Pipers Stones, Blessington, County Wicklow

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – N 96998 14582

Archaeology & History

This stone circle was found close to the roadside and is remembered today only by the street-name of ‘Pipers Stones’.  Shown on the first OS-map of the area, the site was destroyed sometime before 1838.

Folklore

In a folklore motif found at a number of megalithic rings, Grogan & Kilfeather (1997) tell us that the name of this circle,

“refers to a tradition that people caught dancing on a Sunday were turned to stone.”

References:

  1. Grogan, Eion & Kilfeather, Annaba, Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow, Stationery Office: Dublin 1997.
  2. o’ Flanagan, Michael, Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Wicklow, Bray 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

East Whitefield, Cargill, Perthshire

Stone Circle (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NO 1730 3515

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 28503 

Getting Here

Site shown on 1867 OS map

Travelling north from Perth on the A94, take the left hand turn to Strelitz as you go into Burrelton, and follow that road for two miles, and park up about 300 yards past the turning to Gallowhill. The circle stood at the far end (south-east) of the field on your left. Keep the distant gap in the hills in sight and the probable site of the circle is in a dip in the land in front of the ditch.

History & Archaeology

The circle had been destroyed by the middle of the nineteenth century, but was remembered by locals who gave this description to the Ordnance Survey bods:

‘The authorities quoted says that this is the site of a number of standing stones, they formed a circle, and one stood in the centre and according to tradition they were the remains of a Druidical Temple.’

In 1969 an Ordnance Survey archaeologist wrote:

‘There is no trace of this circle, the site being in a level arable field. Immediately to the SE in a ditch running parallel to the fence are about a dozen large boulders cleared from the field, possibly from the site of the circle.’

The boulders have now gone but there are some broken stones on the banks of the drainage ditch which may or may not be the sorry remains of some of the stones. There is a depression in the field just in front of the ditch which is the likely site of the circle based on the position shown on the 1867 map.

Left – A faint cropmark which may show the position of the circle in this winter view. Centre – Shattered stones in the ditch bank. Right – View looking south-east from the probable site of the circle – the gap between Black Hill, left and Dunsinane, right

What is interesting is the gap in the horizon facing south east from the site of the circle. On the left of the gap is Black Hill, and on the right Dunsinane Hill of Macbeth fame. My reading of the angle from the probable site of the circle to the gap using a hand held compass was around 135° to 140°, and that may indicate a midwinter sunrise alignment from the lost circle. Something to be checked out when winter comes.

And there is a legend of a giant who leaped from Black Hill to Dunsinane who also tossed a boulder which stands between the two hills – whether this legend has anything to do with the possible solstitial sighting line from East Whitehill is an intriguing question.

Reference:

  1. Ordnance Survey Name Book – Perthshire Vol. XV, 1859-62

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

To be continued…

© Paul T Hornby 2021

Bombie, Kirkcudbright, Kirkcudbrightshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NX 7079 5018

Archaeology & History

This stone circle was destroyed sometime in the early 1780s by some moron who cared little for our ancient sites.  Its destruction was described by Robert Muter in 1794—the earliest known reference to the site—when he told:

“Near the Roman camp there is a Druidical temple, which was destroyed within these eight years, by the hands of an ignorant Goth, who carried off the stones, split them, and applied them to build a contemptible bridge over an insignificant rivulet, called Buckland Burn.  The stones were seven in number, of round granite, and of unequal sizes.  The smallest at least three feet in diameter.”

In the 1850s, when the Ordnance Survey lads came this way to map and seek out the place-names of the area, the ‘Clownstane’ was one such place they listed.  In seeking an explanation of the word, a local man told them the folk memory from seventy years prior:

“Mr. Bell of Balgreddan says the name Clownstane originated from the Stones of a Druid Circle which stood convenient to this place and which was broken up and removed to build a bridge near by.”

Fred Coles (1895) included the site in his survey of the Kirkcudbright circles, simply reiterating how,

“According to Dr Muter, the stones “were seized by some vandal for the building of Buckland Bridge.””

References:

  1. Coles, Fred R., “The Stone Circles of the Stewarty of Kirkcudbright,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 29, 1895.
  2. Muter, Robert, “The Parish of Kirkcudbright,” in Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 11, William Creech: Edinburgh 1794.

Links:

  1. Canmore notes on Bombie
  2. Ordnance Name Book on the Bombie Circle

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Little Balmae, Kirkcudbright, Kirkcudbrightshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NX 691 447

Archaeology & History

In an area littered with neolithic and Bronze Age remains, the great Fred Coles (1895) reported a stone circle that was destroyed sometime roughly between 1890 and 1911.  When he visited the place with his colleague, Mr E.A. Hornel in 1887, the megalithic ring had already been tampered with.  It was, he said,

“found to consist of five granite boulders, all of them large, in situ, and the ridgy grassy hollows of five others—removed, no one can say when.  In the centre of this nearly true circle, 90 feet in diameter, is a slight mound, possibly artificial.”

In 1911, when the Royal Commission lads visited the area, they could find no stone circle and reported how “no information could be obtained concerning it” from the local farmer.  This might have been because he destroyed it.  Some land-owners do such things, as we know; but in this case we may never know.

The site was listed without comment in the Master’s magnum opus (Burl 2000), but he gave it the “uncertain status” category; whilst John Barnatt (1989) questioned whether this was a destroyed stone circle or merely a natural setting that Cole had misinterpreted.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain – volume 2, BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  3. Coles, Fred R., “The Stone Circles of the Stewarty of Kirkcudbright,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 29, 1895.
  4. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in Galloway – volume 2: County of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, HMSO: Edinburgh 1914.

Links:

  1. Canmore notes on Little Balmae

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Torrnacloch, Dalbog, Edzell, Angus

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 5871 7189

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 35190

Archaeology & History

‘Site of’ stone circle, 1865

When the Ordnance Survey lads visited this area in 1860, they stood upon this small knoll that was known as Torrnacloch – or the Knoll of the Stone.  They were informed that a ring of stones had stood here, but had been destroyed about 1840, apparently by a local farmer.  The stones were described as being about 3 feet high.  They subsequently added it on the earliest OS-map of the area, but also made note that a cist was found within the site.  The circle was included and classed as a stone circle in Aubrey Burl’s (2000) magnum opus, but had previously been classed as a cairn with “a kerb of large boulders” by the Royal Commission doods. (1983)  They based their assessment on the appearance of some of the stones found on a gravel mound behind the farm which had apparently been removed from the circle when it was destroyed.  Andrew Jervise (1853) gave us the following account:

“The Chapelry of Dalbog was on the east side of the parish, due west of Neudos.  The time of its suppression is unknown; and though no vestige of any house remains, the site of the place of worship is still called the “chapel kirk shed” by old people, and, in the memory of an aged informant, a fine well and hamlet of houses graced the spot.  This field adjoins the hillock of Turnacloch, or “the knoll of stones,” which was probably so named, from being topped in old times by a so-called Druidical circle, the last of the boulders of which were only removed in 1840.  Some of them decorate a gravel mound behind the farm house; and, on levelling the knoll on which they stood, a small sepulchral chamber was discovered, about four feet below the surface. The sides, ends, and bottom, were built of round ordinary sized whinstones, cemented with clay, and the top composed of large rude flags.  It was situate on the sunny side of the knoll, within the range of the circle; but was so filled with gravel, that although carefully searched, no relics were found.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Jervise, Anrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1853.
  3. MacLaren, A. et al, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Central Angus, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1983.

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

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Cliff Cottage Circle, Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SM 8615 1428

Archaeology & History

Described in context with an extant standing stone 100 yards to the north, this stone circle seems to have been destroyed in the latter half of the 19th century.  It was described in the Royal Commission’s huge Pembrokeshire (1925) survey, after they had visited the site and viewed the remains.  They told us:

“On the side of the road immediately opposite to Cliff Cottage, and constituting part of the garden walls of Upper Lodge, are numerous boulders which formed a well-defined stone circle.  A few years ago they were moved, dressed, and used for walling.  The entrance to the circle is said to have faced north-east.  The southern portion was still visible about the year 1896.”

As far as I’m aware, local people report that a couple of the stones are still visible in the overgrown walling.  Students working for the Welsh Coflein database allege that the remaining stones “are of doubtful antiquity.”  Unless they have some substantial evidence to validate this statement (none is given) their remarks should be taken with a pinch of salt.

References:

  1. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Wales, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales & Monmouthshire: VII – County of Pembroke, HMSO: London 1925.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Blakey Topping, Allerston, North Yorkshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SE 8719 9338

Getting Here

Old stones of Blakey Topping (James Elkington)

From Pickering, take the A169 towards Whitby. When you get to the Car Park at the ‘Hole-of-Horcum’ – (you can’t miss it), park the car and walk North along the side of the road towards Whitby. After 60 yds, take the track East. Follow this for approximately a mile until the track splits. Take the concrete track left towards the farm-house of ‘Newgate Foot’. Go through the yard past the house on the right, and you will come to a stream and a gate. Enter the field on the right and up the track. The stones are in front of you.

Archaeology & History

The great rounded hill of Blakey Topping—recorded as early as 1233 CE and meaning the ‘black mound’ or ‘black meeting-place’— has the ruins of a stone circle living several hundred yards to its south, little-known to many.  The early writer George Young (1817) seemed to come close here, mentioning the ‘druidic’ standing stones of Blakey Moor and district, but gave no specific indication of the ruinous ring we’re visiting here.  Instead, the first real description was penned by Robert Knox (1855) who, at the time of writing, was under the academic spell of druidism: prevalent as it was amongst most universities and places of learning back then.  Also, beset by the equally sad plague of Biblical comparitivism—beloved even to this day by halfwits—Knox’s formula about this ancient ring was founded on the druidical reverence of Blakey Topping as a site beneath which our Bronze age tribal ancestors erected their stones with the rounded hill immediately to the north, as signified by its early name, black. (In early place-names, ‘black’ and its variants—dubh, dove, etc—relates to the cardinal direction of ‘north’ and actually means ‘shining’; and white or ban is ‘south’, when both elements are located in relative proximity.)  Knox told us:

“At the southwest side of this arch-Druid’s tomb-like hill (Blakey Topping) a far more conspicuous cluster of larger Druid stones occurs; here three pillars form a triangle…and a smaller one…stands one hundred and fifty paces east of these nearer to the farmhouse there.  These single stones, possibly, once formed part of a circle… The diameter of a circle formed on this triangle of stones would be about fifty-five feet; but as these pillars form a nearly equilateral triangle, the number of stones in that circle cannot now be correctly ascertained, if, indeed, they ever formed part of a circle…

“These three sandstone pillars, untouched by tools…are much weather-worn; and hence it may be inferred that they are very ancient.  I shall only add that the tallest pillar here is nine feet high, from two-and-a-half to three feet wide, and rom fifteen to twenty inches thick, and is the tallest ancient pillar next to the celebrated one in Rudston churchyard, now standing in the eastern part of Yorkshire.  When I last visited the Blakey Topping Druid-stones in 1836, I learned that the farmer, on whose ground they stand, “had talked about breaking the three large ones to pieces,” and perhaps nothing but the trouble of doing so has hitherto preserved them, and many others.  I told him what had been their use, and begged he would preserve them.”

Stone re-used as gatepost (James Elkington)

And thankfully they remain there to this day!  Around the same time of Mr Knox’s visit, the Ordnance Survey lads came here too and, in 1854, highlighted the remaining ‘Druidical Stones’ on the first map of the area.  But references to the stones from here onwards are sparse and add nothing pertinent to its archaeomythic status.  It was a Mr & Mrs Elgee (1930) who were the next to tell us about the site in their exposition on Yorkshire archaeology.  They wrote:

“Three large standing stones about 6 feet high on the south-west side of Blakey Topping…are the remains of a circle about 18 yards in diameter.  Two or three hollows in the ground indicate the position of other stones, some of which are serving as gateposts nearby. Others have been broken up to help build a wall.  These stones are associated with a large settlement sites similar to (one) on Danby Rigg not very far from the imposing Bridestones and approached by an ancient trackway known as the Old Wife’s Trod.”

The general interpretation by the great megalithic archaeologists Aubrey Burl, John Barnatt and their fellow associates, is that these stones are the remains of a stone circle – which seems apt.  But of even greater importance seems to be the great hill of Blakey Topping itself, to which this olde ring no doubt related to.  Many other prehsitoric sites once scattered this area, but sadly most of them have been destroyed.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain (2 volumes), BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, New Haven & London 1995.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  4. Elgee, F., Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  5. Elgee, F. & H.W., The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  6. Gutch, Mrs E., Examples of Printed Folklore Concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, David Nutt: London 1899.
  7. Knox, Robert, Descriptions Geological, Topographical and Antiquarian in Eastern Yorkshire, London 1855.
  8. Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia, RKP: London 1976.
  9. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  10. Spratt, D.A., Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North-East Yorkshire, BAR: Oxford 1982.
  11. White, Stanhope, Standing Stones and Earthworks on the North Yorkshire Moors, privately printed: Scarborough 1987.
  12. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – 2 volumes, Clark & Medd: Whitby 1817.

Links:

  1. Mountains, Myths and Moorlands

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to the photographer James Elkington, for use of his photos in this profile. Cheers mate.  Also, accreditation of early OS-map usage, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

© Paul Bennett & James ElkingtonThe Northern Antiquarian


Drumend, Easter Rattray, Perthshire

Stone Circle (ruins):  OS Grid Reference – NO 20175 45825

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 30760
  2. Old Rattray

The survivor from the South

Getting Here

Just less than a mile east of Blairgowrie, the site is situated about 200 yards along a farm track that runs north from the A926 Rattray – Alyth Road.  This road is narrow with a lot of bends and very busy, with no safe parking places. It is best to walk from Rattray, the stone will be seen in the field just east of Drumend Farm.

Archaeology & History

Site on 1867 OS-map

There is one stone here that survives from a megalithic ring that was progressively destroyed some time between the publication of the 1792 Old Statistical Account and the publication of the 1867 OS map.  Reverend James Smith, writing in the 1792 Statistical Account, told us:

“Above the river, SE from the village, in a beautiful situation, is a Druidical temple, much defaced, and many of the stones carried off. The farm upon which it has been built, is called Standing Stones.”

Reverend William Herdman wrote patronisingly in the 1845 New Statistical Account;-

“If large graystones be entitled to the appellation of antiquities, or are any indication of the religious worship of our ancestors, a few of these appear in a field, thence called Standing Stanes, which are supposed to be the ruins of a Druidical Temple.”

Close up from the south

Many years later, in the first few years of the 20th century, the great northern antiquarian and megalith writer, Fred Coles, visited the site and gave this description in 1909:

“Standing Stone on the Farm of Standing Stone, Old Rattray.  [A] monolith attracts our notice, in a field on the north of the main road, one mile and a quarter east of the middle of Old Rattray village. The height above sea-level is 270 feet. This monolith …[has a] mineralogical composition …more analogous to the quartziferous schists so frequently found in the vicinity.

The top is smooth, with an inclination towards the south-east, and the whole mass is squarish and pillar-like. It is set up with the longer axis N.E. 50° and S.W. 50°. The highest point is 5 feet 1 inch above ground, the basal girth 8 feet, but rather more than mid-way up it increases to 10 feet 4 inches.

In this lower-lying district, comprising an area of about 35 square miles, the megalithic remains are extremely sparse. Agricultural operations, doubtless, have swept away some monoliths, and possibly also whole circles of stones; but at any rate it is somewhat significant that only four Standing Stones are now left, and that there is no record on the maps of any other variety of sepulchral structure.”

This brave survivor has a commanding position over the valley of the River Ericht, and again we can only lament the loss of its companions, but be thankful it too didn’t fall prey to ‘agricultural improvements’ or religious bigotry.

References:

  1. Smith, Rev.James, Old Statistical Account, Perthshire, Parish of Rattray, 1792. #
  2. Herdman, Rev. William, New Statistical Account, Perthshire, Parish of Rattray, 1845.
  3. Coles F.R., ‘Report on stone circles surveyed in Perthshire (South-East District), with measured plans and drawings; obtained under the Gunning Fellowship’, Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot., vol. 43, 1908-9.

© Paul T. Hornby, 2019


Tom-a-Clachan, Kirkmichael, Perthshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 0808 5985

Archaeology & History

Kirkmichael parish was an area that was described by George Chalmers (1887) as possessing “a vast body of Druid remains,” there being “a number of Druid cairns in the vicinity of Druidical circles.”  As we know, the term ‘druid’ has long fallen out of favour; and with it in this area, the sites themselves have taken a similar fate.

Found just south of the village, on raised ground 100 yards west of the river, this stone circle is not listed in any of the archaeological catalogues, but its existence was thankfully recorded in one of the essays by regional historian Charles Fergusson.  He told us that,

“one of these Druidical circles stood at Tom-a-Chlachan — the Hillock of Stones — where the Manse of Kirkmichael now stands, and there two thousand years ago our rude ancestors worshipped, according to their faith, in their circle of stones; and there, as elsewhere, when the pioneers of Christianity came to the district, they found it expedient to place their new church where the old circle of stones had stood, so the first church of St Michael was reared where the old clachan stood, on what the natives already considered holy ground.”

In the same tradition (but this time, without the destruction), on the other side of the River Ardle from here, what was once known as a heathen well later became known as the Priest’s Well.

References:

  1. Chalmers, George, Caledonia – volume 1, Alexander Gardner: Glasgow 1887.
  2. Fergusson, Charles, “Sketches of the Early History, Legends and Traditions of Strathardle and its Glens – part 5,” in Transactions of Gaelic Society Inverness, volume 21, 1899.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Stone Rings, Pannal, North Yorkshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 308 527

Archaeology & History 

‘Stone Rings’ place-names on the 1910 OS-map

The plurality of the place-name implies that there was more than one circle, but we don’t that know for sure either!  But if there was more than one, it is more likely they were cairn circles than traditional free-standing stones circles.  But once again, we simply don’t know….No remains exist of the “stone rings”—or rings of stone—that once stood here in bygone centuries.  The only remains left are in the place-names of the stream and roads hereby, highlighted on several of the early OS-maps: Stone Rings Lane, Stone Rings Beck and the Stone Rings Quarry—the latter of which is probably the reason why there is nothing to be seen here anymore. But we don’t know for sure.

The grid-reference given here is an approximation.

References:

  1. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 5, Cambridge University Press 1961.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian