Gilfeilzie Well, Alyth, Perthshire

Sacred Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 2675 5071

Also Known as:

  1. Well of Gilfeilzie

Archaeology & History

Long lost, this was a sacred well whose history has all but fallen away.  Were it not for the historian James Meikle (1925), whose excellent survey of Alyth parish cites a record and brief narrative of the site, we’d no longer know it ever existed.

It was located 1¾ miles northeast of Alyth, roughly halfway between the giant and mightily impressive Barry Hill hillfort (NO 2623 5039) and the lost stone circle of Hell Hole (NO 2801 5066).  It is the name of the Well itself that invited scrutiny in Meikle’s place-name book which, he told, meant a hut, but also a “cell, shrine in a temple,” or “at the church.”  No church has ever been recorded here, although a small hamlet was in the adjacent field to the west—long since cleansed by the English in the genocide known as The Clearances.  The well was shown and named on an 18th century estate map by William Panton in 1772, as Meikle told us,

“near the south bank of the Slatenty Burn, known there are the Burn of Babylon.  The well is now drained, but it was evidently within what is the first cultivated field east of the heath-covered skirts of Barry Hill, and 40 or 50 yards from its north-east corner.  Above the well and above the old loan from Inverqueich, and mostly within the same field, were half a dozen scattered cottages, with a kiln…; and as baptisms in 1649 tend to show that there were more houses than one in Gilfeilzie, the whole group must have been so named.”

When Paul Hornby and I visited the place yesterday, we could find no trace whatsoever of the well.

References:

  1. Meikle, James, Places and Place-Names round Alyth, Alex Gardner: Paisley 1925.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Gilfeilzie Well

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Gilfeilzie Well 56.642448, -3.195910 Gilfeilzie Well

Shealwalls Enclosure, Alyth, Perthshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid reference – NO 23922 51484  —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Aerial view of the oval, at centre

Aerial view of the oval, at centre

Take the B954 north out of the Alyth, up through the hills.  After just over 2 miles (3km), take the left turn up to Bamff.  Go along here and past the copse of trees on your right for literally three-quarters of a mile (1.2km), where a gate takes you into the overgrown meadows on your right.  Walk back on yourself for about 100 yards or more, across the boggy stream and up the slope.  The embankments of this enclosure are right under nose!

Archaeology & History

Some 70 yards west of the little four-poster ‘stone circle’ of Shealwalls, is this previously unrecorded enclosure.  Oval in shape and well-defined at ground level, the great majority of the inside of this enclosure is relatively even and flat.  Around its perimeter there are, at intervals, a number of small stones defining its edges along its internal embankment, but these are intermittent and seem to have no deliberate architectural regularity: they may simply be elements of an internal raised platform that have become visible due to erosion processes.

Northwest section of ditch

Northwest section of ditch

At its greatest width from the edges of the outer ditch to outer ditch, the enclosure measures more than 22 yards (20.3m) east-west, and at its longest it is 30 yards (27.3m) north-south.  The circumference of the enclosure is between 88-89 yards (80m).  The average width of the surrounding or enclosing ‘ditch’ is between 2 and 2½ yards (2m) and it has a depth of no more than 2 feet all round.  All along the southern side, very little remains of the ditch and in sections it has been eaten into by foraging rabbits and cattle.  The most conspicuous section of the surrounding ditch and embankment is along the eastern length (where it gives the impression of being hengi-form in nature); the more rounded northern section of the ditch is very distinct, but is overgrown in Juncus reeds; whilst the western section of the ditch is clear until reaching its southernmost part, where its outer edges become less visible.

SW edge of enclosure

SW edge of enclosure

NE arc of ditch, looking west

NE arc of ditch, looking west

There seemed to be no visible structures within the enclosure itself, which added to my thoughts that the site was hengi-form in nature, as defined in the surveys by A.F. Harding (1987) and Jan Harding (2006).  However, it is best to maintain a simple description regarding the nature of the site until archaeological evaluation can give us a more accurate assessment.  Without excavation it is obviously impossible to give an accurate idea of its age, but its architectural form and similarity with other enclosures would seem to place its construction in the late Bronze Age to early Iron Age period.

The monument proved very difficult to photograph with any success as it is much overgrown and the bright sun was in the wrong place! (serious) So, another visit is needed in the hope that we can get better images.  A fascinating little site!

References:

  1. Harding, A.F., Henge Monuments and Related Sites of Great Britain, BAR 175: Oxford 1987.
  2. Harding, Jan, The Henge Monuments of the British Isles, Tempus: Stroud 2006.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Shealwalls enclosure

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Shealwalls enclosure 56.648920, -3.242303 Shealwalls enclosure

Heatheryhaugh, Bendochy, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 19639 51153

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 29141
  2. Mains of Creuchie

Getting Here

Heatherhaugh Carving, in situ

Heatherhaugh Carving, in situ

Take the A93 road north out of Blairgowrie for 5 miles or so to the Bridge of Cally, making sure you do NOT drive up the A924.  Keep on the A93 for a coupla hundred yards, just as you come out of the village take the right turn on the minor road to Drimmie. When you hit the dead straight section of road, turn left near its end. The follow this bendy moorland road for 1½ miles (2½km) where a small copse of trees appears on the nearby hillock on your left. In the next field past this, close to the roadside, you’ll see a large boulder.

Archaeology & History

A large rock in the large field 350 yards (320m) SSE of the lovely Park Neuk stone circle which was described by the Royal Commission (1990) lads as being a “cup-and-ring” stone is, sadly, not as impressive as it sounds.  The carving was initially rediscovered and described by Mrs Lye (1982) who told:

“A large glacial erratic boulder with ten cup marks scattered over its surface lies in a field one sixth of a mile SSE of the ‘four poster’ and ruined stone circle at Heatheryhaugh.  The boulder is garnet mica schist and is 3m long, NS, by 2.70 wide, EW, with a circumference of 9m at ground level.”

When the Royal Commission visited the carving in 1987 they found that it had,

“on its sloping W face at least fifteen weathered cupmarks, two cups with single rings and one cup with a possible ring; the cupmarks average 50mm in diameter by 15mm in depth.”

Cup-marks faintly visible

Cup-marks faintly visible

Close-up of cups - some natural, some enhanced

Close-up of cups – some natural, some enhanced

But some of these ‘cups’ are, without doubt, geological in origin – and when Paul Hornby and I visited the stone in near perfect weather conditions, there was only one ring very faintly discernible, with a possible arc on the top-edge of another ‘cup’.  You can see from a couple of the photos how some of the cupmarks are geophysical in nature.  The cups with greater veracity were very probably etched from the natural cut in the stone (as found at Stag Cottage and many other cup-and-rings).

References:

  1. Lye, Mrs D., “Heatheryhaugh: Cupmarked Stone,” in Discovery & Excavation in Scotland, 1982.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, North-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Heatheryhaugh CR

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Heatheryhaugh CR 56.645265, -3.312029 Heatheryhaugh CR

Borland, Blacklunans, Alyth, Perthshire

Standing Stone: OS Grid Reference – NO 15361 60677

Also Known as:

  1. Borland Stone
  2. Canmore ID 29401

Getting Here

The Borland Stone, looking NE

The Borland Stone, looking NE

From Blairgowrie, take the A93 north road, ensuring that when you reach the Bridge of Cally after 5½ miles (9km), you take the right-turn up Glenshee (the Valley of the Faerie folk) and not the A924 Strathardle road. After about 5 miles, turn right up the small lane to Blacklunans after, once you’ve weaved past the River Shee and started uphill, a few hundred yards on keep yer eyes peeled on the fields to your left. If you hit the Glenshee EcoCamp, you’ve gone too far.

Archaeology & History

Borland Stone, looking west

Borland Stone, looking west

This small, out-of-the-way standing stone is set amidst a small mass of rounded stones—as if once part of a cairn—at the top of a small hillock that can easily be passed by if your nose isn’t working properly.  Curiously isolated, the monolith seems more of an outlier to the Mount Blair hills immediately north and east; or perhaps the large settlement less than a mile south.

Very little seems to have been said about the stone, in literary terms at least.  The Royal Commission (1990) lads merely told us that,

“This stone, which stands on the summit of a prominent knoll 300m SE of Borland farmhouse, measures 0.7m by 0.3m at the base and 1m in height.”

Stone aligned NNE to Tom Bealaidh

Stone aligned NNE to Tom Bealaidh

Nowt else!  Although the stone was marked on the early 1900 OS-map, the small mass of loose stones at its base are more recently-worked than anything prehistoric and may simply be field clearance.  The monolith itself could do with assessment to positively ensure its prehistoric veracity.

References:

  1. Meikle, James, Places and Place-Names around Alyth, Alexander Gardner: Paisley 1925.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, North-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.730052, -3.384886 Borland stone

Fenton Hill, Airlie, Angus

Souterrain (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 3044 5040

Also Known as:

  1. Airlie II
  2. Canmore ID 32376

Archaeology & History

One in a cluster of at least seven souterrains that could once be found to the east of Alyth, this was first described in notes by David Whyte in the 1845 New Statistical Account as being “about a mile to the south” of those at Barns of Airlie.  Although Whyte told that the two places “are separated by a deep hollow but are within view of each other,” the explorer F.T. Wainwright (1963) was unable to locate the precise spot, despite several visits.  Three earlier writers (Anderson, Jervise and Warden) merely echoed notes of there being a cluster of sites hereby and made no personal explorations of their own.  Without the expertise of local people, the exact status of this underground chamber remains unknown…

References:

  1. Anderson, Joseph, Scotland in Pagan Times – volume 1: The Iron Age, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1883.
  2. Jervise, A., “Notice of Antiquities in the Parish of Airlie, Forfarshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 5, 1864.
  3. Royal Commission of Ancient & Historicc Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland: Central Angus, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1983.
  4. Wainwright, F T., The Souterrains of Southern Pictland, RKP: London 1963.
  5. Warden, Angus J., Angus or Forfarshire – volume 1, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1880.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.640253, -3.135660 Fenton Hill souterrain

Balloch, Alyth, Perthshire

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 2738 4885

Archaeology & History

Unfortunately we can no longer see the large prehistoric tomb that was once visible in the fields here, close to the bottom corner of the field below the old Bridge of Ruim, a couple of hundred yards north of the A926 road to Ruthven. The site was destroyed around 1863, but records show that there were several burials found here containing human bones, along with an urn.  Described in an early PSAS article, the Scottish Royal Commission chaps seemed to think that “its position may be indicated by a low swelling in the field”, about 30 yards southeast of the position shown on the first OS-map.  Anyone know owt more about this place?

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, North-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.626339, -3.178095 Balloch