Shien Hill (NO 174267, c.210m)
Pole Hill (NO 196261, 288m)
Law Hill (NO 170259, c.255m)
Murrayshall Hill (NO 165254, 279m)
350m of ascent (including detours)
The original object of this jaunt was to see if I could find easy access to Pole Hill, which I’ve previously visited. On that trip, I came over from Beal Hill, visited the fort on Evelick Hill, and found myself a little stymied by a fearsome double fence that is marked on the map as running completely around the summit of Pole Hill. On that occasion I had to crawl under one section to gain access to the summit area from the Evelick side, but it seemed to me that there had to be a gap in the fence somewhere. So this was a reconnaissance trip, coming in from the west.
I found roadside parking next to the golf course at NO 163260, and walked back to a farm entrance at the crossroads which took me along a succession of muddy tracks to the flank of Shien Hill. The summit is surrounded by fenced forestry, but there are a couple of points along the track where it’s easy to step over. The Ordnance Survey marks the summit as bearing a prehistoric cairn. I’m used to these being completely invisible under the turf, so I was a little taken aback by the conical mound, a good five metres high, that appeared out of the trees, with a roe deer peering down at me anxiously before bounding away. Canmore describes the cairn as “apparently undisturbed”, but I was more than a little disturbed by the time I had pushed up through the nettles and thistles to reach the top.
Shien Hill gets its name from the Gaelic sithean, “fairy”, and I’m not surprised that such a strikingly symmetrical mound was interpreted as the home of supernatural creatures.
From there, I retraced my steps to a wooden gate so that I could pick up something the OS marks as a path, but which looks more like an old wall line, leading up to a group of ruined buildings. The OS six-inch map of the 1843-1882 series calls this abandoned farm-steading Boglebee, and David Dorward suggests the name might come from Gaelic bog beith, “birch mire”. I dunno about that one—the proximity to a fairy hill makes me want to invoke bogles in the derivation.
The old maps show a track linking Boglebee to the Evelick-Dalreichmoor road, and modern maps show a remnant of the same. That was my route to Pole Hill. I headed across the farmland, following my nose to the northeast corner of the field, where I found a double set of gates and the start of a farm track. This quite soon dived into dense gorse, but that was easily circumvented by veering uphill for a short distance.
When I got to a point at which I could see Pole Hill’s protective fence, I walked up to explore it. Here, on the west of the hill, it was still a stout double-layered barrier. After casting about fruitlessly southwards, I used a corner post to help me hop over the first fence and headed east, walking between the fences.
I was soon rewarded by the appearance of a gate and stile combination at NO 19222644. I climbed over the stile and marched triumphantly up to the summit of Pole Hill, scaring up a couple of snipe on the way.
Then, in a completionist spirit, I walked off northwards to explore another section of the circumferential fence. I quickly came upon a pair of stiles at NO 19592629, which let me hop over into a field that slopes down to the Evelick-Dalreichmoor road. (I had actually come through this field when I came over from Beal Hill previously, but had headed over towards Evelick fort without exploring its upper boundary.)
So I walked out one gate on to the road, followed the road for a short distance to another gate, and linked up with the track to Boglebee. After that there was a bit more wandering around while I confirmed I could get back to the gate and stile without encountering any more obstacles. So that’s it for Pole Hill—two easy points of access from the Evelick-Dalreichmoor road, or a slightly longer approach from Boglebee.
And then more wandering, as I diverged from my outward track to take a look at another ruined farm-stead—this one is just above modern Arnbathie Farm, and labelled Turfhills on the old OS maps. Dorward is silent on that name, but I imagine it means just what it says in English.
From there, I returned briefly to my outward route before striking southwards along the farm track network to reach Law Hill, which was to be my last hill of the day. The ramparts of its prehistoric fort are easily visible, though less impressive than those at nearby Evelick.
As I stood on top, two things happened. Firstly, I noticed the thread of a path ascending the steep northeast end of Murrayshall Hill, just across the road. Secondly, I heard bagpipe music floating down from the vicinity of the Lyndoch Obelisk, on top of the hill. So I scooted down to the road, and then climbed a narrow slot of a path that strikes up the hillside from just north of the Easthill cottages.
The path soon faded away, leaving me to churn up steep ground on to the shoulder of Murrayshall. At that point the music stopped, but I made it to the obelisk in time to surprise the musician, just as he was about to head downhill with his pipes slung over his shoulder in a cloth bag. His wife, he said, forbade the playing of bagpipes in the house (not unreasonably, since they’re essentially an outdoor instrument). So he was in the habit of trekking up Murrayshall Hill to “warm them up” from time to time, in a place where he could disturb no-one.
But, on this occasion, he’d unwittingly managed to lure a curious wanderer into climbing one more hill.