Gill Head Boulder, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1256 4602

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.117 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.274 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Line of cups on the Gill Head boulder
Line of cups on the Gill Head boulder

Pretty easy to find.  Follow directions to reach the great cup-and-ring marked Haystack Rock, then follow the footpath west and drop down the slope, crossing the stream of the Backstone Beck below you, the up the steepish slope and turn sharp left when you hit the footpath before the top of this slope.  Walk onto the moor!  You’ll walk right past the cup-and-ring marked ‘carving 283’ on this path, then the ruinous Backstone Circle a bit further along (50 yds to your right), but keep walking for another 100 yards until you see a large boulder a few yeards to the left of the footpath.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

I first came across this as a kid, sometime in my early to mid-teens, pottering about, looking at any old rock that caught my eye.  And this one isn’t hard to miss really.  One of the best memories I’ve got of this stone was when a bunch of us came walkabout up here, sometime in the autumn, when the heavens poured all day long to saturation-point — even for those in all their protective gear, such good as it was in the late ’80s to early ’90s.  There started out a fair bunch of us—between 20-30 folk—with numbers dwindling sharply when we reached the Apostles.  But this stone was visited way before that!  Along with Bob Trubshaw, Graeme Chappell, Kaledon Naddair, Edna Whelan and a troop of other mad-folk, we stopped for a while to consider this old rock, with only three cups really visible that day.  The others (those cited by the archaeo’s) weren’t picked out, as I remember.  But She was pissing-it-down and the wind was really giving-it-some, so we didn’t stop here for long!  We all agreed though: it was a nice, worn cup-marked stone.

Gill Head rock carving
Gill Head rock carving
Gill Head carving (after Hedges 1986)
Gill Head carving (after Hedges 1986)

John Hedges and the Ilkley Archaeology bunch had cited it as ‘cup-and-ring’ in their fine work — the first time this old carving had been in print since it was first etched!  A few years later when Messrs Boughey & Vickerman (2003) checked it for their survey, no new features had been noted and they just copied Hedge’s earlier notes.  Indeed, it’s just a large boulder with a few archetypal cupmarks on it when it first greets the eyes.  Nowt special—and with no companions either.

This is another one mainly for the mad-folk and purists amongst us.


  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
  2. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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