From Muthill, go up Thornhill Street out of the village for nearly 1½ miles. You’ll have just passed the double hairpin bend, crossed the rivulet, then reached the large old farmhouse of Lurgs. From here, turn right and after just over half-a-mile you reach Struthill where, running by the side of the house, is a small trackway. Ask the folks at the house, who are most helpful, and walk down the track for nearly 400 yards and go through the first gate on your right, crossing the field until it dips down to the burn. The boggy marshy mass running from near the top of the slope is what you’re looking for!
Archaeology & History
Shown on the 1863 map as the Chapel Well, the dedication of the waters to St. Patrick coincided with a chapel that once stood here, also in his name. Very low faint remains of the chapel, completely overgrown, can still be made out amidst the rushes. It’s one of two holy wells in Muthill parish that are dedicated to St. Patrick.
Very little of any real spring of water can be seen nowadays. Indeed, the site today is merely a much overgrown bog-of-a-well whose water oozes down the slope into the Juncus rushes, trickling into the adjacent burn. I had a drink of the water from the slopes, which tasted OK and did me no harm whatsoever.
The most important aspects of this site was its use by local people and the attributes it was given. We know not how far back such folklore goes, but it would have been many many centuries, if not millenia. Water worship (if that’s the right word) is the most archaic of all traditional forms of veneration. This place was no exception. In John Shearer’s (1883) excellent local history work, he gave the following account of the site:
“About a quarter of a mile west from the Mill of Steps, upon a height on the right bank of the Machany, are to be seen the ruins of a small chapel. When other places of Popish worship were thrown down after the Reformation, the Presbytery of Auchterarder ordered it to be demolished about 1650 to repress the superstitions practised at this place of resort. West from the chapel is an excellent spring which was held in great veneration in those dark ages of superstition, when the ignorant and credulous populace were deceived by the crafty priests who stood below the spreading branches of an ancient ash which grew near the fount, pronouncing a benediction on the weary pilgrims as they drank of the waters. And as it was celebrated for its healing qualities in many different distempers, numbers yearly visited it from a great distance to benefit by its virtues with as much devotedness as the Mahometan pilgrims visit the tomb of their Prophet. Insanity was also cured here. Several persons testified before the Presbytery of Stirling, in 1668, that having carried a woman thither, they staid two nights at a house hard by the well. The first night they bound her twice to a stone at the well, but she came into the house to them being loosed without any help. The second night they bound her again to the same stone and she returned loosed. And they also declared that “she was mad before they took her to the well, but since that time she is working and sober in wits.”
“This well was still celebrated in the year 1723 and votive offerings were left, but no one then surviving appeared to appreciate the virtues of the stone. Small offerings were given in coin and thrown into the well and those who had no coin brought white stones which were laid in regular order along the declivity where the water runs to the river. Coins have been of late found in the well and the white stones are still to be seen. The officiating priest generally resided at Drummond Castle. Within the last sixty years, several of the gentry have come in their carriages to inspect these relics which were held in so great reputation in ancient times. The chapel and well are about one mile south west from Muthill.”
MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
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 the conspicuous boulder known as the Falls of Monzie (6) stone. Two or three yards to its side is a large flat stone. That’s it!
Archaeology & History
This large flat smooth earthfast rock, is possessed of a number of very faint cup-marks. Altogether there are at least nine cup-marks, most of which are closing in to the middle of the stone, with other single cups near the western and southern edges.
Near the middle of the rock, one cup has an equally faint semi-circular arc, just visible on the photos here. Close-up photos of this semi-circle seem to suggest it was more complete in ages gone by, but the erosion is such that it’s difficult to say with any certainty. (possibly the computer-tech kids could give us a bit more certainty). The nearest other carving with more definite cup-and-rings can be found on the Falls of Monzie (8) stone, about 200 yards to the west.
Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the Falls of Monzie (2) carving; but instead of walking off the track to see that particular carving, keep to the track for about another 60 yards then go up the slight slope on your right. The stone is pretty much overgrown, but if you’re patient you’ll find it.
Archaeology & History
It is difficult to say with any certainty whether or not this petroglyphs has previously been reported. A somewhat confusing series of descriptions by several writers would indicate that is has not been recorded; but I’m happy to be shown otherwise… It’s nowt much to look at if truth be had. Heavily eroded by the elements, this elongated flat stone possesses seven very shallow cups, with a possible eighth, as you can see highlighted in the photo.
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 along here for 250 yards (230m) yards (the track has straightened out here) and then walk into the reeds on your right. About 15 yards in, look around!
Archaeology & History
Another one of those fascinating carvings that had me here for an hour, maybe more, poring over more and more features as the light, shadow and rock gave more and more depending on how I looked at it. Tis the same with many petroglyphs, of course… But I liked this one.
On initial impression it didn’t seem up to much: maybe a few faint cups—some certain, others no so much. But the more attention we gave this stone, so more of those unlikely faint cups became much more real. At first there were a dozen; then 15 or more; but as we gave it more and more attention, so more of the petroglyphic design showed its original form. They do that, these stones! When George Currie rediscovered this carving in 2008 he found 17 cup-marks on the stone, but at least thirty of them go to make up this petroglyph. There may even be a very faint, albeit incomplete ring around one of them, but I’ll let the computer-tech kids work that one out!
This carving has that peculiar and not-too-infrequent element of having some cups carved into the natural cracks in the stone. In this case, at least four of them can be seen etched into the large deep crack that runs along its more northern edge. They’re quite distinct once you get your focus on them. In this case—albeit it to a much lesser extent—this feature reminded me of the impressive West Strathan carving in Sutherland. But where this natural crack finishes, it has been artificially extended until it reaches the eastern edge of the stone. You’ll also notice in the photos highlighting this feature, that another artificial line has been carved at right-angles to it, heading south, until it meets another natural crack in the stone. It’s quite distinct. And along this second artificial line, you’ll notice another cup or three—one of which has been cut into the line. These two man-made extended cracks in the stone, give the simple impression of an early cross symbol. Features such as this, whilst seemingly trivial to the bog standard explorer, possess some very curious myths in some living traditions elsewhere in the world; but such things are beyond the remit of this site profile.
Currie, G., “Falls of Monzie, Perth and Kinross (Crieff parish), Cup-marked rock”, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland (New Series) volume 9, 2008.
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.
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.
A bit troublesome to locate if you don’t know the area. Get into the town centre where the paved St George Square is by the main road. Cross the road and go up Hill Street, which runs straight into Ferntower Road. A few hundred yards up turn left up Ewanfield, all the way to the very end at Crieff Hydro. From here you’ll see the path uphill by the tennis courts. Walk up and past the holiday chalets until your hit the road that curls round the bottom of the woods. Go along until you find the car park and just above here by the roadside is a tourist board showing the Knock Walk footpath. The Cradle Stone is about 250 yards up the Knock Walk from here, 100 yards into the woods on the right.
Archaeology & History
This large broken boulder is the result of it once living further up the hillside. One of Nature’s great forces then kicked the olde fella and he rolled down the hill to its present position. It was mentioned in a detailed 19th century geological survey by Mr Thomson (1836), where he told:
“At Crieff, in Perthshire, there occurs a series of low hills running parallel to the Grampians. These hills consist of old red sandstone and greywacke. On one of them, the Cnock, the village of Crieff is built. Upon the south-east side of this hill, towards the southern extremity, not far from the summit, there are deposited a number of boulder stones of syenitic granite. The largest of these is called the ‘Cradlestone’. It is nearly spherical, quite smooth on the surface, and 29 feet in circumference. It has been split in two by lightning, (according to the tradition of the place,) and one of the fragments has made one complete revolution down the hill and then stopped. The weight of this boulder is about 30 tons. The nearest mountains of syenitic granite, are those in the neighbourhood of Bennevis, distant more than 60 miles north-west…”
The stone was subsequently entered in Fred Cole’s (1911) outstanding survey of the local megaliths, although acknowledged it has having no archaeological pedigree. The Cradle Stone, he wrote, is
“the appellation printed in Old English lettering on the Ordnance Map, given to one of two huge boulders difficult to find in the fir-woods at the western extremity of the Knock, and at a height of nearly 600 feet, midway between Knockearn House and Culcrieff. On visiting the site, the conclusion became apparent that these two blocks were merely natural curiosities, and had no interest for the archaeologist beyond the name.”
In volume 10 of the New Statistical Account it was told how local folklore attested the Cradle Stone as being where the babies came from, perhaps intimating some fertility legend long since forgotten.
The main thing attached to this giant broken stone is the old folk-tale that used to be more well-known in the 19th century than it is today. It was narrated at length in Macara’s (1881) fine pot pourri of local histories and legends and which I hope you can forgive me citing in its entirity here:
“In the memory of men still living, two well-known weavers, named James Livingstone and James M’Laren, lived in Barnkettick, at the west end of the town. Livingstone was a thorough wag, and M’Laren was somewhat of a simpleton. Livingstone was in the habit of telling his neighbour all sorts of extravagant stories about ghosts and witches. The facility with which the latter fraternity could turn themselves into hares and scamper about was an accepted fact, which M’Laren as truly believed as his Bible.
“The Rocking or Cradle Stone on the brow of the Knock, behind the town, was supposed to be of Druidical origin, and for ages drew forth the fear and wonder of the natives. A belief prevailed that something valuable was buried in its foundation, and worth lifting, if it could only be got at. Livingstone having heard of “Whang, the Miller” directed McLaren’s attention to the subject of valuable treasure being beneath the cradle stone, which was greedily swallowed, and he expressed his astonishment that no one tried digging for it.
“Livingstone suggested that they both should try it, and divide the spoil. M’Laren agreed, and it was resolved to make the attempt that night after dusk. The necessary picks and spades were soon borrowed. Livingstone called on an acquaint- ance or two, and informed them of the “ploy,” and they readily agreed to arrange and have some fun at the “howking” of the treasure.
“The acquaintances were up at the spot early, with a view to set some snares for hares, so that the journey would combine pleasure with profit. They had also provided a few “squibs” for contingencies. At the time appointed the two weavers, with their implements on their shoulders, arrived at the stone and set to work. M’Laren did so with strong impressions of a coming calamity, which soon made him feel the greatest terror. Livingstone worked with a will, and upbraided M’Laren with cowardice.
“With that a strange, unearthly sound came up the hill, and on looking round, a ball of fire was seen careering through the underwood. M’Laren felt queerish and almost speechless. Another hissing sound was heard, and the strange fire came nearer. Livingstone still wrought on, telling M’Laren never to heed, as these things were only bits of falling stars. M’Laren thought otherwise. They were in the neighbourhood of Monzie, where it was certain there were plenty of witches, and it was evident something “no canny” was brewing. He would have given anything to have been at his loom.
“In an instant three or four fiery darts from different directions came hissing along, and darted through the heath at their feet. M’Laren was paralysed with fear. Livingstone ceased work instantly, and jumping out of the trench he made, yelled he smelt brimstone, rushed from the stone and was lost in the darkness. Poor M’Laren’s limbs trembled like a leaf and were scarcely able to support him. As he was trying to follow his companion, another fire shower rained about him, and down the hill he went like a deer, yelling on Livingstone to wait on him.
“As he neared the parks above Milnab, the hares acid rabbits were scampering in all directions, and a few found their necks in the snares, which caused them to squeal at the pitch of their voices too. M’Laren being now thoroughly convinced that the witches were let loose, speed was added to his limbs, and with supernatural fleetness he bounded over all obstructions and found himself in an instant or two in his room, and jumped into bed. A cold sweat broke out all over his body and his heart beat with sharp thuds, shaking the bed. It was some time ere he could collect his scattered senses, so as to realise whether or not he was dreaming. The moisture in his eyes caused every blink of the fire to appear like the horrid hissing fire darts of the Knock. After a time he fell into a stupor, the recent events being still vividly before his mind.
“His cronies on the Knock tumbled amongst the heather and broom, shouting with joy at the success of the scheme. After giving vent to their excited feelings they went back to the Cradle Stone and lifted the picks and spades, and on their way home went round the snares and found a good “take.” As they were killing the hares, Livingstone suggested that a live one be taken to M’Laren, which was readily agreed to. On reaching home, Livingstone slipped into M’Laren’s house, and all seemed at rest. Creeping quietly ben to Jamie’s end of the bigging, he tied the live hare to the foot of his bed. As he was retiring he jostled against the hen roost and set the cock a-crowing, which so far roused Jamie that he thought it was scarcely morning yet. The cock crowed away, and soon the neighbouring roosts bestirred themselves, and all the cocks in the neighbourhood returned the vocal sound, as if it were morning.
“Poor Jamie, on reflecting, resolved that if he got over the present raising of “Auld Clootie” scathless, he would pledge himself never to trouble him or his again. As he thus pondered he thought he heard a strange pattering on the floor, and an occasional slight pull at the bed. On straining his eyes and looking floorwards he saw something not unlike a reputed witch moving about the foot of the bed. On closer observation this was fully confirmed, and he instinctively roared for help. His daft brother was now roused, and he roared also, and the hamlet dogs lent a willing voice. The wags who had collected outside rushed in, and on putting some fir roots on the fire the blaze showed Jamie, nearly demented, in bed, with his wearing clothes still on, and some dogs entering the room set a-worrying the hare. At the sight of well-known faces Jamie jumped out of bed. So much excited that it was feared that the joke had been carried rather far. Livingstone was still equal to the occasion, and drawing a bottle of whisky from his pocket handed round a few glasses, and in a short time “they didna care for deils a boddle.” Jamie was advised to divest himself of his clothes and go to bed, which he did, and soon fell into a deep sleep, and awakened next morning not much the worse. The affair got wind, and many a country fireside was made merry by the story of the Cradle Stone treasure.”
Were it not for the valuable records in the Scottish Statistical Accounts, we’d have lost all knowledge of this site. It was described in notes by by Colin Baxter (1793), where he told us:
“About 200 yards west from the church of Monivaird, a barrow was opened some years ago, in which two urns were found, each containing a stone of a bluish colour, very hard about four inches long, and of a triangular shape, somewhat resembling the head of an axe.”
The site was subsequently mentioned in the Ordnance Survey Name Book of the parish, with some additional bits of information:
“In the year 17–, there was found, about one hundred yards to the westward of the old church of Monzievaird, a barrow containing a stone-coffin, in which were inclosed two coarse earthen urns, the one filled with burnt bones, the other containing the bones of the head. Of these, the under jawbone and the teeth were very entire. In the stone coffin was also found a stone hatchet, bluish-coloured, very hard, about four inches long, and of a triangular shape, a remain which proves the barrow of very remote antiquity – prior to the use of iron. The stone hatchet is preserved at Ochtertyre.”
No traces remain of the site; and although the stone axes came to be in the possession of Sir William Murray of Ochtertyre, the urns and other remains have long since been lost.
The name of ‘St Serf’s Water’ derives from it this area being dedicated to St Servanus in early times; the holy well of St Serf could be found a short distance south from where this tomb was built.
Baxter, Colin, “United Parishes of Monivaird and Strowan,” in Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 8, William Creech: Edinburgh 1793.
A mile to the west side of Crieff, in the grounds of the 18th century mansion known as Ochtertyre House, could once be seen the little-known sacred well of St Serf. Sadly its waters seem to have disappeared beneath the rising waters of the loch known as St Serf’s Waters—which is a pity, as the place was of importance in the annual traditions of the local people, who left offerings to the spirit of the place, as was common in days of olde. It was described in Mr Porteous’ (1822) account of Monzievaird parish, in which he told that,
“Nigh to this place is St Serf’s Well, and the moor whereon St Serf’s market is held. He was the tutelary saint of the parish of Monivaird. This well is a plentiful spring of water. About sixty years ago, our people were wont, on Lammas day, to go and drink it, leaving white stones, spoons, or rags, which they brought with them; but nothing except the white stones now appear, this superstitious practice being quite in oblivion. It has been useful in a strangury, as any other very cold water would be; for a patient, taking a tub full of it immediately from the well, plunging his arms into it, which were bare to the elbows, was cured.
“St Serf’s fair is still kept on the 11th of July, where Highland horses, linen cloth, etc., both from the south and north, are sold.”
Although the well is deemed to be ‘lost’, it is possible that its waters might be seen after a good drought. Please let us know if that happens.
St. Serf was said to have been a hermit and tutor of the more renowned St. Mungo.
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
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
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.”
Bord, Janet, Footprints in Stone, Heart of Albion Press 2004.