Croft Moraig Carving (02), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 79744 47263

Also Known as:

  1. Croft Moraig – Stone D

Getting Here

Follow the same directions for the Croft Moraig stone Circle.  Then check out the largest of the fallen or elongated stones on the northwest side of the ring, with a smoothed sloping surface, just at the side of the overgrown stone platform on which it rests.  Y’ can’t really miss it.

Archaeology & History

When William Gillies (1938) wrote about the carvings at the Croft Moraig stone circle, he told how, previously, Fred Coles,

“noticed that several of the upright stones…show cup-markings on their perpendicular surfaces. Some of these are quite distinct, but others are so worn through weathering that they can only be traced with the fingers.”

Stone D, with cupmarks
Stone D, with faint cups
Close-up of the cupmarks
Close-up of the cupmarks

This is one of them. Barely visible at the best of times, the cup-markings are faded and very hard to see unless daylight conditions are just right. As you can see in the photos, several distinct cup-like impressions are visible, but it only appears that two of them are cup-marks.  The others seem to be more geophysical in nature – but I’d love to be wrong!

At the SSW edge of the circle, 13 yards (11.75m) away, is the Croft Moraig cup-and-ring stone.

Folklore

Stone D on Fred Coles' plan
Stone D on Coles’ plan

The great northern Antiquarian Fred Coles (1910) noted that this particular stone (stone D in his ground-plan of the circle) had “been polished by the sliding of generations of children”.  This playful action on stones elsewhere in the UK and around the world sometimes relates to fertility rites (i.e., the spirit of the stone could imbue increased fertility upon the practitioner), but Mr Coles made no mention of such rituals here.

References:

  1. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 44, 1910.
  2. Gillies, William A., In Famed Breadalbane, Munro Press: Perth 1938.
  3. Yellowlees, Sonia, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Scotland Magazine: Edinburgh 2004.

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks to hardcore crew for our various visits here: to Paul Hornby, Lisa Samson, Fraser Harrick, James Elkington, Penny & Thea Sinclair.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.601843, -3.960361 Croft Moraig Carving (2)

Croft Moraig, Kenmore, Perthshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NN 79750 47262

Croft Moraig, looking north

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24891
  2. Croftmoraig
  3. Mary’s Croft
  4. P1/19 (Thom)

Getting Here

Take the A827 road that runs from Kenmore (top-end of Loch Tay) to Aberfeldy, and about 2 miles outside Kenmore, once you come out of the woodland (past the hidden standing stones of Newhall Bridge) and the fields begin on the east-side of the road, a small dirt-track leads you slightly uphill to the farm and house of Croftmoraig.  The stone circle is right in front of the house less than 100 yards up the track (you can see it from the road).

Archaeology & History

Rev MacKenzie’s early drawing

A truly fascinating site, whose history is much richer than its mere appearance suggests.  It has mythic associations with both moon and sun, a cup-marked stone to the southwest, and an earlier structure that had Aubrey Burl (1979) suggesting was possibly “the dwelling-place of a priest, a witch-doctor, a shaman.”  Not bad at all!

Croft Moraig on 1867 map

The sad thing today is its proximity to the increasingly noisy road to Aberfedly whose begoggled drivers care little for the spirit of place or stones.  Here sits a feel of isolation and tranquility broken.  But at least the cold information of its architecture is available for tourists and archaeologists alike; at least their depersonalized appreciations are served!

Described first of all (I think) in the old Statistical Account by Colin MacVean (1796), he told Croft Moraig to be one of “several druidical temples” in the area, “perhaps the largest and most entire of any in Scotland,” he thought:

“It is about 60 yards in circumference, and consists of three concentric circles.  The stones in the outermost (ring) are not so large as those in the inner circles, and are not, like them, set on end.”

Hutcheson’s 1889 plan

The first decent archaeocentric evaluation of Croft Moraig was done in the 19th century by Alexander Hutcheson (1889), who gave us not only the first decent ground-plan of the site, but was also the first chap to note there were faded cup-and-ring markings at the circle.  After first directing his antiquarian readers to the site, he told of the multiple rings of stones found here, built on top of an artificial platform of earth and stones:

“The circles are concentric, three in number, and occupy a little plateau which may be artificial, as the outer circle just covers it, on the gentle slope which here rises towards the south from the public road.

“I have prepared and exhibit a plan of the circles, and for reference have distinguished the stones by numbering them in the plan. The inner circle consists of eight stones all standing, with one exception, No. 3, which presumably has fallen inwards. The next or second circle consists of thirteen much larger stones, nine of which stand erect; Nos. 3 and 5 have presumably fallen in, while Nos. 7 and 9 have fallen outwards. The outer circle is formed by a number of smaller stones placed so as to form a sort of rampart. These are recumbent, and lie generally with their larger axes in the direction of the rampart. The circle measures, over the stones, as follows:

“Inner circle, West to East, 25 ft. 6 ins., North to South, 22 ft. 6 ins.
“Second circle, West to East, 40 ft          North to South, 41ft 3in
“Outer circle, West to East,  58 ft          North to South, 58ft

The stones are all rounded or water-worn boulders of dolerite, granite, schist, &c. The stones marked A and B are large blocks, 6 feet 6 inches high, 4 feet broad, and 2 feet 6 inches thick, standing upright. C seems to be a large (section) which has fallen from B, and lies flat on the ground.

“At the south-west side and in the line of the outer circle lies the cupmarked stone… If, as has been suggested, the two large blocks A and B formed the entrance to the circles, then the entrance faced towards the south-east. The blocks vary in height from 3 feet to 7 feet above ground, while of those which I have supposed to have fallen, their dimensions are, naturally from the ground-hold having to be added, much greater, amounting in one of them to 9 feet 6 inches long.  There is a longish low mound of small stones, like an elongated cairn, which might yield something if it were to be searched. It lies just abreast of the cup-marked stone.  I have referred to the recumbent stones in the two inner circles as having probably stood at one time erect. This I have presumed for several reasons, the principal being that one end of each of these stones corresponds in position with the circle formed by the standing stones; and while this is the case the recumbent stones do not preserve a uniformity of direction, but lie indifferently outwards and inwards from the lines of circularity, and at differing angles from these lines…”

Fred Coles’ site plan

Some twenty years later, the legendary northern antiquarian Fred Coles (1910) brought his lucidity to Croft Moraig and with it, even greater attention to detail.  In a lengthy description of each and every aspect of the circle that has yet to be equalled he gave the reader the most detailed description we have.  I hope you’ll forgive me adding Mr Coles’ prolonged description, but it is most valuable for anyone wanting to explore the site in greater detail.  He wrote:

“As will be seen from the plan…the structural portion of Croft Morag consists, first, of a roughly circular, earthen mound (lettered in small type a-t), some 3 feet high, which is marked off by several stones of a more or less slab-like character, set irregularly upon a circumference of, approximately, 185 feet. This outermost setting, or revetment of stones is visible now only at certain fragments of the arcs; i.e., it is well-defined on the SW at a, where a long Stone, 6 feet 5 inches by 2 feet lies flat, and bears numerous cup-marks…; on the S arc there are five small Stones (b, c, d, e, f) all earthfast and flattish; on the SE are three similar Stones (g, h, i); on the E arc, four (j, k, l, m); on the N arc, very slightly to the west, one very large Stone (n) flush with the ground at the edge of the bank and a good deal overgrown with grass, measuring 8 feet 6 inches by 3 feet 3 inches; farther to the NW are five stones more (o, p, q, r, s), the last three having only very small portions visible; and, still farther round, is the last of what I consider to be these ridge-slabs (t) close under the edge of the great fallen sloping stone D.  Thus the total number of measurable and separate stones now resting on the outermost ring is twenty.

“The stones of the intermediate ring constitute the imposing feature of the circle. They are thirteen in total number in the present condition of the circle, but they probably numbered eighteen when the circle was complete. Nine of them are the tallest in the whole group; four of these are prostrate on the W arc.  By striking a radius from the common centre of the circle through the centres of these great stones which are erect, to the outermost circumference, the following measures are obtained: from centre of E, the NNW stone, to the ridge 14 feet 6 inches; from F, NNE stone to the ridge 13 feet 4 inches; from G to ridge 14 feet 4 inches; from H to ridge 13 feet 4 inches; and from I, the SE stone, only 10 feet 6 inches.  The four fallen blocks, lying as shown A, B, C, D, no doubt stood on this intermediate ring, the diameter of which measured from centre to centre is 38 feet.  Now, it must be observed that between A and B and A and I there are Stones (shaded in the plan); these two are erect, the one near B measuring 3 feet in length, 2 feet in breadth, and 3 feet 4 inches in height; it is quite vertical, and is undoubtedly in situ. The other small erect Stone midway between A and I has much the same size’ and features. Between B and C there is shown in outline another of these small stones ‘in line’ with the great pillars which remain on the E arc; and it is quite clear that if this remarkable and novel feature of alternating each tall stone with a very small but vertical block was originally carried out all round this intermediate ring, there would have been eighteen stones in all.  Without the most arduous and careful excavation in these interspaces however, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove that these small blocks did once stand on the eastern semicircle.

“As illustrating the general size of the great stones, when fully exposed to view, the dimensions of the four fallen blocks are here given: A, 7 feet 7 inches by 4 feet 10 inches, and fully 2 feet thick; B, 9 feet 2 inches by 3 feet 9 inches (on the upper face), and 2 feet 9 inches thick; C, 8 feet by 4 feet, and 3 feet fi inches thick; D, 7 feet by 4 feet 6 inches, and 3 feet thick at its vertical outer edge.

“The five upright stones of the intermediate ring measure as follows: I, the SE stone, 5 feet 6 inches in height, and in girth 11 feet; H, the east stone, 5 feet 8 inches in height, pyramidal in contour, and in girth 11 feet 4 inches; G, the NE stone, 5 feet 3 inches in height and 11 feet in girth; the next stone, F, 5 feet 7½ inches in height and 13 feet 6 inches in girth; and stone E, nearest to the north on the W arc, stands 6 feet 3 inches in height and measures round the base 9 feet 3 inches.

“The stones forming the inner ring, which is a broad oval in form, are eight in number, quite erect, with one exception; the fallen one (shown in outline) is due south of one set at the north point and the distance between these two is 23 feet 8 inches.  If however, the distance between the N Stone and the E one at the SSE be taken, this diameter is 26 feet, as against one of 21 feet taken between the NW and SE stones. Measured from the centre of the fallen stone a space of 10 feet 3 inches divides that from the centre of the erect stone on the east, and an equal space divides it from the centre of the stone on the west. Between the N stone and that on its southwest an equal space of 11 feet 3 inches exists as between that stone and its SE stone; but between these last two there is a third almost exactly midway.  The fallen stone measures 5 feet 10 inches by 3 feet 9 inches; the NW stone is 4 feet 6 inches in height, the SW stone 3 feet 6 inches, the N stone 3 feet 4 inches, the NE one 2 feet 6 inches, and the stone between it and the fallen block 3 feet 4 inches in height.

“In addition to the feature above noticed, of tall stones alternating with much smaller ones, Croft Morag possesses another noticeable arrangement in the presence of two great massive monoliths (U and V on the plan) standing like the remains of a portal, nearly eight feet outside of the boundary ridge on the SE.  Neither of these stones is now absolutely vertical, stone U leaning considerably out towards the SE, and V having a very slight lean inwards to the circle. The former is 6 feet 2 inches in vertical height with a basal girth of nearly 12 feet, which is probably an under-estimate, for there are two large fragments (w and x) which appear to have been severed from this stone, the edges of which nearest the fragments are rough and sharp.  The latter (V) stands 6 feet 4 inches in height and girths 11 feet 8 inches…

“…Besides its complexity of arrangement and the great number of measurable stones, forty-two in all, this circle is emphasised by the existence of a cup-marked stone set in a portion of its structure…on the SW arc… There are nineteen cups in all, only two of which differ much in diameter and depth from the rest, and there does not appear to be anything in their design to suggest a meaning or lend a clue to their symbolism.”

When the monument was excavated by Stuart Piggott and his mates in 1965, it was found to have been built over many centuries.  As Aubrey Burl told:

“The first phase, of the late neolithic, consisted of about 14 heavy posts arranged in a horseshoe shape about 25ft 10in x 22ft 10in (7.9 x 7m) with a natural boulder at its centre.  Burnt bone was found near this.  Outside was a surrounding ditch and at the E was an entrance composed of 2 short rows of posts.

“In the second phase the timbers were replaced by 8 stones graded in height towards the SSW, also erected in a horseshoe 29ft 10 x 21ft (9.1 x 6.4m).  A rubble bank was heaped up around it.  On it at the SSW was a prostate stone with over 20 cupmarks carved on it.  Other cupmarks were ground into the NE stone.

“Finally a circle of 12 stones, about 40ft (12.2m) is diameter, was erected around the megalithic horseshoe with a pair of stones forming an entrance at the ESE.  Graves may have been dug at their bases later.”

Fred Coles mentioned a couple of other local names given to the site, one of which – Mary’s Croft – he thought may point “to a dedication to the Virgin.”  Another curious place-name next to the site is called Styx,

“which appears to be the modern abbreviated form of the Gaelic word stuicnean.  This, Mr Dugald McEwan affirms, meant ground full of overturned forest-trees; and it is therefore probable that in the remote past all the land surrounding the Stone Circle was a deep forest, and perhaps because of its seclusion, this site was selected as the most fitting for the erection of the principal Circle of the district.”

Alex Thom’s ground-plan

When the engineer and archaeoastronomer Alexander Thom (1967) came to examine Croft Moraig, he found the outlying stones to the southeast could have been solar alignment indicators, albeit poor ones.  However, the geometric structure of the ring appeared to further confirm the use of his Megalithic Yard by those who built the circle.  Thom’s illustration shows his finding, which he described briefly as follows:

“Two concentric circle and an ellipse.  The circle diameters drawn are obviously too large and could be as small as 58.5ft outer circle and 41.0ft inner.  Outer circle diameter58.5ft = 21.5 MY.  Perimeter 67.5 MY = 27 MR.  Inner circle diameter 41.0ft = 15.1 MY.  Perimeter 47.3 MY = 18.9 MR.  Ellipse drawn has major axis 11 MY, minor axis 8 MY, distance between foci is 7.5 MY.  Perimeter is 30.0 MY = 12 MR.  This ellipse looks slightly large but the triangle on which it is based and the perimeter are almost perfect.”

Folklore

Old lore told that the standing stones of Newhall Bridge 850 yards away (777m) were once connected with the Croft Moraig circle.  William Gillies (1938) told this tradition saying,

“that at one time there was a paved way connecting the circle, of which these stones are the remains, with the great Croftmoraig circle.”

Croft Moraig, looking west

Fred Coles also noted that one of the stones in the circle (stone D in his plan) had “been polished by the sliding of generations of children”. This playful action on stones elsewhere in the UK and around the world sometimes relates to fertility rites (i.e., the spirit of the stone could imbue increased fertility upon the practitioner), but Coles made no mention of such rituals here.

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Rings of Stone, Frances Lincoln: London 1979.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  3. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 44, 1910.
  4. Gillies, William A., In Famed Breadalbane, Munro Press: Perth 1938.
  5. Hutcheson, Alexander, “Notes on the Stone Circle near Kenmore,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 23, 1889.
  6. MacVean, Colin, “Parish of Kenmore,” in The Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 17, William Creech: Edinburgh 1796.
  7. Stewart, M.E.C., “The excavation of a setting of standing stones at Lundin Farm near Aberfeldy, Perthshire“, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 98, 1966.
  8. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
  9. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, H.A.W., Megalithic Rings, BAR: Oxford 1980.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.601820, -3.960241 Croft Moraig

Croft Moraig Carving (01), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 79746 47251

Getting Here

The long cup-marked rock

Follow the same directions for the Croft Moraig stone Circle.  Then check out the elongated stone lying in the grass on the southern edge of the circle.  It’s not that hard to find!

Archaeology & History

Nearly 13 yards (11.75m) south of the faded Croft Moraig 2 carving, this cup-and-ring stone on the SSW edge of Croft Moraig is one of at least four that have been found in this megalithic ring.  It has been suggested that the stone on which the carving is found once stood upright. The earliest account I’ve found of it comes from Alex Hutcheson’s (1889) essay in which he wrote:

“At the south-west side and in the line of the outer circle lies the cupmarked stone. It is a recumbent stone, and like the others in that circle lies with its larger axis in the direction of the encircling line. It measures 6 feet 6 inches long by 2 feet broad, and bears on its surface 23 cups. Two of these are connected by straight channels. The largest cup is 2 inches in ‘diameter and f inch deep. Two of the cups are encircled, each with a concentric ring.  None of the other stones exhibit any cups or other artificial markings.”

Cup-marks pointed out
Fred Coles 1910 drawing

…Although other cup-marks have subsequently been found on other stones within the circle.  Consistent with the location of cup-and-ring marks elsewhere in the country, Hutcheson found the carved rock to be just in front of “a longish low mound of small stones, like an elongated cairn, which might yield something if it were to be searched.”  Very little of this cairn remains today.

When Fred Coles (1910) came to explore Croft Moraig about 20 years later, he could only discern 19 cups on the stone, most of them the same size, “only two of which differ much in diameter and depth from the rest.”  The cup-and-ring that Hutcheson described and the other missing cups had been overgrown by the grasses, Coles said.  When Sonia Yellowlees described the carving in 2004, she said that 21 cups were visible, “one of which is surrounded by a single ring”—which you can clearly see in the photos below.

Carving 1 with cup-and-ring
Close-up of design

When archaeologist Evan Hadingham (1974) looked at this site, he found deposits of quartz here and thought that their presence may have been relevant to the placement of the carving, noting how such a relationship is found at other circles in Scotland.  In more recent years, rock art students Richard Bradley and others have found similar quartz deposits in or around some petroglyphs a few miles from here; as have fellow students Jones, Freedman and o’ Connor (2011) at some of the rock art around Kilmartin.  In my own explorations of the carvings near Stag Cottage, hundreds of quartz chippings were found that had been pecked into the cups and rings.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Rings of Stone, Frances Lincoln: London 1979.
  2. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 44, 1910.
  3. Hadingham Evan, Ancient Carvings in Britain: A Mystery, Garnstone: London 1974.
  4. Hutcheson, Alexander, “Notes on the Stone Circle near Kenmore,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 23, 1889.
  5. Piggott, Stuart & Simpson, D., “Excavation of a Stone Circle at Croft Moraig, Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 37, 1971.
  6. Yellowlees, Walter, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Scotland Magazine: Edinburgh 2004.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.601737, -3.960305 Croft Moraig Carving (1)

Dull Cross, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – NN 80710 49136

Also Known as:

  1. Cross of Dull
Dull cross (by Ferelith Molteno)

Getting Here

From Aberfeldy, take the B846 road over the river bridge, past Weem, a couple of miles down the valley until you see the small road on the right which leads up to the ancient hamlet of Dull.  Go up and round the corner until you reach the centre of the village; and here the road turns back downhill.  At this point, right by the roadside, entrapped within old railings, you’ll see the Cross of Dull.

Archaeology & History

Dull Cross behind bars
Dull Cross behind bars

Standing more than three feet tall, the remains of this old cross with one of its extended arms broke off in previous centuries, was one of three such monuments that used to stand in the valley.  This and its associates were, according to christian legend, placed as markers at an ancient centre of christian learning at Dull around the time of Adamnam (who died in Glen Lyon in 704 AD).  The area was said to be an early druid college, which was later incorporated into early christian teachings.  Hilary Wheater (1981) also told that in previous centuries, if anyone fell foul of the law,

“Within the boundaries of these crosses debtors, offenders or miscreants were protected from retribution.  One of the crosses stands in the centre of Dull village to this day, having been used as a market cross in more recent times, and the other two, having been stolen for use as gateposts during the (19th) century, were placed in the old kirk at Weem for safety.”

References:

  1. Stuart, John, The Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Aberdeen 1856.
  2. Wheater, Hilary, Aberfeldy to Glenlyon, Appin Publications: Aberfeldy 1981.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.618838, -3.945546 Dull cross

Carse Farm (north), Dull, Perthshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NN 8022 4873

Also Known as:

  1. Carse Farm I
  2. Weem circle

Getting Here

To get here, follow the same directions to reach its nearby colleague of Carse Farm south — but instead of walking down the track to where its companion is found, this small ring of stones is found a coupla hundred yards into the first field by the roadside.  Unless the field’s fulla corn (in which case, give it a miss cos even if you do find it, you won’t be able to make much out), y’ can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

As with its nearby companion of Carse Farm south, this small “ring” of four stones is found along the Tay valley floor and, though cited as a stone circle in many archaeology tomes, should more accurately be defined as a cairn circle of sorts.  Structurally akin to other four-posters, it reminded me of a distant companion in North Yorkshire more than 200 miles south: the Druids Altar at Bordley, which is also a robbed prehistoric tomb and not a stone circle.  But it’s a fine little site sat amidst the majestic temple of surrounding hills on all sides, bar east, where the Tay valley reaches into the distance.

Faint cup-marks
Carse Farm, looking north

Like its damaged companion in the field below, some of the stones in this circle also have well-defined cup-markings on top of the uprights; although when we visited here, low cloud and late daylight conditions prevented us from getting good images of the cup-marks concerned (as the photo of one of them here illustrates).  The cup-markings are, curiously, carved on the top of the small standing stones.

Described briefly in Alexander Thom’s Megalithic Rings (1980), he regarded its geometry as “circular” in structure.  Aubrey Burl (1988) gave the lengthier archaeological history of the site, telling:

“On the ‘carse’, or lowland…this 4-poster was excavated in 1964.  When Coles saw it in 1907 only three smallish stones remained standing although “it seems clear that at this site there were originally four Stones as in so many other Perthshire groups”… The SW stone was missing but halfway between the NW and SE stones a long, thin slab lay half-buried.

“Coles noticed that there were cupmarks on the tops of both the NE and SE stones.  The SE had three carvings but the top of the NE had no fewer than 17, the largest ‘cup’ being 4 by 3½in (10 x 9cm).  In the group were two ‘dumb-bells’.  In the same field the farmer had dragged away a buried stone which was also cupmarked.* (my italics, PB)

“Of the three standing stones, the NE is 3ft 11in (1.2m) high; the SE, 5ft 1in (1.6m); and the NW, 4ft 1in (1.3m).  These heights…are almost double those cited by Coles (1908: 126).

“”The 1964 excavation discovered the SW stonehole.  The 5ft 10in (1.8m) long stone lying at the centre of the 4-Poster was erected in it, a task made easier by the fact that its base had been keeled… The base was unweathered showing that the stone had been toppled in quite recent times as had the stones of the two Fortingall 4-Posters…3¾ miles to the WSW. The four stones stood at the corners of a rectangle 12ft by 8ft (3.7 x 2.4m) on a long ENE-WSW axis.  They also stood on the circumference of a circle 14ft 5in (4.4m) in diameter.

“A tapering pit was discovered against the inner face of the NE stone, about 2ft 6in (76cm) across and 1ft 2in (37cm) deep.  It was filled with cremated bone and sticky black earth and charcoal.  At the bottom, a collared urn lay on is side, its rim decorated in geometrical designs.  A flint flake lay near it.  Within the 4-Poster there were three shallow pits, two between the NW and NE stones, another between the SE and SW.  Their edges were clean and they had been backfilled with brown loam.  The excavators thought they might have “been used for stabilising props during the erection of the stones.” …As the heaviest block, that at the NW, weighed about 6 tons it would have required 20 to 30 people to drag it upright…and the use of such props would have made their insertion safer.”

Burl’s collated ground-plan
Fred Coles’ 1908 drawing

Unless the people building this site were dwarves, we’ve gotta re-assess this latter remark (which Burl quotes from the earlier archaeologist’s report from the 1960s).  Having personally been involved with the creation of modern stone circles with stones larger than the ones here, we know that the uprights here could have been erected by 8-10 people at the very most.

Archaeology and folklore records describe many other prehistoric sites along this section of the upper Tay valley, but it’s also very likely that other “circles” or cairns of similar structure to the two known at Carse Farm once existed close by that are not in modern literary accounts.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  2. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire – Northeastern Section,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume 42, 1908.
  3. Stark, Gordon (ed.), Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Breadalbane Heritage Centre 2005.
  4. Stewart, M.E.C., “Carse Farm 1 and 2,” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, 1964.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, H.A.W., Megalithic Rings, BAR 81: Oxford 1980.

* Is anyone aware of further details about this carving? Do we have any sketches of it?

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.615063, -3.953385 Carse Farm (north)

Carse Farm (south), Dull, Perthshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NN 8026 4847

Also Known as:

  1. Carse Farm II
  2. Tegarmuchd

Getting Here

Carse Farm Standing Stone

Pretty easy to find – assuming it aint at the height of summer and the crops are approaching maturity, otherwise you’re only gonna see its head!  But, this aside: from Aberfeldy, take the B846 road over the river bridge that bends you along the valley of the River Tay towards Appin of Dull.  After some 2 miles you’ll pass the right-turn up to Dull.  Go past this for another coupla hundred yards or so, watching out for the left-turn down towards the farmhouse of Carse and park up where you can (if you go past it, there’s the second turn up to Dull, again on your right, where you can turn round). As you walk down the track towards Carse Farm, watch out on your right in the field below Carse I, in the second field down.  You can’t really miss it. (and the farmer here is spot on if you ask to check the stone – as long as the crops aint growing)

Archaeology & History

Although all that’s left of what is thought to have been a once proud stone circle is the singular upright standing stone in the middle of the field.  Aubrey Burl (1988) thought that this was one of the typical “four poster”rings that scatter our isles, but I’m not so sure misself.  There were other stones associated with the site when Burl described it, but these were covered over in our visit here a few months back — which is a pity, as two of the stones are reported as possessing cup-markings (if/when we revisit the site, I’ll try get some images of the respective stones and add them on TNA as individual carved stones).  The site gives the distinct impression of it having a funerary character of some sort and not a true stone circle — and this was strongly suggested by some of the finds inside the “ring”, described below.

Fred Cole’s old drawing
Aubrey Burl’s groundplan

Both this and its associated “circle” a few hundred yards away — known as Carse Farm north — sit on a flat level of ground in the Tay valley, with rounded hills all most sides.  This landscape setting was obviously of some importance to the people who put the circle here in the first place but, not living in the region, it’s difficult to assess the mythic relevance some of the hills will have obviously played in the siting of these stones.

In bygone days, it was reported that the much of the site was ploughed away due to agricultural excesses, so there was obviously much more to it in earlier centuries.  Describing the solitary stone that’s left today, along with the earlier excavation results, Mr Burl (1988) wrote:

“The stone still standing, of quartziferous schist, is 6ft 3in (1.9m) high.  Its longer faces are aligned NW-SE.  32ft 6in (9.9m) to its SW is a large prostate block, sub-elliptical and about 8ft long and 4ft 3in wide (2.4 x 1.3m).  It has probably fallen outwards. (my italics, PB)  If so, when standing near the top of its inner face were four cupmarks in a cross pattern.

“About 32ft ((9.8m) to its NW is a fallen and enormous schist slab, 11ft long and 5ft wide (3.4 x 1.5m).  It also appears to have toppled outwards.  Near the bottom of its inner face are two cupmarks.  The situation of these three stones suggests that they once stood at the corners of a rectangle some 32ft (9.8m) square, the pillars of a huge four-poster nearly six-times the national average and with an internal area ten times bigger than the small 4-poster (Carse Farm north, PB) just to its north.

“Excavation  in 1964 found the socket from which the great prostrate slab had been dragged… Cash (1911) had noted the presence of a small stone inside the ring about 20ft (6.1m) west of the standing stone.  It proved to be 4ft (1.2m) square with a carefull-dressed face.  It had been set upright, standing about 1ft 4in (41cm) above the ground.  Three sides of the worked face ‘had been carefully chiselled away to a straight edge.’ It may have been a slab lining the inner central space of a destroyed ring-cairn.  Burnt bone was found near it. There was also a rounded river pebble with a worked hollow on one side…”

Folklore

Carse Farm stone

Stewart (1964) described the site as having been “christianized” not long ago, by having the northernmost standing stone in the ring removed.  This is intriguing inasmuch as “north” is the place of greatest symbolic darkness in the pre-christian mythos, and represented death and illumination in magickal terms.  North was also the point taken by witches and shamans in their excursions into Underworlds, usually via the North Star, which tethered the Earth to the heavens (see Godwin’s Arktos [1993], and Grant, The Magical Revival [1973])  In the removal of this northern stone for the reasons given, that implies some magickal events or folklore were in evidence here when this took place.  Anyone got any further information along these lines, or has it long since been subsumed?

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  2. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire (Aberfeldy District),” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume 44, 1910.
  3. Stewart, M.E.C., “Carse Farm 1 and 2,” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, 1964.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.612816, -3.952278 Carse Farm (south)

Loch Glassy, Weem, Perthshire

Sacred Loch:  OS Grid Reference – NN 850528

Also Known as:

  1. Loch Glassie

Folklore

Here we have another case of another loch in Scotland that was said by local people to be inhabited by legendary water monsters.  In the tale which follows we may simply have a case of a very bad accident that was, in more superstious times, bestowed upon this legendary animal.  We may never know.  James Kennedy (1928) told the story, saying:

“It was inhabited, like Loch Derculich, by the ‘Each Uisge‘ of Icelandic origin.  On summer evenings it could be seen roaming at large on a green meadow adjacent to the tarn, and to all appearance a canny enough creature.  One summer Sunday afternoon, six Strathtay girls and a boy set out from their homes to inspect the ‘Each Uisge.’  They found him, patted him on the head and neck, and this kindness is apparently relished, for it lay on the sward and allowed them to sit on its back.  The boy, who had a semi-bald scabbed head, stood at a distance and watched developments.  He concluded that this animal was not the genuine horse it seemed to be, and thought that it grew considerably larger than it was at first.  When the Each has the six girls comfortably seated on its back, it suddenly rose, plunged into the loch, and drowned the lot.  The boy immediately took to his heels and the Each after him, but fear enabled the boy to outstrip the horse, who would stop now and again in the pursuit and cry, “Fuirich mo ghille maol carrach!  Fuirich mo ghille maol carrach!” — Stop, you bald scabbed-headed boy.  Ultimately the Each gave up the chase, and the boy, much frightened, got safely home and related all that happened on that eventful Sunday evening.  The parents of the girls found parts of their bodies floating on the waters of the loch, and the name Loch Lassie was given to it, which it retains to this day.”

References:

Kennedy, James, Folklore and Reminiscences of Strathtay and Grandtully, Munro Press: Perth 1928.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Loch Derculich, Dull, Perthshire

Sacred Loch:  OS Grid Reference – NN 864 549

Folklore

Although this upland loch is today renowned as little more than a decent fishing spot, the waters here were long known to be haunted and the abode of a legendary water spirit.  In local tradition, the loch is said to be named after “an ancient Chief of Pictish origin” — whose burial mound is nearby — and in James Kennedy’s (1928) fascinating folklore work he also told that,

“Loch Dereculich was the habitation of a ‘Tarbh Uisge’ (water bull), the dangerous water demon… This dreaded monster, as the Norwegian peasant will gravely assure a traveller, demands every year a human victim, and carries off children who stray too near its abode… Less than one hundred and twenty years ago, the Loch Derculich Water Bull was seen sauntering along its shores.  At peat-making times it was observed very frequently.”

References:

  1. Kennedy, James, Folklore and Reminiscences of Strathtay and Grandtully, Munro Press: Perth 1928.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Loch Derculich

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Loch Derculich 56.672590, -3.854375 Loch Derculich

Cairnbane, Portnacroish, Argyll

Chambered Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NM 925 473

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 23301
  2. Karn Vain

Getting Here

Sadly this site can no longer be seen, but it was evidently something worth seeing in its day.  Twas found “on the north side of Loch Laich, opposite Castle Stalker.”

Archaeology & History

In 1758 W. Burrell wrote about “a very large circular heap of stones, called Cairnbane, in which are said to be several subterraneous apartments, the passages leading to them, supported by large beams of timber in some places, in others by large stones, the entrance is now closed with a stone.” But in 1760 Richard Pococke reported that he could enter the cairn, saying that,

“on the west side of it a little way up is a very difficult entrance which leads to a cell about two yards long and one and a half broad, a this by a sort of door place to another about the same dimensions. I observed in some parts the stones on the side are laid flat, in others edge way, and a little sloping, and large stones are laid across on the top; To the north of it is a low heap of stones, in which three mouths of entrances are very visible, and there seemed to be two more; …the large one is twelve yards long at the top and about a yard broad: It is not improbable that these cells were built all round and several stories of them one over another.”

Explorations here by A.S. Henshall and the Royal Commission for Historic Scotland were unable to find the site and it has been deemed missing or destroyed.  I have yet to seek out any folklore relating to this lost site, but would be very surprised if there wasn’t something loitering in some of the old tongues and tomes!

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 2: Lorn, HMSO: Edinburgh 1975.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.571859, -5.379108 Cairnbane chambered cairn