Situated in the scenic Bathgate Hills, a couple of miles from the town of Bathgate, Ravencraig is an extensive 54.5 hectare amenity woodland site, which offers a series of footpaths across a largely hilly, natural environment leading up to the ancient Raven Craig cairn and summit.
Ravencraig welcomes visitors with a surfaced footpath that leads to a small pond positioned close to the entrance. However, this is only one of Ravencraig’s many noteworthy features.
History of the woodland
The site was once used as a deer park from 1750-1805 by land owner Lord Hopetoun and the walls and ditches (known as ha-ha’s) throughout Ravencraig are the remnants of this.
In 1875, the land was quarried when the land owner, the wealthy Captain Jenks, made vain efforts to unearth silver. You can read his story below.
Rather than silver, less valuable copper and limestone were mined instead. Ruins of a farm steading to the east serve as a reminder of the sites agricultural heritage. However, since 1997 West Lothian Council has managed Ravencraig as amenity woodland.
This used to be the old Ravencraig Noticeboard (location unknown), It is fitting that we include this as it also tells the story of Ravencraig.
Nearby the old steading is a narrow and undulating footpath that leads up to a hilly grassland area which provides a wide vista of the region. To the north east is the Firth of Forth, whilst to the south the Pentland Hills can be sighted.
Further north, unsurfaced footpaths traverse uphill to a dense coniferous woodland environment. A walk through the woodland leads to the Ravencraig cairn and summit which is amongst the highest points in West Lothian.
The cairn, which is dated from the Bronze Age, was only discovered in the late 1990’s and has been classified by Historic Scotland. Cairnpapple and the Knock are other more well-known sites with significant archaeological history in the mysterious Bathgate Hills area. Both can be sighted to the north of the summit.
“The monument comprises a burial cairn of Bronze Age date surviving as a grassed-over stony mound.
The monument occupies the summit of Raven Craig, a rocky hillock, at around 290m OD, some 1200m SSW of the major prehistoric ceremonial complex of Cairnpapple. It comprises a substantial cairn some 9m in diameter by around 1.5m high. The cairn is defined by a series of large boulders, of which six remain in situ on the NW and SW, while others appear slightly displaced.
Despite some evidence of recent disturbance to the centre of the mound, evidence of Bronze Age burials is likely to be present within, under and around the cairn.
The area to be scheduled encompasses the cairn and an area around it in which associated archaeological deposits may be expected to survive. It is circular with a diameter of 45m as marked in red on the accompanying map extract.
The Mysterious Captain Jenks Story
Kathleen Mackie from Bathgate spent a lot of time researching the Captain Jenks story. Here are some words from Kathleen about how she found out the information:
I found the information on the Captain Jenks story by looking at old maps in the Local History Archives , which are now above the library in Linlithgow . The names of crofts etc are on these maps . Then you look for these building names on the old Valuation Rolls . These in turn then gives you the name of the head of households in these crofts etc . You then go onto a commercial genealogy site like Ancestry, or Scotlands People as these have the Censuses , which tells you a lot of info. On the whole family living in these crofts, farms etc . Linlithgow also has all the past Couriers on ‘reels ‘ to check if the subject you are investigating has ever been written about in the Local paper . Job done ! By the way if you live in the area , these old maps & Valuation Rolls I was talking about are well worth a look !
Ravencraig is a mixed woodland habitat with areas of grassland. To the north, the woodland is predominantly coniferous. Species include Scots Pine, Larch and Spruce.
To the south, deciduous broadleaved species such as Oak, Alder and Horse Chestnut are present.
The woodland environment, which is diverse in its age, sustains a plethora of fauna including mammals like the Badger, Fox and Stoat. In addition, bird of prey species such as Buzzard and Sparrowhawk make their home here. What’s more, the small pond near the entrance plays host to an assortment of aquatic based creatures such as Dragonflies and Damselflies.
Questions to think about regarding Ravencraig
Could it have been linked to Cairnpapple?
Was this the burial place of less important people and Cairnpapple was the important people?
Could there still be undiscovered things under the cairn?
What would it have looked like before the grass grew over the top of it?
Why are there small steps leading down into the cairn?
How many people were buried here?
What rituals were carried out here?
Facilities and Access
Free parking at a small car park near the south entrance of the site
Little in the way of formal resting areas, only two small single perches
No toilets, nearest public toilets in Bathgate on Engine Lane or at the Railway Station
Refreshments available from a variety of shops in Bathgate town centre
Unsurfaced footpaths are spacious in width, but some sections of the route can be hilly
Paths near the south entrance are surfaced
Footpaths have walking waymarkers
How to get there
Ravencraig is accessible by car to the north east of Bathgate. From North Bridge Street in Bathgate town centre, travel on Hopetoun Street and then up the steep Drumcross Road onto the minor road that leads into the countryside.
Travel for around two miles until you reach the Ravencraig car park on the left. The nearest train station is in Bathgate. Unfortunately no bus routes run directly to Ravencraig.