Ballochraggan 05, Port of Menteith, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 56044 01549

The Ballochraggan 5 stone
The Ballochraggan 5 stone

Also Known as:

  1. Ballochraggan 42 (Brouwer)
  2. Canmore ID 78355
  3. Menteith 5 (van Hoek)

Getting Here

Take the same directions as if you’re visiting the Ballochraggan 12 carving, or nearby standing stone.  Literally 10 yards above the leaning monolith, you’ll see what looks like a glacial rock drop ahead of you (though it’s actually volcanic).  That’s the stone you want!

Archaeology & History

A site that was first described in Maarten von Hoek’s (1989) survey of the area, where he told this carving to be “a loose boulder (that) bears 14 cups, some possibly natural.”  There is very little doubt about it—many of the ‘cups’ on this stone are indeed natural, caused directly by the erosion and subsequent falling of conglomerate rock nodules coming away from the larger rock mass, leaving holes in it that look like cup-marks, but are blatantly natural in origin.

Close-up of the cups - natural or man-made?
Close-up of the cups – natural or man-made?

When Paul Hornby and I visited the site on August 28, 2014, we looked briefly at the stone and then walked on by—but we took some photos, “just in case the archaeo’s have this listed as a monument, ” I said.  And they do!  Several of the ‘cups’ shown in the images here might be man-made.  Might….  It’s difficult to say for sure (are there any geologists in the house?)  Of course, if the faint half-ring below one of these large ‘cups’ turns out to be legitimate, we’ve got a definite here.  But even that looks a bit dodgy!

Despite these marks possibly being geophysical, we must not forget, nor rule out, that this rock had some importance to the neolithic or Bronze Age people who frequented this region.  Natural marks on rock would be emulated by humans sometimes, or seen as elements of spirit in the stone itself—as found all over the world.  A standing stone is only yards away, and we have highly impressive multiple cup-and-ring stones very close by.  The natural ‘cups’ on this and other adjacent rocks may have catalysed the petroglyphs themselves.

Check it out when you visit the other, much more impressive multiple-ringed carvings hereby; but also watch out for the many conglomerate rocks still scattering this hill—some with the softer rounded nodules of rock fallen, leaving cups, and others still in place in quite a few of the stones, awaiting their own geological timing to leave more cup-marks ready for some folk to misread. (I did it misself in younger years!)


  1. Brouwer, Jan & van Veen, Gus, Rock Art in the Menteith Hills, BRAC 2009.
  2. van Hoek, M.A.M.,”Prehistoric Rock Art of Menteith, Central Scotland,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 15, 1992.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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