Relics of the limestone industry on Dumbarton Muir

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Text © Copyright Lairich Rig, September 2012
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.

NS4379 : Ancient trackway by Lairich RigNS4377 : Ancient trackway by Lairich RigOld limestone industry tracks.

The main purpose of this article is to describe and to illustrate an extensive network of old tracks traversing a large area centred on Dumbarton Muir in West Dunbartonshire. In past centuries, those tracks were employed by those working in the limestone-burning industry. Alongside those tracks, relics of that industry can be seen; many of them are shown and described in this article.

The tracks branch off from two main routes: the Common Drove Road, which runs eastwards from Bonhill to the Common Ford and beyond; and the Old Drymen Road, which runs NNE, from Dumbarton to Drymen.

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 'Antiquities'). However, even at that early stage, some disturbance of the moor, in the form of heavy vehicle tracks, had resulted from preliminary work, such as the erection of an anemometer mast. The application for the Merkins Wind Farm development was rejected by the Planning Committee on 23 October 2013.

Some of the individual industrial relics on this old network had already been reported (I provide links to existing reports, where appropriate). 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 written and photographic record of those findings. I believe that it is important to record such traces of our industrial heritage while they survive.

A Google Map has been created to accompany this article. For those who simply wish to look at the map without further ado, see 'THE MAPExternal link' (right-click and open in a separate tab or window).

The two main roads crossing the moor are marked in blue, and the other tracks branching off from them are marked in red. Sites discussed in this article are represented on the map by marker pins; these have photographs associated with them, and links to corresponding pages on the Geograph website, where more detailed information can be found.

For more about the map itself, see 'The map'. Later sections of this article discuss particular parts of the moor; in those sections, links are given to the same map, but with the view automatically centred on and zoomed in on the particular area being discussed.

Since it was first written, this article has grown greatly in scope: it now includes a great deal of information on topics that are not related to the limestone industry. Likewise, the sites marked on the map are not limited to lime-kilns or old quarries; they also include archaeological sites, bomb craters, and other points of interest. However, the network of tracks still provides the framework for the article; I have therefore kept the original title unchanged.


The historical background

In this area, limestone that was quarried locally was burned in lime-kilns in order to produce lime for agricultural use.

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.

The raw materials

David Ure, writing in 1794 (see [Ure] in the 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.

NS4480 : Cornstone outcrop by Lairich RigNS4278 : Cornstone outcrop by Lairich RigCornstone 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.

NS4178 : Ballagan Beds in Auchenreoch Glen by Lairich RigNS4178 : Cementstone nodule in Auchenreoch Glen by Lairich Rig(left) Ballagan Bed formations in the steep side of the glen: layers of cementstone nodules occur between thicker layers of siltstone.
(right) A cementstone nodule in the bed of the burn. Cementstone is the "cam-stone" or "glen-stone" of Ure's report, and it is the other main form of limestone that was found and burned locally.

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.

Vanished farmsteads

It will shortly become clear that what now seems to be empty moorland was once a scene of industry. Additionally, there were several farmsteads in the area. At the south-western end of the network is the still-extant Maryland Farm (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 network

The map

For convenience, I have created an annotated satellite view showing the network of tracks and the many sites of interest on them. It is in the form of a Google Map:

The map: LINKExternal 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 often have one or more photographs associated with them: click on any of those marker pins to see thumbnail images; below the thumbnail images are links to pages on Geograph where larger versions of the pictures, and much more detailed information, can be found.

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, the "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 two old roads as shown on the Plan is described there in much more detail). For convenience, I will refer to the one running from SSW to NNE as the Old Drymen Road, and the one running from west to east as the Common Drove Road.

The local limestone-burning industry appears to have made use of those roads: many of the subsidiary 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 for 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 the same Google Map as given above, but with the view centred on (and zoomed in on) the relevant area.

Maryland and Broadfield

Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

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, and is in fact the Old Drymen Road, which led from Dumbarton to Drymen.

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 perhaps close to what is now the northern corner of Square Wood; an enclosure nearby, at NS41927781, may have been associated with that farm; a similar enclosure is located about 370 metres to the NNE, at NS42037817.

The 1801 plan includes a number of other interesting details: for example, it shows a site labelled "Belting Kiln" near the source of the Spouts Burn (I discuss this and other place-names found on old estate plans in a later section of this article).

However, I also encountered some difficulties in working from that plan: specifically, when attempting to match the features shown on it to present-day topographical features (and to Roy's Military Survey), I found that I had to proceed on the assumption that what the plan labels "Little Glen" is really Glendonachy, and that what it labels "Glendonachy" is really Auchenreoch Glen. This is hardly satisfactory, and it accounts for my reluctance to be dogmatic 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.

The Starfish Decoy site and the bomb craters near it are pictured in a later section of this article.

There are no traces of the limestone industry along this first part of the road; it merely provided convenient access to the moors from the town of Dumbarton.

On the early-nineteenth-century "Plan of Dumbarton Muir", the road is labelled "Road to Drymen &c"; this Old Drymen Road was probably used as a drove road (it was described as such by I.M.M.MacPhail in his 1976 booklet "Off the Main Road"). Another old drove road (the Common 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 Old Drymen Road 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 "Off the Main Road", 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') is the course of the Old Drymen Road, and leads to the northern half of the network. The right-hand branch leads, instead, to a large area of former surface quarrying, described next.

NS4278 : Lime-kiln ruin in upper Auchenreoch Glen by Lairich RigNS4278 : Lime-kiln ruin by Lairich RigThe remains of a lime-kiln in upper Auchenreoch Glen. The track divides where it passes near this kiln.

North of Meikle White Hill

Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

The right-hand branch of the track heads north-east to about NS43557922, at which point it crosses a small burn (the upper reaches of the Spouts 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.

NS4379 : Ancient trackway by Lairich RigNS4379 : Moorland disturbed by former limestone industry by Lairich Rig(left) The track, on the approach to the burn.
(right) The disturbed and conspicuously green area just to the north.

In later research, I came across some old place-names associated with that location: see the remarks on Hairshaw Ford and the Belting Kiln in a later section of this article. The ford and kiln were, it seems, at the very place that is shown in the above pictures; the kiln was just to the north-east of the ford. The ford and the track leading here provided access, and the Spouts Burn was the source of water for slaking the burnt stone.

The track then makes zigzag 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.

NS4379 : Braided trackway by Lairich RigNS4379 : Braided trackway by Lairich RigA view in opposite directions along the track, which is braided here (meaning that it is made up of several closely-spaced interweaving tracks).
NS4479 : Ancient trackway by Lairich RigNS4479 : Site of former limestone quarrying by Lairich Rig(left) The track, near its eastern termination.
(right) The track fans out here into several areas that show clear signs of surface quarrying. One of those areas is shown here.

The depth and braiding of these tracks reveal that this was a well-used and very productive part of the network. The presence of the Belting Kiln near here would account for this.

Black Wood

Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

A south-eastern part of the network begins not far from present-day Garshake Farm. It is not possible to trace its route directly until the point where it becomes visible on the open moor, heading north-east from about NS42067682, but it is possible to make reasonable inferences about its beginnings: as explained in a later section of the article, that old road probably began on the line of what is now Round Riding Road, led uphill along what is now Garshake Road, and then continued to about NS41707649 by means of a route close to the road that passes through the present-day waterworks (it may have been a little to the south-east of the line of the modern road).

From there on, the course can be described with greater certainty: the old track would have continued north-eastwards, just inside the north-western edge of what is now a strip of woodland centred on NS41897665. The ruins of Upper Garshake Farm, now almost indiscernible, are therefore right alongside that old track. The farm was also known as Hill of Garshake, or (where the context ensured that there was no ambiguity) just Hill.

Beside the south-eastern edge of the same strip of woodland is a disused farm track that heads north-east from NS41727648 to NS42047678, and which is marked on the first-edition OS map (surveyed in 1860). It would be tempting to think that this is a relic of the old route, but it is not: where the old route emerges on to the open moor, it can be seen that it does not quite align with that farm track, although it does run parallel to it; it is clear that the original route was a little to the north-west of the farm track, within what is now a wooded area. It is likely that the farm track was created when the much older route fell into disuse, and when the strip of woodland was subsequently planted around it.

From NS42067682, the old track itself leaves the woods, and becomes visible on the open moor, continuing NNE as a braided track. The first part of it is obscured by trees, as shown in the pictures below:

NS4276 : Braided track in woodland by Lairich RigNS4276 : Braided track in woodland by Lairich Rig(left) Braided track in woodland; looking downhill.
(right) The same area, shown in a view uphill.

At about NS42207697, the track emerges from tree cover, but is hidden by gorse instead. From about NS42317702, the braided track is better exposed to view, and it passes some remains, as described next.

A cultivated plot:

To the west of the braided track is an area covered by a pattern of ridges and furrows, spaced about 1.5 metres apart. The area is centred on NS42357707, and its outline is a quadrilateral, measuring 75 metres (SW-NE) by 45 metres (WNW-ESE, which is also the orientation of the ridges and furrows); this was presumably a cultivated plot.

Its appearance is typical of the kind of plot that would be found right next to a farmhouse; it would not simply occur in isolation. I was unable, though, to find any definite remains of buildings nearby. On the north-western edge of this area is a more-or-less square patch of shorter vegetation: it would require more than a superficial examination to determine whether this is of any significance, but it is just possible that it is a faint indication of the former presence of structures; at any rate, there are no foundations to be seen here.

NS4277 : Remains of a cultivated plot by Lairich RigNS4277 : Remains of a cultivated plot by Lairich RigThe ridges and furrows of the cultivated plot.
NS4277 : Possible former site of a building by Lairich RigNS4277 : Possible former site of a building by Lairich RigA square patch of shorter vegetation.

The braided track itself makes an abrupt change of direction just to the south of the cultivated plot, which sits in the angle formed by the turn. There is nothing in the topography of this part of the moor to make such a change of direction necessary, and since the track would otherwise be expected to follow a more direct route, it seems likely that the track turns at this point simply because it had to go around the plot (and associated farm buildings, if there were indeed any here).

However, the track consists of several parallel hollow ways here, and the westernmost one slices through the ridges and furrows at the south-eastern edge of the plot. One plausible explanation for this is that the track continued in use for a considerable time after the plot had been abandoned. The abandoned plot is tightly nestled within the angle formed by the track's abrupt turn; over time, with no remaining obstacle to following a slightly shorter and smoother route here, that angle would gradually be rounded off as people began to cut across it; parts of the track would thus begin to encroach on the abandoned plot.

I originally believed that this plot was associated with the vanished farmstead of Upper Garshake, and that the farm buildings themselves would once have stood beside it; Roy's Military Survey of Scotland shows that farmstead (as "Upper Garsheake") somewhere in this general area. However, a helpful contact at WoSAS brought to my attention the unnamed building marked at about NS42007675 on the first-edition OS map, and I am thoroughly convinced by his reasoning that this is a far more likely location for Upper Garshake; furthermore, that location better corresponds to the position marked on Roy's map. As for the plot illustrated above, it is not clear which of the local farms it was associated with; my own opinion is that it is a relic of a much older farmstead, one that has not been recorded.

As for the track leading past the cultivated plot, it may well correspond to a route that appears on "A Map of the Shire of Dumbarton" (1777) by Charles Ross: that route is shown leading from "Mains" (of Colquhoun) in Dumbarton, past "Waulkmiln" (the town's waulk mill), Crosslet and Greenhead, and then past Garshake, leading ultimately to "Whitehill" (present-day Meikle and Little White Hill). As my annotated satellite map shows, the main body of the braided track leads to areas of extensive but shallow quarrying on the western slopes of Meikle White Hill; it is therefore a good candidate for being the route that is shown on the Charles Ross map. This also indicates that the track was, for at least a part of its history, employed in connection with the local limestone-burning industry, making it of relevance to the present article.

For the sake of completeness, my annotated satellite map also shows some much fainter tracks (of indeterminate age) that head west from the vicinity of the cultivated plot, and which lead towards Maryland and Priestyard, which are themselves of considerable antiquity.

After passing the ridged plot, the braided track continues to the NNE, fanning out considerably as it passes near the north-western edge of Black Wood, where a large number of parallel tracks can be seen (especially in the area around NS42627757). The area along the north-western margin of Black Wood was planted with trees in about 2014, and many of those tracks will therefore gradually disappear from view.

Shortly after passing the north-western tip of Black Wood, the braided track passes the faint remains of another site of interest, a long-vanished farmstead, as described next.

A vanished farmstead north of Black Wood:

That 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 viewExternal link of their own). After finding the ruins of the farmhouse itself, I submitted a report to WoSASExternal link, who had no existing record of it.

NS4277 : Remains of an ancient farmhouse by Lairich RigNS4277 : Enclosure of ancient farmstead by Lairich Rig(left) The faint remains of a farmhouse.
(right) The north-eastern side of its associated enclosure.

The location of this farmstead is near the "H Killpatrick" (High Kilpatrick) that is marked on John Ainslie's 1821 map of the southern part of Scotland (I have not seen this name marked on any other map). However, that map is not sufficiently detailed to allow the farmstead to be identified with any confidence. In any case, given the poor condition of the remains, it seems unlikely that they are to be identified with a farm that was still in existence as recently as 1821. I consider the ruins to be much older.

I believe that this lost farmstead was also located, quite independently, by the Woodland Trust Scotland, while they were carrying out a survey of the area before planting trees. I later contacted them, out of concern that they might, with their new planting, inadvertently obliterate the relics of the farm building; to their credit, they were keen to ensure that the remains were preserved. A few years later, at around the same time that I was investigating the remains of the cultivated plot shown above, I revisited this area just north of Black Wood, and I can confirm that the area occupied by the ancient farmhouse was indeed left unplanted.

At the northern edge of Black Wood, one system of tracks heads eastwards, passing some limestone outcrops (NS43047764) on the way. Much of that area was planted with trees early in 2016. There are some quarry pits and limestone outcrops near c.NS43387789, and the old braided track is particularly prominent where it passes over a large mound, caused by underlying limestone. Near there, the braided track crosses a very old boundary; the track cuts through the boundary, providing visible evidence that the boundary is older than the track. The braids of the track cross the Roughting Burn at NS43737774 before fanning out and becoming rather indistinct. There are, though, signs of quarrying at their eastern end.

The main system of tracks heads, instead, in a north-easterly direction, to the western slopes of Meikle White Hill. In this area, centred on NS43967851, there are signs of extensive surface quarrying on the slopes of the hill (particularly apparent in the 2005 satellite imagery).

As the annotated satellite map shows, another set of limestone industry tracks also lead to the western slopes of Meikle White Hill. These originate in the area around Spouts, and they will be discussed next.


Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

Note that the remains in this area are represented in much greater detail in an annotated satellite viewExternal link of their own.

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 CanmoreExternal link 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.

NS4278 : The ruin of Spouts by Lairich RigNS4278 : Enclosure around ruin of Spouts by Lairich Rig(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 farmstead of Spouts 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.

NS4278 : Small-scale limestone quarrying by Lairich RigNS4278 : Cornstone outcrop by Lairich Rig(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 WoSASExternal link 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.

NS4278 : Possible lime-kiln ruin at the Spouts Burn by Lairich RigNS4278 : Mounds beside the Spouts Burn by Lairich Rig(left) A large green mound; the hollow in it is probably a lime-kiln ruin.
(right) The smaller mounds in the foreground were probably clamp kilns. Like many of the other remains shown in this article, they are noticeably more green than their surroundings. This is because of a difference in vegetation cover caused by the presence of limestone (whether burnt or otherwise).

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.

Auchenreoch Muir

Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

As mentioned above, in the section 'Maryland and Broadfield', some tracks branch off from the Old Drymen Road at NS42707862. The road itself continues to the NNE. However, at about NS42907908, minor tracks branch off from it, and lead towards the ruins of a longhouse; that building is probably at least as old as the network of tracks.

NS4279 : Remains of a longhouse by Lairich RigNS4279 : Remains of a longhouse by Lairich RigRuins of a longhouse.

The Old Drymen Road, here deep and braided, continues to the north-east. 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 possible test pits from NS42967968 to NS42977975; and a wall-like linear feature from NS42707969 to NS42817968. The longhouse, the quarries, the possible test pits, and the other features in this area had already been reported; for details, I refer readers to a report at WoSASExternal link, where the remains are described and interpreted. I should add that I take the round pits to be lines of bomb craters, of which there are several elsewhere on the moor; see a later section of this article for further comments.

Some of these features are shown below:

NS4379 : Old quarry by Lairich RigNS4279 : Test pit or bomb crater by Lairich Rig(left) A large former quarry.
(right) One of a line of old test pits or bomb craters.
NS4279 : Test pit or bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4279 : Old spoil mound by Lairich Rig(left) Another test pit or bomb crater in the same line.
(right) This was perhaps a spoil mound.

The Old Drymen Road (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.

NS4379 : Ancient trackway by Lairich RigNS4480 : Cornstone outcrop by Lairich Rig(left) The Old Drymen Road, 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.

Near the Lang Dyke

Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

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.

NS4380 : Traces of limestone quarrying by Lairich RigNS4480 : Crescent-shaped pit by Lairich Rig(left) Signs of surface quarrying.
(right) A large crescent-shaped pit, another former quarry.
NS4380 : Former limestone quarry by Lairich RigNS4380 : Pool (in a former limestone quarry) by Lairich RigTwo 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 Auchenreoch Glen and the 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 the two old roads (shown as blue lines on the map: the Old Drymen Road running SSW-NNE, and the Common Drove Road running W-E). The kiln was therefore very well placed for access.

Further signs of disturbance, in the form of a pit that is open on one side, can be seen not far to the west. It is the remains of a kiln (lower-right image, below).

NS4380 : Remains of large rectangular lime-kiln by Lairich RigNS4380 : Remains of wall at lime-kiln site by Lairich Rig(left) The large rectangular pit of the lime-kiln, viewed from its western end. The photo was taken early in the year, before new growth of bracken could smother the site. Note that [Mitchell2013] contains a photograph of this kiln, with the bracken cleared, and a useful description of it.
(right) The western end of the kiln: fragmentary remains of the wall.
NS4380 : Ruined lime-kiln: detail by Lairich RigNS4380 : Remains of a lime-kiln by Lairich Rig(left) The eastern end of the kiln.
(right) The remains of a kiln; the hollow is open on the side that faces the nearby burn.

The Old Drymen 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.

Red Brae

Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

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 CanmoreExternal link for details):

NS4481 : Cultivation traces at Red Brae by Lairich RigNS4481 : Unfinished millstone at Red Brae by Lairich Rig(left) A distant view of the cultivation traces at Red Brae; views from within the two furrowed areas are given below.
(right) An unfinished millstone at Red Brae.
NS4481 : Cultivation traces at Red Brae by Lairich RigNS4481 : Cultivation traces at Red Brae by Lairich RigCultivation traces at Red Brae; this area, which is furrowed N-S, does not appear in the distant view (since, in relation to that picture, it would be over the brow of the hill).
NS4481 : Cultivation traces at Red Brae by Lairich RigNS4481 : Cultivation traces at Red Brae by Lairich Rig(left) A second area, furrowed E-W. It appears on the left in the distant view.
(right) A third area, furrowed ESE-WNW; it appears on the right in the distant view, and it also contains the unfinished millstone shown above.

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.

NS4481 : Remains of an enclosure by Lairich RigNS4481 : Remains of an enclosure by Lairich Rig(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 recent traffic 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.

Blairquhomrie Muir

Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

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:

NS4381 : Remains of lime-kiln by Lairich RigNS4281 : Remains of a lime-kiln by Lairich Rig(left) Remains of a lime-kiln at NS43298146.
(right) A different lime-kiln, at NS42938134.
NS4281 : Traces of limestone quarrying by Lairich RigNS4281 : Limestone outcrops by Lairich Rig(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 Drymen Road continues towards the north-east, as discussed next.

The north-east

Centred satellite map: LINKExternal link

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"; specifically, it is the Old Drymen Road. Alongside this part of the track, there do not appear to be any sites 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:

NS4480 : Possible remains of a structure by Lairich RigNS4480 : Traces of an old road by Lairich Rig(left) This is possibly the corner of an old structure.
(right) The Old Drymen Road, a green ribbon through the heather.
NS4480 : Traces of an old road by Lairich RigNS4481 : Traces of an old road by Lairich Rig(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:

NS4481 : Remains of a boundary by Lairich RigNS4481 : Remains of a boundary by Lairich Rig(left) The boundary's western end; the road is on the right.
(right) A view along the ridge.
NS4481 : Remains of a boundary by Lairich RigNS4481 : Remains of a boundary by Lairich Rig(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.

NS4481 : Water-filled pit by Lairich RigNS4480 : Possible remains of a structure by Lairich Rig(left) The circular water-filled pit
(right) Green ridges indicate the end-walls of some small rectangular structures.

The Old Drymen 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:

NS4581 : Remains of a road by Lairich RigNS4581 : Remains of a road by Lairich Rig(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 that is shown on the Plan, it is described below, in the section 'Common Drove Road'.)

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 next, in the section headed 'The glens'.

The glens

In parallel with the quarrying and burning of cornstone, discussed above, another form of limestone was being found and processed in this area: this was cementstone, an impure form of limestone that occurs as layers of nodules in the deeper, steep-sided parts of the Murroch Glen and Auchenreoch Glen, and in a few other places (as illustrated below).

NS4178 : Auchenreoch Glen by Lairich RigNS4378 : Cementstone nodules in the Spouts Burn by Lairich Rig(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:

NS4178 : Ridge leading into Auchenreoch Glen by Lairich RigNS4178 : Lime-kiln ruin in lower Auchenreoch Glen by Lairich Rig(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:

NS4178 : Remains of a lime-kiln by Lairich RigNS4178 : Remains of a lime-kiln by Lairich Rig(left) A lime-kiln ruin in the Murroch Glen.
(right) A different kiln in the same glen.
NS4178 : Remains of a lime-kiln by Lairich RigNS4178 : Remains of a lime-kiln (wall detail) by Lairich Rig(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.

This concludes the main discussion of the limestone industry as it relates to this moor. The rest of this article will cover a number of different subjects.


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