Paths  Across West Lothian
                                 --- p.a.w.l. Working for "The Old Drove Road" in West Lothian---



History of Droving in West Lothian  Historical details about all things to do with droving in West Lothian are being published within "Paths Across West Lothian" publicity leaflets on notice boards in some libraries in West Lothian and areas around.The order and contents of this programme might be changed-

1. What was a Drove Road ? In the Highlands and most of the Lowlands to about 1750 routes were defined only by the animals' tracks on the ground.In a few areas there were 15-30 metre wide tracmarked by turf dykes.Otherwise the herds moved as they wished across country except where landscape constricted progress.Later in the century they followed the new roads but surfaces were too rough often for hooves which had to be shod.If "turnpikes" such as the one through Linlithgow were used,tolls had to be paid.

2. Cauldstaneslap.Many of the drove routes from West Lothian merged at the Cauldstaneslap Pass between West and East Cairn Hills in the Pentland Hills.The huge herd often spent the night below the pass,the drovers sleeping beside them for protection, and with good cause.The name given to the bare moorland and hill stretch -The Thief's Road" recalls the "rievers and moss-troopers", with murder and taking of livestock.R.L. Stevenson refers to the Cauldstaneslap area in "The Weir of Hermiston" as did John Buchan in "Salute to Adventurers".

3. Fording the Avon. Some drovers may have forded the River Avon.South of the bridge was the historic ford near Manuel Convent, used possibly during the Battle of Linlithgow Bridge in the sixteenth century. From Muiravonside Country Park a ford can be seen by a small island in the river and near the (later) Union Canal aqueduct.Further south there were the "Fechlin Ford" and a ford near Caribber Mill. A cart track opposite the Convent then along below the edge of the sloping ground may have served these fords. Later the toll route past Woodcockdale might have eased the passage to Linlithgow.

4. The River Almond.The river was bridged by both the North Bridge,replaced in 1930 by the present steel structure and the Howden Bridge- begun in 1765.Earlier fords existed near these bridge sites and further east and west.For example Clapperton,near to the Camps Railway Viaduct, means roughly "place with stepping stones".Several drove routes were thus being used for different herds through Mid-Calder area.The South Bridge built 1794 crossed the Linhouse Water helping communications from east to west.

5. Powie's Path. This was an old track from the Pumpherston and Drumshoreland areas to the River Almond near the North Bridge which now carries the Pumpherston to Mid-Calder road.The route was used by local drovers.Parts of it exist today.It passed from  Drumshoreland Muir in a south-westerly direction.Powie's Path continued until the river was reached then above the steep banks till it crossed the river by a ford near North Bridgend.Sections of Powie's Path can still be walked through a woodland east of Pumpherston golf course then past attractive cornfields to near the river.

6. Uphall.There were hardly any roads but eventually the Market Road from Linlithgow through Binny estate to Uphall by near East Broadlaw and Forkneuk (north- west of Uphall) was made.Through Broxburn to Edinburgh produce was pulled by oxen pulled carts.Until the 19th century when turnpikes were built,roads in the area were very bad.From Linlithgow a possible route once roads were built involved leaving by Manse Road then by Cauldhame,Riccarton and Hangingside near Binny Craig.Other routes came across from the Torphichen area.

7.Linlithgow Bridge.There had been a bridge over the Avon for centuries on the old route from Stirling to Edinburgh.There was the 16th century Battle of Linlithgow Bridge. The right to levy tolls was given to the burgh for all crossings on the lower river after 1605. A toll house and inn,the Bridge Inn, which is still there, were eventually erected at the west of the bridge.The bridge had been rebuilt in 1660,restored in 1810 and was replaced in 1960 by the present example.In 1843 a toll bar was erected at the West Port of Linlithgow.

8. From Mid-Calder.The aim was to reach the Caulstaneslap pass over the Pentland Hills.Once past the obstacle of the River Almond from Mid-Calder,after a few miles some fairly easy hills had to be traversed by the drovers. They may have taken a more direct route over Corston Hill and the upper valley of the Morton Burn where the remains of old trackways still persist. Or,another possibility, after passing over Morton Hill or Auchinoon Hill ,they might reach the Cauldstaneslap by Causewayside and past the old fortified place of Cairns,near where the Harperrig Reservoir was later built.

9. Drove Roads from the Forth. Though many drove routes came via the Falkirk area some livestock were ferried across the Forth at South Queensferry there of course being no bridge there till Victorian times (the Rail bridge) and the 20th century (the Road bridge). Old maps show a possible route from east of Echline off the ferry.Then past Newbigging,Milton,Kirkliston,Clifton Hall to the Shiels area by the Almond.Finally over the South Bridge to Mid-Calder. There was also a route nearer Kirknewton area more directly to the Pentlands at Cauldstaneslap shown on Roy's eighteenth century map.

10. Drove Roads from the West. Some routes passed over the River Avon near Dalquairn west of Avonbridge.Ruined buildings and a well-preserved cart bridge over a small burn can still be viewed there.The drove road came down to Armadale,crossing the old Glasgow toll road.From Armadale a route could be made south of Bathgate and then towards the pass crossing the Pentlands summit  at Cauldstaneslap. Another drove route from Dalquairn headed east across the Bathgate Hills to Binny and Uphall and then to Cauldstaneslap. 

11.  Remaining Drove Roads. Several quite well preserved drove roads exist today in West Lothian in short sections.Due to accidental lack of use for up to 250 years, or their isolation, they have managed to resist the march of time.They retain their characteristic pattern with earth or turf dykes and a few marker stones at either side.Often, a very rough trackbed can be nearly submerged by weed growth.Some other drove roads have been developed by later routes but were documented in old texts.That sometimes helps recognition.

12. The Linlithgow Ports.The "ports" were the important entrances or exits of  Linlithgow.Each had a heavy gate which was closed at sunset.There was the West Port on the road from Falkirk over Linlithgow Bridge and the two in the east were the Low Port on the road to Blackness and High (East) Port on the road to Edinburgh.There were lodgings or inns just outside each gate for travellers who had missed the closing. For example the West Port Hotel which still exists. 

13. Place-names. These may offer clues to the droving past . At the original site of the "Trysts" in Falkirk, Shieldhill could mean a hill for grazing of animals. Some commentators say the "shiel" found in Foulshiels and Nethershiels east of Mid-Calder might refer to the dwellings used  by herders at summer pastures. Standburn in Falkirk could refer to the "stances" for resting herds though it might be "sithean", a hill ,badly corrupted. Cattle would only go about 10 miles (16 km) a day. In West Lothian, Standhill- near Bathgate, had a silent  "d", meaning "stane hill" or "stony hill".

14. Resting Places. Various inns or lodgings were more connected with droving rather than later examples associated with stage-coaching on 19th century turnpikes.At Little Vantage a few km. south of East Calder,scattered ruins still visible may be from the inn below the Cauldstaneslap pass going across the Pentlands.Records also say an inn near to there was found at Ainvilleton.Just west of Linlithgow Bridge,the Bridge Inn stands beside the passage over the River Avon..

15. Effects of Tolls and Enclosures. The demise of droving came initially from new "turnpikes" as the nineteenth century dawned.Animals' feet had to be shod due to the roughness of the of these surfaces while tolls had to be paid to pass each section.However the trend to enclose what had been free grazing land really caused the death knell of droving.For a while it was possible to keep to rough,higher land but eventually the pace of enclosures excluded access for most.The small black Highland cattle were succeeded by stock which could be wintered nearer the markets while railways allowed better transport.

16.Markets, Fairs and Industries. In West Lothian there were various markets or fairs,though the numbers of events obviously changed over the years.Linlithgow-a weekly market,with 6 fairs a year.Bathgate-weekly grain market,and 7 fairs a year. Linlithgow was the Royal Burgh, so had various monopolies and rights.There were a number of industries associated with livestock- tanneries,shoe-making,candle making and manufacture of glue. Mid-Calder,which was then in Mid-Lothian (Edinburghshire), held two annual fairs.

17. Toll Roads. These were unsuitable for the large size of the herds and had poor surfaces,but they were used by drovers into the nineteenth century.In West Lothian the "Old Road",the east-west Edinburgh route through Linlithgow was one.More of these turnpikes followed as did toll gates from 1810 in Broxburn.The "New Road" went through Mid-Calder and Whitburn, while the "Parliamentary Road" made in 1796 and improved to 1815 went by Broxburn,Uphall and Bathgate.At East Calder the road previously used by drovers was called "The Great Turnpike Road".

18. Book sources for researching drove roads in West Lothian might  include : The Drove Roads of Scotland (Haldane); Mid-Calder's Past (Campbell); A History of Linlithgow (Kerr); The Heart and the Rose (Cooper); Old Linlithgow  (Jamieson); Lothian Village (Lawrence); The Place-names of West Lothian (Macdonald); Calatria no.22 (Falkirk Local History Society); Stirlingshire II- the report of the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments; and various other publications in libraries at Blackburn,Lanthorn,Linlithgow,Bathgate,East Calder ,Broxburn,Bo.ness,Falkirk, Grangemouth and South Queensferry.

19. Map sources for researching drove roads in West Lothian might include : generally-Roy's Military Survey 1747-55; in Stirlingshire-John Thomson 1820 John Ainslie 1821; in West Lothian-Taylor and Skinner 1776; William Forrest 1818; John Thomson 1820; John Ainslie 1821; in Midlothian-John Laurie 1763 ; James Knox 1812; John Thomson 1821; generally various Ordnance Survey maps from 1854 onwards-  the one inch and six inch 1st editions. Of course, parts of Midlothian or Edinburghshire near to, or south of the River Almond were joined to West Lothian or Linlithgowshire in modern times..

20. Web-site sources for researching drove roads in West Lothian might include : Wikipedia sites on Drovers' Road, The Union Canal, The Pentland Hills, and various towns including Falkirk, Linlithgow and Mid-Calder. Old maps can be examined at the excellent National Library of Scotland website

21. Names of Places associated with drove routes in West Lothian can broaden our understanding. Pumpherston means town of the "pundler",an officer who impounded straying cattle.Powie's Path the foot road near a small river.Camilty means many roads.Causewayside was Latin "calceata via" or the way protected by stones.Binny Craig is little hill.Corston was place where a hill was crossed.Little Vantage is little fold.Cauldstaneslap the pass with the stone on the north side. Harper Rigg the"shieling slope",Auchinoon place for lambs,Linlithgow was "pool of the enclosure at the fold".Oatridge meant slope of the fold.