Allt Thorrisdail (2), Torrisdale, Sutherland

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NC 66579 61817

Getting Here

Torrisdale (2) carving

Simply follow the same directions as if you’re going to the Allt Thorrisdail (1) petroglyph, and the large, roughly oval-shaped boulder just a few yards away is the one you’re after.  You can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

This large, earthfast, ovoid ball of rock has a series of cup-marks on three of its curvaceous faces, some of which seem to be natural, with a number of them “enhanced” by human hands at some time in the long long ago….

Torrisdale (2) looking E
Oval “face” barely visible

The main cluster of these cups can be found on its near-vertical western-face: an unusual feature in itself!  There are several cups on its southern curve and, further round, low down on the east side of the rock we see a few more of them hiding away.  These, too, seem to have been Nature’s handiwork, then enhanced by the hands of wo/men.  The carving was described in Hew Morrison’s (1883) work as possessing two groups of cup-marks,

“similar to that on the neighbouring stone, one of eighteen small and one large cup, and another of eleven small marks.  There is a solitary mark on the summit of this stone, and its southern face is marked by lines crossing each other, but without any apparent order or design.”

On its northern face we see a large oval hollow, an inch or so deep throughout, that has all the hallmarks of being a primitive face.  There is a tradition of such a rock “face” carving somewhere close by, which seems to be lost—and this would seem to be culprit!  If you visit the place, let us know what you think!

One feature that stands out at this site is the nearby pyramidal hill whch, I think, had some mythic relationship with the carvings.  Impossible to prove, obviously, but the pyramid is such a dominant feature in this landscape that a relationship seems inevitable.  I can only echo what I’ve said in the site profile for the adjacent carving here: tis a ritual place indeed – without any shadow of doubt.  And I don’t say such things lightly!  This place is truly superb!


  1. Mercer, R.J., Archaeological Field Survey in Northern Scotland 1976-1979, University of Edinburgh 1980.
  2. Morrison, Hew, A Tourist’s Guide to Sutherland and Caithness, D.H. Edwards: Brechin 1883.
  3. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Second Report and Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Sutherland. HMSO: Edinburgh 1911.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Sarah MacLean for her company and landscape knowledge in visiting this and other nearby antiquarian sites. And to Aisha Domleo, for getting me into this neck o’ the woods in the first place….where’er She may be….

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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