Kilchiaran, Islay, Argyll

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NR 2043 6010

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 37470
  2. Cill Chiarain

Archaeology & History

An unusual cup-marked stone — not because it’s found in the grounds of the chapel, but because the design appears carved on a flat slab, as if it might have been used as a grave cover or perhaps stood upright in times gone by.  First described in Rob Graham’s Carved Stones (1895) in the days when a few more cup-markings were visible; nearly a hundred years on it was included in the Royal Commission’s (1984) report as “a prone slab measuring 1.7m by 0.98m and 0.15m in greatest thickness; its upper surface bears at least nineteen plain cups up to 110cm in diameter and 40mm in depth.  In addition, wear has caused a large deep cup, 180mm in diameter and 80mm deep, to penetrate the stone, and there is another circular, vertical-sided, perforation measuring 70mm in average diameter and expanding to 90mm at the upper surface on the stone” — meaning there’s a hole that’s been worn through the rock itself.  This hole would seem to be accounted for by the folklore tradition of the site.


It was reported by R.W.B. Morris (1969) that the cups here were “said to have been enlarged by a former ‘wishing’ rite” — a tradition echoed at another carving not far away where a pestle was used on the cup-marks and rotated 3 times, then a wish was made and an offering left to aid the wish.  Morris suggests this could have been a faint relic of solar worship.


  1. Graham, Robert C., The Carved Stones of Islay, James Maclehose & Son: Glasgow 1895.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties – part 2,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1969.
  3. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll: volume 5 – Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, HMSO: Edinburgh 1984.


With huge thanks to Stuart Holdsworth for use of his photo!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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