High on the slopes of Cochno Hill you can find the traces of several shieling huts, the summer home for a farming township.
Gone to the shielings
In the summer of 1786, the famous traveller and writer John Knox, tiring from his journey, came across a township in the Highlands.
"…MacDonald and myself bent hither, as if certain of a good reception of comfortable lodging, and a whole budget of news,"
Knox (1787) in A Tour through the Highlands.
Instead of a warm welcome, however, they found it empty. They were informed by another passerby that: "the village had gone to the shielings".
An annual cycle
This annual movement of people and their animals was an essential part of a farming community's life-cycle. In the winter they lived in the glens but in the summer they moved to huts built high in the hills.
This was to allow their animals good grazing, while removing them from the land near the township, where the crops were now growing. The shieling is the area of land given to each family for their animals to graze.
A reconstruction of a shieling hut at the Highland Folk Park.
The term shieling comes from a Norse word. In Gaelic there are several words that are associated with this practice, the most common being airidh. While both terms refer to the use of the land, it is the ruins of the huts where the people live that remain as evidence of this practice.
Storyteller Jess Smith shares a short shieling story about witchcraft.
Visiting Cochno Hill
The exact location of Cochno Hill is grid reference NS 479 752.
Cochno Hill is on the northern edge of Glasgow. Exit the A82 at Kilbowie Roundabout following the road up to Faifley. Take first left at the roundabout then take a right at the Goldenhill Pub on the corner onto Cochno Road. Follow this road up past the Cochno Filters to access the Forestry Commission entrance.
The site is accessible by foot but difficult to find. From the small car turning area at the Forestry Commission entrance, you can follow an animal path up the hill until the last gate. Access to the shieling is then by open hill.
Alternative parking is at the West Dunbartonshire car park above Faifley. This provides good access for visitors, with country road links to the hills providing the opportunity for circular routes.
All sites managed by Forestry Commission Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.
Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.