Cup-and-Ring Stone (removed): OS Grid Reference – NO 378 308
Archaeology & History
This little-known cup-and ring stone was found at ground level sometime around 2003, near the top of Balgay Hill. A small portable stone that may have been broken from a larger slab, it has what seems to be two if not three cup-and-rings, accompanied by two or three single cup-marks. One of the rings seems to have a faint line coming out of it. Unfortunately none of this is clear in the photos I took (the one attached here is the best), as it lives under glass in Dundee Museum, so it was very difficult to get decent images. It is now housed in the McManus Museum in Dundee (a damn good place, with very helpful staff) and well worth checking out if you’re in the area.
First highlighted on the 1933 OS-map of the area, it was located alongside the old fence-line, but no subsequent description of the carving has been made since then. A small boulder and a number of other stones can be found along the line of fencing, but none seem to be possessed of petroglyphs and apart from it being shown on the old maps, I can find no reference or description of it. Some researchers have wondered if the carving was mistakenly marked at this spot by surveyors who confused it with some others more than 500 yards to the southeast (described by Fred Coles in 1903), but this would seem an unlikely error to have been made. It may have been destroyed.
Coles, Fred, “Notices of …(4) of Some Hitherto Undescribed Cup-and-ring-marked Stones…” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 37, 1903.
Acknowledgements:Many thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Legendary Rock (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – HP 5223 0467
Archaeology & History
Whilst classifying this as a “legendary” rock, it was as much a functional stone that played an integral part of local village life in the 19th century and, most probably, way before that. This large stone possessed a large cavity in the shape of a giant human footprint, measuring 12 inch by 4 inch. It could be seen “above the Deeks of Bracon, North Yell, up Hena”, but when first described in 1865, it was said to be “no longer in existence.” Despite this, when an Ordnance Survey dood came looking for it in 1969, he reported it as “still in existence” and known of by local people. Is there anyone in the far far north who can tell us?
The impression of the large footprint was natural, but the use to which local people made of it is valuable when we seek to understand pre-industrial customs. The Royal Commission (1946) lads echoed the folklore handed down by J.T. Irvine from 1865, telling that,
“Formerly the people used to wash in dew or rain-water that had gathered in the cavity and stand in it to get rid of warts. The tradition was that a giant had planted one foot here and the other on a stone on the Westing of Unst.”
Healing stones with such properties can be found everywhere on Earth.
Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland – volume 3, HMSO: Edinburgh 1946.
A site whose main claim to fame is its legendary nature. Seemingly buried or destroyed around the end of the 19th century, there have been suspicions that the stone might have had cup-marks on it (see Folklore below), but we’re not sure. Modern lore tells that when roadworks were done here in the 1950, a large stone was uncovered. A local man who was passing by told that he’d seen the Crawey Stone in his youth and that the stone they’d uncovered was one and the same.
The story that used to be told amongst local people was thankfully preserved in an article by the pseudonymous “Mormond” (1889) in Scottish Notes & Queries. He told that:
“In the parish of New Deer, and in a field near the Old Castle of Fedderat, there is a large boulder of ten or twelve tons known as the Crawey Stone. I am unable to say if it still occupies its old site, or if it has been broken up for building purposes. The legend connected with this stone used to be well known in the parish, and a version of it appeared in The Aberdeen Magazine some 70 or 80 years ago. This version is substantially the same as the legend known in the district, and relates how a Crawford, the lord of the castle and lands, one day “as he looked o’er his castle wa’ ” — a phrase which often occurs in old ballads — observed a crunkled carl (old woman or witch, PB) inspecting the stone and afterwards successfully lifting up one end clear of the ground. Not to be conquered by such a shabby looking stranger, the laird, who was famed for his athletic powers, went out and challenged the carl; but on attempting to lift the boulder, burst a blood vessel; and the carl, who stood by watching him, suddenly disappeared in a flash of fire taking the remains of the laird along with her. The tradition is that the laird was not mourned for in the district, and the moral drawn was “He couldna hae expected ony ither en’.” When passing the boulder going to school, the legend was often referred to, and some indentations on it pointed out as the marks of the ill man’s fingers made at the time the superhuman feat was accomplished.”
These finger marks have been taken as possible cup-markings. They might have been, but we simply don’t know; they may just have been curious natural markings that gave rise to this animistic creation myth. Another tale told that the markings were due to an old giant in the neighbourhood who used the rock as a putting stone and rolled it to the spot where it used to stand. Giants are always attached to indigenous creation myths, some of which go back thousands of years.
“a large Stone of a roundish shape, built on an old fence, forming a side of the Public road leading from New Deer to Brocklay. Tradition asserts that it has been the putting Stone of a Giant in ancient times. There are Several holes in the Stone said to be the finger marks of the Giant.”
The easiest way to find this is to take the same directions to reach the Woofa Bank settlement. Get your compass out and make sure that you’re at the northern edge of the settlement walling. From here, walk about 60 yards northwest and keep your eyes peeled for a rock about 2 feet high, curved and elongated with its top surface above the heather. You’ll find it.
Archaeology & History
The name I’ve given to this stone is a conjectural one based entirely on comparative petroglyph designs elsewhere in the world. Or to put it more simply: elsewhere in the world we find examples of prehistoric rock art showing animal tracks and rituals relating to hunting animals, and in the design of this petroglyph on Ilkley Moor I wondered if we might be looking at something similar. Internationally respected anthropologists, archaeologists, geologists and rock art specialists such as Lawrence Loendorf (2008), Polly Schaafsma (1980), Dennis Slifer (1998) and many others show examples of animal tracks in the US and Mexico (examples exist throughout the world), and it’s not unlikely that some of the petroglyphs in the UK represent such things. But, like I say, this particular carving may have nowt to do with such a thing and the idea is entirely conjectural on my part and is probably way off the mark.
Located less than 60 yards (54m) northwest of the impressive Woof Bank enclosure, it’s possible that the first literary note of this was by Stuart Feather (1968) when he made note of five cup-and-ring marked rocks (which) have been revealed by erosion in 1968,” telling us that some of the motifs on the rocks included cups with and without rings, channels and eye-shaped marks (occuli)— the latter of which may relate to this stone.
A more definite description of the stone was made in John Hedges (1986) survey where he described it in that usual simplistic form, telling us: “Long rock, its surface on two levels, sloping N to S in heather. Two large oval cups and one cup at N end. One clear cup at S end.”
It is these two elongated cups that have the distinct appearance of deer tracks. (another animal with a similar footprint is the goat) The cup-mark in front of them and the one at the back of the rock may be something relative to the animal. But more important than this is to recognise that, in lots of cultures, animal tracks are represented in some petroglyphs. That’s more important to think about when you look at British rock art, than the improbability of this design being such a thing…
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
Feather, Stuart, “West Yorkshire Archaeological Register – Ilkley (WR) Green Crag Slack,” in Yorkshire Archaeology Journal, volume 42, 1968.
Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
Loendorf, Lawrence L., Thunder and Herds – Rock Art of the High Plains, Left Coast: Walnut Creek 2008.
Schaafsma, Polly, Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, University of New Mexico Press 1980.
Slifer, Dennis, Signs of Life – Rock Art of the Upper Rio Grande, Ancient City: New Mexico 1998.
This is a curious stone and may not be the type of ‘cup-marked’ rock we’re used to. Maybe… It is presently housed in Stirling’s Smith Art Gallery & Museum, where a small note tells that is was originally found “on the top of the Ochils, near Mount Alt Farm, Path of Condie in 1893.” The stone was found at the same time, and adjacent to, a prehistoric collared urn—which implies it had an association with a cairn or cist, or burial site of some sort (which isn’t uncommon). However, the exact location of its original whereabouts has been forgotten.
Broken off from a larger piece of stone, the remaining piece of rock has six cup-markings cut into it, between one and three inches across. The smallest cup is what we might call a ‘normal’ size, but the rest of them get increasingly large and may have been more functional than purely mythic in nature. In a small note attached to the stone in the Museum, they add the interesting note that,
“There are…indications that in some places they may be related to transhumance: the practice of moving sheep, cattle and goats to higher pastures in the summer, where they may have been used to mark routes or sources of water.”
They may indeed – amongst a variety of other things too. But the suggested relationship with cattle occurs in stones found near Haworth, West Yorkshire, where large man-affected carved ‘cups’ such as the ones here, were known to be filled with milk at specific times of Nature’s calendrical rhythms, for the spirits of the place to give good fortune to the farmer and local people. We know of one instance where this practice still occurs and goes back generations in the same family. Examples of this animistic practice have also been found in the Scottish Highlands.
Along the A81 road from Port of Menteith to Aberfoyle, watch out for the small road in the trees running at an angle sharply uphill, nearly opposite Portend, up to Coldon and higher. Keep going, bearing right past Mondowie and stopping at the dirt-track 100 yards or so further up on the left. Walk up this dirt-track for ⅔ mile, and just before reaching the planted forestry, turn right along another dirt-track. Less than 200 yards along there’s a large sycamore tree, and about 20 yards below it (south) are several open flat rock surfaces. This is the most westerly of them.
Archaeology & History
On this small smooth rock surface we find an almost archetypal cup-and-ring stone, whose design consists of a double cup-and-ring and a faint cup-and-ring. The double-ring has several seemingly natural small fissures in the rock running at various angles into the central cup from the outside; and there are two faint ones running from the double-rings outwards to the cup-mark in the single-ring, framing the central cupmark in the middle. It may have been that these scratches on the rock gave rise to the position of the cupmark in this petroglyph. It’s difficult to see whether or not the single cup-and-ring was ever completed.
Canmore’s description of this petroglyph tells simply: “The larger of the two is 180mm in diameter and has two rings around a cup that is 70mm in diameter and 15mm deep. The smaller has one ring around a cup.”
Along the A81 road from Port of Menteith to Aberfoyle, watch out for the small road in the trees running at an angle sharply uphill, nearly opposite Portend, up to Coldon and higher. Keep going, bearing right past Mondowie and stopping at the dirt-track 100 yards or so further up on the left. Walk up this dirt-track for ⅔ mile, and just before reaching the planted forestry, turn right along another dirt-track. Less than 200 yards along there’s a large sycamore tree, and about 20 yards below it (south) is the carving you’re looking for.
Archaeology & History
It’s difficult keeping up with the carvings in this region to the north of the Lake of Menteith, as we find new unrecorded ones on every visit, maintaining the tradition of fellow rock art students Maarten van Hoek, Kaledon Naddair, George Currie, Jan Broewer and the rest—and we know that there’s more of them hidden away. This one doesn’t seem to be in the Canmore listings, but I put that down to the fact that they’ve got a grid-references wrong somewhere, as it’s pretty plain to see. Although, to be honest, in the rather vague descriptions of the adjacent carvings (Over Glenny 4 and 6), this carving is in-between them, so you’d expect it to be listed. Anyway, that aside…
This long flat exposed rock surface has two primary cup-and-rings upon it: one cup with a double-ring, and the other standard cup-and-ring; there are also two single cup-markings on the stone: one near the middle of the rock and the other on its lower-right side. The main element is the double-cup-and-ring, which appears to be incomplete—not only in terms of its design, but also, as you can see in the photos, seems unfinished. From the central double-ring, a faint carved line runs out from the centre and into the other faint, incomplete, single cup-and-ring.
At the bottom of the stone (as with several others hereby) a curious set of deep scars have been cut into the edge of the rock. They’re unmistakable when you see them. They have probably been created by metal artifacts being sharpened along the bottom of the rock—many many times by the look of it. These deep cuts reminded me of the more famous Polisher Stone, down Avebury-way. They may be explained by the fact that, several centuries ago, a battle occurred here and some of the men gathered in the area before the attack. It would seem as if this and the other cup-and-ring stones were used to sharpen their blades before going into battle. Whether this was done because of some local lore which imbued these stones with some sort of magick, we do not know. Folklore here seems curiously scarce (english incomers destroyed local traditions, as writers were telling us in the 19th century), apart from the well-known one of the area being rife with fairies: Robert Kirk’s famous The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Faeries (1691) was written three miles west of here, at Aberfoyle.
Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the James Stone monolith. From here, walk about 60 yards southeast and zigzag about in the heather until you find a small squarish-shaped earthfast rock, barely 6 inches above ground-level (might be hard to find when the heather’s fully grown). If you’ve got a petroglyphic nose, you’ll find it!
Archaeology & History
A simple faded cup-marked stone, roughly 2½ feet by 2 feet across, can be found about 65 feet southeast of the James Stone and 40 yards west of the Benty Gate prehistoric enclosure. Sadly when we visited the place a few days ago, the sky was grey and the conditions for good photos were poor.
At least five cup-marks have been etched onto the stone, with the main element being a row a three cups in a straight line from the centre of the stone to its SE edge. The central cup-mark has been carved where a natural crack in the rock, running from the edge of the stone, terminates. There also seemed to be a carved faded line running along the bottom edge of the stone—but it was unclear and another visit is needed in better light to see if there’s more on the stone.
Take the same directions as if you’re visiting the Cob Stone Field carving; but instead of going into the field on your right, walk down the track about 100 yards towards the large barn below. As you walk down keep your eyes peeled to the field on your left and, right up against the wall of the barn, you’ll see a large boulder resting quietly. That’s what yer after!
Archaeology & History
This large faded cup-marked rock whose western side has been split off in recent years, has a scatter of “up to 21 small shallow worn cups” on its upper surface. They can be difficult to see in some light, but they’re definitely there (as Ray Spencer’s photos clearly show), fading slowly into Nature’s winds and storms. A couple of ‘lines’ running down the edge of the stone are due to modern farm-workings.
Several other rocks in this and adjacent fields have what may be faded remains of other cup-markings, but without guidance from a geologist or a stone-mason, we can’t know for sure whether they’re authentic or not. It’s likely that there are other authentic carvings hiding in this area—they just need sniffing out!
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, West Yorkshire Archaeology Service 2003.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Ray Spencer for us of his photos in this site profile. Thanks Ray.