Machar Stones, Fintry, Stirlingshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NS 65705 83932

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 45311
  2. Waterhead Stones

Getting Here

The Machar Stones

The Machar Stones

Of the 2 ways to reach here: one via the Crow Road, up to Waterhead Farm and then meandering through the forest—we took the other one!  From the car park at the western end of Carron Reservoir, take the track into the forest. Stick to the track closest to the loch until, after crossing the small river bridge, veer right at the next junction 200 yards on.  Another 600 yards (0.5km) along, take the right turn and walk all along this track to the very end.  From here, take your feet down into the opening along the small burn and stick to this gap in the trees for 100 yards or so, where the gap in the trees veers left.  Keep walking for another 200 yards.

Archaeology & History

These stones might take some finding, but they’re worth the effort if you like your megaliths.  When Nina, Paul and I visited them yesterday, the meander turned into what have become known as Barmy Bennett Bimbles as we ventured off-path and into the forest, wading through marshland and getting our eyes poked out in the dense trees!  And then the snow came. Twas gorgeous to be honest…

Machar Stones, looking SE

Machar Stones, looking SE

Machar Stones, looking west

Machar Stones, looking west

Probably neolithic in origin, the Machar Stones are set upon an elevated rise above the confluence of the Bin Burn and the River Carron on what seems to be an enhanced artificial platform, akin to those which some stone circles and ring cairns are mounted upon. Around the edges of the stones themselves, the earth has been dug into at some point in the past, as evidenced by the distinct oval dip in the ground surrounding the stones; although I can find no antiquarian accounts describing such a dig.  There is the possibility that these stones may once have marked the site of a prehistoric tomb.

Once you walk ten yards away from the stones in any direction, you begin to walk downhill.  Sadly the trees presently obscure any view from the stones, completely silencing the panorama that quite intentionally awoke from here in centuries gone by, disabling any immediate visual landscape analysis or geomancy.  The proximity of the two rivers was probably relevant in the construction of the stones; as may be the ridge between the Little and Meikle Bin to the southeast.

First described in Nimmo’s Stirlingshire (1817) as “a druidical remain…in the parish of Fintry, about the middle of the moor towards Campsie and northwest of the Meikle Bin”, another early account of these megaliths was in H.G. Smith’s (1896) work on the parish of Strathendrick, before the imposition of the modern ‘forest’ occurred and the views from the stones were unrestricted.  After describing their geographical position, he told:

“On a comparatively level part of the muirland between the two rivers and under Meikle Bin, there are two old standing stones known locally as the Machar Stones, this name being derived from the Gaelic magh, a plain.  The more northerly stones measures 8 feet in height, and the other is 5 feet 7 inches high.  Little…is known of the origin of these standing stones… They were apparently in some way connected with the religious worship of the prehistoric inhabitants of the land.  The general uniform direction in which they point, which is to the north of east, looking as nearly as possible to the quarter of sunrise at the summer solstice, seems to point to their having been erected by a race of sun worshippers.”

Machar Stones, looking NW

Machar Stones, looking NW

Around the same time, A.F. Hutchison (1893) gave a lecture on these and other Stirlingshire megaliths, giving slight variants on the heights of the monoliths, adding that “the two stones are standing in a line pointing to 220°.”  Sadly, even the great authorities of Aubrey Burl (1993) and Alexander Thom (1990), in their respective tomes on the subject, were unable to define any astronomical alignments here.  Hutchison puzzled about the seeming artificiality of the platform upon which the stones appear to have been set, though wrote how “geological authority pronounces it to be a quite natural formation.”

As to the name of the site, William Grant (1963) ascribes the word ‘Machar’ and its variants to mean “a stretch of low-lying land adjacent to the sand” or “low-lying fertile plain”—which doesn’t seem relevant here, unless it was so named by people living on the higher grounds.  It seems odd… As does the alignment of the stones.  When Nina Harris stood between the stones with a compass to work out the cardinal points, the stone that was leaning was due north of the upright stone.  When she walked several yards away from them, the compass deviated and we were given a more northeast-southwest alignment from stone to stone.  This isn’t too unusual as we find similar magnetic anomalies at other megalithic sites in Britain (see Devereux 1989), due to a variety of geophysical ingredients.

Royal Commission 1954 photo

Royal Commission 1954 photo

Not that your bog standard archaeo-tomes ever mention magnetic anomalies, as basic physics is too complex a subject for your standard archaeo-types!  Instead however, we just get the usual measurements and data-sets, much as the Royal Commission (1963) lads gave us after their visit here in 1954—but at least there was no forest when they came here!  They were fortunate.  “These two stones,” they told us,

“stand on a slight eminence in open moorland, half a mile ENE of Waterhead farmhouse and at an elevation of 850ft… Described by Nimmo’s editor as “a Druidical remain”, they have also been nown as the Machar Stones.  The more northerly stone, a four-sided pillar of irregular section, has fallen almost prostrate and its whole length, 7ft 6in, is revealed.  At the centre it measures 3ft in width by 2ft 6in in breadth.  The other stone stands 4ft 6in further S.  It is a slab…standing to a height of 5ft and measuring about 2ft in thickness.  Its width is 2ft 8in at ground level, 3ft 8in at a point 2ft above this, and 2ft at the top.”

They posit the idea that the reason the taller stone is leaning at such an angle was due to there being a prehistoric cist nearby which had been ‘excavated’ by peoples unknown, who then took it upon themselves to explore the Machar Stones with similar venture.

The 'cup-marked' stone

The ‘cup-marked’ stone

In recent years it has been said that there are cup-markings on the leaning stone, seven of them apparently.  When we visited yesterday they were difficult to make out.  There were a number of ‘cups’ on the stone, but these were debatable and seemed more the result of conglomerate disintegration than man-made.  A couple of them were perhaps ‘possibles’.  However, the light was poor and I’d prefer another visit before making my mind up!

The Machar Stones are quite evocative megaliths, despite their lack of grandeur.  Maybe it was the snow.  Maybe it was the trees.  Maybe it was me.  Or probably a mix of all three and more; but this had a real feel to the place.  Well hidden, miles from human touch or visits, awaiting just the occasional visitor—and in this weather (of floods, downpours, cold and snow) saturated humans would be the only sorts of crazy people whose spirits would risk getting completely lost to find them.  And my god were they worth the effort!  Paul, Nina and I thought so anyway!

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Devereux, Paul, Places of Power, Blandford: London 1990.
  3. Feachem, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  4. Grant, William (ed.), Scottish National Dictionary – volume 6, SNDA: Edinburgh 1963.
  5. Hutchison, A.F., “The Standing Stones of Stirling District,” in The Stirling Antiquary, volume 1, 1893.
  6. Nimmo. William, History of Stirlingshire, Andrew Bean: Stirling 1817.
  7. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirlingshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  8. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.
  9. Smith, H. Guthrie, Strathendrick and its Inhabitants from Early Times, James Maclehose: Glasgow 1896.
  10. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Nina Harris and Paul Hornby for their endurance and endeavor in locating these great old stones, in attendance with the great rain, snow and deep muddy bogs!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.029423, -4.156546 Machar Stones

Dumgoyach Stones, Strathblane, Stirlingshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NS 53269 80727

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 44605
  2. Dungoiach
  3. Duntreath

Getting Here

Approaching Dumgoyach Hill

Approaching Dumgoyach Hill

You can either find your way to Duntreath Castle on the western edges of Strathblane and walk SW straight up the steep grassy slope next to the wooded Dumgoyach Hill; or… From Carbeth, north along the A809, turn right up the B821 Ballachalairy Yett road for 1km and park where the path of the West Highland Way runs onto the hills. Follow this path for nearly ½-mile and where the path splits, bear left.  Keep walking downhill for a few hundred yards, then go off-track towards the copse of trees. Climb over the gate and onto the grassy plain between this copse and the huge rounded Dumgoyach Hill.  The stones are very close indeed…

Archaeology & History

This is a truly stunning site – not as much for the megaliths that are here, but for the setting in which they’re held.  “Magnificent” is the word that rolled out of my mouth a number of times; whilst respected activist and ‘Organic Scotland’ creator Nina Harris said, quite accurately, “it’s Caras Galadhon in Lothlorien!” (or words to that effect) – and she hit the nail much better than I did!

Royal Commission 1963 sketch

Royal Commission 1963 sketch

Dumgoyach Stones (by Nina Harris)

Dumgoyach Stones (by Nina Harris)

A short line of large standing stones remains here, both upright and leaning, running NE-SW for 7 yards: seemingly a part of some other much larger monument in times long past—although very little else remains.  The stones are set upon a rise of land, quite deliberately in front of Dumgoyach Hill (or Lothlorien, as Nina called it) almost as a temple or site of reverence.  You’ve gotta see it to appreciate what I’m saying!  Like some gigantic tree-covered Silbury Hill, the standing stones on this ridge possess an undoubted geomantic relationship with this rounded pyramid, all but lost in the sleep of local myths and land.  A few yards away from the line of stones there is a slight rise in the land, seemingly giving weight to the idea that something else was living here: an architectural feature that Aubrey Burl (1993) thinks might have been “the facade of a chambered tomb” (neolithic in origin) and not merely a megalithic alignment.  He may be right…

Close-up of the megaliths

Close-up of the megaliths

Described briefly in J.G. Smith’s (1886) magnum opus on the Strathblane parish, antiquarian accounts of this impressive site seem curiously rare.  One of the earliest recognised accounts was done by the Royal Commission (1963) lads who measured the site up with their usual diligence.  Although getting the alignment of the stones wrong, the rest of their survey seems pretty accurate. They told that,

“There are five standing stones (A-E) arranged in a straight line… Three of the stones (A, B and C) are earthfast, while the other two (D and E) are recumbent.  Stone A is of irregular shape and leans steeply towards the N.  The exposed portion measures 4ft in height, 2ft 6in in breadth and 1ft 2in in thickness.  Stone B stands upright, 6ft NE of A.  It is a pillar of roughly rectangular section with an irregularly pointed top, and measures 5ft in height by about 2ft 6in in thickness.  Stone C, also irregular in shape, 11ft 6in NE of B, is inclined so steeply to the NNE that it is almost recumbent.  It measures 4ft 4in in height, 2ft 6in in breadth and 1ft in thickness. The remaining two stones lie on the ground between B and C.  Stone D measures 5ft 5in in length, 3ft in breadth and 1ft 6in in thickness while stone E, which rests partly on D, measures 7ft 10in in length, 3ft 9in in breadth and 3ft in thickness.”

Aubrey Burl’s (1993) description of the site—which he called Blanefield—is another good synopsis of what is known historically and astronomically about the site.  Assessing them in his detailed work on megalithic alignments, he said that,

“At Blanefield near Strathblane in Stirling a big stone, its longer sides aligned east-west, stands at an angle amongst a southwest-northeast line of four others, fallen, of which one just off the line seems to have been added this century.  The setting has been presumed a collapsed four-stone row.  Known also as Duntreath and Dumgoyach, the setting is slightly concave.

“‘This ruinous alignment indicates notches to the northeast and these show approximately the midsummer rising sun.’ ‘The standing stone has a flat face exactly aligned on a hill notch to the east,’ quite neatly in line with the equinoctial sunrises.  These astronomical analyses would seem to confirm that Blanefield was undoubtedly a row set up by prehistoric observers to record two important solar events.

“Excavation in 1972 discovered signs of burning, flints and charcoal that yielded a C-14 assay of 2860±270 BC (GX-2781), c. 3650 BC, a time in the Middle Neolithic when chambered tombs were still in vogue, but an extremely early date for any stone row.  This, coupled with Blanefield’s isolated position for a row in central Scotland, raises doubts about its origins.

“It is a lonely megalithic line, those nearest to it being over forty miles (64km) to the west in Argyll.  Straddling a ridge overlooking the Blane Water it is arguable that the stones are relics of the crescent facade of a Clyde chambered long cairn with an entrance facing the southeast….”

Dumgoyach Stones, with Dumgoyne to the North

Dumgoyach Stones, with Dumgoyne to the North

However, there was once another stone row close by, known as the old Stones of Mugdock.  Burl then cites the proximity of four nearby neolithic long cairns not too far away, with the Auchneck tomb just 3½ miles (5.6km) to the west; although it seems that Nina Harris may have discovered another one, much closer still (TNA will have a preliminary report on this in the coming months).

Folklore

Local legend reputes that King Arthur was up and about in this part of the world, fighting in a battle nearby.  And in J.G. Smith’s (1886) excellent work on the parish of Strathblane, he told that,

“The standing stones to the south-east of Dungoyach probably mark the burial place of Cymric or Pictish warriors who fell in the bloody battle of Mugdock.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Feachem, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  3. Heggie, Douglas C., Megalithic Science: Ancient Mathematics and Astronomy in Northwest Europe, Thames & Hudson: London 1981.
  4. MacKie, Euan W., Scotland: An Archaeological Guide, Faber: London 1975.
  5. Ritchie, J.N.G., “Archaeology and Astronomy,” in Heggie, D.C., Archaeoastronomy in the Old World, Cambridge University Press 1982.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  7. Smith, John G., The Parish of Strathblane, James Maclehose: Glasgow 1886.
  8. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
  9. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to Nina Harris, of Organic Scotland, for both taking me to these stones and sharing her photos for this site profile.  Cheers Nina!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.996968, -4.354236 Dumgoyach stones

Firbhreige, North Uist, Outer Hebrides

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NF 7700 7031

Also known as:

  1. Canmore ID 10079
  2. Toroghas

Getting Here

This is nice n’ far north indeed – north-west Uist in fact!  Hit the A865 road northwest to the village of Ceann a’ Bhaigh.  By the little church at the little crossroad, take the track on your right which leads you into the hills.  Go all the way to the end of this track and walk straight north for a couple of hundred yards, as if you’re heading up the hill, Toroghas, in front of you.

Thom’s drawing of the Stones & possible alignments

 

Archaeology & History

Here are two small standing stones, each not much more than three-feet tall, about 40 yards apart.  Alexander Thom (1984) looked for astronomical alignments here, but found very little, merely commenting:  “From here a number of sites are visible, but the (easternmost) stone might be said to indicate Craig Hasten or Deaskeir Islet.”  In his own analysis of the site, Clive Ruggles (UI23 – 1984) also found such astronomy lacking here.

Folklore

In Thom, Thom & Burl’s (1990) description of these two small stones, Aubrey Burl mentioned how “their name is similar to the stones on Skye called ‘Na Fir Bhreige’, or ‘the false men’. This has been variously interpreted as meaning men who were turned to stone for being unfaithful to their wives or, alternatively, to stones that from a distance resembled men.”  Which is apparently the tale here. (see Grinsell 1976)

Comparative religious studies clearly indicate that legends of petrified beings are representative of the spirits of the ancestors residing in the said stones or other artifact.  If there’s any validity to this ingredient, it would imply that some prehistoric burials can be found nearby — though my archaeo-records show nothing (but that doesn’t mean they’re not there).  If there anyone goes wandering hereabouts in the near future, see if you can find any tombs in the locale.

References:

  1. Beveridge, Erskine, North Uist: Archaeology and Topography, William Brown: Edinburgh 1911.
  2. Ruggle, C.L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
  3. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, A., Stone Rows and Standing Stones, vol.1, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.606722, -7.410245 Firbhreige stones

Stratford St. Mary Cursus, Suffolk

Cursus Monument:  OS Grid Reference – TM 0486 3433

Archaeology & History

Faint flat outline of SE end + ancient circular enclosure

This short and dead straight cursus monument was first described in John Hedges’ (1981) survey, and later mentioned in Harding & Lee’s (1987) corpus on British henges as being in conjunction with a series of circular prehistoric monuments (three circular enclosures existed beyond its southeast and one to its northeast edges, one of which is visible in the aerial image, right).

Cursus ground-plan (courtesy Suffolk Institute Archaeology)

Most of the monument has been completely destroyed by roads and housing, but when complete was said to be 317 yards (290m) long, running from the southeast to the northwest.  The flattened southeastern edge measures nearly 63 yards (57.3m) across, and its northernmost width was close to 65 yards (60m) wide.

In Patrick Taylor’s (2015) assessment of this (and other monuments) he thought that the cursus may have served an astronomical function.  He may be right.  It’s alignment, he told,

“has a very clear orientation 38.5º north of grid west.  This represents an amplitude from true west of 40.9º.  Allowing for a latitude of 51.97º and altitude of 0.95º, adjusted downwards for refraction to 0.50º, we get from (Alexander) Thom’s table a declination for a body setting to the northwest of 24.15.º  This is only 0.23º, just less than half the width of the sun’s disc, more than the sun’s maximum declination in Neolithic times of 23.92º.  The alignment thus points rather accurately towards the upper limb or last setting point of the sun.”

Faint remnants of a second cursus monument have been discovered 400 yards to the east.

References:

  1. Harding, A.F. & Lee, G.E.,, Henge Monuments and Related Sites of Great Britain, BAR 175: Oxford 1987.
  2. Hedges, John D. & Buckley, David, Springfield Cursus and the Cursus Problem, ECC 1981.
  3. Last, Jonathan, “Out of Line: Cursuses and Monument Typology in Eastern England,” in Barclay & Harding’s Pathways & Ceremonies, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  4. Martin, Edward A., “When is a Henge not a Henge?” in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology & History, volume 35, 1981.
  5. Taylor, Patrick, Timber Circles in the East, Polystar: Ipswich 2015.

AcknowledgementsMany thanks to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, for use of their ground-plan diagram from Edward Armstrong’s article, ‘When is a Henge Not a Henge?’ 

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Stratford St Mary cursus

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Stratford St Mary cursus 51.969742, 0.981015 Stratford St Mary cursus

Staniston Hill, Stainburn, North Yorkshire

Standing Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2522 5010

Archaeology & History

Staniston Hill on 1851 map
Staniston Hill on 1851 map

This long-lost standing stone gave its name to the small hill between the geological giants of Little Almscliffe and Almscliffe Crags, ‘Staniston Hill.’  Described as early as the 13th century in the Cartulary of Fountains Abbey as ‘Standandestan’, its precise whereabouts is unknown—but it’s damn close to the grid-reference cited here.  As the early OS-map shows, a small rounded hill occurs a short distance northwest of the small copse of trees now growing.  The monolith may have been felled by some grumpy christian, or it could be standing in some nearby walling.  Local antiquarians, dowsers or archaeologists may or may not find a search for it worthwhile…

Its position between the two Almscliffe Crags makes it very close to marking the midway point of a natural solstice marker: the Winter sunrise from Little Almscliffe and summer sunset from the greater Almscliffe.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 5, Cambridge University Press 1961.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Staniston Hill

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Staniston Hill 53.946395, -1.617244 Staniston Hill

Dalchirla (east), Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference NN 82446 15893

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25355

Getting Here

Dalchira's standing stones
Dalchira’s standing stones

Along the A822 road between Crieff and Muthill, take the small western country lane just as you’re coming out of Muthill. Nearly 2 miles on, take the turn to the right, and then 100 yards or so from there turn sharp left. Keep along this country lane for about a mile till you reach the third track on your left.  Walk down the track and you’ll see the standing stones in the field on your left. A gate into the field is by the house.

Archaeology & History

A fascinating pair of relatively large standing stones 317 yards (289.5m) SSE of the tall singular monolith of Dalchira North in the adjacent field.  Traditionally said to have once been part of s stone circle, it was marked as such when the Ordnance Survey lads came here in 1863, but there is very little evidence of such a megalithic ring today—and even the small stone lying in between the two uprights is probably a more recent addition to the site.  It certainly wasn’t mentioned by Fred Coles (1911) when he came here, who gave only a brief description of the place.

Dalchira East & the skyline notch of Lurgan Hill
Dalchira East & the skyline notch of Lurgan Hill
Dalchira, looking east
Dalchira, looking east

The stones were included in Margaret Stewart’s (1968) list of megalithic pairings as measuring 7ft 6in x 4ft 3in x 2ft and 4ft 3in x 3ft 6in x 1ft respectively, and 8ft apart.  There is a small stone laid down in between them which has cup-marks on it, but these indentations are natural nodules in conglomerate rock.  But the measurements and angles of Dalchira East were examined by the late great Alexander Thom (1967; 1990) who thought they had been positioned specifically to observe and predict lunar movements across the sky, saying that the alignment of these stones “shows the declination of the Moon rising at the minor standstill.”  He may have been right.

Thom's geometry of Dalchirla
Thom’s geometry of Dalchirla

In Aubrey Burl’s notes to Thom (1990) he told that the size and shapes of these stones “have been interpreted as anthropomorphic, the taller, or alternatively the more pointed , usually at the west, being the male, the lower or flat-topped he female.” He subsequently included this site in his own work on megalithic stone rows (Burl 1993), without further comment.

Tis a peculiar site inasmuch there doesn’t seem to be much ‘feeling’ to the place.  I’m sure the site is gonna have its days, but more than likely the neat and tidy farmed theatre has subsumed the genius loci to all but the most auspicious of times—most likely generated when the pull of the Moon still tugs at any geomagnetic background memory… Still, it’s definitely worth looking at.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Heggie, Douglas C., Megalithic Science: Ancient Mathematics and Astronomy in Northwest Europe, Thames & Hudson: London 1981.
  5. Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Excavation of a Setting of Standing Stones at Lundin Farm near Aberfedly, Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 98, 1966.
  6. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
  7. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.320787, -3.902278 Dalchirla (east)

Lundin Links, Largo, Fife

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NO 4048 0272

The standing stones of Lundin
The standing stones of Lundin

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 32656
  2. Lundie Stones
  3. Standing Stanes of Lundy

Getting Here

Along the A915 coastal road from Leven to Largo, as you reach Lundin, look out for signs for the Lundin Ladies Golf Course on the left.  Go there and then ask someone at the golf course if you need help; but from here you just walk west over the greens till you are ambling along the back of some houses.  You can’t really miss the giant stones a couple of hundred yards ahead of you. If you somehow get lost in Lundin itself, ask a local the directions to the Lundin Ladies golf course.  You can’t really go wrong.

Archaeology & History

Lundin stones on 1855 OS-map
Lundin stones on 1855 OS-map

If you like your megaliths and you venture anywhere near here, make sure you come and visit these stones.  They’ll blow you away!  The only downfall we have is their location—stuck on the golf course; which, of course, means that meditating here is only possible between sunfall and sunrise (though I’ve usually found that’s the best time to be at stone circles anyway!), or perhaps in the pouring rain.  Whichever is your preference, these stones need looking at!

The size of them is the first thing that hits you. They belong more to the Avebury complex than sitting out on their geographical limb near the southern Fife coast.  But then, that presupposes other stones of this size didn’t used to be here—and as far as I’m concerned, other giant megaliths and associated monuments must once have stood nearby.  But much of the landscape hereby has been taken over by traditional agriculture and any earlier megalithic remains have seemingly been lost.

Lundin stones, looking NE
Lundin stones, looking NE
An anthropomorphic pairing
An anthropomorphic pairing

We know there were at least four stones here in the 18th century and that also, “ancient sepulchres are found near them” according to the New Statistical Account of 1837—but all remains of these burials seem to have been lost or destroyed.  These facts are echoed in Leighton, Swan & Stewart’s (1840) gigantic survey.  Thought by a variety of archaeological and historical sources to be the remains of a great stone circle “with a diameter of 54 feet”—it’s an assertion that I’m not too sure about myself.  They are just as likely to be the remains of a great stone avenue, perhaps leading to a stone circle, long since gone, as much as any small circle of giant uprights.

In 1933, the Royal Commission survey described the size of these great red sandstone monoliths,

“Each of them has been packed at the base with a setting of small stones.  Although it is not the highest, the one on the south-east, which stands with a slight inclination towards the north and the east, presents the most massive appearance.  The girth at the base is 12 feet 8 inches, but measurements taken at 5 feet from the ground give the following dimensions: north face, 5 feet 2 inches; south face, 5 feet; east face, 1 foot 11 inches; west face, 2 feet 2 inches; girth, 14 feet 3 inches; and the stone becomes even wider as its height increases, until near the top where it again shrinks to a very slightly rounded extremity. The height is approximately 13 feet 6 inches.  The surface is pitted by the action of the weather and shows greatest traces of decay on the east, where a crack has developed.  The south stone is set with a decided inclination towards the south. It is of very irregular form with a girth at the base of 9 feet 4 inches, expanding to 10 feet at 5 feet higher up, and suddenly becoming gently attenuated at the top.  The stone, which does not exhibit the same noticeable traces of weathering as the one first described, is approximately 17 feet high.  The north stone, which is set with a slight inclination towards the west, appears to be still taller.  It rises to a height estimated at 18 feet and has a sharply pointed top.  It shows evidence of weathering at the northwest corner.  Like the others, it increases in bulk from the base upwards to the middle of its height, the girth being 9 feet 6 inches at the base, and 10 feet 2 inches at 5 feet up.”

The trio, looking north
The trio, looking north
The 3 stones, looking south
The 3 stones, looking south

Big buggers by anyone’s estimation!  Not mentioned here is the very distinct anthropomorphism, in one stone particularly—that at the southwest: a slim curvaceous body with neck and head at the top, frozen in stone no less. Surely this was intentional by the people who erected these giants?  The southern pairing stand like man and wife, awaiting ceremony and customary servitude from us mere mortals.  The single northern stone—whose partner was removed in the 19th century—has a similar slim stature and size, like its southwestern companion.  Was its now dead partner a similar shape and stature like the southeastern stone? – another petrified pairing of man and woman?  …Tis a curious feeling I have of this place…

Early 19th century drawing
Early 19th century drawing
Photo of stones, c.1900
Photo of stones, c.1900

Our megalithic magus Aubrey Burl (1988) did note the “writhing pillars” of stone here, but ventured no further with it.  He did tentatively suggest (and include in his work on the subject) that the Lundin stones were one of his “four poster” circles, but thought it “impossible to prove.”  He did however revise the Royal Commission measurements on the respective standing stones, informing us that,

“The NNE is the tallest, 16ft 8ins (5.1m) high, the leaning SSW stone is 15ft (4.6m) high, but the lowest, at the SSE, is also the biggest, 13ft 8ins (4.2m) tall and 6ft 5ins (2m) thick.”

He also told that there were little cairns “about 18ins (46cm) high” around the base of each standing stone when he was here in the 1980s. These were not visible when we visited in May 2013.

When the late great engineer and archaeoastronomer Alexander Thom (1971) came here, he found the layout of the stones to have astronomical meanings, telling:

“It was obviously an important site, so placed on flat ground that there was plenty of room for geometrical extrapolation.  The alignment is seen to indicate the setting point of the Moon at the minor standstill. Trees and houses now block the view, but as the new large-scale OS maps are now available…it was possible to construct a reasonably accurate profile of Cormie Hill.  In good seeing conditions, a large tumulus could have been seen on the Moon’s disc, and the tumulus shown on the Ordnance Survey happens to indicate the upper limb when the declination was -(ε-ι-Δ). When the Moon set on Cormie Hill it would rise on the Bass Rock, and we see how the stones were so placed that the lower limb just grazed the Rock when the declination was -(ε-ι).”

Thom's lunar alignments
Thom’s lunar alignments

Thom reiterated his thoughts again in 1990, though pointed out that “the measurements should be checked” to see whether they were right.  A few years earlier, Dr Douglas Heggie (1981) had done just such a thing and found the alignment seemed to be a poor one.  And so it has turned out to be…  Other megalithic sites however, have quite definite solar and lunar correlates in their architecture…but it seems our Lundin stones aren’t quite what Prof. Thom had hoped for.

Cup-mark & outer ring/s?
Cup-mark & outer ring/s?

Along the eastern face of the “fattest” stone we see a number of large cup-markings, but these are all Nature’s handiwork.  They were mentioned in Sir James Simpson’s (1867) early survey on the subject. However, we did see, near the base of the stone, just above ground level on its southern-face, a very distinct cup-marking with what may be the remains of a broken-ring around it.  You can make it out on the photo here, but I wouldn’t stake my reputation on its legitimacy!

Folklore

Described in the Royal Commission (1933) report “as the burial stone of Danish chiefs,” this is a common tale found at other remaining megaliths along the Forth.  The earliest account of this fable I’ve found is in the Edinburgh Magazine of November, 1785, where it was written:

“Various have been the conjectures as to the origin of the erection of the (stones); they are commonly known by the name of the Standing Stanes of Lundy, a seat belonging to a very old family of the name of Lundin, now to Sir William Erskine, near Largo in Fife.

“Tradition tells us, they were placed there in memory of that victory gained by Constantine II over Hubba, one of the generals of the Danish invaders, about the year 874.  It is certain that battle was fought near this spot; but whether these were in memory of the action or not, I cannot determine: it is more than probable they were of a much older date.”

Legend also told that there was treasure at the stones, which was one of the reasons Daniel Wilson (1863) told the northwestern stone was broken and left only as a stump in 1792.

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2005.
  4. Heggie, Douglas C., Megalithic Science: Ancient Mathematics and Astronomy in Northwest Europe, Thames & Hudson: London 1981.
  5. Leighton, J.M., Swan, J. & Stewart, J., History of the County of Fife – volume 3, John Swan: Glasgow 1840.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  7. Ruggles, Clive, Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland, Yale University Press 1999.
  8. Simpkins, John Ewart, Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-shires, Sidgwick & Jackson: London 1914.
  9. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
  10. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Lunar Observatories, Oxford University Press 1971.
  11. Thom, A. & A.S., & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 2, BAR 560(ii): Oxford 1990.
  12. Wilson, Daniel, The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1863

Acknowledgements: With huge thanks to Paul Hornby, for the photos and the journey! Also a big thanks to Gill Rutter for help in clarifying “Getting there.”

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.213301, -2.961126 Lundin Links

Glenhead Stone Row, Doune, Stirlingshire

Standing Stones: OS Grid Reference – NN 75491 00455

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24689

Getting Here

Take the B824 road that runs between Dunblane and Doune and, whichever direction you’re coming from, watch out for the large statue of David Stirling by the roadside (y’ can’t really miss it!).  Stop here. Then, walk along the dirt-track into the field by the side of the statue, keeping your eyes peeled 50 yards along, for the upright stones in the field on your right, at the top of the brow of the hill.

Archaeology & History

Glenhead Farm standing stones
Glenhead Farm standing stones

A few hundred yards south of the large Glenhead Standing Stone, we come across this curious small row of three reasonably large standing stones which — the more you look at them — give the distinct impression that they may be the remains of a large prehistoric tomb.  But archaeology records are silent on this matter and we must contend with what we can see.  At the northernmost end of the row, a fourth stone lays amongst the vegetation: it may have once stood alone, or maybe  been snapped from  its fellow monolith.  20 yards south is a large mass of stone; perhaps from an old building, perhaps cairn spoil (does anyone know?)

The local historian Moray Mackay (1984) thought that the line of stones here were once a part of something larger, saying:

“Originally it was probably a circle of six stones, with a seventh in the middle, and this central stone can still be identified by its flat top on which are the mysterious and well known cup-marks, much weathered but plainly visible.  Close to the site, urns and stone hammers were unearthed last century.”

Glenhead stone row, looking north

Of the three remaining upright stones, it is the central one which has the cup-markings visible on its top and side (Allen 1882), with a lovely covering of almost luminous lichen giving it extra effect! (a separate TNA Site Entry for the cup-marked stone will be written in due course)

The famous astroarchaeologist Alexander Thom and his son (1990) described the place as,

“A three stone alignment showing about 33° N declination in one direction and 31° S in the other, but the azimuth comes from the stones only and so cannot be accurate. Perhaps the line is lunar to the hill in the SW…”

In Thom’s (1967) earlier work he posited that the alignment may relate to the rising of the star Capella around 1760 BC, but this is untrue. Thom’s error however, was not of his making, but due to the false dates that archaeologists ascribed to megalithic ruins at the time – dates which Thom used in his research, believing that the archaeological fraternity would know what they were talking about!  In their collaborated text, Aubrey Burl added how,

“these stones stand on a hill summit at 360ft (110m) OD. The row is on a north-facing slope. Three stones stand. A fourth, prostrate, 6ft 6 in (2m) long, lies against the NE pillar. The row has a NNE-SSW axis. The northernmost stone is 3ft 6in high, the centre 4ft, and the SSW, characteristically the tallest, 6ft 6in… The line is about 27 feet (8.3m) long. The central stone has 23 cupmarks on its top and 4 more on its western side.”

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Notes on some Undescribed Stones with some Cup-Markings in Scotland,” in PSAS 16, 1882.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  3. Mackay, Moray S., Doune: Historical Notes, Forth Naturalist: Stirling 1984.
  4. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, A., Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 2, BAR Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.180400, -4.007365 Glenhead stone row

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

Newtyle, Dunkeld, Perthshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NO 04489 41057

Also Known as:

  1. Doo’s Nest
  2. Druid’s Stones
  3. New Tyle

Getting Here

Newtyle’s standing stones

From Dunkeld travel southeast on the A984 road to Caputh and after about 1½ miles, set back a few yards from the road amidst the trees below the Newtyle Quarries (whose mass of slate and loose rocks cover the slopes), you’ll see these two large monoliths.  There’s nowhere to park here, but there’s a small road a coupla hundred yards before the stones aswell as a space to park on the verge by the side of the road a few hundred yards after them.  Take your pick!

Archaeology & History

When we visited these two tall standing stones a few weeks ago, guerilla archaeologist Hornby and I were a little perplexed at the state of these stones, wondering whether they were a product of the fella’s who dug the quarries above here, or whether they were truly ancient.  It seems the latter is the consensus opinion!

They were described by the great Fred Coles (1908) in one of his lengthy essays on the megaliths of Perthshire, where he thought the two stones here were all that remained of a stone circle that once stood on the flat, above the River Tay, but whose other stones “were destroyed in the making of the road” which runs right past here.  Not so sure misself!  He told that,

“An old cart-track runs up between the stones, leading from the main road…up to the quarry. The mean axis of the two stones runs N 13° W and S 13° E (true), and although their broader faces do not point towards the centre of a circle on the west, it is certainly much more probable that the other stones were on this side, the lower and flatter ground, than on the east, where the ground slopes and is more broken and rough.

“Both stones are of the common quartzose schist, but they differ considerably in shape.  A is 6 feet 7 inches high at the north corner, but only 4 feet 10 inches at the south, and its vertical height at the east is only 3 feet.  The basal girth is 13 feet 3 inches, and in the middle 15 feet 9 inches.  The broad east face measures 5 feet.  Stone B is level-topped and 5 feet in height; it has a basal girth of 12 feet 4 inches, and at the middle of 11 feet 8 inches.  Its two broad faces are of the same breadth.”

Little else was said of the two stones for many years and, to my knowledge, no real excavation has been undertaken here.  But when Alexander Thom (1990) visited the site he found that,

“This two stone alignment showed the midsummer setting sun.  The south stone may possibly, by itself, have shown the setting Moon at major standstill.”

Aubrey Burl’s description of the stones was succinct and echoed much of what Coles had said decades earlier, telling:

“Two very large stones stand only 9 feet (2.7m) apart in an unusually closed-in environment for a Perthshire pair.  The ground rises very steeply to the east.  To the west the stones overlook the valley of the River Tay.

“Both are of local quartzoze schist and are ‘playing-card’ in shape.  As usual it is the westernmost stone that is taller, 7ft 2in (2.2m) in height.  Its peak tapers almost to a point.  Conversely, its partner is flat-topped and only 4ft 9in (1.5m) high.  The pairing of such dissimilarly shaped stones has led to the interpretation of them as male and female personifications.”

Alex Thom’s groundplan
Back of the smaller stone

Burl’s latter remark thoughtfully recognises that such animistic qualities are found in many other cultures in the world and this ingredient was also an integral part of early peasant notions in Britain; therefore such ingredients are necessities to help us understand the nature and function of megalithic sites.  We must be cautious however, not to fall into the increasingly flawed modern pagan notion of such male and female ‘polarizations’, nor the politically-correct sexist school of goddess ‘worship’ and impose such delusions upon our ancestors, whose worldviews had little relationship with the modern pagan goddess fallacies, beloved of modern Press, TV shows and pantomime festival displays.

Folklore

In Elizabeth Stewart’s history of Dunkeld, she narrates the tale told by an earlier historian who told that,

“these two upright stones at the Doo’s Nest, but says they are supposed to mark the graves of two Danish warriors returning from the invasion of Dunkeld.”

References:

Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire – Northeastern Section,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 42, 1908.
Stewart, Elizabeth, Dunkeld – An Ancient City, Munro Press: Perth 1926.
Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Newtyle stones

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Newtyle stones 56.551764, -3.555259 Newtyle stones