Go along the A977 road out of Powmill village towards Crook of Devon, and as the road swerves uphill, past the Powmill Milk Bar on the right-hand side of the road, take your next right. Go along this small country lane for a mile or so, past Maidenwells Farm; then as you go uphill, stop at the very top. Look in the field on your left, where a small round clump of trees are surrounded by circular walling. The cairn’s inside the protective walling.
Archaeology & History
This Bronze Age tomb sits quietly amidst the ring of trees and walling which give the site cover and protection and, of course, an excellent view of the landscape for the spirit of whichever ancestor lives here. The place seems to have been described first of all in the Old Statistical Account of the area, in 1796, where they told:
“In the middle of Carleith are the ruins of an old building, perfectly circular, and nearly 24ft in diameter. Not long ago, the proprietor ordered this ground to be planted, and the stones were dug up to make a dyke. Two stone coffins were found each 4 feet long by 3 feet broad, and contained some human bones and teeth.”
Today, the overgrown remains of the cairn measure roughly 10 yards across, with the beeches reaching their great roots into and around the old tomb. The sides of the stone cist are still visible amidst the undergrowth. It was measured and described in a letter to the Ordnance Survey by J.S. Nichol in 1959, who thought there may have been more than one tomb here.
Although we don’t know for certain, one of the legendary witches known as ‘Meg of Aldie’ was said to frequent an old site close to where she lived – perhaps the Carleith cairn. The site is a damn good contender for such heathen rites!
Simpkins, Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Fife, Folklore Society: London 1914.
In the lovely village that is the Crook of Devon, go down Church Lane, past the houses, until you meet with the dirt-track on your left that runs straight up beneath a grove of trees heading into the green fields. Go up here 100 yards until you meet another track that goes sharp left. Just here, 10 yards along, a solitary tree sits by the wall; and just past it is a large boulder up against the walling. This is the Bull Stone!
Archaeology & History
If you didn’t know owt about this place, you wouldn’t even give it a second-thought. A decent-sized rock, obviously broken-up and then plastered back together again, is innocuously resting up against the wall. But it appears to have had some significance in bygone centuries, although its full story has yet to be recovered. It was described in the Royal Commission (1933) report for antiquities, where they told:
“Built against the dike on the north side of an old roadway, half a mile to the south of Crook of Devon, is a huge sandstone boulder known as ‘The Bull Stone.’ It is probably an old boundary mark or, like the Leslie Stone…it may have some association with the old-time pastime of bull-baiting. The stone was broken up a number of years ago, and the fragments were carted away to be built up in another dike hard by, but, in response to public agitation, they were returned to the original site and cemented together. The boulder rises 3½ feet above ground and has a girth of about 13 feet at the base. It is not set up vertically, but lies on its side.”
It may originally have been a standing stone as local lore tells that it once stood as high as a grown man, but is now only half that size. It may have been one of the meeting places of the legendary witches at the Crook of Devon, but this is guesswork on my behalf (so best ignored!).
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.