Two Midlothian Souterrains 2. Castlelaw Fort


This Iron Age fort is in an elevated postion on the slopes of the Pentland Hills and has spectacular views for miles around. It’s only 3 miles south of the Edinburgh bypass, on the A702 to Biggar, but as soon as we left the main road and drove the short distance up to where you park, we were immediately in some very attractive hill country. Enticing footpaths led upwards into the Pentlands.
The hillfort is within an MOD training area but the red flags weren’t flying that day, so the footpaths and the fort and souterrain were accessible. We arrived late in the afternoon, just as an orienteering event was finishing but more walkers were arriving and setting off up the hill – obviously a popular walking area.

Castlelaw Fort (13)
The souterrain lies underneath this mound, with it’s air vents and roof lights

The fort is only a short, but fairly steep walk uphill, on a good track and there was no problem at all finding this souterrain. It is built into one the ramparts of the fort and there’s a gate to it and a noticeboard right beside the track.
Castle law Fort - Souterrain entrance(9)

The souterrain was built into one of the ramparts during a fairly late stage of the fort’s occupation. The fort originally had a wooden pallisade, which was later replaced by a single rampart, then two more ramparts were added.
Castlelaw Fort

The strangest thing about this souterrain is the very odd mix of Iron Age and post war military architecture. It was excavated in the 1930’s and 40’s and the structure stabilised and made safe, probably around this time. Looking at the strange roof lights set into concrete and the air vents sticking out of the ground, it certainly looks as if there’s some kind of military bunker underneath.
Castlelaw Souterrain

Steps lead down into the souterrain.

Castlelaw Souterrain (1)

This part looks more mid twentieth century MOD than Iron Age!

Castlelaw Souterrain (8)

Entrance to the round side chamber

Castlelaw Souterrain (5)

The passage is about 20m long and this part is the original Iron Age structure.

Castlelaw Souterrain (6)


Castlelaw Fort was the second souterrain we visited that day, the first one being further east in the village of Crichton. See Two Midlothian Souterrains 1.Crichton. The drive across country from Crichton took us past the famous Rosslyn Chapel and this really was worth a visit, even if you’re not a Da Vinci Code fan.

Rosslyn Chapel (4)

Surely the most ornate and decorated chapel in Britain! Almost every inch of the interior has intricate stone carvings and you could spend ages looking at all the details and trying to take in all the symbolism. Photography isn’t allowed inside but maybe that’s just as well as it was better just to soak up the atmosphere and appreciate the architecture.

We met William the chapel cat, who was taking a nap on one of the pews and then we headed to the cafe for tea. The chapel and the village of Roslin sit high up above Roslin Glen, which we looked down to from the cafe terrace. Roslin Glen and Country Park is a steeply wooded gorge with a river running through it and has attractive footpaths and picnic places.

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