Standing Stones: OS Grid Reference – NT 0291 8660
Also Known as:
- Canmore ID 49451
- The Tuilyies
Go west out of Dunfermline on the A994 till you hit the Torryburn roundabout, taking the A985 Kincardine road. Barely a half-mile along, stop at the first parking layby at the roadside – and there, over the barbed wire fence, you’ll see your standing stones right in front of you.
Archaeology & History
Overlooking the northern shores of the Firth of Forth is this fascinating group of standing stones which, old lore told, was once an old stone circle. You can see what they meant. The Tuilyies consists of a small group of three stones, between 3 and 7 feet tall, arranged in the form of a scalene triangle; and about 20 yards away stands the more impressive outlying 8 foot tall upright stone, somewhat akin to a petrified ancestor, with both natural and man-made cup-markings on at least two sides of its slim body. This outlying stone is of a very different character to that of its close neighbours—and a different type of stone as well—and is very similar in both size and appearance to the Robin Hood Stone at Allerton, near Liverpool. Curious…
Whether the stones here were part of a stone circle we don’t know for sure. It was suggested as such in 1793 and Aubrey Burl (2000) includes them in his primary survey, but we have little evidence to prove as such nowadays. The parish of Torryburn not only had to contend with industrial agriculture knocking down any stones that may once have stood here, but in the 17th century the village also had to tolerate the psychiatric delusions of one reverend Allan Logan: one of the many deranged priests who saw witchcraft and demons in everything natural or animistic, persecuting local people for their old traditions, herbalism and peasant-lore. (Beveridge 1885; Cunningham 1902; Webster 1820, etc) These old stones were unlikely not to have received his depraved attention. But thankfully, some remain standing…
The Tuilyies seem to have been described first of all in the 1793 Old Statistical Account of Scotland—and in that narrative we find one of the earliest descriptions of cup-markings. It told that,
“In a pretty extensive plain field NE of the village of Torryburn, there is a flat stone, raised upon one end, of a shape nearly oblong and measuring, from the surface to the top, about 8 feet, and about 4½ in breadth, Round the edge of it there is a deep circle, and on each of the sides a number of ridges, all of which wear the appearance of art and antiquity. At about 18 or 20 paces from this stone, there is a number of smaller ones, which, from their present position, seemed to have formed part of a circle.”
Many years were to pass before these old stones heard from the men of words again. This time it was the renaissance of cup-and-ring designs that brought them back to light, when Sir James Simpson (1866), in his massive precursory essay to British Archaic Sculpturings (1867) talked about them:
“The stone at Torrie, Fifeshire…is a flattened sandstone flag, deeply guttered in longitudinal lines, and presenting cup- markings on its eastern side. It has been attempted to be made “a holed stone,” like (the) this block at Ballymeanoch (Argyll), but the artificially splayed perforations from the opposite sides do not meet in the middle. About fifty paces from it are the remains of a small circle of stones.”
Unusually, J. Romilly Allen only mentioned the stones in passing, simply repeating Simpson’s earlier words. Even local historians gave the site scant attention. In David Beveridge’s (1885) magnum opus he gave only a brief mention of the stones; and A.S. Cunningham (1902) did likewise. Thankfully after a visit to the stones by the Royal Commission lads in May 1925, a more detailed description was given. They wrote:
“The site of the cup-marked standing stone…is a plateau, 150 feet above sea level, in a field on Torrie Estate about half a mile to the northeast of the village of Torryburn, and on the north side of the drive to Torrie House. At a distance of 60 feet from it are three huge boulders, and the four are said to be the remains of a circle, although that idea is not borne out by their present disposition.
“The cup-marked stone rises to a height of 8 feet above the ground and has its narrow faces to the north-east and south-west. It is of irregular form, narrowing somewhat at 7 inches from the base, expanding outwards at the middle, and contracting again to a roughly convex top. On the east face the lower portion is covered with cup-marks. which vary from 1½ to 5 inches in diameter and from 1½ to 2 inches in depth. At a height of 6 feet from ground level, in the south-west angle of the stone, is a cavity 7 inches in depth, while there is a similar cavity of like depth opposite to it on the west face. The stone is also marked on the east and west faces, as well as on the top and down the narrow sides, with a series of perpendicular grooves of varying depth, but all these channels are due to weathering. Its measurements are: north face, 1 foot 3 inches; south face, 1 foot 4 inches; east face, 4 feet 4 inches; west face, 4 feet 3 inches; girth at base, 10 feet 8 inches; at 7 inches up, 8 feet 10 inches; at middle, 10 feet 5 inches.
“The three other boulders are set in the form of a triangle immediately to the south of this cup-marked stone, at intervals of 12, 15 and 16 feet apart. One has evidently fallen from an upright position and now lies with its major axis north and south. None of the three shows any markings. They are of whinstone, while the cup-marked standing stone is of grey sandstone.”
But as for the lack of cup-markings on the outlying smaller stones, when Ron Morris (1973) examined the site in the ’70s, he found what seemed to be some cup-marks on the largest of the group of three stones, as shown in the photos. On this he reported,
“25yds S of the well-known cup-marked standing stone are 3 large boulders. The W of these, measuring 7′ x 4½’ x 3½’ high, bears on its slightly W-sloping top surface 7 cups cup to 2″ diameter and ½” deep.”
When I visited the site the other day, these were difficult to see—cos as the photos here show, Nature gave us a bittova dark grey day and such carvings are notoriously temperamental when weather conditions aren’t to the stone’s liking!
The Old Statistical Account of 1793 told that the stones were supposed to have “been the scene of a battle in some former period, and these stones…mark the graves of some of the chiefs, who had fallen in the engagement.” The lore was echoed in David Beveridge’s (1885) huge local history work, where he informed the reader that many standing stones along the Forth,
“are all connected with the Danish incursions. One specially may be mentioned, standing near Torryburn, the parish adjoining Culross, in a field which is still known by the name of the Tuilzie, or Battle Park.”
- Allen, J. Romilly, “Notes on some Undescribed Stones with Cup Markings in Scotland,” inProceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 16, 1882.
- Beveridge, David, Culross and Tulliallan: Its History and Antiquities – volume 1, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1885.
- Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
- Cunningham, A.S., Romantic Culross, Torryburn, Carnock, Cairneyhill, Saline and Pitfirrane, W. Clarke: Dunfermline 1902.
- Morris, Ronald W.B., “The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties – part 2,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1969.
- Morris, Ronald W.B., “Torryburn, Torry – Cup-Marked Rock’, in Discovery & Excavation in Scotland, 1973.
- Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
- Simpson, J.Y., “On Ancient Sculpturings of Cups and Concentric Rings,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 6, 1866.
- Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
- Webster, David, A Collection of Rare and Curious Tracts on Witchcraft and Second Sight, D. Webster: Edinburgh 1820.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian