Ghost’s Knowe, St. Ninian’s, Stirlingshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NS 7474 8574

1861 OS-map of site

1861 OS-map of site

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 45953
  2. Craigengelt Cairn

Getting Here

West of Dunipace and the M9, go along the B818 for 3-4 miles until you hit the pub at the tiny crossroads of Carron Bridge. Take the lonely road up to your right and after several miles, just where the forest on your left finishes, a bend in the road takes you over a small river.  Stop here and walk up the track left, to Craigengelt.  Before you reach the farmhouse at the end, note a small clump of trees ahead of you.  Just before this, a seemingly natural rounded hillock in the field, just off the trackside, is where the monument used to be.

Archaeology & History

No trace remains of this once-important and seemingly impressive prehistoric ‘tomb’ or ritual death chamber, just off the trackside before old Craigengelt farmhouse.  The standard history of the site, repeated variously by Royal Commission (1963) and elsewhere, was first sourced in the New Statistical Account of the region in 1845:

“About two years ago the tenant was engaged in levelling and improving a field on the eastern extremity of Craigengelt in which there was a large cairn or mound, known in the country by the name of the “Ghost’s Knowe.” It was quite circular, exactly 300 feet in circumference at the base, and which was flanked around by twelve very large stones, placed at equal distances, and it was 12 feet high, with a slight inclination to one side, and fiat on top. On removing the turf and soil, it was found that the interior consisted of large and small stories built together with great care, which led the proprietor to think that it must have been a place of Druidical sepulture.

“About 6 feet from the centre, there stood four upright stones, each about 3 feet in height, describing an oblong figure like a bed. Within this a coffin was found, the length of which was about 7 feet, at broad, and at deep. The under part or bottom of the coffin was whin-flag, as was also the upper part or lid. Within this were found the remains of a human body of the ordinary size. The hones, except a very small part of the skull, were of the consistence of soft chalk, the body had been enveloped in something like a mixture of decayed vegetable matter and tar, which, when exposed to the atmosphere, emitted a strong odour.

“Strict orders were given to the labourers that if anything like a coffin should be found, they were not to open it until either the proprietor or tenant were present. But one of them, an old schoolmaster, who knew something of antiquities, went during the night, and carried off a variety of articles, the nature and number of which are not now likely ever to be ascertained. With reluctance, he gave up a stone axe of beautiful workmanship and a gold ring. The ring had had a jewel in it; but the jewel was out, and it was what is called “chased,” and must have been worn on a very small finger.  A labourer in the neighbourhood sold a variety of things of a rare description to a gentleman in whose possession, it is believed, they still are.  The axe and the ring were the only things obtained by the proprietor, J. Dick, Esq. of Craigengelt, and they are still in his possession.”

When Daniel Wilson (1851) visited the site a few years later, he discovered a little more about the valuable items discovered in the tomb:

“among which was a golden horn or cup, weighing fourteen ounces, and ornamented with chased or embossed figures. This interesting relic was purchased from one of the labourers by a gentleman in Stirling, and is believed to be still in existence, though I have failed, after repeated applications, in obtaining access to it.  The exact nature or value of the whole contents of this cairn is not likely ever to be ascertained.  The only articles secured by the proprietor, and now in his possession, are a highly polished stone axe or hammer, eight inches long, rounded at one end and tapering at the other; a knife or dagger of the same material, eighteen inches long, which was broken by one of the stones falling on it when opening the cist; and a small gold finger-ring, chased and apparently originally jewelled, though the settings have fallen out.”

The structure of the Ghost’s Knowe is similar in size and stature to another, large unrecorded round cairn or tumulus, 2.25 miles (3.62km) NNW of here, that still requires our full attention.


Despite the name and the tale said by local people that “the place was haunted”, I can find no details that tell the story of the hauntings here.  Does anyone know?


  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.
  3. Wilson, Daniel, The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1851.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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