A last minute change of plan for Saturday night saw me decide not to head for Ben Cruachan on Sunday morning. This would have been my first outing of the year with Glasgow HF, and my first trip with them since September last year. Instead Saturday night saw me at a gig in Edinburgh, and there was no way I’d be up for an early start. A smaller hill, a shorter day was called for…
Many times as I’ve sat on the train going south towards England my eye has been caught with a prominent green pudding bowl hill which sits opposite Tinto Hill. Quothquan Law sits above the village of Thankerton, and is a childs representation of how a hill should be, rounded and green, with some trees, and hopefully a smiling yellow sun. A trip up Tinto followed by a bimble to Quothquan Law looked ideal.
My daughter Olivia and I set off about eleven for the drive through Newmains, Carluke and Lanark. It seems every time I come down this way something has changed. I cycled to Tinto last year, and in the intervening six or seven months a new Tesco has sprung up in Carluke. Within a few years I seriously doubt any town in Scotland will be without one, while the heritage of the towns goes under concrete and tarmac. In this case another football ground has bitten the dust.
A quick stop in Lanark for snacks and we were on the final leg of the journey. We drove past the tea rooms and the busy car park staying on the A73 towards St Johns Kirk. The map shows a path going up over Wee Hill and Scaut Hill, passing above the wonderfully names Fatlips Castle en-route to the summit. I thought this may have been a more interesting route than the usual tourist path, with its demoralising series of false crests which I still recall vividly from my first trip up here almost thirty years ago. On a good day it’s bearable as you can at least look around. On a day like today, with low cloud shrouding the hill, it’s a trudge. Sadly the A73 was lined with a high fence and although there was a gate where the path started, there was no decent parking available, and I didn’t fancy walking along the main road with Olivia, so we turned and went back to the main car park. The start of the route up is now fenced in, and we headed up trying to dodge the pockets of mud which scar the path. This must be a popular stroll for locals after breakfast, and an assortment of runners, families, dog walkers and even hillwalkers passed us on our way up. I felt the odd one out, few people had any sign of a bag or rucksack, less sign of a map. The path is fairly obvious but there is one spot where the path splits and in poor visibility requires a bit of thought. Going up is fairly simple though, for as long as you go up you should come to the top. Take the wrong fork coming down and you could end up at a number of places.
In the wind and the thick cloud Olivia’s enthusiasm waned as we got higher. On more than one occasion I said “Let’s go back down now” to which she refused each offer. Her head was down and she dragged her walking pole behind her. Her first trip up here was probably becoming as miserable as mine had been. Technology came to the rescue in the form of the GPS. There is a geocache near the summit, and I had this as a waypoint. “It’s 985 metres to the top” I said. “As we walk the numbers will count down, when it gets to nothing, we will be there.” Immediately she saw the numbers count down, to slow for her liking, but they did come down. “We have the distance from our house to friends house and back left to go.” That was understandable, achievable. Within minutes the huge burial cairn with its summit pillar appeared and her whole demeanour changed. We had made it!
The top was bitterly cold, the wind ripping across the hill. There is little respite from the blast, and we cooried in behind one of the stone windbreaks. If there is one thing that will cheer Olivia up at the top of a hill it’s hot chocolate and a sandwich. They didn’t last long though, so we found the geocache, signed the log and headed down.
With the wind at our back and a steady descent we were soon coming out of the cloud and heading for the car park. I pointed out Quothquan Law and said that we may go there next. “Maybe another time?” was Olivias suggestion. Another geocache broke up the journey back, and then we were off for a look at the ‘pimple’.
It’s only a 10 minute drive and we found a layby overlooking the River Clyde where we could access the hill. Below us two swans rose up before settling in a far off field. I told Olivia that she could come up to the top of the treeline as she was grumbling, however when she saw the thin line of trees and the trig point just above she cheered up and said “I think I’ll go to the top after all!”
It’s a fifteen minute walk at most, through a beautiful stretch of mixed woodland. The recent storms haven’t been kind though, and huge trees lay like slain giants after an almighty battle. We passed them by, blue tits calling out from above, flitting from treetop to treetop, and then a final dash and we were on top.
Once this was the site of a Celtic hill fort, and the view from here, even on a grim day like today, is impressive. The flat river plain rising over rolling farmland to far off hills, their forms hidden in a smudge of cloud. We stayed for a while, near the trig point which is slowly being devoured by a cairn, watching the trains rushing south before making our way back downhill, me to start the short drive home, Olivia quickly falling asleep in the passenger seat beside me. Should you find yourself coming off Tinto with some time to spare, give Quothquan Law a visit. Small can be just as rewarding.