Scotland Well, Scotlandwell, Kinross

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 18474 01656

Also Known as:

  1. Scotlandwell
Scotland well on 1856 map

Getting Here

Whichever way you come into the hamlet—be it along the A911 from either Milnathort or Glenrothes, or up the B920 from Ballingry side—the only little carpark to use is about 20 yards from the main road junction, on the west-side of the road, appropriately named Well Road.  The site is unmissable beneath the small well-house at the end of this short cul-de-sac.

Archaeology & History

When a village is named after a well, you know that its waters held some considerable importance!  Mentioned as early as 1218 as “de fonte Scotie” and subsequently many variations thereof in centuries thereafter, the place-names authority Simon Taylor (2017) thinks it may have been mentioned as early as 1090 CE.

Scotland Well in 1915

Although there has never been a direction dedication of the Scotland Well to any saint, as J.M. MacKinlay (1904) and others have pointed out, in the village itself was an ancient medieval hospital that belonged to “the Trinity or Red Friars” that was built for the benefit of the poor by the Bishop of St. Andrews, some 22 miles to the east.  The hospital was at first dedicated to St. Thomas and subsequently to the Virgin, or St Mary.  Holy wells dedicated to both saints are renowned the world over as having great medicinal properties, but no extant written document relates either saint to the well.

Folklore

The main reason for this site maintaining such an honourable place in Scottish history is its association with the two great Scottish heroes, Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce.  In the pseudonymous Historica’s (1934) literary rambles, he told that, after coming down out of the Lomond Hills,

“We descend the narrow defile—the Howgate—into Scotlandwell—Fons Scotia—famous for its medicinal springs, where tradition says King Robert the Bruce came to take the waters for scrofula and leprosy in 1295.  The great Sir William Wallace—according to ‘Blind Harry’—also has associations here.  His famous swim to the Castle Island, for a boat to take over some of his men to capture the english on St. Serf’s, took place from below Scotlandwell.”

In Ruth & Franks Morris’ (1982) fine survey of Scottish wells, they told that upon their visit to the Scotland Well, three people they met still thought highly of its curative properties.  “Of these three people,” they said,

“one was a sufferer from cancer which was the cause of a painful skin rash.  He had been persuaded to try the water and found that it did him so much good that he was driven from Edinburgh to the well, a round trip of some 80 miles, at at regular intervals to drink the water and take back with him two demi-johns of it.”

According to the man concerned, it did him the world of good and cleared the stubborn body rash he’d been suffering!

References:

  1. Day, J.P., Clackmannan and Kinross, Cambridge University Press 1915.
  2. Historicus, Historic Scenes within our Limits, Kinross-shire Advertiser: Kinross 1934.
  3. MacKinlay, James M., Influence of the Pre-Reformation Church on Scottish Place-Names, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1904.
  4. Morris, Frank & Ruth, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  5. Taylor, Simon, The Place-Names of Kinross-shire, Shaun Tyas: Donington 2017.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for being able to use the 1st edition OS-map for this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.200500, -3.315578 Scotland Well

Orwell, Milnathort, Kinross

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NO 1494 0432

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 27912
  2. Mawcloych

Getting Here

The Orwell standing stones

The Orwell standing stones

Drive from Milnathort SE down the A911 road towards Balgedie and Scotlandwell.  About a mile out of the village, keep your eyes peeled on the farmed fields on your left.  You’ll notice the standing stones a few hundred yards ahead and, if you, see them in time, will be able to park up by the track on your left a coupla hundred yards before Orwell Farm. Ensure you visit this site between October and March – otherwise the fields are in full crop.

Archaeology & History

Stones marked on the 1857 map

Stones marked on the 1857 map

These are impressive standing stones by anybody’s standards.  Although we have two impressive uprights today on the highest point in the potato fields, in the 19th century the place-name writer Liddall (1896) told that “in this district are still three large pillar stones known as the Standing Stones of Orwell.” (my italics)  Their existence was recorded, he said, in early topographical accounts in an obsolete place-name Mawcloych, or “place of the stones.”  But if there were three standing stones here, they must have stood prior to the article written by the pseudonymous “W.H.”, who described them in the October edition of The Scottish Journal in 1847, saying:

“About half-a-mile above the old (Orwell) churchyard, in a field by the roadside, are two large upright stones, known as “the Standing Stones of Orwell.”  They are placed east and west of each other about fifteen yards apart—that to the west is flat, and about six feet in height—the one to the east is of a round form, tapering slightly to the ground, and stands nine feet high.  The latter, although still of considerable size, has lost somewhat of its circumference within the last ten years, and, at the present moment, there is a large crack down one side, which, by the action of the weather, will lead to a further diminution of its bulk. It has not been ascertained to what depth these stones are embedded in the earth, but it must be considerable, in order to retain them in the position they occupy.

“The common belief is, that these stones are of Danish origin, erected in commemoration of a victory, or to mark the spot where those who had fallen in battle were interred. This supposition is so far countenanced by the fact that a stone coffin, of large size, was found on digging up the space between the stones. Similar coffins have also been turned up in the same field, and, ten or twelve years ago, the ground was dug up in several places by a neighbouring proprietor, when large quantities of bones, much decomposed and mixed with charcoal, were discovered.”

Fred Coles 1906 ground-plan

Fred Coles 1906 ground-plan

Orwell Stones, looking north

Orwell Stones, looking north

This early description telling of the poor condition of one of the stones presaged its eventual fall in the late 1960s; but this thankfully led to an archaeological evaluation which gave us more information about the site.  Before this however, the great northern antiquarian Fred Coles (1906) visited the stones in August 1904, describing them with his usual meritorious detail, telling:

“They stand on a very gently rising ground, the space between them and for some distance to the south being somewhat higher than the surrounding field.  In ground plan they are related as shown (attached).  The east stone is the higher, standing 9 feet 8 inches clear of theground, smooth-sided and hexagonal. At the base its girth is 9 feet 9 inches, swelling up at the 5-foot level into 10 feet 8 inches. The West Stone, very rugged and angular, is 7 feet 5 inches in height, girths at the base 11 feet 1 inch, and at about 3 feet upwards, 10 feet 5 inches, its broadest side facing the East Stone. Both are of whinstone. The shortest distance between the two Stones is in a line nearly north-west, and measures 46 feet 10 inches.

“Mr R. Kilgour, one of the oldest residents of Kinross, showed me a fine partially flattened oval pebble of dark reddish quartzite, measuring 5 inches by 2⅞ inches, which he found in the ground between these two Stones. The abrasion at each end clearly shows that this pebble has been used as a pounder.

“In a book which to some extent deals with local antiquities, occurs the following passage with reference to these two Standing Stones: ‘In the same field stone coffins have occasionally been turned up by the plough; and, about the beginning of the 19th century, the ground was in many places dug up by the neighbouring proprietor, when quantities of bones much decomposed and mixed with charcoal were discovered.’”

But after the west stone fell down, J.N.G. Ritchie (1972) and his team turned up to resurrect it—and also check out what might be underneath it.  His initial notes of the findings were published in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, which said:

“Excavation at the bases of these two standing stones…was undertaken prior to the re-erection of the W stone and to the embedding of both stones in cement.  The original position of the fallen stone could be detected only as a slight hollow in the natural gravel, but as this corresponded with the position of the stone on Coles’ plan…the stone could be re-positioned comparatively accurately.

“A cremation deposit was found in an insubstantial stone setting in a scoop in the natural gravel some 0.5m S of the stone.  The E stone, which is an impressive whinstone 3.8m in total height, had been set up in a hole 1.5m x 1.4m and 0.75m in depth.  Within the pit on the SW side of the stone there was an unusual two-storeyed cremation deposit; the lower cremation was contained within a rough setting of stones with one side formed by the standing stone itself, and was covered by a flat slab.  On this slab and again surrounded by a setting of small stones was the upper cremation.  It seems most likely that these were inserted into the stone hole at the time of the erection of the stone. Another cremation was found at the lip of the stone hole on the SE side.  The discovery of cists and cremation patches in the same field in the early 19th century suggests that the stones have acted as a focus for such burials.”

The southeasterly stone

The southeasterly stone

The northwesterly stone

The northwesterly stone

Ritchie (1982) later wrote how they had found “burnt dog and pig bones with the lower cremation deposit,” implying “rituals” at the site.  He even posited how such deposits at standing stones “may have a bearing on their postulated use  as astonomical markers,” although Alexander Thom’s (1990) exploration of the Orwell stones indicated no archaeoastronomy here.  So it seems very obvious that these giant monoliths were markers for a neolithic and/or Bronze Age cemetery or necropolis in prehistoric times.  Aubrey Burl (1993) defined the stones here as having “an Irish setting, with the east emphasized, as alway, by the taller stone.”

Fred Coles' 1906 drawing

Fred Coles’ 1906 drawing

Unmentioned by the archaeologists in all of the references I have at hand, is the probable relationship the Orwell stones had with the rising background of the Lomond Hills to the east, with its archaic legends of cailleach, neolithic tomb creations and other geomantic indicators.  These elements (and more) need to be explored more diligently by forthcoming students.  It’s a remarkable setting as far as I’m concerned!

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, “Pi in the Sky”, in Douglas C. Heggie’s Archaeoastronomy in the Old World, Cambridge University Press 1982.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  3. Coles, Fred, “Notices of Standing Stones, Cists and Hitherto Unrecorded Cup-and-Ring Marks in Various Localities,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 40, Edinburgh 1906.
  4. Day, J.P., Clackmannan and Kinross, Cambridge University Press 1915.
  5. Feacham, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  6. Jack, James W., Glenfarg and District – Past and Present, Miller & Smail: Perth 1903.
  7. Liddall, W.J.N., The Place Names of Fife and Kinross, William Green: Edinburgh 1896.
  8. Ritchie, J.N.G.,”Orwell Standing Stones,” in Discovery & Excavation in Scotland, 1972.
  9. Ritchie, J.N.G., “Archaeology and Astronomy: An Archaeological View”, in Douglas C. Heggie’s Archaeoastronomy in the Old World, Cambridge University Press 1982.
  10. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  11. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914.
  12. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 2, BAR: Oxford 1990.
  13. “W.H.”, “A Ramble in Kinross-shire,” in The Scottish Journal of Topography, Antiquities, Traditions, volume 1, 1848.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.223812, -3.373364 Orwell Stones

Craigton, Cleish, Kinross, Kinross-shire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 090 993

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 49622

Archaeology & History

A prehistoric tomb of unknown size was opened and robbed of its contents shortly before its total destruction sometime in the middle of the 19th century.  There were no remains seen of the site when Ordnance Survey came here in 1854, and it is unlikely to have been confused with the large Thorn Knowe tumulus a half-mile to the northwest.  A certain Prof. Duns (1876) described in an early article that the only remaining artefact from this tomb was an elaborate early Bronze Age spear-head, found in 1855, which he described at some length in the PSAS journal of the time.  Neither he nor any other colleagues told us anything further about the tumulus.

References:

  1. Duns, J., “Notes on some articles exhibited to the meeting: A bronze spear-head, a small unlooped socketed celt, a sword-shaped stone from Shetland, and a tripod bronze pot,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 11, 1876.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.178245, -3.467106 Craigton

Fairy Knowe, Gairneybank, Kinross, Kinross-shire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 1230 9874

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 51067
1856 OS-map, showing "site of" the old tumulus
1856 OS-map, showing “site of” the old tumulus

Archaeology & History

This is one of two sites in the county of Kinross-shire that were known as the ‘Fairy Knowe’, both of which have been destroyed through uncaring agriculture practices.  Very little is known about it.  The place was described in a lengthy footnote in the Old Statistical Account of Scotland (volume 6), which told us that,

“a tumulus or mound, composed mostly of earth, with some stones intermixed, on the east of Annofreuch, was opened a few years ago and a coffin found therein formed of rough flat stones, set on edge at the sides and ends, and a large one above; within which were some bones and many pieces of burnt wood interspersed.  In the memory of some old people, it was called the Elf-hillock, but is now known by the name of the Fairyknow.”

The site was listed in the Royal Commission (1933) archaeological county survey, but with no further details.

Folklore

Although the site was a resort of the little people, or faerie-folk, we have no extant tales telling us anything more.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.173220, -3.413801 Fairy Knowe

Carleith, Crook of Devon, Kinross-shire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NT 0404 9877

Getting Here

Carleith Cairn, from roadside

Go along the A977 road out of Powmill village towards Crook of Devon, and as the road swerves uphill, past the Powmill Milk Bar on the right-hand side of the road, take your next right.  Go along this small country lane for a mile or so, past Maidenwells Farm; then as you go uphill, stop at the very top.  Look in the field on your left, where a small round clump of trees are surrounded by circular walling.  The cairn’s inside the protective walling.

Archaeology & History

This Bronze Age tomb sits quietly amidst the ring of trees and walling which give the site cover and protection and, of course, an excellent view of the landscape for the spirit of whichever ancestor lives here.  The place seems to have been described first of all in the Old Statistical Account of the area, in 1796, where they told:

“In the middle of Carleith are the ruins of an old building, perfectly circular, and nearly 24ft in diameter. Not long ago, the proprietor ordered this ground to be planted, and the stones were dug up to make a dyke. Two stone coffins were found each 4 feet long by 3 feet broad, and contained some human bones and teeth.”

The cairn’s within the trees…

Today, the overgrown remains of the cairn measure roughly 10 yards across, with the beeches reaching their great roots into and around the old tomb.  The sides of the stone cist are still visible amidst the undergrowth.  It was measured and described in a letter to the Ordnance Survey by J.S. Nichol in 1959, who thought there may have been more than one tomb here.

Folklore

Although we don’t know for certain, one of the legendary witches known as ‘Meg of Aldie’ was said to frequent an old site close to where she lived – perhaps the Carleith cairn.  The site is a damn good contender for such heathen rites!

References:

  1. Simpkins, Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Fife, Folklore Society: London 1914.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.171860, -3.547510 Carleith

Bull Stone, Crook of Devon, Kinross-shire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NT 03326 99712

Getting Here

The Bull Stone rock, looking west

In the lovely village that is the Crook of Devon, go down Church Lane, past the houses, until you meet with the dirt-track on your left that runs straight up beneath a grove of trees heading into the green fields.  Go up here 100 yards until you meet another track that goes sharp left.  Just here, 10 yards along, a solitary tree sits by the wall; and just past it is a large boulder up against the walling.  This is the Bull Stone!

Archaeology & History

Bull Stone, Crook of Devon

If you didn’t know owt about this place, you wouldn’t even give it a second-thought.  A decent-sized rock, obviously broken-up and then plastered back together again, is innocuously resting up against the wall.  But it appears to have had some significance in bygone centuries, although its full story has yet to be recovered.  It was described in the Royal Commission (1933) report for antiquities, where they told:

“Built against the dike on the north side of an old roadway, half a mile to the south of Crook of Devon, is a huge sandstone boulder known as ‘The Bull Stone.’  It is probably an old boundary mark or, like the Leslie Stone…it may have some association with the old-time pastime of bull-baiting.  The stone was broken up a number of years ago, and the fragments were carted away to be built up in another dike hard by, but, in response to public agitation, they were returned to the original site and cemented together.  The boulder rises 3½ feet above ground and has a girth of about 13 feet at the base.  It is not set up vertically, but lies on its side.”

It may originally have been a standing stone as local lore tells that it once stood as high as a grown man, but is now only half that size.  It may have been one of the meeting places of the legendary witches at the Crook of Devon, but this is guesswork on my behalf (so best ignored!).

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.180211, -3.558841 Bull Stone