Sunday, 28 July 2013

A quick look at Corstorphine Hill

Edinburgh and the Pentland hills  from Corstorphine Hill
Corstorphine Hill is one of the seven hills on which Edinburgh is allegedly built. It fosters Edinburgh Zoo to the south and is mostly forested with broad leave trees. Stones quarried from the hill were used to build a lot of houses in Edinburgh,

From one angle  this was a fish
If anyone asks how long the hill has been around say 340 million years 36 days and four hours. Seriously though the hill was formed about 340 million years ago and is now a long L-shaped ridge 531 metres high with interesting landforms which make it a regionally important geological site, and a colony of badgers, which means it is a local Nature reserve. There are a number of places one can get a great view of Edinburgh as far as the Pentland Hills, and the best time is the hour before and after sunset. Remember your camera. If you don't want to be coming off the hill at sunset and back into town just as bars and restaurants are closing September would probably be a good time to come: the trees should be turning red and it is not too cold.

The hill also includes a permanent set of orienteering courses with a range of difficulties. You can get more details from the Friends of Corstorphine Hill Website.

When I walked the hill recently I found more fallen trees that resembled animals than I have previously seen in any one place.

Geology: the bones of the Giant

In Norse mythology the world was formed from the bones of a dead giant, and on Corstorphine hill the bones are a little easier to see poking through thin layers of vegetation.

The Wind blasts trees into striking shapes
More prosaically the hill is a volcanic intrusion formed when magma pushed its way into softer rocks but solidified before it reached the surface. With time the softer rocks eroded much faster than the volcanic rock which was left standing proud and unbowed. The glaciers that failed to level the hill polished it and you can see smooth outcrops of rock towards the top of the hill. If you want to explore off the beaten track note that the nature of the rock and the quarrying in former times has produced cliffs hidden by the trees, so expect to see the upper branches of a large tree suggesting tactfully this is a good time to turn back

There is a walled garden on the hill, the wall being made from the stones of the hill, which, for those who know what to look for, shows the geology of the hill in miniature, including plant fossils and trace fossils of ancient worms.

Archaeology: A blast from the past

A prancing deer in wood
Cup-markings on the glaciated dolerite surfaces on the west slopes of the Hill were found 1991. There are eleven cup-marks on the dolerite surface; nine in the shape of a pentagon with two in the centre. Their location offers wide views to the west. They were probably part of a sacred landscape of Neolithic or Bronze Age (c3600-1500 BC), but their precise purpose remains unknown. My personal feeling is they may have been used for some form of board game involving moving pegs or other markers from one hole to another
Artefacts have also been found: A collection, made before 1894, from a kitchen midden on Corstorphine Hill, included shells, bone implements, hammer stones, cup-marked stones, part of a quern and pottery fragments.
Hills are always good places to defend in troubled times and is is likely the hill once boasted a hillfort.
Flowers on the Hill

In Brief
Corstorphine Hill is a nature reserve and regionally important geological site. It is an excellent place for a relaxing afternoon away from the crowds in the centre and the Zoo and nearby Corstorphine Village provide livelier entertainment including Giant Pandas while Corstorphine Village has good places to eat and frequent bus links to town.

It is not hard to get to the hill from the Badjao Bed and Breakfast or the city centre. Just don't expect to see too many badgers during the day. They are shy creatures. Friends of Corstorphine Hill.

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