3. The hill

Carman Hill

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright January 2019, Lairich Rig; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
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The hill

Geology of the hill

It can be seen on the relevant mapExternal link from the British Geological Society that the summit of the hill is marked in a different colour, and is labelled Dᴹ. It consists of igneous rock from the Carboniferous period, indicating that Carman Hill is to be counted among the numerous volcanic vents in the area near Dumbarton. This, rather than Druids, accounts for the presence of large "boulders" (exposed bedrock) near the summit. There is one particularly prominent group of rocks, shown in the first two pictures below, but there is a less prominent outcrop above it (on the line of the fort's inner enclosure), and another below it (just above what is probably a hut circle).
NS3779 : View over ancient hill-fort by Lairich RigNS3779 : Ancient hill-fort on Carman Hill by Lairich RigThe most prominent outcrops near the summit.
NS3779 : Rocks on the line of the inner enclosure by Lairich RigNS3779 : Boulders on Carman Hill by Lairich Rig(left) A higher outcrop.
(right) A lower outcrop.

The remainder of the hill is marked SCK, indicating the Stockiemuir Sandstone FormationExternal link. The presence of sandstone is most obvious in the old Carman QuarryExternal link, or Fairy Knowe Quarry, at the foot of the hill. On the other side (that is, the south) of Cardross Road, the muir consists mainly of the Kinnesswood FormationExternal link, and features cornstone outcrops and quarry pits. These will be discussed in the section on Carman MuirExternal link.

Line of pits

The discussion of the geology of Carman Hill leads naturally to a consideration of a line of pitsExternal link to the north of the hill's summit. The line extends from NS36927980 to NS37227976, following some rock outcrops. Some large pits beyond these endpoints are possibly outliers of the same system.
NS3779 : Old quarry pit near Carman Hill by Lairich RigNS3679 : Old quarry pit near Carman Hill by Lairich RigNS3679 : Exposed rock face in old quarry pit by Lairich Rig(left) One of the pits.
(middle) Another of them.
(right) An exposed rock face.
NS3779 : Old quarry pit near Carman Hill by Lairich RigNS3779 : Old quarry pit near Carman Hill by Lairich RigNS3679 : Old quarry pit near Carman Hill by Lairich Rig(left) A large pit.
(middle) The same pit, seen from the other side.
(right) An outlying large pit.

When I submitted an archaeological report about the pits, it was suggested to me that they might be the result of bombs dropped during the Second World War. It is worth bearing this possibility in mind; there are certainly genuine bomb craters in the wider area:
NS3680 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS3680 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS3580 : Bomb crater by Lairich Rig(left) A bomb crater.
(middle) The same crater, seen from the other side.
(right) Another crater, further away.
NS3580 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS3680 : Large pit by Lairich RigNS3680 : Pit beside fence by Lairich Rig(left) The same crater, seen from the other side.
(middle) Another large pit or crater.
(right) Another part of it; the pit straddles a fence.

It is worth adding, though, that the line of pits I reported coincides with a geological boundary that is depicted on the BGS mapExternal link of the area. When there in person, it can be seen that there is a definite discontinuity in elevation along that line, with the ground being slightly higher to the north (where the map shows "RON", Rosneath Conglomerate) than it is to the south (where the map shows "SCK", Stockiemuir Sandstone Formation). This suggests that the line of pits is indeed a system of old quarries.

If they are sufficiently old, they may have provided some of the stones that were employed in building Carman Fort. This, though, is just conjecture on my part.

Mount Malou

The name Mount Mallow or Mount Malou is sometimes employed locally. It is a name that has been passed on orally, and which does not appear on any maps, so the spelling is of little consequence. It is pronounced like the English word "allow", but with an "m" at the beginning. Like "allow", it is stressed on the second syllable.

Even among the older generation, who are usually the best-informed about such things, the name Mount Malou is sometimes used to refer to Carman Hill itself; however, this is not strictly correct. Neither does the name refer, as one local booklet of walks would have it, to the Fairy Knowe at the foot of the hill (the knoll has, in any case, been gone for over a century; it was largely removed by the formation of Carman QuarryExternal link, also known as the Fairy Knowe Quarry).

I spoke to someone whose father used to live in Carman CottageExternal link; he was therefore well-informed about the correct usage of the name. I was assured that Mount Malou is not Carman Hill, but is the "next hill behind it"; in other words, what is marked on OS maps as Overton Muir. Large-scale OS mapping shows the name Mullour at the high point of Overton Muir. The OS Name Books of c.1860 record this name, as well as the alternative spelling "Millaur". These suggest a pronunciation ([mɪlˠˈʌuɾ] or [mʌlˠˈʌuɾ]) that could easily develop into the one used today.

Tom S Hall, in his book "Citizen Rambles" (c.1930), after discussing "Poochy Glen" (that is, Poachy GlenExternal link), gives a different version of the name from the one now employed. He writes that "above the glen is Mount Maloy, a knoll on the uplands of Carman moor. Mount Maloy is not marked on the map, which points to the fact that it is only a local name. Then there is the Fairy Knowe Quarry, locally known as the Whinstone Quarry. Here is quarried that common redstone generally used for local building purposes". Hall's description of Mount Malou (he spells it Maloy) as "a knoll on the uplands of Carman moor" does not fit the spreading expanse of Overton Muir. This may be evidence that, even at that time (the 1930s), the name was beginning to be applied in a way that was different from its original usage; it is likely that he was using it to refer to Carman Hill itself, as some do today. Note, in passing, that Hall distinguishes "Mount Maloy" from the site of the Fairy Knowe Quarry.

An aside: I have seen Carman Hill labelled "Mt Carman" on some old maps, though it scarcely seems to merit the title. However, if even that modest hill could be referred to as "Mount" Carman, it is easy to see how the higher ground of Mullour/Millaur behind it might become "Mount" Malou. In much the same spirit, Ben Bowie ([bui]), not far away at c.NS340830, is small for a "Ben".

Cattle fair

A cattle fair was formerly held at Carman Hill. The fair, often characterised by rowdy behaviour, finally dwindled away at the end of the nineteenth century. Before being located at Carman Hill, it had previously been held at several other locations in the Dumbarton and Vale of Leven area. See note 1 for more on all of those subjects. After the cattle fair died away, a horse fairExternal link was held for a few more years beside Carman HouseExternal link.


(1) Details of the fair and related matters can be found in John Mitchell's booklet "The Shielings and Drove Ways of Loch Lomondside" (2000), supplemented by the information to be found in his paper "The Great Dumbarton Muir Tryst" on pages 2224 of issue 61 (2004) of the journal "Scottish Local History".

Square enclosure

About 185 metres to the northeast of the summit of Carman Hill (and the centre of its inner enclosure) is a square enclosure, about 42 metres to a side. Its boundary is a linear bank surrounded by a ditch. There appears to have been an entrance at the centre of the eastern side.

This enclosure is a good find, but I should stress that I was not the one who made the discovery. Fellow contributor Stan CampbellExternal link first noticed the feature on satellite imagery, and he later informed me. By then, he was no longer active in submitting photographs, so, sometime later, I took pictures of the enclosure for the Geograph site. Still later, I became concerned that someone else would eventually notice and report the enclosure, and that Stan would not receive due credit for his find. I therefore submitted an archaeological report for the site, stating that the discovery should be credited to him.
NS3779 : Remains of a square structure by Lairich RigNS3779 : Remains of a square structure by Lairich RigNS3779 : Remains of a square structure by Lairich Rig(left) The northwestern corner.
(middle) The northern side, seen from the northeastern corner.
(right) The southern side, seen from the southeastern corner.

NS3779 : Remains of a square structure by Lairich RigNS3779 : Remains of a square structure by Lairich Rig(left) The southern side, seen from the southwestern corner.
(right) A dip (a possible entrance) in the middle of the eastern side.

I cannot be certain about the time period to which this enclosure should be assigned; if Carman Fort is ever excavated, I hope that this enclosure will be examined along with it. One possibility is that the feature was an enclosure for livestock, and that it dates from the time in the nineteenth century when a cattle fair was held on Carman Hill. Its situation, with higher ground on three sides, makes it seem unlikely that the structure was a fortlet, for example; on the other hand, it seems unwise to be dogmatic about the age of this enclosure when it has not yet been professionally examined.

Flying field

The flying field is at the foot of Carman Hill, on the southeastern side; it is beside Cardross Road, with Carman ReservoirExternal link on the other side of the road. Access to the field is from beside the office of the trout fishery.
NS3778 : Flying field by Lairich RigNS3778 : Flying field by Lairich RigTwo close views of the flying field.
NS3778 : Flying field at Carman by Lairich RigNS3778 : Cardross Road by Lairich Rig(left) A view from the boulders near the summit of the hill.
(right) The flying field is not far behind the office of Carman Trout Fishery.

Model aeroplanes are still frequently flown from there. They do not stray far from the field itself, and certainly not as far as to the summit of the hill. The club has been in existence for several decades; I can recall a "sweetie-drop" event for local children being held in the late 1970s or early 80s, and (most probably on the same occasion) a functioning aeroplane in the form of a hover-mower.


A vehicular track, with a locked gate at the bottom, leads up the western flank of the hill; it provides access to a covered reservoir, to Asker Farm, and to High and Low Milndovan.
NS3678 : Start of a track to Asker Farm and Waterworks by Lairich RigNS3679 : Access to Asker Farm and covered reservoir by Lairich RigNS3679 : Track to Cardross Road by Lairich Rig(left) The start of the track.
(middle) Further uphill.
(right) A view back down.
NS3679 : Covered reservoir by Lairich RigNS3679 : Start of track to Asker Farm by Lairich RigNS3679 : Track to Asker Farm by Lairich Rig(left) Covered reservoir.
(middle) Branching off to Asker Farm.
(right) Further along that track.


This section discusses features visible from the main group of boulders on the hill; the emphasis is on hills, and, in particular, on those on the skyline. Before the main list is given, two pictures will be presented: the first illustrates the view to Tinto Hill and environs, while the second shows Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and its surroundings. Immediately below the photographic part of each image is a schematic view (see note 1) of the skyline, intended to reveal more clearly which hills are in front, and which behind.

 Skyline at bearing 125 from boulders on Carman Hill
Bearing 125
(1) 123.1 Chapelgill Hill (NT0630, 85.1km, 52.9 miles).(4) 125.0 Scaut Hill (NS9634, 74.4km, 46.2 miles).
(2) 123.8 Broad Law (NT1422, 96.1km, 59.8 miles).(5) 125.7 Tinto Hill (NS9534, 73.5km, 45.7 miles).
(3) 124.4 Culter Fell (NT0529, 84.7km, 52.6 miles).(6) 126.8 Lochlyock Hill (NS9234, 71.8km, 44.6 miles).

 Skyline at bearing 163 from boulders on Carman Hill
Bearing 163
(7) 162.0 Beninner (NX6097, 85.5km, 53.1 miles).(9) 163.2 Enoch Hill (NS5606, 75.1km, 46.7 miles).
(8) 162.6 Cairnsmore of Carsphairn (NX5997, 84.4km, 52.4 miles).

The general sweep of the skyline, as seen from the most prominent group of bouldersExternal link near the summit, will now be described. The viewpoint is at NS3719479414.

Much as I would like to illustrate the full skyline visually, using pictures like those above, doing so would not be practical. Instead, the main details are listed below, in something like a text-only version of a toposcope's plaque. The order of listing proceeds clockwise from the first hill visible in the NNE to the last one visible in the WNW. It turns out that almost 270 of the skyline is visible from these boulders. Hills, unless otherwise indicated, are on the skyline. All bearings are relative to true north; to calculate angles relative to OS grid north from this point, add 2.16°. I give no figures relative to magnetic north; these would soon be out of date.

The most distant peaks (those over about 60km away) can only be seen when visibility is particularly good. For extended ranges such as the Ochils, Fintry or Campsie Hills, only a rough angular range is given, and the distance to them is likewise approximate (it is, quite arbitrarily, measured to the middle of the near edge of the range, as seen from here).
23.2Ben Vane (NN5313, 38.0km, 23.6 miles); barely in view.
27.5Gualann (NS4594, 17.3km, 10.8 miles).
29.9Ben Ledi (NN5609, 35.8km, 22.2 miles).
35.5(Non skyline) Craig of Monivreckie (NN5401, 28.3km, 17.6 miles); noticeable ridge on Highland Boundary Fault.
39.5(Barely skyline) Beinn Dearg (NN5803, 32.7km, 20.3 miles); noticeable ridge on Highland Boundary Fault.
42.0(Well below skyline) DuncryneExternal link(NS4385, 9.0km, 5.6 miles); a small wooded hill, better known locally as the Dumpling.
6266Ochil Hills (c.NN8501, ~53km, ~33 miles).
65.1(Non skyline) Auchincarroch HillExternal link (NS4281, 5.6km, 3.5 miles); landfill site.
6672Fintry Hills (c.NS6388, ~27km, ~17 miles).
7388Campsie Hills (c.NS5581, ~19km, ~12 miles); two small peaksExternal link, Dumgoyne (76.6) and Dumfoyn (77.7), are well seen.
79.1(Non skyline) Pappert HillExternal link (NS4280, 5.2km, 3.2 miles); the wooded hill in front of Dumgoyne and Dumfoyn, with a clearing on the summit.

Kilpatrick Hills (c.NS4376, ~7km, ~4 miles). Part of the facade is called the Long CragsExternal link. On top are:
89.0 KnockuppleExternal link (NS4579, 8.6km, 5.3 miles).
94.1 Meikle White HillExternal link (NS4478, 7.2km, 4.5 miles).
100.9 the Doughnot HillExternal link (NS4477, 7.7km, 4.8 miles).
123158(Nearby, at the foot of the hill) Carman ReservoirExternal link, 0.9km, 0.5 miles.
125.7Tinto Hill (NS9534, 73.5km, 45.7 miles); see the first diagram above for details of this group..
131.1(Non skyline) Dumbuck QuarryExternal link (NS4274, 6.7km, 4.2 miles).
134.6Auchrobert Hill (NS75543870, 55.9km, 34.8 miles); very wide and low.
145.3Cairn Table (NS7224, 65.5km, 40.7 miles). Part of the summit is barely visible over intervening hills.
148.3(Non skyline) Dumbarton RockExternal link (NS4074, 5.6km, 3.5 miles).

Dod Hill (NS4953, 28.7km, 17.8 miles).
Just visible to its left a tiny piece of Hart Hill (152.1, NS6031, 53.0km, 33.0 miles.
Visible to its right are parts of Glen Garr and Wedder Hill (153.2, NS5930, 53.2km, 33.1 miles).

Blackcraig Hill (NS6406, 77.9km, 48.4 miles) is the most prominent of a group of distant hills, some with visible wind turbines:
155.9 Hare Hill (NS6509) and Burnt Moss (NS6410), 74.8km, 46.5 miles; turbines.
157.1 Blackcraig Hill (NS6406, 77.9km, 48.4 miles).
158.3 Alwhat (NS6401, 82.1km, 51.0 miles).
158.8 Alhang (NS6401, 82.9km, 51.5 miles).
160.2 Windy Standard (NS6101, 81.8km, 50.8 miles); turbines.
162.6Cairnsmore of Carsphairn (NX5997), 84.4km, 52.4 miles); see the second diagram above for details of this group.
165168Fairly level skyline from Benbrack (NS5305) to (a different) Windy Standard (NS5204); ~76km, ~47 miles.

The "hill" here is a tightly overlapping group; in detail:
Coran of Portmark (NX5093, 86.7km, 53.9 miles) centred, in front.
Cairnsgarroch (NX5191, 89.2km, 55.4 miles) behind, left.
Bow (NX5092, 87.7km, 54.5 miles), behind, right.

The even taller "hill" here is another group; details:
Corserine (NX4987, 93.2km, 57.9 miles) centre, at back.
Meaul (NX5090, 89.4km, 55.5 miles) in front, left.
Carlin's CairnExternal link (NX4988, 91.9km, 57.1 miles), in front, centre.
172.8Mullwharchar (NX4586, 93.2km, 57.9 miles.

Has the appearance of two hills beside each other.
On the left:
Little Spear (NX4285, 94.0km, 58.4 miles) behind and to the left of Kirriereoch Hill (NX4287, 92.6km, 57.5 miles).
On the right:
Unnamed (NX40459071, 88.8km, 55.2 miles) behind and to the left of unnamed (NX400920, 87.5km, 54.3 miles).

An indistinct flat distant range, including:
Rowantree Hill (NX3391, 87.6km, 54.5 miles).
Polmaddie Hill (NX327910, 88.5km, 55.0 miles).
Pinbreck Hill (NX32009089, 88.7km, 55.1 miles).
Haggis Hill (NX3292, 87.2km, 54.2 miles) is in front.
198.0Hannah Law (NS30676172, 18.9km, 11.7 miles). Just left of the Dookers (next entry).
201.2(A small pool) The DookersExternal link (NS36787844, 1.1km, 0.7 miles).
201.6Misty Law (NS2961, 19.1km, 11.9 miles). Hides Ailsa CraigExternal link (201.7, 87.1km, 54.1 miles).
215.3Burnt Hill (NS2563, 19.6km, 12.2 miles).
222.1Creuch Hill (NS2668, 15.2km, 9.5 miles).
240.5Dunrod Hill (NS240726, 14.9km, 9.2 miles).
248.1(Non skyline) Bargane Hill (NS2173, 16.3km, 10.2 miles), almost obscured by a nearer ridge.
252.9(Non skyline) Earn Hill (NS2275, 14.9km, 9.2 miles).
260.3Ardmore Point (NS3178, 5.6km, 3.5 miles) extending from the near shore of the Firth of Clyde.
261.6Kempock Point (NS2477, 13.1km, 8.1 miles). Shore at Gourock, across the Firth; ~ same direction as Ardmore Point.
266.9MV CaptayannisExternal link (NS29027928, 8.1km, 5.1 miles). "The Sugar Boat", a wreck in the Clyde.
268.2Cruach nan Capull (NS0979, 27.6km, 17.2 miles).

A "notch" in the skyline along Glen Lean, behind the tip of the Rosneath Peninsula.
Cruach Neuran (NS084820, 28.9km, 18.0 miles) to its left.
Clachaig Hill (NS10728300, 26.7km, 16.6 miles) to its right.
281.6An Creachan (NS10958583, 27.0km, 16.8 miles); its top is only just visible.
286.9Stronchullin Hill (NS17068635), 21.3km, 13.2 miles). Just to its right is:
291.5Beinn Mhr (NS10879093, 28.7km, 17.9 miles).

Additional entries for the view from the nearby summit of Carman Hill:
294.6Sligrachan Hill (NS15489040, 24.3km, 15.1 miles).
297.0Beinn Bheag (NS12589320, 28.2km, 17.5 miles).
301.2Creachan Mr (NS18659166, 22.2km, 13.8 miles).

Creag Sgoilte (NS1597) and Caisteal Dubh (NS1598), 28.6km, 17.7 miles;
two close peaks, their tops barely visible over the intervening wooded Killoeter RidgeExternal link.

As noted in the list (see entry for 201.6), Ailsa CraigExternal link is not visible from here. It is well hidden by Misty Law, which can itself easily be identified by its being almost directly behind a pool (which is called the Dookers). Misty Law hides Ailsa Craig so well that it would be necessary to hover about 400 metres above Carman Hill to see even the top of that isle. However, Ailsa Craig can be seen from, for example, the top of the Doughnot HillExternal link, which is just under 5 miles from here.

About 90 of the skyline is also blocked from view, and not just by the summit of Carman Hill itself; the higher muirs to the NNW are also in the way. For a good all-round viewExternal link, I can recommend the site of Bromley Muir trig pointExternal link, which is just over a kilometre to the NNW of Carman Hill's fort. From there, most of the peaks listed above can be seen, but several more can be added to the list; for example: the peaks of Arran; the Arrochar Alps; the hills around Glen Finlas; Ben Lomond and the peaks beyond it; Conic Hill; and Whinny HillExternal link and Knockour HillExternal link near Balloch. The trig point also overlooksExternal link Loch Lomond and its islands.


(1) On the diagrams for bearings 125 and 163: the photographic elements of those pictures are my own, as are the schematic skyline views below them; the latter were cropped out of images that I created with software of my own (a further example can be seen below). The digits on the diagrams were simply added later, for the purposes of this article, to allow me to refer to individual hills in the accompanying captions.

The software is a C++/OpenGL program, strictly for my own use. I wrote it over a few days in 2009, partly as a mathematical exercise, partly for fun, but mainly to satisfy a long-standing desire to have an easy way to identify any hills that appear in my photographs. The program generates, in under a second, the skyline from any specified OS grid reference, elevation, and view direction. The view can then be zoomed in or out, and the view direction panned around, refreshing the picture as it goes, until I can see whatever hills I am interested in. Clicking on a peak, or any feature other than sky, gives its grid reference and distance.

 Bearing 004 from Bromley Muir Trig Point

Please note that I cannotExternal link enter into any correspondence on this or any other matter. My main tip, though, for anyone who might be prompted to write something similar as a learning exercise is to weigh up what is involved. As well as the graphics programming know-how, you will need (1) digital elevation data. I used NASA's ASTER GDEM, which I downloaded (for Scotland only) and then pre-processed into Cartesian coordinates. Especially if going back and forth from OS grid references, you will also require to code (2) all of the mathematical transformations that are presented in appendices B to D of "Guide to Coordinate Systems in Great BritainExternal link" (1.2MB PDF at the OS website). Some of these transformations are only called for in the one-off pre-processing step, but the rest will be required in the main code. (3) Devising an appropriate outlining and shading algorithm is essential. Without this, the ground will have no visible features, other than the line of the horizon itself. There would be no outlines of hills, far less any indication of which ones are in front, and which behind. Colouring (according to distance) is useful to some extent, but it is mainly cosmetic, and is not essential; note that, without outlining and shading in place, colouring is not nearly as helpful as might be thought.

Few people will feel the urge to write their own software for such things. It is therefore worth adding that, a decade on, when I was writing this article, there were (I was told) phone apps to identify peaks. I do not use a mobile phone myself, and so cannot offer an opinion on them.


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