Relics of the limestone industry on Dumbarton Muir
Text © Copyright Lairich Rig, September 2012
- The historical background
- The raw materials
- Vanished farmsteads
- The network
- The map
- Maryland and Broadfield
- North of Meikle White Hill
- Black Wood
- Auchenreoch Muir
- Near the Lang Dyke
- Red Brae
- Blairquhomrie Muir
- The north-east
- Problematic reports
- An elusive road
- A supposed causeway
- The glens
- Other sites of interest
|Old limestone industry tracks.|
The purpose of this article is to describe and to illustrate an extensive network of old tracks traversing a large area of moorland centred on Dumbarton Muir in West Dunbartonshire. In past centuries, those tracks were employed by those working in the local limestone-burning industry. Alongside those tracks, various relics of that industry can be seen in several places; these former industrial sites are also shown and described in this article.
The moorland area covered by this network may now seem rather empty, but the tracks and the remains that can be seen alongside them provide a valuable record of a long-vanished industry. At the time when the present article was first written (September 2012), a large part of the area covered by this network of tracks was threatened by a proposed wind farm development associated with Merkins Farm; that development, which was to have been centred on the Hill of Standing Stones, had not yet been approved (for the Hill of Standing Stones itself, see the section 'Other sites of interest').
However, even at that early stage, some disturbance of the moor, in the form of heavy vehicle tracks, had already resulted from preliminary work, such as the erection of an anemometer mast. The application for the Merkins Wind Farm development was subsequently (23 October 2013) rejected by the Planning Committee.
Some of the individual industrial relics on this old network had already been reported (I provide links to existing reports, where appropriate). In addition, I discovered and reported several new sites, which are also included in this article.
As for the complex network of tracks as a whole, it had not been recognized before now. I have attempted to map it in some detail, having examined much of it on foot; this article serves as a record of those findings. I believe that it is important to record such traces of our industrial heritage while they still survive.
A Google Map has been created to accompany this article. Many of the sites described here are marked on it, and the map's marker pins provide access to photographs of them. For those who simply wish to look at this map without further preamble, see 'the map', below.
To provide some context for these tracks, a number of unrelated sites of archaeological interest that happen to lie within the same area will also be discussed (see 'Other sites of interest').
Articles by John Mitchell (see [Mitchell1995] and [Mitchell2013] in the references) provide some valuable historical background: as explained there, the first documentary records of the limestone-burning industry in this district date from 1707. The industry was at its peak in the second half of the eighteenth century, but virtually collapsed after 1815.
references), mentions three kinds of limestone. The first of them, which he simply calls limestone, does not appear to have been locally common; instead, Ure writes that it was "wrought in great quantities, in the parishes of Cumbernauld and E. Kilpatrick", where it was blasted out with gunpowder and then drawn out of the mine by horses. This kind of limestone was not found locally in any quantity, and the burning of it to produce lime was likewise done elsewhere; for those reasons, it need not be discussed any further in the present article.
Cornstone: The second variety is what Ure calls "moor limestone"; he says that it is found on moors and high ground, and that it has a coarse, gritty texture. He is clearly referring to what is now sometimes called cornstone; cornstone outcrops are still abundant throughout this area, and they provided much of the raw material for the local limestone-burning industry. In what follows, I will generally use a more familiar term, and refer simply to "limestone", but it is worth keeping in mind that most of this stone (except for that found in the glens) was in the form of cornstone. Ure notes that the lime produced by burning it was not quite so good as that made using the aforementioned limestone from Cumbernauld. A further disadvantage was that it tended to occur in places far from coal (which was the preferred fuel in lime-kilns). Locally, peat was employed, with some success, as an alternative fuel in the kilns; Ure describes one such effort, at Merkins Muir, in some detail.
|Cornstone outcrops, the "moor limestone" of Ure's 1794 report. This was one of the two kinds of limestone that were found and burned locally.|
Cementstone: The third variety of limestone that Ure mentions is one that he calls "cam-stone" or "glen-stone", "because mostly found in the bottom of glens". He describes it as occurring "in thin strata imbedded in till". Although the term had probably not been coined in his day, Ure gives an accurate description of what geologists now call Ballagan Beds: in these formations, layers of cementstone occur between thicker strata of siltstone. Cementstone is an impure form of limestone, and was evidently the "cam-stone" to which Ure refers. In the area described in the present article, layers of cementstone nodules can be seen in the steep sides of the Murroch Glen and Auchenreoch Glen; these nodules gradually erode out of the crumbling slopes, and can be found in abundance in the stream beds. In connection with the burning of cementstone, Ure notes some peculiarities: he says that the burnt stones must be slaked in the kiln while still red-hot, or they will not "fall down" (break down) into lime. He suggests that the nodules might gradually break down on their own, without the need for burning, and that they could be put to agricultural use in that way.
The two main raw materials, then, were limestone (or cornstone), found in outcrops over much of the moor, and cementstone, which was found in the deep glens. The network of tracks with which the present article is concerned was mainly associated with the widespread cornstone outcrops; this material had to be quarried out and then brought to kilns for burning.
As for cementstone, it was burned in lime-kilns that were located deep down in the glens; there, the stone to be burned was near at hand, as was a source of water for slaking it afterwards. These kilns, set within the glens, do not appear to have been closely tied into the larger network of tracks, but they represent another important aspect of the same industry. I will discuss those kilns separately below, and their sites are included, in the form of dark pink markers, on my map of the network.
NS41917708), and Merkins Farm (NS44038283) lies just beyond the north-eastern end. No other farms lie between them at present, but when the limestone-burning industry was at its height, there were several in that area.
The agricultural remains to be seen in the area include: Auchenreoch , whose ruins are still quite prominent; the meagre remains of Spouts and of the enclosure that surrounded it; the faint remains of an unnamed farmstead at Black Wood; the remains of a longhouse; and cultivation traces and the remains of an enclosure at Red Brae. There was also a farmstead called Broadfield, not far from Maryland; it is shown as Breadfield on Roy's Military Survey of Scotland (1740s-50s). Its precise location is uncertain, but an enclosure near Square Wood may have been associated with it.
These vanished farmsteads will be discussed individually below, in connection with the relevant parts of the network of tracks.
The map: LINK (right-click and open in a separate tab or window).
Users can zoom the map view in or out, or drag the image to pan around the area of interest. The marker pins on the map have photographs associated with them: click on any of those pins (either on the map itself, or in the accompanying list) to see a thumbnail image; clicking on a thumbnail image will open a full-sized image with a more detailed description.
The limestone industry tracks are represented by red and blue lines on the map. The blue lines are two old roads that are shown on an early-nineteenth-century map, "Plan of Dumbarton Muir with the Disputed Marches between the Town of Dumbarton and Mr McGoun and others" (on which, see the references; the course of the roads as shown on the Plan is described there in much more detail).
The local limestone-burning industry appears to have made use of those roads, because many other tracks, which are depicted in red on my map, branch off from them, leading towards sites associated with that industry.
Without those red and blue lines, most of the tracks themselves would not be visible on the map; many of them are only apparent in satellite imagery in which the lighting was particularly favourable. As an accompaniment to my map, users of Google Earth may wish to use that program's "View"/"Historical Imagery" feature, and drag the slider to bring up satellite imagery from 2005; in that set of images, the sun's illumination was from a particularly shallow angle, making many details evident that would otherwise be invisible, or nearly so.
(Ideally, my annotated map would have been drawn on top of the 2005 images; however, there does not appear to be an option for creating a Google Map using other than the most recent imagery.)
The following sections of this article discuss individual areas of the network. At the start of each of those sections, a link is given to a centred satellite map; this is same Google Map as given above, but with the view centred on, and zoomed in on, the relevant area.
An important old track, which could be described as the backbone of this network, begins as a continuation of the present-day farm track that leads past Maryland Farm (NS41907707) and Square Wood (NS42037763). It is shown in blue on the map.
Maryland Farm has a long history; its name, and that of the adjacent Priestyard, are thought to indicate an association with Dumbarton's ancient Collegiate Church of St Mary, of which only fragments now remain. For more on the association implied by these names, see the link just given for Priestyard.
Near where the track passes Square Wood, there used to be another farm: Roy's Military Survey of Scotland (an important map made in the 1740s-50s) shows a farmstead here called Breadfield, standing on the NW side of the track. It is also depicted, as Broadfield, on "A Plan of the Lands of Highdykes, High Murroch & Auchinreoch Being Part of the Estate of Levenside 1801"; Broadfield was probably close to what is now the north-eastern corner of Square Wood. The farm buildings perhaps stood at or near NS42057775; see remains of a structure.
(The 1801 plan includes a number of other interesting details; for example, it shows a site labelled "Belling Kiln" or "Belting Kiln", near the source of the Spouts Burn.)
It is hard to be certain about the location of Broadfield; there was much activity here during the Second World War, and the area has been disturbed as a result: see Starfish decoy control bunker and remains of Starfish decoy (lest that sound like a complaint, it is worth noting that this decoy site helped to save Dumbarton from the kind of destruction that befell Clydebank in 1941). One or both of two old enclosures located nearby may have been associated with Broadfield: see an enclosure at NS41927781, and another enclosure at NS42037817.
There are no traces of the limestone industry along this first part of the route; it merely provided convenient access to the moors from the town of Dumbarton.
On the map, I have drawn this track in blue to indicate that it is one of the two old roads that is depicted on the early-nineteenth-century "Plan of Dumbarton Muir" that was mentioned above; the road is there labelled "Road to Drymen &c"; this old road to Drymen was probably used as a drove road (it was described as such by I.M.M.MacPhail – see below). Another old drove road, discussed later, crossed the moor from west to east, and is likewise shown on the "Plan of Dumbarton Muir". As the satellite map shows, the two roads, both drawn in blue, intersect in the vicinity of the Lang Dyke, near the most important concentration of limestone industry sites on the moor; more on this later.
After passing the site of the vanished farmstead of Broadfield, the track runs fairly close to the upper part of Auchenreoch Glen. There are three lime-kiln ruins in the upper glen, the first at NS42277835, the second at NS42477847, and the third at NS42677865; for reasons explained above, these kilns are not closely tied into the network of tracks. However, it is at about NS42707862, near the third of those kilns (illustrated below), that the track forks. Incidentally, in his booklet, "Off the Main Road" (1976), I.M.M.MacPhail mentions that, when following this track, which he describes as an old drove road, the ruins of Auchenreoch can be seen, off to the left; those ruins are also shown on the satellite map.
The left-hand branch (discussed below, in the section 'Auchenreoch Muir') leads to the northern half of the network. The right-hand branch leads, instead, to a large area of former surface quarrying, described next.
|The remains of a lime-kiln in upper Auchenreoch Glen. The track divides where it passes near this kiln.|
The right-hand branch of the track heads north-east to about NS43557922, at which point it crosses a small burn. The track, braided in places, is quite visible where it approaches the burn (shown below, on the left). The area on the eastern side of the burn (below, right) has a disturbed look.
|(left) The track, on the approach to the burn.|
(right) The disturbed and conspicuously green area just to the north.
The track then makes zig-zag progress in a more or less easterly direction; it is easily visible in this area. Near its eastern end, the track fans out across several areas (e.g., NS44127914 / NS43977911 / NS43987904) where there are signs of extensive surface quarrying.
The depth and braiding of these tracks reveal that this was a well-used and very productive part of the network.
A south-eastern part of the network has its beginnings in a track that starts at about NS42237700, about 350 SSE of Maryland Farm (in fact, the track may begin further to the WSW, but that area is obscured by trees). The remains are most visible on the north-western side of Black Wood, where a large number of parallel tracks can be seen (especially in the area around NS42627757). These tracks lead north-west, eventually merging to form a single deeper track. On the way, they pass the faint remains of a farmstead near Black Wood.
The farmstead is not shown on any map, but its remains are clearly several centuries old (the farm and its enclosure are shown in an annotated satellite map of their own). After coming across the farmstead, I submitted a report to WoSAS, who had no existing record of it. (I believe that the farmstead was also located, quite independently, by the Woodland Trust Scotland, when they carried out a survey of the area before planting trees. I later contacted them, out of concern that the site might be obliterated by their new planting; to their credit, they were keen to ensure that the remains of the farmstead are preserved.)
|(left) The faint remains of a farmhouse.|
(right) The north-eastern side of its associated enclosure.
At the northern edge of Black Wood, one system of tracks heads eastwards, passing some limestone outcrops (NS43047764) on the way; the tracks cross the Roughting Burn at NS43737774 before fanning out and becoming rather indistinct. There are some small pits at c.NS43387789 that may have been associated with the industry, but there is not otherwise much of interest along these routes. (It is debatable whether these tracks form a part of the network; that is a matter for further investigation. For now, I have included them on the map.)
The main system of tracks heads, instead, in a north-easterly direction, to the south-western slopes of Little White Hill. In this area, centred on NS43967851, there are signs of extensive quarrying on the slopes of the hill (particularly apparent in the 2005 satellite imagery).
Another set of limestone industry tracks also lead to Little White Hill. These originate in the area around Spouts, and they will be discussed next.
The farmstead of Spouts was located alongside a burn of the same name. The farmstead was already a ruin by the 1860s, when the first-edition OS map of this area was made; see Canmore for further details. The farm building itself is now represented only by a few stones, but the rectangular enclosure that surrounded it is more easily visible, in the form of a low ridge.
|(left) The site of Spouts, now just a scatter of stones.|
(right) Traces of the large enclosure around the farm building.
Satellite imagery with favourable lighting reveals an abundance of old tracks leading away from the eastern (uphill) end (NS42837830) of the enclosure. The tracks begin very abruptly just outside the boundary of the enclosure, showing that the latter was still in existence when these tracks were created. There are many limestone outcrops in this area, and signs that a great deal of surface quarrying has taken place here.
|(left) The hillside above the enclosure of Spouts was the scene of extensive surface quarrying.|
(right) One of the largest remaining outcrops to be found in the same area.
About 200 metres to the NNE of the old farmstead of Spouts is a site, located on the Spouts Burn, where there are a number of interesting survivals of the limestone industry (this was a new find).
The most visible feature here is a large green mound (NS42867849); this has a more or less circular depression in it, which is probably a decayed lime-kiln (it is rather similar to a nearby lime-kiln ruin in upper Auchenreoch Glen). In the area between the large green mound and a point 100 metres further downstream, various intriguing remains can be seen on both sides of the burn. These remains are in the form of small green mounds, differing from typical lime-kiln ruins in being much lower, and in lacking a central depression. The mounds occur in pairs, with each mound facing its opposite number directly across the burn. There are at least three pairs (in isolation, these small mounds would barely be noticeable, but their regular arrangement makes them a little more apparent). When I contacted WoSAS to report the find, it was suggested to me, based on their appearance, that these small mounds were the ruins of simple clamp kilns (a more rudimentary form of lime-kiln); that identification does appear to fit these remains.
Although I have not made an explicit connection on the map, it is likely that this part of the network was joined to the other portions that lie just to the north-west. For example, an old boundary heads away in a north-westerly direction from this industrial site for a distance of about 200 metres, leading directly to the nearest lime-kiln ruin in Auchenreoch Glen.
As mentioned above, in the section 'Maryland and Broadfield', an important track forks at NS42707862. The old road that I have described as the backbone of the network continues to the NNE. However, at about NS42907908, minor tracks branch off towards the ruins of a longhouse; that building is probably of an age comparable to that of the tracks themselves.
|Ruins of a longhouse.|
The old road, deep and braided, continues to the north-east, as discussed in the next section. However, a significant number of tracks branch off into an area where there are many signs of disturbance associated with former quarrying. The most noticeable features on the ground are: a large former quarry at NS42977936; a smaller former quarry at NS43007952; a line of test pits from NS42967968 to NS42977975; and a wall-like linear feature from NS42707969 to NS42817968. The longhouse, the quarries, the test pits, and the other features in this area had already been reported; for details, I refer readers to a report at WoSAS, where the remains are very well described and interpreted. Some of them are shown below:
|(left) A large former quarry.|
(right) One of a line of old test pits.
|(left) Another test pit in the same line.|
(right) This was probably a spoil mound.
One of the goals of the present article is to allow these remains to be seen in a new context, as part of a much larger network.
The main track (below, left) continues in the direction of a long natural ridge called the Lang Dyke. On the way, it passes a large cornstone outcrop (below, right); there are some signs of disturbance in that area.
|(left) The main track, heading north-east towards the Lang Dyke.|
(right) A large cornstone outcrop; incidentally, this is the same outcrop as is pictured in Plate 1b of [Mitchell1995].
Just beyond the Lang Dyke is one of the most important parts of this network; that part will be described next.
The area just to the north of the Lang Dyke contains numerous remains associated with the limestone-burning industry. These have been known for some time; for example, I.M.M.MacPhail, writing in the booklet "Off the Main Road" (1979) notes that "just to the north of a ridge called the Lang Dyke, which is a geological, not a man-made dyke, may be seen the site of old lime-kilns, marked by bright green knolls". Likewise, in [Mitchell1995], this area is listed as "site 5, Merkins Muir", with "kilns present".
Given that this area is one of the most important parts of the network, the remains to be seen here are worth describing in some detail.
First of all, there is a large area where surface quarrying has taken place; the area is centred on NS43888067, and is still conspicuous for its undulating and bright green appearance. About 350 metres to the NNE (NS44038098) is a deeper, crescent-shaped quarry pit. 120 metres to the north-east of the area of surface quarrying is a much deeper quarry pit (NS43968075), which is now partly water-filled.
|(left) Signs of surface quarrying|
(right) A large crescent-shaped pit, another former quarry.
|Two views of a former quarry pit, now partly water-filled.|
Just to the north of that pit are the remains of a large lime-kiln (NS43978077). This is very different from the ruined lime-kilns that are found in the Auchenreoch Glen and Murroch Glen; the ruined kilns in the glens appear as circular mounds, about 3 metres across, with a central depression. Instead, this ruined lime-kiln is rectangular in shape, and set into a north-facing slope. It is 10 metres wide (E-W), and extends back into the slope for a distance of 4 metres (N-S). This is certainly the largest of the lime-kiln remains on the network, and it was undoubtedly also the most important of the kilns. It also lies near the intersection of two important old roads (shown as blue lines on the map). The kiln was therefore very well placed for access.
Further signs of disturbance, a pit that is open on one side, and which is perhaps the remains of a kiln (lower-right image, below), can be seen not far to the west.
The main track, the old road shown in blue on the map, now heads off to the north-east, as will be discussed in a later section (the-north-east).
However, another route, shown in red on the satellite map, branches off northwards from it, passing just to the east of these industrial sites, and heading towards Red Brae, which is discussed next. Some subsidiary tracks also branch off towards the large kiln shown above, and towards the various nearby quarries.
The main track now passes through an area that is labelled Red Brae on the map (the name is an old one, and is mentioned, along with several other names that survive in the area, in a 1609 charter by James VI). Cultivation traces are visible on the slopes just to the east of the burn, and an unfinished millstone can also be seen there (see Canmore for details):
The cultivation traces are much more extensive than they first appear: they extend for hundreds of metres E-W and N-S, but, for the most part, they are no longer very visible. The millstone had already been reported, as noted above; as far as I know, the cultivation traces had not. In addition, I came across the remains of an enclosure here (also previously unreported). The track to Red Brae skirts that enclosure's western side. The cultivation traces and the enclosure provide strong evidence that there was once a farmstead located here.
|(left) The enclosure, seen from its northern end.|
(right) A view from the other end.
A track continues NNE in roughly the direction of Merkins Farm, but I did not follow it further in that direction, nor have I included it on the satellite map; it is a genuinely ancient track, shown on the old Plan, but much of its present-day appearance will have been the result of traffic, in recent times, from Merkins Farm.
(There appear to be other tracks leading away from Red Brae: they head ENE, along the northern bank of the Finland Burn; they cross the Gallangad Burn at about NS45098181, and then head north-east to about NS45248206 (on Gallangad Muir), where there is a bend in an old field dyke associated with the remains of a farmstead. The farmstead is marked, but not named, on Roy's Military Survey (1740s-50s), and it may have been abandoned even at that early date. Just 30 metres to the SSE of the bend in the field dyke, there is an old quarry pit. On the map, I have added these remains to the network, but using only a faint red line, since it is not clear whether the connection between Red Brae and that area is an ancient one or not.)
At about NS44328817, a track branches away from Red Brae, and heads westwards to Blairquhomrie Muir, where a number of remains can be seen. That area will be discussed next.
From Red Brae, a branch of the network leads for almost 2 kilometres to Blairquhomrie Muir. In this outlying north-western part of the network, there are two lime-kilns, some limestone outcrops to provide raw material, and signs of surface quarrying nearby:
|(left) Remains of a lime-kiln at NS43298146.|
(right) A different lime-kiln, at NS42938134.
|(left) An area (NS42838155) near the kilns, showing signs of surface quarrying.|
(right) Some limestone outcrops (NS42678153) beside a burn.
There is one more part of the network to be discussed: from just south of Red Brae, the old road to Drymen continues towards the north-east, as discussed next.
The track is shown in blue on the satellite map to indicate that it is one of the two old roads that are depicted on the early-nineteenth-century "Plan of Dumbarton Muir". There do not appear to be sites alongside it that are particularly related to the limestone industry, but there are other features of interest nearby.
Beside the point where this track heads away from the one leading to Red Brae are what may be the faint traces of a pair of rectangular structures (previously unreported, and shown below); on the ground, the evidence for this pair of possible structures is not very obvious, but it finds support in the 2005 satellite imagery. The course of the old road that leads away from there is still visible in a few places:
|(left) This is possibly the corner of an old structure.|
(right) The old road, a green ribbon through the heather.
|(left) Further along the old road.|
(right) It runs alongside an old boundary here.
For several hundred metres, the road runs alongside a faint old boundary (also unreported), which is visible in the form of a low ridge:
|(left) The boundary's western end; the road is on the right.|
(right) A view along the ridge.
|(left) A view in the opposite direction; the road is the hollow to the left of the ridge.|
(right) The boundary fades away not far beyond this point.
Not far to the south-east of the ridge was a circular water-filled pit, perhaps an old quarry pit. A little further to the south, an almost rectangular area was outlined by a ditch; within it were what appear to be the faint traces of some small rectangular structures (unreported). They are of uncertain date, but, in shape and size, they are not unlike those mentioned at the start of this section.
|(left) The circular water-filled pit|
(right) Green ridges indicate the end-walls of some small rectangular structures.
The road continues ENE, but fades out before it reaches the Gallangad Burn; I have represented its presumed continuation by means of a fainter line on the satellite map. Traces of the road can be seen where it crosses the Gallangad Burn, and it becomes clearly visible once again on the far side of the burn:
|(left) The approach to the Gallangad Burn; it is more clearly visible on satellite imagery.|
(right) The road is clearly visible as a hollow way on the far side of the burn.
(As for the other old road shown on the Plan, it is described below, in the section 'Other sites of interest'.)
This concludes the discussion of the main network of tracks. As was noted above, this network is primarily related to the quarrying and processing of limestone, in the form of cornstone outcrops that are found scattered over the moor. However, there was another important raw material; that subject will be discussed below in the section headed 'the glens'.
Before that, however, it would be useful to discuss some issues related to earlier reports about the moor.
report 1 / report 2 / report 3; they also allude, in passing, to the limestone tracks, calling them "mineral tracks". The road, as described in reports 1 and 2, generally passes a considerable distance to the east of the network that is described in the present article. However, with the exception of a very indistinct mound near Milton, I have been unable to locate any trace whatsoever of the supposed routes described in Canmore reports 1 and 2 (see below for a possible explanation).
In contrast, the hollow way described in report 3 does correspond to a visible road, namely, the one that I have been describing; more specifically, it describes that road near the point where it crosses the Gallangad Burn.
I began to suspect that what was being described in Canmore report 3 was not, in fact, connected with what (if anything) is being described in reports 1 and 2, but was, instead, the continuation of the old road that I have been describing in this section, a road which has its beginnings near Maryland Farm. The "Plan of Dumbarton Muir" confirms that my suspicions were correct; it shows this route, which it labels "Road to Drymen &c", crossing the Gallangad Burn near the Lang Cairn and then heading roughly north-east. See the references, where the course of the road, as shown on the Plan, is described in more detail.
In any case, the road that I am describing is most certainly not a continuation of the supposed Roman causeway (see below) at Milton that is described in report 1.
As for Canmore reports 1 and 2, which describe a route of which I could detect not the slightest trace on the ground, the following explanation occurred to me: unlikely though it may seem, the authors of those reports appear to have been describing the very same road that I have been discussing in the present article. However, I believe that they mistook Square Wood for Black Wood, and that this led, in turn, to a whole series of similar misidentifications, with the result that the entire reported course of the road was displaced by a very considerable amount.
For example, report 2 says that the road can be followed "from the NE end of Black Wood", while the road I am describing passes the NE corner of Square Wood. The same report goes on to mention "one small pillar mile marker, inscribed 3, still in position", supposedly in the vicinity of Meikle White Hill. This is surely the old cattle stance marker, with the figure 3 inscribed on top, that stands on the Lang Dyke; it is a long way from Meikle White Hill, but it is close to the road that I have been describing.
Finally, the report mentions lime kilns near "the Black Burn Ford", perhaps referring to the prominent lime kiln ruins to the north of the Lang Dyke; these are not far from the Finland Burn, which was presumably mistaken for the Black Burn. My proposed explanation may seem highly speculative, but, as a theory, it not only explains why the features alongside the reported road seem suspiciously like displaced versions of those alongside the actual road, but it also accounts for the fact that I could find no trace whatsoever of the purported road, as described in reports 1 and 2, on the ground. See the section 'others', below, for further supporting evidence.
I have discussed this subject at length since it may help anyone who is puzzled, as I was, by these Canmore reports (dating from the 1970s), which do not appear to correspond to any visible remains. The authors of those reports did not have the benefits of modern GPS technology, and were probably unfamiliar with this area. This may go some way towards explaining how such a large discrepancy in position could arise.
Although it is not directly relevant to the present item, it is perhaps worth my making some observations about other reports made at the same time:
Another report, from about the same time, mentions some remains, described as those of "a causeway"*, on the southern shore of the River Clyde near Bishopton. This interpretation has found its way onto the map: the linear feature on the southern shore is currently labelled "Remains of Old Causeway" on large-scale OS mapping. However, I believe that this supposed causeway is nothing more than the remains of a jetty; I discuss this subject at length elsewhere, and so do not need to repeat the details here.
(*) The report cited at the start of this subsection links the supposed causeway with a very indistinct mound on the northern shore, near Milton Island. A further report (appearing in DES, 1980, page 35) attempts to tie these remains to the road mentioned in reports 1 to 3, above. That report is terse: "NS 423743 - NS 439782 The road has been traced from the Clyde to Little White Hill. Details from reporters."
related report in Canmore, the same authors describe certain lime-kiln ruins that are supposedly situated near the Black Burn. In fact, that report is an accurate description of remains that can be seen, not beside the Black Burn, but far from there, in an area beside the Finland Burn, to the north of the Lang Dyke. The remains there include some that seem, aside from their locations, to fit the descriptions given in the report: they include a "rectangular enclosure", and a "single kiln" on the bank of the Finland Burn. It is worth adding that I have, on more than one occasion, examined the area beside the Black Burn, as specified in the report, and saw no such remains there. Further, that ground beside the Black Burn is very boggy, and would not feature any of the molehills that are described in the Canmore report; the location of the lime-kilns beside the Finland Burn is, in contrast, grassy.
Finally, there is a report, from about the same time, of the following feature, supposedly at NS452799: "On the E bank of Knockupple Burn beneath the rocky crag, a rectangular steading with a small oval store shed to E". I have been unable to locate any such structure in that area, but the report is a fair description of the remains of a structure that can been seen about half a mile to the NNE of there, at the foot of a crag. I suspect that the report is a misplaced duplicate of another one, which gives the correct position of the ruin that it describes.
|(left) Lower Auchenreoch Glen, with crumbly slopes on either side.|
(right) Cementstone nodules, of the kind that can be found in abundance in these glens; the ones shown here are in the Spouts Burn.
The cementstone was burned in kilns that were located deep down in the glens, close to the stream-bed. The rocks to be burned, and the water to slake them afterwards, were therefore close at hand; however, people still had to get to and from the kiln, fuel had to be brought in, and slaked lime had to be taken out. The steep sides of these glens could make access difficult. One practical solution was to make use of some long ridges that extend down into the Auchenreoch and Murroch Glens. The location of these long ridges would have been a major factor in determining where to construct the kilns. For example, the images below show a long ridge that leads into the lower Auchenreoch Glen, and a ruined kiln that can be reached by means of that ridge:
|(left) A ridge leading into lower Auchenreoch Glen.|
(right) A lime-kiln ruin, set deep within the same glen.
Although these ridges do make access a little easier, they are very narrow, with steep slopes on either side. Particularly in bad weather, negotiating these ridges with a load of fuel, or of lime, would have required a great deal of care. The kilns themselves had to be kept burning for several days and nights on end – a demanding task.
(The fact that lime-kilns were located in remote places is something for which the residents of nearby Dumbarton would have been grateful; the kilns would have emitted a great deal of smoke, and an unpleasant smell. Also, slaking the burnt stones was a noisy process: as David Ure, writing in the 1790s, put it, in the language of his day, it resulted in "very loud explosions".)
The lime-kilns in these glens were all built to the same plan: their ruins are invariably in the form of a circular turf-covered mound, about three metres in diameter, with a central depression. A few representative examples are shown below (for more of them, see an index to the kilns in the Murroch Glen). Though they may appear to be in a poor state of preservation, it is likely that the kilns are substantially intact beneath the turf: the final picture in the set shows an exposed section of wall, and provides evidence that these kilns were built with considerable skill:
|(left) A lime-kiln ruin in the Murroch Glen.|
(right) A different kiln in the same glen.
|(left) A third kiln in the Murroch Glen.|
(right) Another kiln; a skilfully-built section of the original wall is exposed to view.
Perhaps because of their unique situation, and the fact that the needed limestone and water were at hand, the kilns in the glens do not appear to have been closely linked into the wider network of tracks that was described above. Nevertheless, they represent another aspect of the same industry; accordingly, I have included these kilns on my map of the network.
One of these is the Common Kist: this is a cist burial (effectively an ancient coffin with stone slabs forming its sides); it is named from its location on Dumbarton Common Muir. A 1609 charter by James VI mentions a number of places that lay on the moor's boundary (the reported wording of the charter varies from author to author, but the differences are generally minor, and of little importance); among them was the "auld monument of stane callit the Common Kist". The cist would, at one time, have been covered by a large cairn of stones. These stones were removed centuries ago, and were probably used to make the dry-stone walling that can be seen nearby. At a later time, the cist itself was damaged by local landowners: writing in 1896, author John Guthrie Smith describes how these local lairds separated their respective lands by means of a wire fence, and "they or their servants committed the gross piece of sacrilege of placing in the very centre of the 'Common Kist' a large straining post, and fastening it in its place by breaking up one of the sides and the foot of this most interesting monument of the past for packing to keep in its place their truly 'infernal machine'!" (incidentally, the Common Kist fell within the boundaries of the proposed wind farm mentioned at the start of this article).
A similar cist on Auchenreoch Muir was found by a walker (see WoSAS for details) in the 1990s. Both cists are illustrated below:
|(left) The Common Kist (close-up view).|
(right) The Common Kist in context.
|(left) A different cist, on Auchenreoch Muir.|
(right) A closer view of the chamber.
Another interesting site is the Hill of Standing Stones, the centre of the proposed windfarm:
|(left) The Hill of Standing Stones: the summit cairn.|
(right) The summit in winter.
This location was also mentioned in the 1609 charter; in connection with the boundaries of the Common Muir, the charter speaks of "the north-west part of the hill where the Standand Stanes are fixt". The received wisdom is that the hill was named either after the cairn that once covered the nearby Common Kist, or after the large "cairn" (really just exposed bedrock) that underlies the more modern marker cairn on the hilltop. The wording of the charter does not really lend support to either interpretation; yet, when the Ordnance Survey's Object Name Books were compiled in the 1890s, it was recorded that there were, at that time, no standing stones on the hill; nor was it believed that there ever had been any.
My own belief (which at least fits all of the above circumstances) is that the "standing stones" of the hill's name were march stones, boundary markers. As for what has happened to these stones, I believe that they may have been incorporated into the summit cairn, which contains a number of stone posts, some with distinctive markings.
Some time after I had written the first version of this article, transcriptions of the earlier (c.1860) OS Name Books became available online. Their entry for the Hill of Standing Stones appears to support my theory about the hill's name: "Hill of Standing Stones – A small eminence on the summit of which are many large loose Stones marking the Boundary point". In all likelihood, the "large loose stones" that are described there as marking the boundary point are the very same ones as those that now make up the cairn on the hilltop.
As was pointed out earlier, in the section 'Maryland and Broadfield', the backbone of the network of limestone industry tracks (i.e., the track beginning at Maryland Farm) was an old road to Drymen; it has also been described as a drove road. However, there was another important drove road passing from west to east through the area of interest; the route of this old drove road is depicted as a blue line on my map. It began at Bonhill, at about NS39867960, where there is now a disused quarry; it then headed up over Pappert Hill (NS4280), and then led east over the Hill of Standing Stones and the Lang Dyke, crossing the Gallangad Burn at the Common Ford. The course of the drove road fades out between the Lang Dyke and the point where it becomes faintly evident again near the Common Ford; between those points, I have represented its presumed course by means of a much fainter line on my satellite map.
Appropriately, one of the stones in the summit cairn of the Hill of Standing Stones is an artefact related to droving, namely, a cattle stance marker (with the digit "1" carved on its top), which marked the site of a stance, a point where drovers and their herds might stop for the night. Another cattle stance marker, numbered "3", stands 880 metres further to the east, on the long ridge known as the Lang Dyke. Marker number 2 lay between them, but it was removed to Merkins Farm many years ago.
The Hill of Standing Stones may not have any standing stones in the usual sense, but it is not without archaeological interest; what may be two ancient cairns are located near its summit (see Canmore for details):
|(left) A possible ancient cairn (NS43658045) on the Hill of Standing Stones.|
(right) Another possible ancient cairn (NS43668046) on the same hill.
Did this drove road over Pappert Hill and the Hill of Standing Stones also serve the limestone industry? Very probably: a quarry pit with an exposed rock face (below, left) can be seen just to the east of the point where the drove road emerges from Nobleston Wood onto the muir; further signs of quarrying (below, right) can be seen just to the north-east of the summit of the Hill of Standing Stones:
|(left) An old quarry pit where the drove road emerges from Nobleston Wood.|
(right) A rectangular area of quarrying near the Hill of Standing Stones.
If this drove road also served the limestone industry, as is likely, then it becomes clear how these two otherwise isolated sites are to be linked into the network of tracks. In addition, this route would allow easy access from Bonhill to the very important complex of sites located to the north of the Lang Dyke, including what was probably the main kiln, as well as several very large quarry pits.
- "Plan of Dumbarton Muir with the Disputed Marches between the Town of Dumbarton and Mr McGoun and others".
This early-nineteenth-century map (Site ID RHP3881 at the National Records of Scotland) shows two old roads that crossed this part of the moor. The Plan precedes the first OS maps of this area; in fact, it was one of the authorities cited for the names that appear on the first OS maps of this moor.
The first road, the one which crosses the moor from west to east, is labelled "Drove Road" on the map; it is shown leading past the Common Kist and the Hill of Standing Stones, then along the Lang Dyke. It then crosses the Gallingad Burn (now the Gallangad Burn) at the Common Ford. I have not depicted subsequent parts on my satellite map, since they are outside the area of interest, but the Plan then shows the drove road crossing the Carling Glen Burn (now the Carling Burn) by means of another ford, and then crossing the Burn Crooks by means of a third ford at White Haughs. The drove road then leaves the area covered by the Plan, but that end of the road is labelled "Drove Road leading to the Great Road to Glasgow, Stirling &c".
The other road shown on the Plan is the one that begins near present-day Maryland Farm; it is the one that I have described above as forming the backbone of the network of tracks. On the Plan, it is not specifically labelled a drove road (others have described it as such, and it may well have been used in that way); instead, it is simply labelled "Road to Drymen &c". The Plan shows it running along the north-western side of the Spouts Burn, passing to the south-east of the hill Knockshanoch, and then cutting across the other drove road near the western end of the Lang Dyke. It then veers to the north-east, passing some way south of Docking Hole. It then crosses the Gallingad Burn by means of a ford, close to the Lang Cairn. After that, the Plan shows the road heading roughly NNE until it meets another burn (probably the one that modern maps call the Cameron Burn), at which point it leaves the area covered by the Plan and is no longer depicted.
It should be clear that the two roads shown on the Plan are the same ones that I have depicted in blue on my annotated satellite map. The Plan also contains many other interesting details: for example, as well as including the names of hills and burns, and depicting the two roads, it shows a number of old boundaries; it would be an interesting project to try to identify their course more precisely, and to locate their present-day remains, if any. The Plan also gives the names of the proprietors of the surrounding moors. Amongst the other features marked on it are the Common Kist, the Lang Dyke, several fords, the Lang Cairn, Black Craig, House of Auchingree, and some waterfalls, namely, "Black Lynn", Spout of the Three Marches, "Laroch Rig Fall", and Spout of the White Horse. By the time the first OS maps of the area were made, some confusion appears to have arisen regarding those last two waterfalls: the "Spout of the White Horse" that is depicted on OS maps (from the first edition to the present day) is clearly the "Laroch Rig Fall" that is marked on the earlier Plan; the Plan does also show a "Spout of the White Horse", but it depicts it as being located elsewhere (perhaps the falls at NS 4692 7989?), on a tributary of the Carling Burn.
I am grateful to an email correspondent, Paul Bishop, for bringing to my attention the two roads that are depicted crossing Dumbarton Muir on a 1777 map by Charles Ross, titled "A map of the Shire of Dumbarton". One road is from Mains, and passes Crosslet, Garshake, and Whitehill (Meikle White Hill); it also passes "Waulkmiln", i.e., the site of the town's waulk mill; this road is almost certainly the old road to Drymen that passes Maryland Farm. The other road shown crossing the moor on the Ross map runs east from Nobleston, through (again) Whitehill, and was possibly intended to represent the drove road that runs eastwards from Bonhill and over Pappert Hill, to the Common Ford; the route as shown on his map is some distance to the south of the actual road, but it may be that Ross misplaced it: had it been a genuinely different road, it seems improbable that it would have disappeared to such an extent as not to appear on the fairly detailed early-nineteenth-century "Plan of Dumbarton Muir".
- [Mitchell1995], "Old Cornstone Workings in Dunbartonshire and West Stirlingshire, with Notes on their Associated Flora" ("Glasgow Naturalist", Volume 22(5), 1995, pp485-494) (John Mitchell).
I have seen only a few pages from this article, but they are what prompted my own interest in the local limestone-burning industry. The article is in the form of a natural history, and it includes valuable details about the historical background of the industry in this area.
- [Ure], "General view of the agriculture in the county of Dumbarton; with observations on the means of its improvement. By the Reverend David Ure, preacher of the Gospel. Drawn up for the consideration of the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement" (David Ure, 1794).
This early account gives a recognizable description of cornstone and cementstone (although it uses neither of those terms), and it gives a valuable account of how these raw materials were burned in this area to produce lime.
- [Mitchell2013], "Cornstone Burning for Fertilizer in Eighteenth-Century Dumbartonshire and Stirlingshire" in "Scottish Local History" magazine, Issue 85 (Spring 2013), pages 43 to 45 (John Mitchell).
Of particular interest for its description of the large rectangular kiln to the north of the Lang Dyke. The article features a photograph of it, with the bracken cleared away, and gives an informative account of how the kiln was constructed and used.