Wester Glentarken (2), St Fillans, Comrie, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 66431 24782

Getting Here

Singe cup-mark, near the middle of the stone

Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the Wester Glentarken (1) carving, but some 10-15 yards before reaching it, you’ll notice this smaller rock with a series of curious naturally-eroded features on it.

Archaeology & History

This rounded stone has a series of natural deep cracks and undulating geological features on its surface, some of which look like elongated man-made cup-marks—but they’re not!  The only man-made ingredient on this stone is the deep single cup-mark close to the centre of the stone, as you can see in the photo.  That’s it—nowt else!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Wester Glentarken (1), St Fillans, Comrie, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 66412 24783

Getting Here

Cupmarked stone in situ

1½ miles out of St Fillans on the A85 road to Lochearnhead you’ll reach the boating marina by the lochside.  A hundred yards or so past this, park up.  Cross the road and walk 50 yards to your right then follow the dirt-track up into the trees.  After ⅓-Mile (0.5km) turn left to the old house on your left and follow the green path around it, then around the right-side of the rocky knoll in front of you.  Once you’re on the level ground around the knoll, walk forward for less than 100 yards.  Y’ can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

4 of the 5 main cups

A simple design, but a clear one, of four deep cup-marks which can be seen on the eastern side of the stone, with a solitary one—much more faint—just over the rise on the more western section of the rock.

There are a number of other large sections of rock around the knoll with what appear to be cup-markings of various forms, but apart from perhaps one or two exceptions, the vast majority of them—as Currie (2005) also noted—seem to be natural.

References:

  1. Currie, George, “Wester Glentarken, Perth and Kinross (Comrie parish), cup-marked rocks,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, vol. 6, 2005.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Patrick’s Well (1), Dunruchan, Muthill, Perthshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 77905 17365

Getting Here

St Patricks Well on 1863 map

Take the B827 road between Comrie and Braco. If you’re coming via Comrie, going uphill for 3.1 miles (5.1km); but if from Braco Roman Camp go along and eventually downhill for 6.6 miles (10.6km), watching out for the track to Middleton Farm by the roadside.  Walk along for 125 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the boggy ground below on your left. You’re there!

Archaeology & History

Immediately east of the prodigious megalithic complex of Dunruchan, bubbling up amidst the usual Juncus conglomeratus reeds, are the boggy remnants of St. Patrick’s Well—one of two such sacred wells dedicated to the early Irish saint in Muthill parish. We’re at a loss as to why this Irish dood has such sites in his name in this area.  No doubt some transitional shamanic character was doing the rounds in this glorious landscape, muttering words of some neo-christian animism, eventually settling a mile from the great megalithic complex, perhaps hoping—and failing—to convert our healthy heathen populace into ways unwise.

The site of St Patricks Well

The shallow boggy waters

Whatever he may have been up to, a small stone chapel was built hereby and, it was said, even a christian graveyard, to tempt folk away from the ancient plain of cairns whence our ancestors had long since buried their dead.  But the christian’s chapel and graveyard has long since gone; and when historians before me had visited the place, St Patrick’s Well had also fallen back to Earth in the drier summers, taking the blood of the Earth back into Her body.  The heathen megaliths still remain however, standing proud on the moorland plain in clear sight from these once healing waters, whose mythic history, on the whole, has long since been disregarded….

Folklore

St Partick’s day on March 17—”a date very near the Spring Equinox,” as Mrs Banks (1939) reminded us—may have been the dates when the waters here were deemed particularly efficacious, although we have nothing in written accounts to tell us for sure. But in the 19th century Statistical Account we find that the site was “much frequented once, as effectual in curing the hooping cough.”  E.J. Guthrie (1885) told of an ancient rite regarding the drinking of the waters for effect of the cure, saying:

“In the course of this century a family came from Edinburgh, a distance of nearly sixty miles, to have the benefit of the well. The water must be drunk before sunrise or immediately after it sets and that out of a “quick cow’s horn”, or a horn taken from a live cow, and probably dedicated to this saint.”

Also in Muthill parish, Guthrie told, St Patrick’s memory was held in such veneration that farmers and millers did not work on his day.

References:

  1. Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folk-lore Society: Glasgow 1939.
  2. Booth, C. Gordon, “St Patrick’s Well (Muthill Parish),” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, New Series volume 1, 2000.
  3. Guthrie, E.J., Old Scottish Customs, Thomas D. Morison: Glasgow 1885.
  4. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  5. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Samson’s Stone, Crieff, Perthshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NN 82519 22021

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 96866

Getting Here

Samson Stone on 1866 map

Samson Stone on 1866 map

Tale the A85 road between Comrie and Crieff and, roughly halfway between the two towns, take the minor road south to Strowan (it’s easily missed, so be aware!).  A few hundred yards along, stop where the trees begin and walk into the fields immediately east.  Keep walking, below the line of the trees, and you’ll get to it within five minutes.

Archaeology & History

Samson's Stone, looking east

Samson’s Stone, looking east

Mistakenly cited by some as a standing stone, the large boulder which rests here on the hillside just below the woodland is a glacial erratic.  Highlighted on the 1866 OS-map of the region, I hoped that we might find some rock art on the stone, but cup-and-rings there were none.  However, there is a curious ‘footprint’ on top of it, similar to the ones found at Dunnad, at Murlaganmore and other places (see Bord 2004); but I can find no previous reference to this carved footprint.

'Footprint' on top of stone

‘Footprint’ on top of stone

In 1863 the site was described in the local Name Book, where it was reported to be “a large oblong shaped stone lying on the surface, eight feet long, four wide, and three thick”; but, much like today, it was also reported that “There is no tradition respecting it in the neighbourhood. Supposed to have received the name in consequence of its great size.”

Most peculiar…..

References:

  1. Bord, Janet, Footprints in Stone, Heart of Albion Press 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Lawers, Comrie, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 80102 22666

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25535

Getting Here

Lawers01 (9)

Lawers standing stone, Comrie

Take the A85 road between Comrie and Crieff.  Nearly 1.7 miles (2.7km) east out of Comrie—or 4 miles (6.44km) west out of Crieff—keep your eyes peeled on the fields to the south-side of the road, below and across the mansion of Lawers House.  Alongside a long but small plantation of trees you’ll see a large upright stone.  You can walk along the track adjacent to the field and through the gate.

Archaeology & History

The stone on 1886 OS-map

The stone on 1886 OS-map

Shown on the early Ordnance Survey maps of the area, this probably neolithic monolith was suggested by Fred Coles (1911) to have once been part of a larger megalithic circle—although Aubrey Burl (2000) didn’t consider it as a good enough contender to be listed as such in his gazetteer; and unless we can have some positive affirmation, either through folklore or excavation, we should maintain its status as a singular monolith.  There is the possibility that it stood as an outlier or had some relationship with a nearby prehistoric tomb—but even this is contentious.  Nevertheless, the stone itself is an impressive one!

Mr Coles curiously got the size of the old stone wrong too (although, we have to give him credit, as he did all of his work without electricity or any of our modern ‘stuff’).  He wrote that:

“This massive boulder of whinstone is rounded at the base, where it girths 10 feet 3 inches, but tapers upwards to its apex of 5 feet 10 inches, with the eastern edge somewhat jagged and broken.  Near its base on the west is a small slab-like fragment of stone, quite earthfast.  The north and south surfaces are smooth and nearly vertical, and the longer axis is ESE 75º by WNW 75º.”

Fred Coles' 1911 sketch

Fred Coles’ 1911 sketch

Lawers monolith, looking SE

Lawers monolith, looking SE

The stone is actually larger than Coles described, being more than 6 feet 6 inches tall.  His sketch (right) “shows the stone from the east”, and is pretty much as we find it today.  A notable crack in the stone along the southern face, about a third of the way up, suggests that the stone was broken at some time in the past.

Local architect Andrew Finlayson (2010) included the stone in his local megalith guide and noted how the axes of the stone, east-west, lines it up with Ben Halton to the west and The Knock to the east.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Coles, F.R., “Report on stone circles 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.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Goose Oaks, St. Fillans, Comrie, Perthshire

Legendary Trees (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NN 693 242

Folklore

A fascinating story of this forgotten site is detailed in Alex Porteous’ (1912) history book on this tiny parish at the eastern end of Loch Earn.  It’s a peculiar tale—and unless the story was little more than the local people ripping the piss out of the patronising incomers, its nature remains a mystery.  Porteous wrote:

“What were known as the Goose Oaks grew by the loch-side about two or three hundred yards west from the hotel.  The story is told of a celebrated goose which attained to the great age of 160 years and finally gave up this life in 1818.  It is solemnly averred by Mr (John) Brown that the history of this goose was well authenticated and that the families and individuals who successively were owners of the goose were highly respectable, and that its history was preserved entire for the period back to 1658, while he naively adds—”How long it was in being prior to that date is uncertain.”  The goose was buried at the spot indicated, and the oaks trees, two in number, of which only one remains now, planted over its grave; but the story, as regards the age, must be looked upon as apocryphal.”

One wonders what on Earth Sir James Frazer might have made of this tale!

References:

  1. Porteous, Alexander, Annals of St. Fillans, Crieff 1912.
  2. Porteous, Alexander, Forest Folklore, Mythology and Romance, George Allen: London 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Auchingarroch, Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 78732 19579

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24795
  2. Roman Stone

Getting Here

Auchingarroch stone

The Auchingarroch stone

Take the B827 road south out of Comrie as if you’re heading towards Braco, and after a mile or so, as you start going uphill, turn left to go to the Wildlife Centre.  Go along the track and park up at the buildings.  The monolith is round the back of the first building (ask at the Centre, where the people there are very helpful).

Archaeology & History

F. Coles 19l1 sketch

F. Coles 19l1 sketch

Shown on the earliest Ordnance Survey map of the region as one of several ‘Roman Stone’ sites, this prehistoric upright is similar in size and feel to the other standing stones in the highly impressive Dunruchan complex close by.  The big fella stands on a raised piece of ground more than 8½ feet tall and, said Fred Coles (1911) has “a basal girth of 12ft 8ins.”  Quite a big stone!  A dubious large cup-mark is visible on the thin western face and three faint ones on its east.

The monolith is surrounded all along the southern landscape arc with forested moorland and low mountains, with the primary extended views reaching mainly into the north and western arc.  Although a rounded hillock immediately southwest of the stone looks promising, no calendrical or astronomical alignments have been found here.

Folklore

Auchingarroch, looking SW

Auchingarroch, looking SW

As with the other standing stones in this region, legend ascribes it as marking the resting place of a Roman soldier who fell in a great battle close by with our local heathens, in what was known as “battle of Mons Grampius.”

References:

  1. Coles, F.R., “Report on stone circles in Perthshire principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  2. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  3. Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Phillips: Crieff 1896.

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Paul Hornby for the journey here; and more especially a different sorta thanks to Linzi Mitchell for her influence whilst the site profile of this megalithic erection was being written. Who sez that men can’t do two things at the same time?!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Clach na Ba, St Fillans, Comrie, Perthshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NN 70318 24159

Clach na Ba, from roadside

Also Known as:

  1. Stone of the Cattle

Getting Here

Along the A85 road at the east-end of Lochearnhead, head out of the village east towards Comrie. Just above the main-road, maybe 50 yards after passing the small road to St Fillan’s Golf Club, on the north side of the road you’ll see a huge boulder resting in the edge of the garden of the large detached house that was known as The Oaks.  That’s the fella!

Archaeology & History

Clach na Ba, from the rear

Almost fallen out of history, oral tradition has thankfully kept the name and brief history of this huge boulder alive.  Found in association with the prehistoric standing stones just yards away, the Clach na Ba lives beside the ancient drover’s road (and probable prehistoric route before that) just yards east of the old cottage known as Casetta.  This occupies a site where an old toll-house stood, and the drovers would have to stop and pay a toll before continuing onwards past the Clach na Ba, or Stone of the Cattle.

Folklore

When the drovers passed their highland cattle here, the animals rubbed themselves against the stone to ensure good health and fertility (as well as just having a good scratch, no doubt).

References:

  1. Porteous, Alexander, Annals of St Fillans, David Philips: Crieff 1912.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks to Nina Harris and Paul Hornby for the day out and for use of their photos in this site-profile; and to the lovely couple (we didn’t get their names – soz) who live in the house behind the Clach na Ba, for their help with the fascinating local history .

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


Dunruchan Hill, Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 8022 1645 —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Lisa standing with the old stone
Lisa with the old stone

Take the directions to the hugely impressive Dunruchan A standing stone.  Walk directly south, over the gate and follow the fence straight down the fields, crossing the burn at the very bottom. Walk over the boggy grassland and start veering uphill, southeast.  You’ll notice the land goes up in geological ‘steps’ and, a few hundred yards up, a small standing stone pokes up on the near skyline ahead of you.  Head straight for it!

Archaeology & History

This small standing stone was first noted after a quick visit to the major Dunruchan megalithic complex in the summer of 2016.  Photographer James Elkington was taking images of the landscape and the standing stones when he noticed a stone on the horizon a half-mile away.  As we were in a rush, he took a couple of photos from different angles on the way back to the car—both of which looked promising.  And so, several months later, we revisited the site again.  Lisa Samson, Paul Hornby, Martin Ferner and I meandered up the geological steps of the hillside until we reached the site in question.

Looking northwest
Looking northwest
Looking northeast
Looking northeast

Standing more than four-feet tall, this solitary stone overlooks the megalithic Dunruchan complex a half-mile or so to the north and northwest.  Like the Dunruchan C monolith, this smaller upright is conglomerate stone.  Paul Hornby noted what may be a single cup-marked stone roughly 100 yards east along the same ridge. (Please note that the grid-ref may be slightly out by perhaps 50 yards or so at the most. If anyone visits and can rectify my ineptitude on this matter, please let me  know.)

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 


Strowan, Crieff, Perthshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NN 81998 20832

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25510

Getting Here

The faerie mound of Strowan
The faerie mound of Strowan

If you’re coming southwest out of Crieff on the A822, as you cross the river take the right-turn just before leaving the town along the country lane onto Strowan and Dalginross.  Nearly 2½ miles along there’s the small junction on your right to Strowan House and church. Just past this turning, the next field on by the roadside, has a large rounded tree-covered mound living quietly. That’s the fella!

Archaeology & Folklore

Found halfway between Crieff and Comrie in the field on the north-side of the road, this large oak-covered tumulus was, seemingly, first described in notes made by the old archaeologist O.G.S. Crawford following a quick visit he made here in 1936.  The place has, since then, never been excavated to find out exactly what might be hiding therein!  It’s quite a big fella too: about 10 feet high and 40 yards across (east-west)—similar in size and design to the prehistoric burial mounds at Tulloch and Kinpurnie.  Some large rocks make up the sides and edges of the mound, with smaller ones scattered here and there, giving the distinct impression of a very overgrown cairn of sorts.

Tis a quiet and tranquil arena, amidst fervent colours of meadows and old trees. Another 2 miles further down the same road is the equally tranquil (though ruined) megalithic ring of Dunmoid

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian