Watcher Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 11816 46563

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.109 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.263 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  3. White Wells 05

Getting Here

Watcher Stone by the path

From Ilkley, go up to White Wells (ask a local if y’ get stuck) and walk round the back of the building. Walk to the trees and then follow the footpath up onto the moors; but after 70 yards a small footpath on your right goes up the slope.  Take this and after about 90 yards it veers round to your left, following the contours up towards the copse of trees.  Another 100 yards up it meets with another path and once here, just yards in front of you, right by the side of the footpath, is the stone in question.

Archaeology & History

First described in John Hedges (1986) survey, this simple cup-marked stone typifies many petroglyphs on these moors: a barely visible design much eroded by centuries of wind and water, with markings perhaps only of interest to the devoted student and explorer.  But at least it’s a good place to sit, rest and watch the valley below.

Looking down at the cups
Hedges 1986 sketch

This old fella looks to have only five cupmarks on its supper surface, one of which is elongated, as shown in Hedge’s drawing.  However, when he saw this, he thought the elongated ‘cup’ consisted of three of them in a line, all linked up.  He saw a “medium sized smooth grit rock standing in grass, its surface triangular in shape, with flat top sloping slightly N to S.  Three cups connected by a groove, c. four other cups, all shallow and worn.”

This description was echoed in Boughey & Vickerman’s survey (2003), where they thought that the “triangular top surface has about seven worn cups, three connected by a short groove.”  But if the light isn’t quite right, this can be very difficult to see.

References:

  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  2. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.

Links

  1. The Watcher Stone on The Megalithic Portal

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.915082, -1.821597 Watcher Stone

Castleton (7c), Airth, Stirlingshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS  8551 8819

Archaeology & History

Looking down on C-7c

Near the northwestern end of the small geological ridge that runs to the west of Castleton farmhouse, close to an awesome nine-ringed carving, we find this more simplified triple-ringed petroglyph.  And although the carving is easy enough to describe, its labelling (as ‘Castleton 7c’) is rather troublesome.  As with other carvings in this locale, the name of the stone is based on a survey done by Maarten van Hoek in the mid-1990s.  But van Hoek’s sketch of Castleton 7c and the one shown in our photos, whilst very similar, possess attributes that aren’t on van Hoek’s drawing.  Now this isn’t too odd, as many petroglyphs look different when lighting conditions change; to the point where some features you can see one day are almost invisible the next.  But this carving has attributes that are very difficult to miss – and van Hoek’s detailing tended to be good.  But, all this aside: until we can verify with certainty one way or the other and despite my suspicions that this isn’t what van Hoek described, I’m still entering this carving as Castleton 7c. So – now that bit’s out of the way…!

When we visited the site two years ago the day was dark and overcast, so we didn’t really have good conditions for seeing any faint carvings.  But this wasn’t faint, thankfully.  It was completely buried beneath soil and gorse bushes, but thankfully Paul Hornby managed to unearth the one you can see in the photos.  If it is the Castleton 7c petroglyph, it was rediscovered by van Hoek on one of his ventures here in 1985.

Carving showing wavy lines on right
…and from another angle

When we visited the site we only managed to uncover a small section of the stone, as the roots of the surrounding gorse prevented us from seeing more. (it’s tough stuff unless you’ve got the right gardening equipment!)  The section we uncovered consisted of a cup-and-triple-ring.  This is consistent with van Hoek’s sketch and description; but we also found there were two very notable ‘arcs’ on the outer edge of the rings—nearly opposite each other—as if another, fourth ring had been started.  You can’t really miss these elements – and even in the poor lighting conditions we had, these outer arcs are very evident on a number of photos – especially when they are expanded to full-scale.  However, as I mentioned, we were unable to uncover all the rock; but when van Hoek was here there was far less herbage.  What he saw on this carving was as follows:

“Deturfing part of this ridge revealed a fine cup with three rings with a broadly pecked tail; one solo cup; one large oval ring with small central cup; and a faint cup with two rings, the outer one incomplete.  The rock slopes 12º ENE.”

Crap drawing done in crap lighting
van Hoek’s 1996 sketch

The “broadly pecked tail” he mentions is also not really clear in any of the 60 photos we took.  There is a faint line that runs through the three rings, into the central cup and out the other side: a single curving line no less.  It’s certainly visible, but it’s far from broad.  But there are a number of other lines coming out of the rings.  These maybe just natural scratch marks, or even scratches acquired from farming activity.  It’s difficult to say.  In the poor light that we had, there as looked to be a single cupmark a few inches away from the rings, but this isn’t consistent with the position of the cupmark on van Hoek’s sketch.

There’s a simple solution to all this: we need to revisit the site and expose more of the rock.  At least that will tell us once and for all whether this is the same as van Hoek’s stone, or whether we’ve found yet another new carving. Watch this space, as they say! 😉

References:

  1. van Hoek, Martin A.M., “Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth, Central Scotland,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.072784, -3.840828 Castleton CR-7c

Castleton (5f), Airth, Stirlingshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 85584 88087

Archaeology & History

As with other carvings in this locale, the name of the stone is based on a survey done by Maarten van Hoek. (1996)  It’s a pretty simplistic design within the impressive Castleton complex, found at the southeastern end of the gorse-covered rocky ridge, about 70-80 yards west of the farmhouse.  It was uncovered on a visit here by Nina Harris, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer and Lisa Samson on Sunday 19 November, 2018.

The cup-marked stone
Large cup & arc of 3

Unlike the others in the Castleton complex, this carving is probably of interest only to the hardcore petroglyph hunters.  The design consists of at least ten cup-marks on the uncovered section of the rock, one of which appears to have a broken circle with two ‘entrances’ either side of it, so to speak.  The most notable element in the design is close to the edge, where an arc of three cups almost corners a larger cup right at the edge.   There may be more carved elements to be found on the westerly side of the stone, which was covered in deep vegetation when we came here.

References:

  1. van Hoek, Martin A.M., “Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth, Central Scotland,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.071877, -3.839595 Castleton 5f carving

Nor Hill, Skipton Moor, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 02181 51125

Getting Here

Along the A65 near Draughton, go (south) uphill at Height Lane until it levels out.  ¾-mile (1.2km) up, a modernized stone milepost is where the road crosses the ancient Roman Road. From here, walk west for just over a mile (1.8km), past the trees on yer right, until you approach a small copse on yer right. In the field just before the copse, walk uphill until you reach the highest of the two rises and walk about. You’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

Nor Hill cup-marked stone
Cupmarks, top & side

This small cup-marked rock was rediscovered by Chris Swales in April 2018.  It’s probably only for the purist petroglyph fanatics amongst you, consisting of just a single cup-mark on its vertical west-face, and another near its top western edge.  Official records show no other carvings in the immediate vicinity, but local antiquarians may find it profitable in surveying the area.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.956212, -1.968251 Nor Hill CR-1

MacBeth’s Stone, Belmont, Meigle, Perthshire

Standing Stone / Cup Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 27997 43473

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 30824
  2. Siward’s Stone
  3. Witches’ Stone

Getting Here

MacBeth's Stone, near Meigle

MacBeth’s Stone, near Meigle

From the centre of Meigle village, you need to go along the country lane southwest towards the village of Ardler (do not go on the B954 road).  About three-quarter of a mile (1.25km) along—past the entrance to Belmont Castle—you’ll reach a small triangle of grass on your left, and a driveway into the trees.  Walk down here, past the first house—behind which is the stone in question.  A small path takes you through the trees and round to it.  You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

MacBeth Stone on 1st OS-map

MacBeth Stone on 1st OS-map

This is a magnificent site.  A giant of a stone.  Almost the effigy of a King, petrified, awaiting one day to awaken and get the people behind him!  It has that feel of awe and curiosity that some of us know very well at these less-visited, quieter megalithic places. Its title has been an interchange between the Scottish King MacBeth and the witches who played so much in his folklore, mixed into more realistic local traditions of other heathen medicine-women of olde…

The first account of this giant standing stone came from the travelling pen of Thomas Pennant (1776) who, in his meanderings to the various historical and legendary sites of Meigle district, wrote that

“In a field on the other side of the house is another monument to a hero of that day, to the memory of the brave young Seward, who fell, slain on the spot by MacBeth.  A stupendous stone marks the place; twelve feet high above ground, and eighteen feet and a half in girth in the thickest place.  The quantity below the surface of the Earth is only two feet eight inches; the weight. on accurate computation amounts to twenty tons; yet I have been assured that no stone of this species is to be found within twenty miles.”

It was visited by the Ordnance Survey lads in 1863, several years after one Thomas Wise (1855) had described the monolith in an article on the nearby hillfort of Dunsinane.  But little of any substance was said of the stone, and this is something that hasn’t changed for 150 years, despite the huge size of this erection!  Local historians make mention of it in their various travelogues, but the archaeologists haven’t really given the site the attention it deserves.  Even the Royal Commission (1994) report was scant; and apart from suggesting it to have a neolithic provenance, they merely wrote:

“Rectangular in cross-section, the stone tapers to a point some 3.6m above the ground; each of its sides is decorated with cupmarks, as many as forty occurring on the east face and twenty-four on the west.”

MacBeth Stone (Wise 1884)

MacBeth Stone (Wise 1884)

East face of MacBeth's Stone

East face of MacBeth’s Stone

Thankfully, the fact that there are cup-markings on the stone has at least given it the attention it deserves amongst the petroglyph students.  The first account of the cup-markings seem to have come from the pen of Sir James Simpson (1867) who mentions them, albeit in passing, in his seminal work on the subject.  A few years later however, the same Thomas Wise visited MacBeth’s Stone again, and not only described the carvings, but gave us our first known illustration in his fascinating History of Paganism (1884).  He told it to be,

“A large boulder, some 12 tons in weight, situated within the policies of Belmont Castle, in Strathmore, Perthshire…is supposed to have been erected on the spot where MacBeth was slain.  Two feet above the ground this boulder has a belt of cups of different sizes, and in irregular groups.  None of these cups are surrounded by incised circles or gutters.  This boulder was probably intended for some sacred purpose, as it faces the SE.”

Running almost around the middle of the standing stone, on all four sides, are the great majority of the cup-markings (no rings or additional lines are visible).  They were very obviously etched into the stone after it had been erected, not before.  This is in stark contrast to the cup-and-rings found on the standing stones at Machrie, Kilmartin and elsewhere, where we know the carvings were done before the stones were stood upright.

Cup-narks on western face

Cup-narks on western face

Cups on the western face

Cups on the western face

On the northern face of the stone is one possible cup-marking, and three of them are etched onto its south face; but the majority of them, forty, are on its western face, and twenty-five on its eastern side.  The great majority of them on the east and west sides occur roughly in the middle of the stone, almost like a ‘belt’ running across its body.  Those on the eastern face are difficult to discern as a thick layer of lichens covers this side, so there may be even more beneath the vegetation.

An increasingly notable element in the singular monoliths of this region, echoed again here, is that at least one side of the standing stone is smooth and flat—in the case of MacBeth’s Stone the flat face is the eastern one.  Whether this was a deliberate feature/ingredient in some of the standing stones, I do not know.  If there was such a deliberate reason, it would be good to know what it meant!

The 'face' in the top of the stone

The ‘face’ in the top of the stone

Close-up of Macbeth's face

Close-up of Macbeth’s face

Another fascinating feature at this site was noticed by Nina Harris of ‘Organic Scotland’.  Meandering around the stone in and out of the trees, she called our attention to a fascinating simulacra when looking at the upper section of the monolith on its southern side.  At first it didn’t seem clear – but then, as usual, the more you looked, the more obvious it became.  A very distinct face, seemingly male, occurs naturally at the top of the stone and it continues as you walk around to its heavily cup-marked western side.  It’s quite unmistakable!  As such, it has to be posited: was this simulacra noticed by the people who erected this stone and seen as the spirit of the rock?  Did it even constitute the reason behind its association with some ancestral figure, whose spirit endured here and was petrified?  Such a query is neither unusual nor outlandish, as every culture on Earth relates to such spirit in stones where faces like this stand out.

But whatever your opinion on such matters, when you visit this site spend some time here, quietly.  Get into the feel of the place.  And above all, see what impression you get from the stony face above the body of the stone. Tis fascinating…..

Folklore

Known locally as being a gathering place of witches, the site is still frequented by old people at certain times of the year, at night.  The stone’s association with MacBeth comes, not from the King himself (whose death occurred many miles to the north), but one of his generals.  In James Guthrie’s (1875) huge work on the folklore of this region, he told that this giant

“erect block of whinstone, of nearly twenty tons in weight…(is) said to be monumental of one of his chief officers”,

which he thought perhaps gave the tale an “air of probability about it.”  But Guthrie didn’t know that this great upright was perhaps four thousand years older than the MacBeth tradition espoused!  However, as Nick Aitchison (1999) pointed out in his singular study of the historical MacBeth,

“another MacBeth was sheriff of Scone in the late twelfth century and it is possible that he, and not MacBeth, King of Scots, is commemorated in the name.”

He may be right.  Or it the name may simply have been grafted onto the stone replacing a more archaic relationship with some long forgotten heathen elder.  We might never know for sure.

When Geoff Holder (2006) wrote about the various MacBeth sites in this area, he remarked that the folklore of the local people was all down to the pen of one Sir John Sinclair, editor of the first Statistical Account of the area—but this is a gross and probably inaccurate generalization.  Nowhere in Holder’s work (or in any of his other tomes) does he outline the foundations of local people’s innate subjective animistic relationship to their landscape and its legends; preferring instead, as many uninformed social historians do, to depersonalise the human/landscape relationships, which were part and parcel of everyday life until the coming of the Industrial Revolution.  Fundamentally differing cultural, cosmological and psychological attributes spawned many of the old myths of our land, its megaliths and other prehistoric sites.  It aint rocket science!  Sadly, increasing numbers of folklore students are taking this “easy option” of denouncement, due to educational inabilities.  It’s about time researchers started taking such misdirected students to task!

References:

  1. Aitchison, Nick, MacBeth – Man and Myth, Sutton: Stroud 1999.
  2. Coutts, Herbert, Ancient Monuments of Tayside, Dundee Museum 1970.
  3. Guthrie, James C., The Vale of Strathmore – Its Scenes and Legends, William Paterson: Edinburgh 1875.
  4. Hazlitt, W.C., Faiths and Folklore: A Dictionary, Reeves & Turner: London 1905.
  5. Holder, Geoff, The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire, History Press 2006.
  6. MacNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough – volume 1, William MacLellan: Glasgow 1957.
  7. MacPherson, J.G., Strathmore: Past and Present, S. Cowan: Perth 1885.
  8. Michell, John, Simulacra, Thames & Hudson: London 1979.
  9. Pennant, Thomas, A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides – volume 2, London 1776.
  10. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, South-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1994.
  11. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
  12. Wise, Thomas A., “Notice of Recent Excavations in the Hill Fort of Dunsinane, Perthshire,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 2, 1855.
  13. Wise, Thomas A., History of Paganism in Caledonia, Trubner: London 1884.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks to Paul Hornby for his help getting me to this impressive monolith; and to Nina Harris, for prompting some intriguing ideas.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

MacBeth's Stone

loading map - please wait...

MacBeth\'s Stone 56.577634, -3.173642 MacBeth\'s Stone

The Green, Glen Lochay, Killin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference — NN 53976 35248

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 274203
  2. Falls of Lochay

Getting Here

The cliff-face and its ledge

Going out of Killin towards Kenmore on the A827 road, immediately past the Bridge of Lochay Hotel, turn left. Go down here for just over 2 miles and park-up where a small track turns up to the right (half-mile before the impressive Stag Cottage carvings), close to the riverside and opposite a flat green piece of land. Notice a small cliff-face just over the fence by the road and a small ledge about 3 feet above ground level. That’s yer spot!

Archaeology & History

Deep & shallow cups together

Rediscovered by rock art student George Currie in 2004, this small, little-known and unimpressive cup-marked site was carved onto a rocky ledge just off the roadside down Glen Lochay.  Comprising of at least three very distinct cup-marks—two next to each other on the far-right of the ledge and the other on the nose of the rock—at least another three more shallow cups are on the same surface. What looks like an unfinished cup, or deliberately etched crescent-Moon-shaped cup, has been cut into the same ledge a yard to the left of the prime cluster.

In Currie’s (2004) brief description of the site, he told:

“Ledge, 1m above ground level on a rock face; four cups, 50 x 25mm, 45 x 15mm and two at 40 x 10mm.”

Looking down at rock surface

Curious crescent-shape ‘cup’

It’s unusual in that the cups have been carved onto a small ledge that’s too small to stand upright on.  Whilst not without parallels, it’s an odd position to find petroglyphs and begs the question, “why here?” when there are other rocks close by that are easier and more accessible.

References:

  1. Currie, George, “Falls of Lochay (Killin parish): Cup-Marked Rocks”, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, volume 5, 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

The Green CR

loading map - please wait...

The Green CR 56.486693, -4.373006 The Green CR

Glesart Stanes, Glassford, Lanarkshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NS 73609 46916

Also Known as:

  1. Avonholm
  2. Canmore ID 45595
  3. Glesart Stones
  4. Struthers Burial Ground
  5. Three Stones

Getting Here

Glesart Stones on 1864 map

From the roundabout in Glassford village, head west down Jackson Street along the country lane of Hunterlees Road.  About 600 yards on, turn right at the small crossroads (passing the cemetery on yer left) for about half-a-mile, before turning left along a small track that head to some trees 400 yards along.  Once you’ve reached the trees, walk uphill and follow the footpath to the right, keeping to the tree-line.  It eventually runs to a small private graveyard. You’re there!

Archaeology & History

Glesart Stones,
looking west

In the little-known private graveyard of the Struthers family on the crest of the ridge overlooking the River Avon and gazing across landscape stretching for miles into the distance, nearly a mile east of Glassford village, several hundred yards away from the Commonwealth graveyard, a cluster of yew trees hides, not only the 19th century tombstones, but remnants of some thing much more archaic.  Three small standing stones, between 2½ and 4 feet in height, hide unseen under cover of the yews, at the end of a much overgrown ancient trackway which terminates at the site.  They’re odd, inasmuch as they don’t seem to be in their original position.  Yet some form of archaic veracity seems confirmed by the weathered fluting: eroded lines stretching down the faces of two of the taller stones and, more importantly, what seem to be cup-markings on each of the monoliths.

Cup-mark atop of east stone

Easternmost stone

The tallest stone at the eastern end of the graveyard has a deep cup on its crown.  This may be the result of weathering; but we must exercise caution with our scepticism here.  Certainly the eroded lines that run down this stone are due to weathering – and many centuries of it; but the peculiarity is that the weathering occurs only on one side.  This implies that only one side of the stone was open to the elements.

Central cup-marked stone

‘X’ carved atop of central stone

The second, central stone of the three, is slightly smaller than the first.  Unlike the eastern stone, its crown has been snapped off at some time in the past century or so, as evidenced in the flat smooth top.  But along the top are a series of small incised marks, one of which includes a notable ‘X’, which may have been surrounded by a circle.  A second fainter ‘X’ can be seen to its side, and small metal-cut lines are at each side of these figures.  Another small section of this stone on its southern edge has also been snapped off at some time in the past.  The most notable element on this monolith is the reasonably large cup-mark on its central west-face.  It is distinctly eroded, measuring 2-3 inches across and an inch or more deep.  Its nature and form is just like the one in the middle of the tallest of the standing stones at Tuilyies, nearly 31 miles to the northeast.

Western smallest stone

The Three Stones

The smallest of the three stones is just a few feet away from the central stone.  To me, it seemed oddly-placed (not sure why) and had seen the attention of a fire at its base not too long ago.  On its vertical face near the top-centre of the stone, another cup-marking seems in evidence, some 2 inches across and half-an-inch deep—but this may be natural.  The Glasgow archaeologist Kenneth Brophy reported that on a recent visit, computer photogrammetry was undertaken here, so we’ll hopefully see what they found soon enough.

There is some degree of caution amongst some archaeologists regarding the prehistoric authenticity of the Glesart Stanes – and not without good cause.  Yet despite this, the seeming cup-marks and, particularly, the positioning of the stones in the landscape suggest something ancient this way stood.  The stones here are more likely to be the remains of a once-larger monument: perhaps a cairn; perhaps a ring of stones; or perhaps even an early christian site.  At the bottom of the hill for example, just 350 yards below, is a large curve in the River Avon on the other side of which we find the remains of an early church dedicated to that heathen figure of St. Ninian (his holy well close by); and 300 yards north is the wooded Priest’s Burn, whose history and folklore seem lost.

The Glesart Stanes were the subject of an extended article by M.T. M’Whirter in the Hamilton Advertiser in 1929 (for which I must thank Ewan Allinson for putting it on-line).  He wrote:

“Situated on the highest hill-top on the estate of Avonholm, north to the house of that name, is the private burial ground of James Young Struthers… Situated within the burial ground are three upright flagstones of a dark brown colour, rough and unhewn,  Each stone is facing the east, and placed one behind the other, though not in a straight line, and the space between the eastern and the middle stone is eight feet, and the space between the middle and the western stone is seven feet.  The stone flags vary in measurement, the eastern stone being the greater, standing four feet three inches high, three feet eight inches broad, and one foot thick.  The middle stone is three feet high, three feet ten inches broad, and nine inches thick; and the western stone is three feet high, four feet broad and ten inches thick.  The two outer stones bear no letters, figures or marks, but the centre stone has rudely sculptured on the top-edge the Roman numerals IX, and on the western side of the stone there is a cup-shaped indentation about two inches in diameter.  A groove 26 inches in length extends from the top of the stone to below the level of the cup indentation.  The groove is deeper at the top, but gradually loses in depth towards the bottom end.  I have seen grooves similar to above by the friction of a wire rope passing over a rocky surface.  The numerals, cup indentation and groove do not appear to be part of the original placing of the stones and, if a cromlech, then in the centuries that have gone, the stones becoming exposed to view by the removal of the mound, would invariably have led to a search for stone coffins or urns, yet no discovery of either has ever been recorded.”

Indeed, Mr M’Whirter was sceptical of them being part of a prehistoric burial site, preferring instead to think that a megalithic ring once stood here.  He continued:

“From an examination of the three stones, I am convinced that they form a segment of a circle, and assuming that nine additional stones complete the circle, it would enclose a space of roughly one hundred feet in circumference, with each stone facing an easterly direction.”

But we might never know for certain…. The only other literary source I have come across which describes the site is that by the local vicar, William Stewart (1988), who told us that:

“The stones stand erect, six feet apart, three rough slabs of coarse-grained sandstone, three feet high, three feet broad and six inches thick, free of any chisel marks.  Two have their back to the east, the third, oblique to the others, has its back to the south-east, thus there is no suggestion of a stone circle.  There are vertical grooves on two of the stones, while the centre stone has a cupmark, below which is a faint circle, one foot in diameter.  They stand at the end of a long narrow strip of land with low earthen walls on either side, perhaps an old agricultural field division, and they gave their name ‘Three Stanes’, to a now partly-lost road which eventually reached The Craggs and ended as Threestanes Road in Strathaven…”

The Three Stones

The “faint circle” described by Mr Stewart is barely visible now.  And the idea that these “three stones” gave their name to the farmhouse and road of the same name at the other side of Strathaven, three miles west, seems to be stretching credulity to the limits.  Surely?

Folklore

In 1845, Gavin Laing in the New Statistical Account for Lanarkshire told that:

“These stones are known simply as the “Three Stones”. There is a tradition in the neighbourhood that three Lords were buried here, after being killed while looking on at a Battle. The stones are about 3½ feet high and about as thick as flag stones. They stand upright being firmly fixed in the ground.”

The stones and their traditional origin were also mentioned in Francis Groome’s Ordnance Gazetteer (1884), where he echoed the 1845 NSA account, but also added:

“Three tall upright stones are here, and have been variously regarded as Caledonian remains, as monuments of ancient noblemen, and as monuments of martyrs.”

Then at the end of the 1850s, when the Ordnance Survey lads came here, they reported,

“Three high stones stand upright on a small eminence upon the lands of Avonholm, respecting their origin there are various opinions. They are probably the remnants of Druidical superstition.”

References:

  1. Groome, Francis H., Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland – volume 1, Thomas C. Jack: Edinburgh 1884.
  2. M’Whirter, M.T., “The Standing Stones at Glassford,” in Hamilton Advertiser, 1929.
  3. Stewart, William T., Glasford – The Kirk and the Kingdom, Mainsprint: Hamilton 1988.
  4. Wilson, James Alexander, A Contribution to the History of Lanarkshire – volume 2, J. Wylie: Glasgow 1937.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.699160, -4.012596 Glesart Stanes

High Banks (03), Kirkcudbright, Kirkcudbrightshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NX 709 489

Archaeology & History

One of the lost High Banks carvings

One of the lost High Banks carvings

The drawing here is another by the legendary Fred Coles, previously unpublished until Maarten van Hoek (1990) brought it out of the dusty archives of the Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright, and described it in his article on prehistoric rosette motifs.  As with its fellow carving of High Banks 2, the location of the site remains unknown; and van Hoek wondered whether these two lost carvings “could have been located at the spot where now the little quarry at High Banks site is found.”  Let’s hope not!

References:

  1. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Galloway and the Isle of Man, Blandford: Poole 1979.
  2. van Hoek, M.A.M., “The Rosette in British and Irish Rock Art,” in Glasgow Archaeological Journal, volume 16, 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  54.818808, -4.010494 High Banks (3)

High Banks (02), Kirkcudbright, Kirkcudbrightshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NX 709 489

Archaeology & History

One of the lost High Banks carvings

One of the lost High Banks carvings

This impressive carving was found somewhere in the vicinity of the well-known High Banks (01) cup-and-ring menagerie, with its clustered mass of cups and multiple rings.  And the carving we see here possesses something of a similarity with its complex neighbour—but it remains lost.

The drawing was done by our old Scottish megalithomaniac Fred Coles, who discovered the carving when he visited the area around the beginning of the 20th century.  It remained unpublished until fellow rock art student Maarten van Hoek (1990) explored the region and found it hiding away in the archives at the Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright.  The multiple rings of cups surrounding central cups and cup-and-rings are very rare things indeed and this carving is utterly unique in the British Isles.

In Coles’ drawing, as well as the large carving, we have two other elements below, boxed.  These are taken from a notebook found in the same Stewartry Museum and thought to have been done by a Mr G. Hamilton around 1866.  In the lower-box, the double-ringed cup with its surround of two more rings of cup-marks was suggested at first by van Hoek (1990) to possibly be the same carving as that found by Coles.  But he questioned this, sensibly, as the carved design ‘B’,

“comprises 35 cups (its diameter stated to be 21 inches / 51cm), whereas Coles’ diagram of ‘A’ shows only 24 outer cups.  The unknown artist moreover says that, ‘The above (B) is one of a splendid group on Banks Farm.’  So this rosette (B) might be a completely different specimen altogether.”

I have to agree with him.  In the second smaller box, ‘C’, the drawing of the cluster of cup-marks is taken from the same 19th century notebook in which the author said there was a cluster of

“70 to 100 small cups without any apparent system, except being in a group of 7 with cup in the centre—also 3 or 4 circles.”

No other details were given.  Petroglyph explorers in the area should keep their senses peeled when meandering about here, for this and other missing carvings (High Banks 3).

References:

  1. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Galloway and the Isle of Man, Blandford: Poole 1979.
  2. van Hoek, M.A.M., “The Rosette in British and Irish Rock Art,” in Glasgow Archaeological Journal, volume 16, 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  54.818708, -4.010574 High Banks (2)

White Caterthun Carving, Menmuir, Angus

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 54671 66022

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 35007

Getting Here

White CaterthunCR01

The carving below the walling

Many ways here, but from the nearest town of Brechin, take the minor north road out of town (not the B966) to Little Brechin, heading roughly north to the renowned hillforts of White and Brown Cathertun (ask a local if needs be).  Park up and walk up the slope to White Cathertun, following the immense walling around to the right.  Near where you reach the opposite side of the hillfort, look down the rocky slopes for a large boulder, just on the edge of the walling.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Although Canmore include this cup-marked stone in the site-profile of the incredible White Caterthun hillfort, it should really have an entry of its own, as it’s age and nature very probably pre-date the construction of the giant fortress.  But, this aside, if you’re visiting the hillfort (an incredible place!), at least give this heavily cup-marked stone your attention too.

Looking across the carving

Looking across the carving

Close-up of the main cups

Close-up of the main cups

Probably neolithic in origin, there was a small portable cup-marked companion found 30 yards away, suggesting perhaps that a cairn might once have stood on this hilltop—but tradition is silent on the matter.  No other petroglyphs of any note have been located nearby, which is unusual.  In all probability other carvings remain undiscovered, particularly in the hills immediately to the north.

Consisting of around 80 cup-marks, several of which appear linked by carved lines, the stone has been bound together with concrete and metal bolts after some idiot damaged it in the 19th century.  It was first described by Miss Christian Maclagan (1875) in her stunning megalithic survey of the period.  She wrote:

“To Sir James Simpson’s list of cup-markings we are able to add the one at the Caterthun, on a large block 6 feet long, which is quite covered with very distinctly cut cup-markings.  It is a block of basalt…and the cups are so very clear and sharp in their lines that their freshness can only be accounted for by the stone having lain with the markings buried in the ground.  This curious stone has been quite recently broken in two.  It is a pity to see it so destroyed, because it is valuable to the antiquary in helping to establish a very remote antiquity for the fortification.  It lies on the north side of the fort, among a chaos of stones, having probably once formed the side of a gateway.”

A few years later the late great J. Romilly Allen (1882) visited the site and gave us his description, telling:

“On the west side (of the hillfort), 10 yards north of the boundary of the fir plantation that covers one-half of the hill is a cup-marked boulder… The stone has been broken in two, and one portion of it lies at the foot of the stone rampart just above the first outer ditch, whilst the other half has been rolled down the hill by some mischievous person with more muscles than brains, and is to be found immediately below, where its further progress was arrested by coming in contact with the outermost wall.  The two fragments when placed together measure 6 feet 9 inches long by 3 feet wide, and 1 foot 9 inches thick.  The stone is greenish quartzose slate, and on its upper surface are carved eighty cups, varying from 1½ to 2½ inches diameter.  In two cases two cups are united into one by a connecting groove.”

J. Sherriff's 1995 drawing

J. Sherriff’s 1995 drawing

J.R. Allen's 1882 drawing

J.R. Allen’s 1882 drawing

The most recent description and illustration of the stone is in John Sherriff’s (1995) survey. When we visited the carving recently we noticed three cup-marks etched onto the side of the stone, with a possible carved line running above one of them—but due to the bright sunlight on of the day of our visit, it was difficult to say whether this was a geological in nature or not (bright daylight can hamper good visibility of many carvings).  Check it out!

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Notes on some Undescribed Stones with Cup Markings in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 16, 1882.
  2. Kenworthy, J., “White Caterthun: Cup-Marked Stone”, in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, 1980.
  3. MacLagan, Christian, The Hill Forts, Stone Circles and other Structural Remains of Ancient Scotland, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1875.
  4. Sherriff, John, “Prehistoric Rock-Carvings in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.783562, -2.743499 White Catherthun carving