Forgotten Footsteps


I have covered this before, but a recent change in the Google Maps API rendered my previous post on Harry Bell’s ‘Glasgow Network of Aligned Sites’ and ‘Forgotten Footsteps’ inoperative. After a bit of searching, I found an alternative maps plug-in that seems to work; however to make things easier it seems wise to make a separate post about Harry’s 1977 book Forgotten Footsteps, a work which now seems to have completely disappeared from the internet, apart from a couple of references on the Wayback Machine. Harry died in 2o01, and from what I can gather his descendants are not interested in preserving his work, so I feel almost obliged to carry the torch for him.

Although full of inaccuracies and some wild speculations, the core idea of the book – that there are long-distance alignments to be found across Central Scotland – remains sound; and it was this book that prompted myself and no doubt several other ley enthusiasts to develop an interest in earth mysteries as a whole, and to look at and explore the landscape of Scotland in a new light as we searched out Harry’s Prehistoric Network of Aligned Sites – even though Harry himself  was typically self-deprecating about the work:

“In 1976 I tried out Watkins’ theory on my annual holiday. The end result was a map of alignments that zig-zagged across Central Scotland from the Kilpatrick Hills to Arthur’s Seat. A redesigned version of the map accompanied by a brief plagiarised history of British alignment research went on sale in 1977 and half-a-century behind England, Scotland got its first book on ley-lines, Forgotten Footsteps. It could truthfully have been described as a crime against archaeology, but it sold well and financed further research.
“Nothing I have written since has been so poorly researched or so profitable.”

Coming along as it did at the height of the ‘new-age’ and earth mysteries boom, it sat proudly on my bookshelf alongside such classics as John Michells’ The View Over Atlantis, Janet & Colin Bord’s Mysterious Britain, and of course Alfred Watkin’s The Old Straight Track, and I can honestly say that I would not have become interested in dowsing and geomancy without it. It was Harry’s speculation that Bar Hill on the Antonine Wall was the site of the lost Druid sanctuary of Medionemeton, rather than the more popularly supported theory of Cairnpapple Hill (a theory very recently corroborated by Graham Robb in The Ancient Paths), that inspired me to make a pair of dowsing rods from some coat hangers and get out there on my bike to try my hand  at dowsing.

A few years ago, in an effort to preserve the work, I initially plotted all the sites as a Google Earth kml file, not without some difficulty as the Google coverage of the area wasn’t the highest resolution at the time. However, with improved coverage and better aerial imagery, I continued to update the kml data, discovering in the process that not all of Harry’s alignments were as straight as he claimed. There were some significant deviations from a straight alignment, most noticeably on his Cairnpapple Hill to Doune Cross line. It seems that you can’t take all the alignments too seriously, as Harry subsequently explained:

“Don’t take the results too seriously. Some of the alignments stand up to analysis, others don’t. I followed Watkins’ instructions as best as I could, but the Scottish landscape refused to conform.
“When I ran out of ley-line I covered the spaces in the map by placing some of the site names to the right and some to the left.
“The Old Straight Track to Iona that filled a vacant space in the top left-hand corner is a piece of New Age nonsense inspired by the ‘geomantic corridors’ and long-distance ley-lines in vogue at the time. It was once said of it ‘only a crow or a holy man with a paraglider could travel that way'”

The book still fascinates me today, some 35 years later, and my well-thumbed copy is only produced on special occasions these days. Many of the lines can be dowsed, despite Harry being slightly sceptical about dowsing, as I have demonstrated to my own satisfaction by dowsing for the optimum location to site the Edinburgh Labyrinth to be on one of Harry’s alignments, and some years later finding it to be spot on when I plotted out the network for this Google Earth file.

If you find it useful, I’d love to hear from you about your own researches on the network.

You can download the Google Earth placemark file by clicking here.

labyrinth ley
The Edinburgh Labyrinth is sited right on one of Harry’s leys.

UPDATE 2022: I have managed to obtain permission from Harry Bell’s family to reconstruct the old websites, updating and develop the material. Please direct your attention to the new  Glasgow’s Secret Geometry website.

Grahame Gardner
Latest posts by Grahame Gardner (see all)

2 thoughts on “Forgotten Footsteps

Leave a Reply