Loch of Blairs, Forres, Morayshire

Cist:  SO Grid Reference – NJ 0194 5540

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 15792

Archaeology & History 

This is another of the many sites in the country that was uncovered fortuitously, as a result of widening the road just west of the Loch of Blairs.  It’s in relative isolation from other prehistoric sites.  The best description of it was by local antiquarian and folklorist James Ritchie (1932), to whom we owe our gratitude for the old photo.  “This cist,” he wrote, 

“as such tombs are called, had been discovered by workmen who were digging sand from a mound just by the main road to Grantown.  Flat, rectangular stones formed its ends and sides; its top was a single slab of massive proportions.  All around were packed smooth. water-worn boulders, that had once lain in the bed of the Findhorn.  The opening of the cist revealed the ashes of some long-departed dweller in Moray, together with pieces of what had been beautifully moulded pot of clay. On examination of the remains by antiquarian experts, the date of the burial was estimated to be at least a thousand years BC.”

The attached photo makes the site look larger than it is; as the length of the chamber is just 2ft 7in long, by 1ft 8in across, with the covering stone being nearly twice as large as the cist itself.  The urn found inside the cist now resides in the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities. 

References:

  1. Ritchie, James B., The Pageant of Morayland, Elgin Courant 1932.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.577971, -3.641421 Loch of Blairs

Innesmill, Urquhart, Moray

Stone Circle: OS Grid Reference – NJ 289 640

Also known as: 

  1. B5/1 (Thom)
  2. Deil’s Stanes
  3. Devil’s Stones 
  4. Lochhill 
  5. Moray 6 (Burl)
  6. Nine Stanes Stones of Urquhart

Archaeology & History

Alexander Thom’s Innesmill plan

Described in early local history journals, this stone circle of many names is composed of mainly small upright stones — though one of them stands nearly six feet tall — yet it has quite a large diameter of 110 feet (or 40.4 megalithic yards).  Alexander Thom (1980) measured its circumference as being precisely 127 megalithic yards.  It is thought to have originally consisted of twelve stones, but today only five remain.  And in a landscape where recumbent stone circles reign supreme, Aubrey Burl (in Thom, Thom & Burl 1980) thought the lay-out of the site suggestive of just such a monument, saying:

“The apparent grading of the stones towards the S-SSW and the 19th century reference by the Minister of Urquhart to “nine tall stones in a circle, two of them at the entrance to the altar” suggest that this may have been a recumbent stone circle, from which the recumbent and its flankers have subsequently been removed.  It is noteworthy that the westernmost stone has several small cupmarks on it, a pillar which would have been close to the recumbent in that restricted area where cupmarks are to be found in recumbent stone circles.”

A singular TNA profile entry of the said cup-marked stone will be added in due course.  The middle of the circle was dug sometime prior to 1870, but no human or other remains were found.

Folklore

Described by two local ministers as ‘Nine Stanes’ back in Victorian days, with at least one of the stones being recumbent, it was the great Fred Coles (1906) in one of his many articles on the megalithic remains of Scotland who narrated the following tale, told to him first-hand by a local man called Mr T. Geddie, after some of the standing stones from this circle were removed in the nineteenth century.

“One of the stones,” wrote Mr Geddie, “was to be taken away to be built into a new steading at Viewfield. Mr Brown thinks this was prior to the building of the Innesmill steading, which dates from 1843. No sooner had the Stone been deposited in the toon, however, than uncanny signs and omens began to manifest themselves, and it was resolved to get rid of it. While it was being taken back to its original position, the horse stuck or fell when taking a somewhat steep little brae, and the Stone was taken no further, but buried where it was. The spot it about 80 or 100 yards from the circle.”

Grinsell (1976) also tells the tale that if you visit the circle at midnight and walk round the circle three times, the devil can appear.

References:

  1. Coles, F.R., ‘Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in the North-East of Scotland, Chiefly in Banffshire’, in PSAS 40, 1906. 
  2. Grinsell, Leslie V., Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, David & Charles: London 1976. 
  3. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Megalithic Rings, BAR 81: Oxford 1980.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.660946, -3.192347 Innesmill, Urquhart