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.
A lovely distance and various way to reach here. Probably the best is from one of the two footpaths near the Outdoor Centre following (whichever is your preference) the moorland track or path westward onto the open moor. Tis is 2½ mile walk to reach the 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.
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 and walk up the path for less than 100 yards. The stone is just a coupla yards on your right (if you reach the derelict tractor, you’ve gone about 10 yards past the stone).
Archaeology & History
This is another one of the many simple cup-marked petroglyphs scattering the Cragganester and Tombreck regions beneath the slope of Ben Lawers. It’s an elongated, smoothly-shaped ‘female’ stone, aligned north-south, possessing four distinct cups along its crown: three in a small line at the south-end of the stone and a single one close to the north end. However between these is what may be another, shallow fifth cupmark—but this is uncertain.
One notable feature here is that the rock is encrusted with small garnets. This geological ingredient isn’t uncommon in this area, and we’ve found that quite a proportion of the petroglyphs hereby possess this feature. It was probably of some importance to the people who carved them.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Paul Hornby for use of his photograph.
Although you could just as well follow the directions to reach the Cragganester 22 carving (exactly 100 yards away), it’s probably easier to get there from where the track leads down to Balnasuim, but there’s nowhere to park any vehicle here—unless you’re on a bike! Across the road from the Balnasuim track is a gate. Go thru this and then follow the fence immediately on your left, running parallel with the road for roughly 250 yards (218m), until you reach a denuded wall that runs onto the hillside above you. Follow this up for roughly 200 yards (96m) until you reach a grass-lined track. Walk to your left and keep your eyes peeled for a reasonably large rounded boulder next to the track 40 yards on. That’s it!
Archaeology & History
This is one of the many simplistic petroglyphs in the Cragganester complex, probably only of interest to the fanatics amongst you! There are two distinct cup-marks on this nice rounded ‘female’ stone, one near the top and one near the middle, amidst the olde lichen growth. Loch Tay stretches along the glen below here, but only a portion of it is visible nowadays. In times gone by, tree growth probably prevented any vision of the waters below…
It’s a bittova pain-in-the-arse to reach this and its associated carvings, as there’s little place to park along here. The easiest is to park 600 yards east of Tombreck at the spot just by the small bridge at Craggantoul. Keep your eyes truly peeled! From here, walk along the road for ⅔-mile where you’ll hit a gate taking you onto the boggy hillside. Go diagonally up here for 150 yards where you’ll hit an overgrown track and small disused quarry. Some 50 yards along you’ll see a small rock outcrop on your left (as if you’re going back to the road). That’s the spot!
Archaeology & History
Not previously recorded, this simple petroglyph on a small rock outcrop—barely 50 yards above the A827 Killin-Kenmore road—comprises of one clear cup-mark prominently etched near the middle of the upper surface; and another possible cup on the left (eastern) section of the rock. Cragganester carvings 19 and 20 are respectively about 100 yards NE and NW of here but, like other carvings nearby, is only gonna be of interest to the fanatic nutters out there!
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. Go through the gate here and walk up the little hill right in front of you until you can see an electricity pylon 200 yards away. Head for, go up the slope behind and along until you drop into a tiny little valley where a long line of very distinct old walling runs east-west. Walk back and forth along it till you see a reasonably large earthfast stone on its own.
Archaeology & History
Close to a long line of what I think is pre-medieval walling—possibly Iron Age—is what can only be described as a truly crap-looking petroglyph which, to be honest, I’d walk past and give not a jot of notice if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s been recorded. When we visited here, three very worn large cup-marks were visible on its sloping west face, with what looked like two more on top of the stone—but these seemed questionable in terms of them being man-made. Apparently there’s another one on it, but in the searing heat and overhead midday sun when we visited, this couldn’t be seen.
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 800 yards where the walling hits the burn, then follow the water up until you cross a fence. Once over this, 50- yards to your right you’ll see a large rounded rock and companion. It’s the rounded rock.
Archaeology & History
As with most the carvings along here, it is the setting that captivates more than the petroglyph. This is another one mainly for the purists amongst you, but there’s a distinct feel of other carvings hiding very close by that remain hidden. Anyhoo…
This reasonably large, rounded, female stone has the usual scatter of quartz in its veins, along with at least four cup-marks on its upper sloping surface. Three of them are seen in a slight arc on the more northern slope of the stone with one of them particularly faint; but the most notable of the lot on the very crown of the stone. (see the numerated image, right) A fifth cup-mark is clearly visible on the western face of the boulder, shortly below where the rock begins to level out. You’ll see it. Some 200 yards west of this carving, the prominent rock hosting the Cragganester 10 carving is visible on top of its rounded knoll.
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 7-800 yards and then walk to your right, into the field. About 300 yards into the overgrown meadowland you’ll see a rounded knoll with a very notable boulder on its crown. Y’ can’t really miss it!
Archaeology & History
It’s the setting of this carving that captures you way more than the carving itself—which is probably somewhat of a disappointment to most folk, unless you’re a petroglyph fanatic like myself.
Found relatively close to other carvings, this reasonably large boulder has, upon its roughly smooth top, just five simple cup-marks with varying degrees of weathering, from the very noticeable to the somewhat faint—hinting at the unlikely possibility that it might have been carved at different times. A possible sixth cup can be seen in certain daylight conditions on the southwest section of the stone. That’s it!
From Ilkley town centre take the road up to White Wells (ask any local if y’ can’t find it), but instead of heading up the track to the wells, keep on the road and, after just over 200 yards, turn left up the Keighley Road. Half-a-mile up there’s a dirt-track on your right which leads to Silver Well Farm. Walk along here for about 150 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for a large rock in the heather about 50 yards up onto the moor. You’ll find it.
Archaeology & History
Located just 100 yards west of the old Roman road that effectively runs north-south through the middle of Rombalds Moor and which, when this carving was executed, was a prehistoric trackway, this is an impressive carving, all but unknown by many. On my last visit to this stone—maybe 10 years ago or more—it was a cloudy day. I know this from the fact that the design on the stone was difficult to see in its entirety. But not anymore! When the northern antiquarian Dave Whittaker came a-wandering this way a few years back, the stone so overgrown in vegetation that the design was very difficult to appreciate and, like any healthy curious antiquarian, he wanted to know what the full carving would look like. He enquired whether or not it was OK to uncover the stone from beneath its mass of heather to see the full image and, as far as we were concerned the idea was a good one. And so, following in the footsteps of Beckensall, Currie, Chappell, me and a few others, he got stuck in!
As you can see in Dave’s fine photos, the petroglyph is indeed a fine one. It comprises mainly of four cup-and-rings, two of which are incomplete The rings, as you can see, are very faint, whilst the cups, both in the rings and those outside of them, are notably deep; perhaps indicating that they were carved into many times over a long period.
One of the great petroglyphic pioneers, J.Romilly Allen (1882) seems to have been the earliest to record this carving. Allen’s early sketch (below) was obviously drawn on a shady day, as it misses several of of the rings that are clear to see when the the daylight is just right. It’s an easy mistake to make. He wrote:
“One mile south-west of Ilkley is a road leading over the top of the Moor…very appropriately as Weary Hill. To the west of the road, and between it and the boundary-wall of Silver Well Farm, is a small boulder of gritstone with cup-markings on it. It lies at a level of 900 ft. above the sea, and it measures 8ft by 5ft. On its upper surface, which is nearly level, are carved ten cups, varying in diameter from 2 to 3 ins., one of them being surrounded by a single ring.”
The pseudonymous “A. Reader” (1891) also included the stone in his international overview of prehistoric carvings, but merely copied the notes of his predecessors. Nearly a hundred years later when archaeologist John Hedges (1986) did his survey of these moors, he described this carving simply as:
“Medium seized rock…in grass, heather and crowberry with c.ten cups, four with rings, two with grooves from rings, three depressions and series of probably natural lines running down to bottom edge.”
And as with the pseudonymous A. Reader (1891), Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) also just copied Hedges’ earlier description.
The greatest analysis of this carving to date is by physicist and mathematician Alan Davis. He set out in 1983 to explore the possibility of there being a universal measurement used in neolithic times that was coded into our cup-and-rings—a theory first espoused by the great archaeo-astronomer Alexander Thom. (1968) He selected carvings from Rombalds Moor and Northumberland, including this one at Weary Hill (calling it the I/1 carving) to see if a ‘megalithic inch’ (MI) that was propounded by Thom had any foundation in fact. As a mathematician he was ideally qualified to examine this proposition. His 1983 paper found there to be “substantial support” for this prehistoric megalithic inch. However, in a subsequent 30-page analysis of the same carvings Davis (1988) found that some criteria in his initial investigation needed re-examining. In his updated report he told that “many of these deficiencies have now been remedied.”
His initial 1983 report concluded the Weary Hill carving possessed a deliberate mathematical code in accordance with Thom’s MI. However in the subsequent 1988 report, Davis found that the measurements were based on 5MI and 3 MI, but only in the cup-and-rings and not the single cups. Despite this, there remained an overall scepticism in terms of any deliberate universal use of the MI. My own take on this is a simple one: there was no deliberate use of any MI at carvings. Where we do find precise MIs, this is due simply to the average size of human hands, meaning that some obvious figurative correspondences will occur upon investigation. The more you think about it, the more obvious it becomes.
Anyhow, all this intriguing geometry aside: to those of you who take the time to check this out, have a bimble in the heather barely 100 yards west and you’ll find a few other carvings sleeping quietly, whose site profiles I’ve yet to do…
Allen, J. Romilly, “Notice of Sculptured Rocks near Ilkley,” in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 38, 1882.
Anonymous, Walks Around Cup and Ring Stones, ITIC: Bradford n.d. (1995)
Boughey, K.J.S. & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley, Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
Davis, Alan, ‘The Metrology of Cup and Ring Carvings near Ilkley in Yorkshire,’ in Science and Archaeology, 25, 1983.
Davies, Alan, ‘The Metrology of Cup and Ring Carvings,’ in Ruggles, C., Records in Stone, Cambridge 1988.
Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks of Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
Reader, A., Archaic Rock Inscriptions, privately printed: London 1891.
Thom, Alexander, “The Metrology and Geometry of Cup and Ring Marks,” in Systematics, volume 6, 1968.
Turner, J. Horsfall, Historical Notices of Shipley, Saltaire, Idle, Windhill, Wrose, Baildon, Hawksworth, Eccleshill, Calverley, Rawdon and Horsforth, Shipley Express: Idle 1901.
Along the A827 Loch Tay road between Morenish and Lawers, take the track uphill where Carie farmhouse and Tombreck are either side of the road. Walk up this track 2-300 yards till you go through the gate just past the sheep-folds on your left. Ahead of you is a small grassy hillock on your right upon which you’ll find the unimpressive Tombreck-1 carving. Walk down the grassy-slope to the boggy stream and then up the rounded knoll on the other side, where you’ll find a stone that’s been split in two. You’re here!
Archaeology & History
This is another unrecorded carving, found amidst this already large petroglyphic cluster on August 9, 2020. Carved on a stone that’s been spilt in half, three simple cup-marks can be seen on the larger easternmost section, with the lowest of them having a possible short line running towards the cup on the right. It seems that the right-hand (north) side of the stone has also been cut, but there is no trace of this part of the stone on the ground. Additionally, there is the possibility that this stone once stood upright, as evidenced by its very worn rounded top and the larger bottom end of the stone being distinctly lower compared to the ground all round it. But this is speculative.
Although the rock is close to being on the top of a rounded knoll, giving good visibility both east and west for a few miles along the extensive grassy ridge (where many other petroglyphs exist), the grandeur of Loch Tay in the glen below is not and could never have been visible from this, or indeed many other carvings on this ridge. I mention this due to the fact that some students are positing that the existence of so many carvings along here may relate to some sort of deification of Loch Tay. But here and at many others along this ridge, the idea simply aint valid, unfortunately.