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

 

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  56.836629, -2.678338 Torrnacloch

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

 

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  51.786201, -5.101970 Cliff Cottage

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

 

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  54.328552, -0.660786 Blakey Topping circle

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

Drumend stone

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Drumend stone 56.597504, -3.301617 Drumend stone

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

 

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  56.721054, -3.503791 Tom-a-Clachan

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

 

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  53.969214, -1.532052 Stone Rings, Pannal

Witches Stone, St. Martin’s, Perthshire

‘Standing Stone’:  OS Grid Reference – NO 15927 31609

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 28628

Getting Here

The Witches Stone of MacBeth

Going north-eastish from the city of Perth, take either the A93 or A94, turning west along the A93 a mile south of Guildtown, or east at Balbeggie on the A94, until you reach St. Martin’s hamlet and park up just below the church opposite the old cottages. Walk up the track below the cottages (not the one above them!) for ⅘-mile (1.35km) [past the ruined Cupar Stone Circle], and where the land has levelled out and in the huge flat field on your left, you’ll eventually reach a gate and see the odd-looking ‘rock’ about 250 yards away in the middle.

Archaeology & History

A fungal morel turned to stone

In a quiet and little-known parish that was once littered with about a dozen stone circles, there remains a most curious and fascinating stone which, in earlier days, was to be seen on the open moorlands at this spot.  The area was then forested and then the agriculturalists came with their farming and destroyed the forests, leaving the old stone as it presently stands, isolated, above the hamlet of St. Martin’s to the south.  Although it was described in the 19th century as being “four feet high”, it stands barely three feet tall, is very curiously-shaped—just like a morel mushroom from some angles—and in the middle of an extensive piece of flatland where the crops barely grow.

Witches Stone on 1866 map

Witches Stone, looking west

The stone was highlighted on the first OS-map of the parish in 1866, showing it in the woodland plantation of Eastmuir.  It may have been some sort of northern outlier related to the now-destroyed stone circle of Cupar 400 yards south; and if this was the case, its position in the landscape relative to the circle would give the Witches Stone an airt (virtue ascribed to cardinal directions) in the cycle of the year that relates to darkness and death. (Perhaps oddly—perhaps not—the name of parish St. Martin’s relates to that dark period in the calendar, as St. Martin’s day in the old calendar was Samhain or Halloween: old New Year’s Day, when the spirits of the dead moved across both land and skies.)

It was erroneously described by the Canmore lads as being little more than “a glacial erratic”, but the stone here is quite earthfast; and their idea that “its peculiar shape has probably been caused by wind erosion”, is also somewhat dubious considering the shape of other monoliths and megalithic rings in the region.  The stone has an appearance similar to some Bull Stones, where the animal was chained to rocks such as this and then baited by dogs, although I can find no such lore here. Indeed, the history and archaeology of the stone seems all but silent.  Its folklore however, would have the Shakespearian romanciers amongst you flocking to the place…

Deep grooves atop of the stone

The top of the stone has some very distinct and deep-cut lines running across it at angles, and has the appearance of being cut into at some time in the dim and distant past.  By whom, and for what reason, we cannot say.

Folklore

William Richie (1845) told us that in the 11th Century when Scotland was having to deal with the english disease of stealing land and spreading its violence, King MacBeth—whose castle stood within this parish at Cairnbeddie (NO 1498 3082)—took that advice of two witches, and that

“they met him one night at a place still called ‘the Witch Stane’ (where a remarkable stone still stands), about a mile from his old residence, and warned him to beware, ‘Till Birnam forest come to Dunsinane.’”

The 1860 Name Book told us that,

“The Moor where the witches met, which is in St. Martins Parish is yet pointed out by the country people, and there is a stone still preserved, which is called the Witches Stone.”

References:

  1. Scott, Aleander, St. Martin’s and Cambusmichael, Perth 1911.
  2. Richie, William, “St. Martins and Cambusmichael,” in New Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 10: Perthshire, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1845.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Prof Paul Hornby for showing me this site. Cheers matey!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Witches Stone

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Witches Stone 56.469085, -3.366207 Witches Stone

Cupar Stone Circle, St. Martin’s, Perthshire

Stone Circle (ruins):  OS Grid Reference – NO 15958 31227

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 28632

Getting Here

The stone circle on 1867 map

Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the Witches Stone of St. Martin’s.  On the way up the long dirt-track, just where the track has levelled out above the slope, keep your eyes peeled on the left (west) for a line of large long boulders on the other side of the barbed-wire fence, laid down, just at the edge of the field.  That’s what’s left of the place!

Archaeology & History

This site is in a sad state of affairs and no discernible ‘stone circle’ of any form can be seen here.  The stones that constituted the megalithic ring were uprooted and dumped at the side of the huge field sometime in the latter-half of the 20th century.  The site is shown clearly on the early OS-maps but at some point in more recent years, the land-owner here (I presume) uprooted the stones and dumped them at the field-side, where they remain. Not good.

Cupar Stones from the track

One of the stones here bore the curious name ‘Cupar’, which probably relates to it being a place where criminal trials were held, or justice dispensed. (Grant 1952)  Traditions such as this were enacted at other megalithic rings and ancient sites in earlier times.

The first mention of the circle I can find is in the old Name Book of 1865, which informs us:

“Three large boulders set up edgeways, and part of a circular earthen bank.  There is no local tradition regarding the stones but the Rev Park believes them to be the remains of a Druidical Temple. The name Cupar Stone is not well known locally but still appears on the estate map.”

Cupar Stones at field-edge

It originally stood on the edge of the large flat plateau, just at the point where the land slopes down to the south, with the curious Witches Stone of MacBeth on the same level plateau just over 400 yards to the north.  This small monolith may have been a deliberate outlier from the ring, perhaps relating to the calendrical airt of death (the direction ‘north’ commonly denotes Death in pre-christian cultural cosmologies).  But we know little else about the ring.  In Margaret Stewart’s (1965) notes about the site, she indicated that some of the stones were still standing when she saw them, saying how the “largest remaining stones are to the south and west.”  They’re not anymore!

Postulating it as a possible ‘four-poster’ stone circle (a dubious one, he said), Aubrey Burl (1988) told us:

“In the south corner of a partly cleared wood…there are three large stones, two of them fallen. They are in a roughly straight line running NNE-SSW.  Nearby is a fourth prostrate stone in a boundary wall.  Stewart (1965:21) suggested that they had once formed a ring approximately 24ft 6in (7.5m) in diameter. Different opinions have been that if there had been a circle, it was probably larger.”

In light of the near-complete destruction of the Cupar stone circle, I feel that note should be made of a somewhat worrying trend, not only here, but many other prehistoric sites in the country.  In the site profile Canmore has given the Cupar stone circle, its destruction and vandalism has been termed “agricultural improvement”, as if to sound ‘acceptable’ and that it’s OK to destroy stone circles – which it plainly is not!  If you or I were to do such a thing, we’d be arrested!  We need to make sure that, as individuals and organizations, we treat what some term “agricultural improvement” for what it is: vandalism (usually by rich tory land-owners who give back-handers, or similar things, to make sure the official paperwork looks OK).  I know a lot of archaeologists agree with this too, but cannot speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain (2 volumes), BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Burl, Aubrey,  The Stone Circles of the British Isles, Yale: London 1976.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  4. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  5. Grant, William & Murison, David D., The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 3, SNDA: Edinburgh 1952.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, South-east Perth: An Archaeological Landscape. RCHAMS: Edinburgh 1994.
  7. Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Excavation of a Circle of Standing Stones at Sandy Road, Scone, Perthshire“, in Transactions & Proceedings Perthshire Society Natural Science, volume 11, 1965.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.465595, -3.365523 Cupar circle

Clachaig, Glen Lyon, Perthshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NN 583 468

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24237
  2. Kerrowmore

Archaeology & History

Upright slab in graveyard

Upright slab in graveyard

In a discussion about the ancient chapel to St. Eonan (the local name in these parts for Adamnan) that once existed near the Bridge of Balgie in Glen Lyon, the local historian Duncan Campbell (1886) informed us that,

“St. Eonan built his chapel near the only stone circle in Glenlyon.  The stones of this circle have been removed within my memory.  The place is called Clachaig.”

The same writer (Campbell 1888) later told how its remains were still visible around 1848 CE.  Campbell’s (1910) later memoirs also mentioned his childhood recollections when the stone circle was in situ, telling that the

“place above the churchyard to Clachaig, named so, the Place of Stones, (was) because the old Druidic stone circle was there.”

We don’t know exactly where the megalithic ring stood; and although modern analysts think the site may have been underneath the invading forestry commission plantation, local lore puts it closer to the graveyard above Kerrowmore.

Enhanced image of curious near-circular form close by

Enhanced image of curious near-circular form close by

A local dowser thinks that the upright slab in the graveyard at Kerrowmore may be the one remaining stone left here after the circle’s destruction.  A quick meander back and forth on a rainy day here, on the geological ridge at the back (south) of Kerrowmore, found only a curious near-circular earthwork that might have been the original site, but it may be fortuitous. A nearby rock outcrop known as “Coill a’ Bhaird” may have been related to the circle.

Folklore

A local man (thanks Tom) said how tradition tells that some of the stones from this circle were taken and used in making the drive to Meggernie Castle last century.

References:

  1. Campbell, Duncan, The Lairds of Glenlyon, Cowan: Perth 1886.
  2. Campbell, Duncan, The Book of Garth and Fortingall, Northern Counties Newspaper: Inverness 1888.
  3. Campbell, Duncan, Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander, Northern Counties Newspaper: Inverness 1910.
  4. Stewart, Alexander, A Highland Parish; or, The History of Fortingall, Alex MacLaren: Glasgow 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.591617, -4.308743 Clachaig circle

Kipps, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9909 7387

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 47920

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1856 map

In an Address to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries in the middle of the 19th century, Sir James Simpson (1862) pointed out the outright destruction and vandalism that incoming land-owners (english mainly, and probably christians too) had inflicted on the monuments of the Scottish people.  Stone circles and two cromlechs, he said, that had existed in this part of West Lothian for thousands of years, were recently destroyed when Simpson was alive.  One of them was here at Kipps.  He told:

“In 1813 the cromlech at Kipps was seen by Sir John Dalzell, still standing upright.  In describing it, in the beginning of the last century, Sir Bobert Sibbald states that near this Kipps cromlech was a circle of stones, with a large stone or two in the middle; and he adds, “many such may be seen all over the country.”  They have all disappeared; and latterly the stones of the Kipps circle have been themselves removed and broken up, to build, apparently, some neighbouring field-walls, though there was abundance of stones in the vicinity equally well suited for the purpose.”

Simpson suggested, quite rightly, that efforts should be made to resurrect the old monument.  In his day the fallen remnants of the ‘cromlech’ that had stood inside the circle were still in evidence and it was highlighted on the early OS-map of the region; and when the northern antiquarian Ratcliffe Barnett (1925) came walking here earlier in the 20th century he told he could still see “the remains of an ancient cromlech, which stood within a circle of stones.”  Around the same time, the Royal Commission (1929) lads looked for these remains but seemed to have gone to the wrong site, “a quarter-mile northwest of Kipps Farm”, where they nevertheless found,

“a tumbled mass of boulders containing about thirty stones, one being erect; they vary from 6 by 3 by 1½ feet by 4 by 3 by 2½ feet, and are probably the remains of a cairn.”

When the renowned chambered tomb explorer Audrey Henshall (1972) followed up the directions of the Royal Commission, she was sceptical of giving any prehistoric provenance to the rocks there, describing them simply as geological “erratics.”

The very place-names Kipps may derive from the monument, for as Angus MacDonald (1941) told, “the word seems to come from Gaelic caep, ‘a block’”, but the word can also mean “a sharp-pointing hill, a jutting point, or crag on a hill”, and as the house and castle at Kipps is on an outlying spur, this could be its meaning.

Folklore

Local lore told how lads and lassies would use the stones as a site to promise matrimony with each other, by clasping their hands through a gap on the top boulder.  Using holes in or between stones to make matrimonial bonds, where the stone is the witness to the ceremony, occurs at many other sites and became outlawed by the incoming christian cult, which took people away from the spirits of rock, waters and land.

References:

  1. Barnett T. Ratcliffe, Border By-Ways & Lothian Lore, John Grant: Edinburgh 1925.
  2. Duns, J., “Notes on a Burial Mound at Torphichen, and an Urn found near the ‘Cromlech’ at Kipps, Linlithgowshire”,  in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 12, 1878.
  3. Henshall, Audrey S., The Chambered Tombs of Scotland – volume 2, Edinburgh University Press 1972.
  4. Lewis, A.L., “The Stone Circles of Scotland,” in Journal Anthropological Society Great Britain, volume 30, 1900.
  5. MacDonald, Angus, The Place-Names of West Lothian, Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh 1941.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Midlothian and Westlothian, HMSO: Edinburgh 1929.
  7. Simpson, James Y., “Address on Archaeology,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 4, 1862.

Acknowledgements:  Accreditation of early OS-map usage, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.947189, -3.617379 Kipps circle