Sacred Mountain: OS Grid Reference – NN 5640 3715
Also known as:
- Creag na Caillich
Another silly-sounding directional pointer! Get to the now tourist-infested town of Killin (best in Winter, when the town is quiet and you get to know the locals a lot better) and travel through it as if you’re going to follow Loch Tay up its western side. As you’re going out of the village towards the Bridge of Lochay Hotel (an excellent place), you’ll see an amphitheatre of mountains in the background. The tallest of the hills on the left is where you’re heading. Go straight up the hillside and follow your nose!
The hill guards the entrance to the legendary Glen Lochay (Valley of the Black Goddess). There are many ways to climb her, but my first venture here took me up the waterfalls and steepish burn of Allt na Ceardaich. Once on the level, I found myself surrounded by that amphitheatre I mentioned, from which – on my first visit – I took up the sheer face of this great mountain. (to be honest it’s nowt special if you’re into mountaineering and stuff) From the tops you’ve got a damn good view all round. But respect this old hill, as danger awakens to idiots who would think themselves champions.
Here, where axes were quarried by ancient man from beneath Her rocky slopes, this ‘Hill of the Old Woman’, or ‘Hag’, was one of the abodes of the primal Mother Goddess in olden times, so says her name. Her ‘dark’ aspect seemed manifest one time when I climbed her with a rather stupid man in tow. Following one of the streams back into the valley below, he thought it wise to copy my gazelle-nature as I sprang without thought, quickly, from rock to rock, bouncing at speed down the fast-flowing stream (which takes a lotta weird practice and very strong ankles!), in spite of the advice to do otherwise – and in doing so he broke his leg in three places and, to make it worse, had to spend the night there in complete agony!
Don’t tell me there’s no ‘dark’ goddess to some of these great places!
Axe production has been found to have occurred as early as 2500 BC. There have been numerous flint finds hereabouts aswell – but considering this is a mountain, you’d expect to find something on or about Her slopes!
I’ve just been back up here as the first good snow fell upon the hills and the white cover brought the elements out of her form in a way I’d not seen before. Tis a wonderful place the Creag na Cailleach; and, it seems, a site that played a now forgotten part in the ancient name of the glen, Lochay, which was the living abode of the Black Goddess in more archaic days. Twouldst be good to hear some of the authentic old stories from old locals that were once known of this ancient deity in the glens. If anyone knows of such tales, let us know before they are lost forever…
- Ritchie, P.R., ‘The Stone Implement Trade in Third Millenium Scotland,’ in Coles & Simpson’s, Studies in Ancient Europe, Leicester University Press 1968.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Lindsay Campbell for her hospitality here.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian