Cairnpapple Hill

Cupcake Café Bar
Cupcake Café Bar

On a cold day in May, our destination was Cairnpapple Hill in West Lothian – but first, as you know, lunch is essential. We happened upon this lovely little place, the Cupcake Café Bar, near Torpichen – we were very good and didn’t have a cake, but the lunch was delicious.

In the village itself, we made a further stop at Torpichen Preceptory, a former base of the powerful Knights Hospitallers and a seat of government for William Wallace in 1298.

Then it was on to Cairnpapple Hill. I can’t imagine why I have lived in Scotland for nearly 30 years and never visited this significant site. It’s just a short climb from the road to the once-sacred hilltop where people first raised monuments 5500 years ago. Today you can see a Neolithic henge, the site of a great timber circle and a Bronze Age cist grave (now protected by a modern, domed chamber which you climb into by ladder). The views stretch from one coast to the other – partly obliterated by approaching storms.

Both Torpichen and Cairnpapple are managed by Historic Scotland where you can find out more about them.

We had intended to continue walking, but the weather prompted us to go a bit further by car, stopping at the Scottish Korean War Memorial – there was a memorial here already, apparently, but the current one (2013) is designed to be a permanent structure. It was sunny again when we arrived so we climbed the hill behind the monument, Witchcraig. On the hilltop is a Refuge Stone marking an old boundary where those on the run could seek sanctuary – it’s connected to Torpichen – and  the Witchcraig Wall, an enclosure with 43 special stones built into it, collected from across Central Scotland. (See also the interesting three-way bench attached. Is this an exciting variation on the kissing-seat?)

Once again, you can see a rain storm approaching, and this time it caught us as we descended. Witchcraig is not a high hill, but we were drenched by the time we got back to the car. However, after driving just a little further, we decided to chance another short walk as it was dry again. (This happens in Scotland – it can have four seasons in one day, as I keep telling people.) Cockleroy Hill is small but perfectly formed for varied views – we could see Linlithgow Palace, the Forth Bridges, the refineries at Grangemouth and the mound at Cairnpapple.

After that, it was time to head home. I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks (three short walks for the price of one) and Jude’s Bench Series, which for July is benches with unusual details. Click both links to see what other people have come up with.


35 thoughts on “Cairnpapple Hill

  1. VioletSky July 13, 2015 / 12:42

    Those views just about take my breath away! I love seeing the scattered rain showers off in the distance.
    (and I have a ‘thing’ for that Forth Rail Bridge, I get excited every time I see it. no idea why it resonates so)


    • Anabel Marsh July 13, 2015 / 13:04

      And now it’s a World Heritage Site, even better. And I’ve read they might introduce a bridge climb – I’d love to do that. We’ve done the Sydney one and really enjoyed it.


      • VioletSky July 14, 2015 / 12:17

        Well, I’d come over to cheer you on, but not a chance would I do it myself. It was enough for me to walk half way across the other bridge. Of course, it was very windy (so couldn’t take pictures, so saw no point in continuing.)


        • Anabel Marsh July 14, 2015 / 13:26

          As long as I’m strapped in I feel safe! Our nephew has just done an edge walk at the CN Tower and his FB pics of that made me feel weird. I’d draw the line at that.


          • VioletSky July 14, 2015 / 13:50

            We all have our limits! In nearly 40 years, I’ve never even been up the CN Tower.


  2. restlessjo July 13, 2015 / 12:57

    I’m feeling horribly restless right now, Anabel! Our accustomed group walk isn’t on this week and we were going to do our own thing, but the weather had other ideas. I wish we’d just gone. When the weather is changeable you can still be lucky. (or not!) I’d never heard of Cairnpapple Hill but it looks rather interesting. Many thanks for your value for money walks 🙂


    • Anabel Marsh July 13, 2015 / 13:06

      Yes, the weather was our nemesis here too, or it would have been one longer walk. Thanks for the tweet too, which has just pinged.


  3. lovetotrav July 13, 2015 / 15:45

    Looks like an adorable walk with a perfect place to stop.. just love that name Cupcake Cafe Bar… Scotland reminds me of our east coast in Canada, particularly Cape Breton where it is hilly, rainy and easily 4 seasons in one day! Looks like a grand place to live and travel.:)


    • Anabel Marsh July 13, 2015 / 15:59

      I have been to Cape Breton! It was definitely better weather than here. Beautiful place.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Heyjude July 13, 2015 / 16:02

    I had to re-read the title a few times, my brain kept seeing Pineapple Hill instead! I am enjoying exploring your part of Scotland though you do seem to like going up hills! That bench is most intriguing. Perhaps it is designed to that you can always face a good view dependent on where the storm is coming from! Thank you for the link.
    Jude xx


    • Anabel Marsh July 13, 2015 / 16:07

      Funny you should mention pineapples – one features in next week’s walk! No benches though, or only one so boring as not to merit a mention.


  5. anotherday2paradise July 13, 2015 / 23:17

    What a lovely place to go walking, or to just sit on a bench and admire the view. 🙂


    • Anabel Marsh July 13, 2015 / 23:21

      While dodging the rain! It was lovely apart from that.


  6. Birgit July 14, 2015 / 01:33

    Oh this looks like a great walk and the history! My hubby loves to learn as much as possible about William Wallace. I love the old church and I love that little bench seat-I didn’t see it at first. Very cool pictures


    • Anabel Marsh July 14, 2015 / 07:19

      Thank you. I had never been to any of these places before but will certainly go back.


  7. Celine Jeanjean July 14, 2015 / 02:35

    As I was scrolling down I saw the photo of the Korean War Memorial before I read the text and I did a double take, going ‘huh, why is there a little chinese pagoda in Scotland’. Obviously I got that wrong since it’s Korean (the roof is very similar to some of the little pagodas we have out here in the hills.) It makes quite a charming contrast to the more traditional Scottish buildings I’ve seen on your blog so far!

    And that 3 way variation of the kissing seat is amusing – and intriguing! Maybe it was more of a 3 seater chatting bench than a kissing bench 😉


    • Anabel Marsh July 14, 2015 / 07:23

      Yes, the pagoda was a surprise to me too. If it hadn’t been raining we’d have probably missed it because we’d have carried on walking at Cairnpapple and not driven further. I do like the bench – but somebody is going to have to miss the view! Looking backwards, it was just trees.


  8. Lynne Rickards July 14, 2015 / 11:40

    Thanks to your intriguing three-way bench I was drawn to Jude’s Bench Series next, and looked at a great collection of benches from around the world! I think I like the dragonfly bench best.


    • Anabel Marsh July 14, 2015 / 13:23

      It’s a great idea, isn’t it? I liked the dragonfly too. Your comments are working again then!


  9. Sarah Ferguson July 14, 2015 / 21:46

    Very cool – but I am most impressed by your ability to stop somewhere called Cupcake Cafe Bar and not have any cake!


  10. Lori L MacLaughlin July 17, 2015 / 03:26

    I can’t believe you went to a place called the Cupcake Café and didn’t have cake! Love the name Witchcraig. And those views… words can’t do justice to them.


    • Anabel Marsh July 17, 2015 / 07:42

      The cakes did look good, but I’m first and foremost a savoury person and I’d filled up on lunch! It was good day out, despite the rain.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Paul July 17, 2015 / 23:30

    I have never heard of here places before and they do look interesting. They have now been added to my list of places to visit. Thank you


  12. Nadine Feldman (@Nadine_Feldman) July 18, 2015 / 17:16

    I’m late to this blog post, but I never tire of all the interesting places you write about. My next novel is going to be set in the Hillfoots (my ancestors are from Alva), so I will need to do lots and lots of, y’know, research. The husband has been notified that we’re going back to Scotland.


    • Anabel Marsh July 18, 2015 / 18:20

      Fabulous! I can’t remember if I’ve ever been to Alva but it has a good brewery (Harviestoun) so I’m definitely familiar with its beer.


  13. Danielle Zecher July 18, 2015 / 18:05

    How do you go to a place with cupcake in the name and not have a cupcake?!? 🙂 Those all look like such interesting places to visit.


  14. Donna July 19, 2015 / 20:17

    Wow, the Knights Hospitallers once had a base in Scotland. After visiting Malta, I got fixated on their history and read every book I could get. Most Interlibrary Loan from St. John’s University. I don’t remember reading about their time in Scotland.Beautiful pictures as always!


  15. jazzfeathers July 30, 2015 / 21:46

    It was a wonderful walk I can see… and that in spite of the rain 😉
    I love the Neolitic tomb. I’ve be inside one in Ireland and it was quite an experience. I don’t know, I find them fascinating. Maybe it’s the way they merge into the landscape. I like it.

    But I like most of the photos you’v eposted, what can I say?


    • Anabel Marsh July 30, 2015 / 22:36

      Thank you! I am currently visiting lots more Neolothic sites so much more to come.

      Liked by 1 person

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