A couple of miles east of Crieff, take the A822 road from the Gilmerton junction towards the Sma’ Glen. After literally 1¾ miles (2.8km)—just 100 yards before the track up to Connachan Farm—you’ll reach a dirt-track on your left that leads into the hills. Go on here and after an easy walk of 400 yards or so, you’ll reach a conspicuous large boulder just by the track-side, on your left. It’s impossible to miss!
Archaeology & History
Immediately adjacent to the Falls of Monzie (7) carving, this petroglyph was located by Paul Hornby on a recent visit to the Falls of Monzie cluster.
More than halfway up its south-sloping face are two very distinct cup-marks, some two inches across and up to half-inch deep: one near the western-edge and the other closer to the middle of the rock face. You can’t really miss them. They seem to be accompanied by a third about 2 feet further across to the right on its more eastern side. In formation, the three of them form a small raised arc. With the naked eye they’re very easy to make out, but were difficult to photograph due to the daylight and angle of the stone; hence in the photo here, I’ve numerated them.
Whether you take the A836 or A838 into Tongue (through truly beautiful wilderness), make sure you go into the village itself—and then keep going, south, along the tiny country road. Nearly 2½ miles along, note the small loch of Lochan na Cuilce on your right. A few hundred yards past this, on the other side of the road (barely visible at first) is Lochan Hakel. Walk around to the south-side of the loch until you find the Lochan Hakel 1 carving. Then look up at the rock right above you. That’s the one!
Archaeology & History
In James Simpson’s (1867) primary work on British petroglyphs, he mentions this site as being in the lands of “Ribigill, near Tongue”, although it is a little further to the south. A certain “Mr Mitchell” had come across it in one of his many rambles in the hills. Simpson told that he had:
“discovered cups and circles upon a large stone, about nine feet square, apparently lying in its original position, close to the edge of a loch, which contains the remains of an old castle… The surface of the stone shows eighteen or twenty round cup excavations, about an inch deep. There is a ring of ‘hollow around each cup.'”
Although there aren’t rings around every cup, a great number of clear and impressive rings exist around many of them and are, thankfully, still reasonably visible amidst the mass of lichens.
Around the same time as Mr Simpson’s description, James Horsburgh (1868) wrote about the carving, telling us:
“On the edge of the precipitous bank of the loch, and exactly opposite the island, there is a large boulder with a flat top, and on this there are a number of cups and rings… This stone is not generally known. Old Ross, the gamekeeper at Tongue, first told me of it, and he and I scraped off the moss and exposed the whole. He thought it was for playing some game. On the left of the stone, on a bit separated by a crack, there is a sort of a figure which appears to have been formed by cutting away the stone around it and leaving it in relief, and also some artificial cutting on the right, a sort of circular groove.”
A better description of the carving came near the beginning of the 20th century, when the Scottish Royal Commission (1911) lads included the site in their inventory. They told:
“At the S end of Lochan Hacoin, to the SE of the islet on the top of the bank, is a large earth-fast boulder, on the flat upper surface of which are a number of cup and ring marks placed irregularly over it. The total number of undoubted markings is thirty-four, of which those surrounded by a ring number eleven. No cup with a double ring round it is observable. The best defined cup-mark measures 3″ across by 1¼” deep, and the enclosing ring is 7″ in diameter. Eight of the markings are well defined; the others less noticeable. At the S end there is a boss or projection, roughly rectangular, measuring 12″ x 6″. A sketch of this stone, made about the year 1866 by Mr James Horsburgh, is preserved in the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.”
Does anyone know if this drawing still exists?
In Horsburgh’s essay on the prehistoric remains of the area, he said how local people told that the cup-and-rings “were made by the high heels of a fairy who lived in the castle” on the island of Grianan about 40-50 yards away.
Close-Brooks, Joanna, Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands, HMSO: Edinburgh 1995.
Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
Acknowledgments: Huge thanks to Sarah MacLean for guiding me to this carving, and also for the kind use of her photos in this site profile. Cheers Sarah! And to Donna Murray again, for putting up with me whilst in the area! Also – Huge thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map in this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Take the B936 out of Auchtermuchty, and park at the small car park for Auchtermuchty Common on your right just before Lumquhat Mill. Follow the path through the Common southwards and along the narrow strip until the Common opens out past the boundary stone. Head for the sign board on the right and when you get there turn left and march straight up the hillock and the stone is ahead of you in front of a gorse bush.
Archaeology & History
A curious little stone that I found quite by chance. It is wedge shaped in plan, bearing one large cup mark on its top surface. The cup is approximately 2″ in diameter and about ¾” deep. The raised part of the stone is about 3′ high, it is 3′ long and about 13″ wide at the blunt south end, although at ground level it is nearly 3′ wide at this end.
The stone is orientated due N-S, the south end aligning with the peak of East Lomond (a mythic hill of which at least one legend survives), while the north end points to the river port of Newburgh. It gives the impression of having been carved as a direction marker from what was a much larger stone, which, if this is the case may have originally borne more cups.
The first time I visited, there were three small polished coloured stones at the foot of the rock, while the second time there were four stones within the cup. A long term resident out walking his dog told me he knew of no folklore relating to the stone, but that over the last thirty years he had kept seeing offerings of stones in the cup, so the rock clearly still has some ritual significance for local heathens/pagans…
Travelling north, turn right to Wolfhill off the A93 at Cargill, then up the hill, turning left at the first junction. The stones are buried in the field to your left before the bend.
Archaeology & History
The earliest description of these stones, and the only one written while they were still standing comes from J.P.Bannerman, writing in the Old Statistical Account in 1793:
‘Near the village of Cargill may be seen some erect stones of considerable magnitude, having the figure of the moon and stars cut out on them, and are probably the rude remains of Pagan superstition. The corn-field where these stones stand is called the Moonshade to this day.’
Later writers, who only had verbal reports of the stones from locals who remembered them, gave differing descriptions of them. The people who spoke to the Ordnance Survey name book scouts around 1860, described them as:
‘Moonshade – “This name is applied to an arable field immediately west of Gallowhill. Two large Standing Stones having the representation of the Moon and 7 Stars cut out on one of them were removed from this field about 60 years ago.”‘
The local antiquary Andrew Jervise wrote in 1861 that the stones were:
‘interesting relics….purposely buried below the reach of the plough, appear to have been of the same class of antiquities as the sculptured stones at Meigle and, from the desire which is now being manifested for the preservation of national antiquities, it is hoped that those relics will soon be disinterred, so that their symbols may be properly examined.’
Or as another writer puts it, they were; ‘dug around and under, and buried, in the agricultural improvement of theground’. For all we know from the written descriptions that have come down to us the stones may be prehistoric monoliths, with it seems only one of them carved. As they stood alongside the Roman road from Muthill to Kirriemuir, the moon and stars may have been cut by the Romans, or they could equally have been from the hand of a Pictish or later mediaeval mason. The field in which they stood was alternatively known as ‘Moonstone Butts’ or ‘Moonbutts’ – where the local archers practised.
While the word ‘moonshade’ doesn’t appear in Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary, nor the online Dictionaries of the Scots Language, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as an obsolete word for ‘nightshade’, citing a quotation from Sir Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum of 1627:
‘The Ointment, that Witches use, is reported to be made, of the Fat of Children, digged out of their Graves; Of the juyces of Smallage, Wolfe- bane, And Cinquefoile; Mingled with the meale of fineWheat. But I suppose that the Soperiferous Medicines are likest to doe it; Which are Henbane, Hemlocke, Mandrake, Moone-Shade, Tobacco, Opium, Saffron, Poplar- Leaves.’
Given the stones are in the Perthshire witch country (the Witches Stone of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is only 2½ miles due south of here), this is nevertheless almost certainly a ‘red herring’, with the field deriving its name from the carvings on the stone. Only when we can again see the Moonshade Stones, ‘digged out of their grave’ will we be able to begin to understand them. So will there be any motivation to excavate them?
From Killin, take the A827 road to Kenmore. 6 miles along, on your right, is the track down to the Big Shed at Tombreck. Keep on the A827 for exactly ⅓-mile (0.53km), and opposite the driveway to Craggantoul is a small parking spot. A few yards on the road, over the burn, go thru the gate on your left. Follow the straight line of walling up for 400 yards it meets where another line of walling running right (E), into the boggy pasture-lands. Walk along here for roughly another 400 yards then go up the slope as if walking up Ben Lawers (N). You’ll come to 2 large boulders next to each other where the slope levels out. It’s the one on your left!
Archaeology & History
This carving is really for the purists amongst you. It’s like most of the carvings along this contour line in that the design is simplistic. Consisting of at least nine cups all on top of the stone, they can be difficult to see amidst the rough garnet and lichen-encrusted rock.
On one of our visits here, when the light cut across the surface at a lower angle, it seemed as if one of the cups had a faint ring around it; but it looked as if the outline of it had been started, but then for some reason the ring was never actually carved. This outline is very faint. We’ve found examples of this at two of the Duncroisk carvings, several miles to the west, where the faintest trace of a ring was outlined, but never carved. Of the cup-marks: five of them are carved on the east-side of the rock and are pretty easy to see (with the ring around one of them), whilst the other four—slightly more difficult to make out—are on its west side. A couple of hundred yards north you can see the Cragganester 10 carving.
Amongst a good cluster of petroglyphs, this ornate little fella may have been one visited by George Hamilton (1886) when he visited Balmae and outlying districts, seeking out petroglyphs! We don’t know for certain though, as his descriptions are somewhat vague. However, a few years later the great Fred Coles (1895) came a-wandering in search of the same carvings and, as happens in this line of business, uncovered a few new ones during his rummaging. This was one of them, which he described, very simply, as hiding
“but a few yards from Ross View Cottage, on its N.W. … (with) eight cups being associated with four rings and several grooves, both straight and curved.”
It was only a few years later when the Royal Commission lads (1911) came in search of it and they told how,
“the main design is a central ringed cup with a connected groove, and two outer cups which an outer circle curves eccentrically to enclose.”
But when Ron Morris (1979) explored the area in the 1970s, he was unable to locate this and a number of other carvings that had been reported by Coles. Since then, the carving has been relocated at the grid reference cited above. Also since then, a great deal many more carvings have been found in this locale by the experienced petroglyphic fingers of Maarten van Hoek. (1993)
Turn right off the A93 at Cargill onto the side road at Keepers Cottage and up the hill. Gladsfield Wood is at the top of the hill on your right. Park up at the top side of the Wood and walk along the narrow track to where it crosses another track, look 45º to your right and you’ll see the stone.
Archaeology & History
One of those chance finds that turns up when you’re looking for something else. Recent forestry work had dislodged the stone from its original earthfast position of millenia, only a few feet away. It may have been rotated from its original position. The grey whinstone rock measures around 5′ 8″ (1·75 m) long, 3′ 9″ wide (1·15 m ), 2′ 9″ (0·85m) high, and the moss shows its original depth in the ground. Fortunately the cup marks weren’t damaged in what appears to have been a quite brutal move. On what is now the north east facing side there are three definite and one possible very shallow fourth cup mark. The top cup is the most prominent, while the possible fourth cup is just to the left of the bottom one.
One for the enthusiasts really, in an area of Strathmore quite rich in megaliths and rock art; whatever the future holds for this dislodged stone in the savage world of agri-business, it is now recorded for posterity!
From Crieff central, take the A85 road east out of town where the golf club is on your left. Park up and ask the helpful lads who work in the shop, who’ll direct you to the standing stones on the golf course. The cupmark is on the second stone along the row of stones from the direction you’ve approached from.
Archaeology & History
Here’s another one of those petroglyphs only of interest to those with the madness in their bloodstream! Found within the ruins of the Ferntower megalithic ring is a distinct single cupmark on what John Coles (1911) called ‘Stone D’ in his survey:
“Stone D, a boulder of whinstone also containing seams of quartz, 5 feet 6 inches in length and breadth, and 2 feet 3 inches above ground. At some period the intention of blasting this block must have been considered, for there is the beginning of a jumper-hole near the centre of its upper surface. Close to this unmistakably modern hole there is one single genuine cup-mark about 1¼ inch in diameter.”
A note of this was also made when Aubrey Burl (1988) surveyed the site, who pointed out that in accordance with a characteristic found at other ‘four poster’ stone circles, the carving is “another example of a decorated stone on the eastern side” (my italics) of such a ring.
Although we have nothing specifically relating to the carving, it’s worth noting that when we visited the stone circle, the groundsman told us that it had been a place where local people gathered at summer solstice.
Difficult to reach, this large protruding rock on the west side of Thorrisdail Hill, was known as the Thorrisdail Stone in the old boundary records. It’s a bittova giveaway when you find it, as its name is inscribed on the lower face of the stone – etched a century or two ago by the look of it.
It’s a difficult rock to climb upon if you aren’t used to such things – and you need to do this if you want to see the cupmarks; although they’re hardly worth seeing unless you’re a petroglyph freak! If you go to the trouble so see them, make sure to squat down carefully, being even more careful not to fall off (you’re screwed if y’ do). Once in position, you’ll see between three and five very faint shallow cups etched onto its flat surface. You can just make one of them out in the photo here. The more impressive thing to see here is the small standing stone that seems to artificially crown the top of the rounded hill to which the Thorrisdail Stone is attached.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Sarah MacLean for her company and landscape knowledge in visiting this and other nearby antiquarian remains.
Visiting this site is a bittova walk across the moors, with probably the best route being along one of two footpaths from near the Outdoor Centre following (whichever is your preference) the moorland track or path westward onto the open landscape. Tis a 2½ mile walk before you reach two large buildings stuck high up in the middle of nowhere. Y’ can’t miss them. Equally unmissable is the large blatant rocking stone between the buildings. Gerron top of it!
Archaeology & History
This impressive-looking rock that sits between the two buildings has a number of cup-markings of varying sizes across its topmost surface: some deep and some not-so-deep. There are perhaps as many as 20 of them on different parts of the stone, but some have been intruded on by more recent graffiti. On a recent visit to the site, photographer James Elkington and his young assistant MacKenzie, saw what looked like “a very faint ring around one of the cups” – which doesn’t surprise me. On one section of the stone we see a fascinating series of natural curves and geological undulations, some of which may have been modified a long time ago when the cupmarks were etched. But whether they were added to or not, it’s more than likely they’d have had some significance in the mythic nature of the rock.
The earliest description telling us that this possessed any prehistoric attributes seems to have been written by William Grainge (1871), in his huge work on the history of this region. He told that,
“This rock…is eleven feet in length, seven feet six inches in breadth, and two feet six inches in thickness. The whole of the upper surface is thickly indented and grooved with cups and channels; the artificial character of which can be easily seen by anyone. This logan rests upon a lower rock, the upper surface of which is about three feet above the ground, fourteen feet in length, and nearly the same in breadth.”
Although this yummy-looking geological sight no longer rocks, it wasn’t always that way. Indeed, according once more to the pen of Mr Grainge, although “it does not rock now, it has done so within living memory” – meaning that it would have been swaying at the beginning of the 19th century. We can only take his word for it. Also, as with many rocking stones the length and breadth of the land this, unsurprisingly it was adjudged to have been a place used by the druids.
Grainge, William, The History and Topography of Harrogate and the Forest of Knaresborough, John Russell Smith: London 1871.