Stone Circle: OS Grid Reference – NG 5432 1768
Also known as:
- The False Stones
- Na Clachan Breitheach
- Strathaird Circle
Way off from seemingly anywhere this one – on the southern foothills of the great Cuillins, by the western edge of a seemingly unnamed loch. (most unusual) Take the Elgol road (A881) south from Broadford, nearly to its end, keeping an eye out for Kirkibost a few miles from the very end of the road. Just past here, stop and walk the track west to Camasunary a half-mile along, through the small forestry-bit, then follow the line of the trees north and keep going a bit more till y’ reach the nice stream that feeds that unnamed loch. Cross the stream!
Archaeology & History
A fascinating little site this one! Perhaps consisting of as many as eight stones at one time, only three stand visible today. Alexander Thom (1967) reported finding other stones in this circle “being buried in the peat, but prodding revealed their position roughly” — as shown on his drawing here. There may at one time have been as many as eight stones here, but the site itself is quite small, making a ring of stones only 21-feet across (or 8 megalithic yards as Thom had it). The ruinous state of the site was put down to the stupidity of the Church of Scotland issuing “instructions that all stones in Skye were to be thrown down” a few centuries back.
Aubrey Burl reported that “there were once at least 4 stones here, the tallest being of 6ft 6ins (2m) high,” and wondered whether this was one of the many ‘four-poster’ stone circles that scatter Scotland and elsewhere. An issue he seemed comfortable to proclaim a few years later in his survey of such sites. (Burl 1988) Of those stones still standing, the tallest is just 5 feet high; but there’s the impressive 11½-foot long monolith laying on the southeast edge of the ring! Mr Burl also pointed out that some
“casual digging inside the ring around 1860 uncovered a blackpolished stone about 1½ ins (4cm) long, ‘somewhat resembling a small pestle.’”
I found the proximity of the Cille Mhaire burial ground a mile west of here more than a bit intriguing (though didn’t have time to assess its geomantic relationship further). And the reported presence of prehistoric cairns nearby imply that the Na Clachan Bhreige ‘circle’ had some relationship with death and burial.
The folkname of ‘The False Stones’ comes from that well-known tale of the site “supposedly being the remains of three men turned into stone for deserting their wives.” Something which Otta Swire (1964) thought was likely told by christian converts. It would have probably replaced an earlier tale of the stones being the site where some ancestral spirits lived. Swire also told that,
“these were once, if tradition is to be believed, Stones of Wisdom who could both foretell the future and show justice as between man and man.”
Burl (1988) also points out how,
“The name, Na Clachan Bhreige, has been variously pointed translated as ‘the judicial stones’, a place where medieval law courts were held, as in several other Scottish rings. It has also been interpreted as ‘the stone of lies, or falsehood.’”
- Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR: Oxford 1988.
- Grinsell, L.V., Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, Hale: Newton Abbot 1976.
- Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Sons: Glasgow 1961.
- Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
- Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Megalithic Rings, BAR: Oxford 1980.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian