Bathgate Hills: Cairnpapple, Binny Craig and Beecraigs

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THE Bathgate Hills are steeped in stories. This corner of West Lothian – stretching from Linlithgow in the north, to Bathgate in the south and Uphall in the east – may not be as well-known or lauded as some other Scottish landscapes, yet it is filled with beauty, rich history and folklore.

Among its striking landmarks is Binny Craig, the impressive “crag-and-tail” landform – a volcanic sill – that you see in the accompanying photograph. If you squint your eyes, it looks like a lion’s head.

Binny Craig, near Ecclesmachan, is a legacy from the last Ice Age with its “crag” of hard rock facing west and sloping “tail” of sedimentary rock and fertile farmland to the east. It proffers superb views across the Firth of Forth, as well as surrounding West Lothian, Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills.

Speaking of panoramas, Cairnpapple Hill – the highest point in the Bathgate Hills – is no slouch either. From here, on a clear day, you can see right across Central Scotland to the Bass Rock and Berwick Law in the east and the distant mountains of Arran to the west.

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Cairnpapple, near Torphichen, was an important site for ceremonies and burials for at least 4,000 years – its Neolithic henge dates from about 3800 BC. Centuries later, it was used for Bronze Age burials and then early Christian graves.

Other gems in the Bathgate Hills include the Scottish Korean War Memorial with its arboretum of 1,114 native Scottish trees and Beecraigs Country Park, home to a loch and deer farm.

The former Hilderston Silver Mine, not far from Cairnpapple, is said to have contributed to the making of the Scottish Crown Jewels, or “Honours of Scotland”, displayed at Edinburgh Castle. It closed in the early 17th century.

Nor is that the only silver in this story. According to legend, a family driving through the narrow, winding lanes of the Bathgate Hills in 1988 saw a glowing figure running in the opposite direction, moving at high speed. As it passed, the head of the so-called “Silver Man” twisted back towards them in a scowl.

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Ghostly entity, hoax or something else? As the crow flies, this alleged encounter took place only a handful of miles from the location of a famed UFO sighting by forestry worker Robert Taylor in 1979. We will let you make up your own mind.

What to read:

West Lothian Lore by William Fyfe Hendrie. Published in 1976, if you can get your hands on a second-hand copy of this slim volume, it is packed with fascinating historical nuggets.

Other information:

Cairnpapple Hill is currently closed to visitors and due to reopen later in the spring. Visit historicenvironment.scot

Please follow the Scottish Government’s latest coronavirus restrictions, visit www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19

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