route A in red / Route B in blue

Its been a couple of months since my last post, but that does not mean I haven’t been busy walking about East Lothian in the company of my faithful dog, Daisy. Far from it, we’ve been extremely busy,  tracing &  retracing routes, hacking trails like Belgians in the Congo, all round the heart of the county around Haddington. The reason being is my instigation of what I have called THE GODODDIN HERITAGE TRAIL.

All through 2019 I have been focusing on the iron age hill-forts of central East Lothian & their connection to a 7th century poem called Y Gododdin. The net result of all this is a singular idea – that is to establish & maintain a circular walk which will furnish future walkers, or Trailers,  with the landscape, history & ancestral land-rights of the Gododdin. This beautiful poem is older than Beowulf, & should be celebrated as the earliest poetical literature of the British Isles. I first broached the subject with bubbly Bill at the John Gray Centre in Haddington, who pointed me across the road to the Provost, John Macmillan, a proper sound guy who shared his biscuits with me while we chatted!

Part of Y Gododdin by Aneirin

The county of East Lothian is the true custodian & natural curator of the poem & its contents, & the most strenuous efforts must be made to secure its proper place in the history of the British Isles. The Iron Age is known to us mostly through turfed over ramparts & the occasional pinch of archeological remains – but the Gododdin poem has stories & names – many of which we can associate with places in Gododdin; Markle=Marchleui / Elphin = Elphinstone / Colstoun = Golstan / Dremtudd = Drem / Garvald = Garvelling, & so on.

The walks could also be organised, creating jobs in the county. It is such a beautiful landscape, & walking the route should be encouraged, thus engaging with the Access Code Scotland Act, created to improve the physical & mental health of the Scottish people. The local community would also benefit from just accessing the Trail & finding their own wee section to walk along. A significant side-effect will be a boosting of the local economy. The walk should take two days – a perfect weekend’s worth – & I imagine people staying at the hotels (or air B&Bs) at Gifford & East  – both of which can be reached by public transport. As the walkers progress, they can stop for lunch in Haddington, the Garvald Inn,  the wee cafe at the Tweeddale Fisheries, & even the future cafe at Papple Steading.


Papple is right on the proposed thoroughfare, & its new owner George Mackintosh, is enthusiastically up for help with the project. George is also a lover of history, & wishes to save his newly acquired marvelous steading for posterity. His idea of having cost-supporting accommodation & a cafe at Papple is actually quite perfect for future Trailer.  Also happy to help is Nick Morgan, the Access Officer, who has been giving me bits of advice & this lovely map, to which he attached the following notes;

I have attached a map with a suggestion from me highlighted in red and orange, roughly following the route you had marked on the aerial photos. My suggestion uses core paths where they exist and there are a few sections of quiet road (marked in orange). The core paths are marked in purple on the attached map, but where the route is highlighted over them they have changed to red. I hope they are obvious. The core paths numbers are in the little oval labels, so they make the core paths under the highlighter a little more obvious.’

So where to begin. Lets say Haddington,  & I’ve worked out two possible ‘escapes’ from the town, which I shall call ROUTE A & ROUTE B. Route A begins at the entrance to Herdmanflatt Hospital, whose spacious & verdant grounds offer a park-like passage through the town. Altho’ the Trail can be traversed in either direction, on this occasion we shall be going clockwise. So, the first part of Route A one comes to are  some boarded up houses which  were once used in a residential fashion by medical staff. These would be an ideal youth hostel for future Trailers, but one step at a time, lets get the circuit complete first

From the houses, veer left into the excellent greenery, meandering through the trees & unkempt scrub to the far top left hand corner of the grounds . Here, a wee road takes you along the side of the hospital buildings & to an entrance at Aberlady Road. There is a possible easier access point to the pavement in the wall, but that would need a little work.

At the top of Aberlady Road you come to the junction with the A 199 & its roundabout. The best way to traverse this is by taking the pavements onto Haldane Avenue, heading west a few meters until you come to a pedestrian crossing.

Crossing over the A199 brings up Vert Court on the left, a former maternity hospital founded in 1929 by John Vert of Pendleton, Oregon, as a gift to his native town.  Carrying on, we pass the new builds to our left, then cross over the A1 via a wide bridge. We have now left the town, but are not yet free of traffic. We must continue north along the A 6137, using a grassy verge to the side of the road – not ideal, but something to improve on in the future.

After passing the entrance to Harperdean Farm, we eventually come to the point in the above photo.  To the left winds the plateaux-topping road through Coates to Longniddry, while ahead the road goes to Aberlady. To the right, however, continues Route A, a delightful straight line of a farm track with magnificent views stretching out beyond Haddington to the Lammermuir Ridge.

The gate that leads to the derelict farmhouse

There is also a cool old derelict farmhouse to the left of the track which is well worth a wee peruse. The track eventually reaches a road – the one that climbs from Haddington over the Garletons – & it is at this point that we intersect with ROUTE B.

Route A comes out here


This is definitely the quicker way out of Haddington & into the trail, but it is a bit if a clunky start. I mean, ideally we’d have something like the motorway-bridges springing up across the world to give freedom of access to wildlife, as depicted below – tho’ I’m not sure the council budget will stretch as far at this time!

In 2019, however, to access to core path up to the Garleton Hills, one has to traverse the busy roundabout system which links the A1 to the local road network. Kinda keeping left, but obviously not heading up any sliproads – one eventually hits a road which starts to rise gently to the left. There is a distinct path to follow which after about 150m ends abruptly, It continues on the other side of the road.

An awkward bit of the trail – its a bit like a fakir on hot coals here – you really need to cross over then cross back again

Its now time to enter some glorious woodland as one rises up towards the Garletons for about half a mile. Once the path leaves the trees, it winds right towards the main road, at which point you would intersect with Route A.

Route B emerges at the main road here

At this point our two routes have converged on each other – the following text is extracted from an earlier W.EL. post, performed back in February & hence the wintry photos!

Lets park the car {continue our walk} 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.

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.

North Berwick Law up ahead

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.

Back in February, me & Daisy headed under the cliffs back towards the car. In terms of the Gododdin Heritage Trail, we must instead continue down the track towards Barney Mains, about 200 metres from Kae Heughs. It is there that we leave the wintry photographs & return to the light & heat of July. Once the farm is reached, there are some steps to the right which takes the walker into a field & around the farm itself.

As the farm track drops, at the end of the cottage strip there is a sign pointing to a pathway east, which is going to take us along the wonderful ridge betwyx the Lammermuirs & the sea that divides the county in twain. The views of the Gododdin heartlands are simply glorious here.