16 May 2016

the whangie, at last

Our Whangie tale starts about this time last year: James and I had been on a mini road trip and the last stop on our roughly plotted itinerary was the Whangie. It's just a wee bit north of Glasgow, and since all our resources told us it was an easy walk (and because it made me giggle) it seemed like the perfect conclusion to the weekend. So we parked up and set off on the well-worn path, the sun winking through encouragingly even though it was late afternoon by then. We asked a walker going in the opposite direction how far it was to the Whangie and she said ten minutes, tops.

When we hadn’t seen another walker for twenty minutes or more and found ourselves wandering across the top of a hill with no sign of a natural stone corridor, we started to think we might have taken a wrong turn somewhere. The sun was gone: it was now raining and the grass had become mud and essentially swamp land in some areas. James was not especially enjoying the way dirty sludge was oozing up around his toes in his sandals. We trudged along the crest of the hill looking for the way down, eventually staggering down a steep slope out of desperation and rejoining the path. Rather than go back and try again we decided to give up and go home, Whangie-less and moist.

A number of times over the last year we've thought about going back to finish what we started, but every time it came to it we were either too tired after a day of activity, or there was something more pressing or local to be done. Which is how the Whangie became a kind of running joke that we started throwing out as an insincere suggestion to the question What shall we do today?

"There's always the Whangie," one of us would scoff, hilariously, as though the Whangie didn't actually exist and so it would be totally impossible for us to visit it.

This weekend, however - almost exactly a year since we first tried to find the popular rock formation and failed embarrassingly - we decided to try again. Our egos had sufficiently recovered and it felt right. This time we went prepared in walking boots and coats, which turned out to be very unnecessary since it was a beautiful day. We walked up the hill again with a sense of trepidation and déjà vu, determinedly took the path we had forsaken last time around, and just as we were beginning to get a bit anxious that we'd cocked it up again - whammo! The grassy slope of the hillside became the distinctive ragged jaw of the Whangie.

Feeling more proud of ourselves than we really had any right to be, we high-fived obnoxiously and made our way into the crevice. The name 'Whangie' probably comes from the old Scots word 'whang', meaning a slice or to slice. It's said that it was carved by the devil's tail slashing the hillside, which is pretty typical of suspicious Christian reactions to older Pagan folklore. It's an atmospheric place to be sure: it's got all the necessary symbolic characteristics to be a natural setting for worship or Beltane-type fetivals (you can see from the photos how the sun kind of pours in strangely, and the narrow corridor is quite birth canal-like, so... yeah, all that.)

"Crikey, it's getting a bit Hanging Rock, isn't it?" I said as we walked up into the narrowing chasm. All we were lacking was some spooky pan pipe music and there might have been some floating corsets on the cards.

And that's the story of how, after a year of thwarted attempts, we finally found the Whangie.

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