A cross in the Pentlands

Tucked away in the Pentland Hills is a memorial to the Tytler family of Woodhouselee. It is so very near to my cottage, yet I have only just now learned of its existence. And so, today’s adventure was a short walk to visit the site.

The memorial was erected in the late-1800s and is in the form of a 20-foot* Celtic cross** atop a hill. As the crow flies, the cross is about ¾ miles from my cottage, just above Easter Howgate. My journey was a bit longer though as I walked up to Boghall farm to start the walk along the Pentland Way path. I then followed the Pentland path to Castlelaw (where my Boxing Day adventures took place) before making the walk back home. It was about 3.5 miles for the entire walk in the end, although now that I know exactly where the cross is I think I can get there and back in less than a mile.

The cross faces towards Edinburgh, overlooking the grounds where New Woodhouselee once stood. The base has the names of several members of the Tytler family engraved on it, and the front of the cross has a brass plate with the family crest. (The family burial vault is at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Edinburgh’s Old Town.)

This massive sandstone obelisk is all that’s left to the memory of the once-grand house that stood some 250 metres away. The house, New Woodhouselee, was built in 1796 using some of the stones from Old Woodhouselee, a ruined tower house from the 16th century. Here, the Tytler family entertained some of Scotland’s literary giants, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

It is said that the ghost of Lady Bothwellhaugh was transferred with the stones of the old house to the new and that she continued to haunt the house – a tale that was immortalised by Sir Walter Scott’s “The Gray Brother”. The new house was demolished by the Ministry of Defence in 1965, and the stone was likely repurposed after that. However, it is unclear if Lady B’s ghost moved with the stones, or if she stayed in the area around the monument.

To be clear, I did not see or feel any sense of a ghost in the area. But I have never (knowingly) sensed a ghost’s presence so I wouldn’t recognise one anyhow. That’s not to confirm or deny the presence of Lady B’s ghost, as it’s not my place to say. I am, after all, a woman of faith so it would be a bit hypocritical of me to make statements about a ghost’s existence!

Today’s walk has made me curious about the Old Woodhouselee, so I will plan a visit to those ruins soon. It’s not too far from where I live, but I understand that the limited remains are under a lot of foliage and might be hard to access. But I shall prevail! (Or at least, I shall try to prevail.)

If you would like to visit the Tytler Memorial, you can download the Pentland Hills visitors’ guide here. Follow the red dotted line that runs in between Boghall Farm and Castlelaw. You can find the monument’s location circled on this map here.

* I don’t know if that’s true, as I am quite rubbish at guessing length and distance. But it is really tall and the base itself is nearly as tall as I am. If anyone has a more accurate height, please do let me know.
** Celtic crosses are especially poignant to me because it is the style I chose for my beloved husband’s headstone.

2 Replies to “A cross in the Pentlands”

  1. The Old World is fascinating, full of history and mystique.

    I am curious if you know anything about another local cross, Frances? There is a cross-shaped grove of trees just south of Edinburgh near… Swanson, I think; it is quite visible on Google Earth, and seemingly… artificial. There is evidence of possible structures or earthworks to the southeast of this formation. I am wondering if the vicinity was intentionally sown with salt to shape the treeline.

    1. Hi, Johnathan. Sorry for the delayed reply; life’s been a bit busy these past several weeks.

      I am not sure about the trees. They are on the golf course (if I am looking in the right place) so I wonder if it’s just because of the placement of the greens. But now I am quite curious, so I will have to investigate further!!

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