Ursa Major Stone, Brae of Cultullich, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 87958 49022

Also Known as:

  1. Brae of Cultullich (3)

Getting Here

The stone from the trackside

Out of Aberfeldy, take the A826 road as if you’re going up Glen Cochill.  Not far up, just where the housing of Aberfeldy itself ends and the green fields open up either side of you, keep on the road for a half-mile where you meet a small copse of trees on your left, with a dirt-track that runs down the slope.  Go down the track, bending to the right, then the left and then on for a quarter of a mile until the lines of trees appear either side of you.  Barely 200 yards along, the track swerves slowly to your right, and the field above you slopes uphill.  Keep your eyes peeled at the fencing on your right and you’ll see a stone sloping towards you right by the fence with faint cupmarks on it.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

A truly fascinating cup-marked stone recently uncovered by Paul Hornby on another one of our TNA meanderings. Fascinating because of the curious arrangement of the cups on the stone.  Often, cup-marked stones have little to interest the causal visitor – but this one’s different.  As can be seen quite clearly, the cups are arranged in the shape of the constellation of the Great Bear, or Ursa Major – albeit with an extra ‘star’ in this design.  But it’s damn close!  In all likelihood (he says with his sceptical head on 😉 ), the design is fortuitous when it comes to the Ursa Major.  I know from many years experience how easy it is to see meaningful shapes and designs in the almost entirely abstract British petroglyphs, but the design is very close to the constellation we all got to know when we were kids.

Looking along the stone
Gazing down at Ursa Major

The stone itself slopes upwards at an angle of about 60º, before starting to level out as it rises.  All of the cupmarks have been pecked onto this sloping surface (the vast majority of carvings are found on top of stones).  Altogether, at least twelve faint and shallow cups were exposed when we looked at it—measuring the usual inch to inch-and-half across—but it is likely that more of them are hidden beneath the turf at the top of the stone.  We could discern no rings or other features in the design.

This is just one carving amidst a good cluster of petroglyphs within a few hundred yards of each other (the Quartz Stone being one of the nearest) that are well worth checking out if you like your rock art.  It may also be of interest to astronomy students, or those exploring archaeo-astronomy.


  1. Yellowlees, Sonia, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, RCHAMS 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Cassiopeia Stone, Baildon Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13771 40235

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.28 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.156 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

If you wanna find this carving, you’ll find it near several others on the Low Plain, 40 yards east of the footpath north of Dobrudden Farm.  Look around in the tribbly grass!

Archaeology & History

This was first described and illustrated in a short article by William Glossop in the Bradford Antiquary in 1888, and reproduced by W. Paley Baildon (1913) – who drew his own impression of the carving. Tis one of my favourites from this moor. Dunno why – I just like it.

W.P. Baildon’s accurate 1913 drawing
Cowling’s 1946 drawing

Local astronomer and writer Gordon Holmes (1997) posited the theory that a part of this carving represented the constellation of Cassiopeia — hence its title!  He told of finding the same pattern of cups at four other carvings on the moors and assigned astronomical meanings to them.  He may be right, though I doubt it to be honest.  Having looked and looked at the many carvings here, and many other places, the star-reflection hypothesis doesn’t tend to work (as the heavenly bodies have moved somewhat since the days when the cups were first carved).  Along with this, when I was young I used to think cup-and-rings did have an astronomical basis — only to find, after constant analysis, that the theory didn’t work.

There are perhaps 20 cup-markings here, with various linking-lines and curves between and around the cups.  Perhaps the most accurate of the early drawings was Mr Paley Baildon’s 1913 image, where he highlighted the faint surrounding ring enclosing the 4 or 5 cups near the bottom of the stone.


  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
  2. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  3. Glossop, William, “Ancient British Remains on Baildon Moor,” in Bradford Antiquary, 1888.
  4. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  5. Holmes, Gordon T., 2000 BC – A Neolithic Odyssey, SASRG Press 1997.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian