Butter Well, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 9610 0018

Getting Here

The marshland of the Butter Well

The marshland of the Butter Well

Take the long uphill road to Castle Campbell and park up at the top.  From here, bear to your right and walk up the footpath onto the hills.  A few hundred yards along you’ll reach a gate and you have the choice of continuing along the path, or dropping down into the small glen and up the other side, towards the ruins of an old settlement called Craiginnin, whose walls you can see from here.  Head there, keeping to the path that leads you to it, going through the first couple of gates and out the other side.  Just above the burn, some very overgrown walling is evident (possibly Iron Age in nature), where excessive Juncus reeds are growing. Amidst this is a boggy pool.  Unless the boggy-land across the burn is the place in question, this is probably the spot!

Archaeology & History

The boggy waters of the well

The boggy waters of the well

There’s very little to see here today other than a murky boggy pool, indicating it hasn’t been used for a long time; although when we visited the place there were several animal tracks into the edge of the pool, indicating that they still drink here.  This implies it has/had some medicinal virtues, but even I wasn’t going to try drinking this!  If there was ever a stone trough here, it too has gone (probably nabbed by a farmer in bygone years) and there seems to be no archaeocentric reference to the place.  The well was described in place-name and folklore accounts, where its waters were used by the people living at this settlement to clean and prepare the butter made by the farmer.

Folklore

The hills, glens and burns of the Ochil range were well-known haunts of fairy folk—and Craiginnan was no exception.  In an early article in the Scottish Journal of Topography, a pseudonymous “J.C.” of “13 Dalrymple Place” (who was it?) told of several dying traditions and, amidst it all, the story behind the Butter Well above Castle Campbell:

“The meadow of Craiginnan, in the vicinity of these hills, was (and still is) famous for the quantities of hay it yearly produces.  Nearly seventy years ago, David Wright rented the farm of Craiginnan.  His servants on cutting the grass of the meadow, were in the custom of leaving it to the management of the fairies.  These aerial beings came from Blackford, Gleneagles, Buckieburn, etc., and assembling on the summit of the Saddlehill descended to their work among the hay.  From morning till evening they toiled assiduously.  After spreading it out before the sun, they put it into coils, then into ricks, when it was conveyed into the adjacent farm-yard, where they built it into stacks.  This kindness of the fairies David Wright never forgot to repay, for, when the sheep-shearing came round, he always gave them a few of the best fleeces of his flock.  He flourished wonderfully, but finding his health daily declining, and seeing death would soon overtake him, he imparted to his eldest son the secret of his success and told him ever to be in friendship with the “gude neebors.”

“The old man died and was succeeded by his son, who was at once hard, grasping and inhospitable.  The kind advices and injunctions given him by his father were either forgotten or unattended to.  Hay-making came round, but young Wright, instead of allowing the “green-goons” to perform what they had so long done (thinking thereby to save a few fleeces), ordered his servants to the work.  Things went on very pleasantly the first day, but on going next morning to resume their labour, what was their surprise to find the hay scattered in every direction.  Morning after morning this was continued, until the hay was unfit for use.  In revenge for this, he destroyed the whole of their rings, ploughed up their green knolls, and committed a thousand other offences.  He had soon reason, however, to repent of these ongoings.

“One day the dairymaid having completed the operation of churning, carried the butter, as was her wont, to the butter well on the east side of the house, to undergo the process of washing, preparatory to its being sent away to the market.  No sooner had she thrown it into the well, than a small hand was laid upon it, and in a second the bright golden treasure disappeared beneath the crystal waters!  The servant tried to snatch it; but alas! it was lost—irrecoverably lost forever! and as she left the place a voice said:

“Your butter’s away’
To feat our band
In the fairy ha’.”

“The horses, cows and sheep sickened and died; and to complete all, Wright, on returning from a Glendevon market, night overtook him in the wild pass of Glenqueich.  He wandered here and there, and at last sunk into a “well-e’e”, in which he perished.  After his death the farmhouse went gradually to demolition and its bare walls are now only to be seen.”

Butter Well site, looking west

Butter Well site, looking west

The place-name ‘Craiginnan’ is thought to derive from the somewhat banal “crags by the anvil-shaped land”, which is grasping at some desperate straws if you ask me!  But it’s also been suggested by Angus Watson (1995) to possibly derive from the “Gaelic Creag Ingheann, maiden crag”, which would acquaint it with the nearby Maiden’s Well and Maiden’s Castle a mile northeast of here—both of which are possessed of their own fairy-lore.  Makes a lot more sense too!

References:

  1. “J.C.”, “Rhymes and Superstitions of Clackmannanshire,” in Scottish Journal of Topography, Antiquities & Traditions, volume 2, Jul 1, 1848.
  2. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914. p.312
  3. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.182946, -3.676236 Butter Well

Warlocks’ Tomb, Muckhart, Clackmannanshire

Tomb/s (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9928 9865

Archaeology & History

Site of Warlock’s Tomb

A fascinating site that was described in Johnston & Tullis (2003) local history work on the parish of Muckhart. Amidst an area bedevilled with faerie, boggarts, ghosts and historical shamanic moot sites we find more curious folklore pointing at a long forgotten site, whose age and precise nature remains a mystery.  Adjacent to the old boundary line, close to the meeting of streams, the Muckhart authors told that,

“an orchard above the old farmhouse to this day remains mainly untouched.  It was the burial site of warlocks from the parish and it is thought some may have even been burned at the Mill.  It has always been said that this ground should never be touched!  There is an ancient rubble bridge over the Hole Burn which has a Masonic Eye painted on it to ward off any unwelcome spirits.  Despite the eye, both the Farmhouse and the Millhouse have been home to many strange and ghostly manifestations.”

The folklore sounds to be a mix of archaic and medieval animistic traits: perhaps of a prehistoric cairn, visited and maintained by local people (as found throughout Britain) until the Burning Times, when christian fanatics arrived, debasing the cultural rites and murdering local innocent people.  …Perhaps not.

Looking down on the orchard

When Paul, Maggie and I explored the area a few days ago, we were greeted most cordially by the owner of Muckhart Mill, who knew of the folklore, but didn’t know the exact whereabout of the grave.  We couldn’t find any clues as to its exact location either.  Apart, perhaps, from the top of the hill immediately above the orchard where, alone and fenced off with an old covered (unnamed) well, a solitary Hawthorn tree stood.  We each recalled the aged relationship that Hawthorn has in witch-lore… but that’s as far as it went.  The grave remains hidden and may have been destroyed. If anyone discovers its whereabouts, please let us know so that a preservation order can be made to ensure its survival.

References:

  1. Johnston, Tom & Tullis, Ramsay (eds.), Muckhart, Clackmannanshire: An Illustrated History of the Parish, MGAS 2003.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.169908, -3.623531 Warlocks Tomb

Mineral Well, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 9855 9804

Also Known as:

  1. Dollar Chalybeate Spring
  2. Dollar Spa
  3. Vicar’s Bridge Spa

Archaeology & History

Vicars Bridge spring on 1900 map

Somewhere hiding away above the north-side of the River Devon, just above the Vicar’s Bridge, a little-known healing well came into being following industrial workings in the glen in 1831 by a local iron-working company.  The waters were strongly chalybeate, or iron-bearing—and as the fad amongst the wealthy was, at the time, a love of Spa Wells, this mineral spring was broadcast as a competitor of the Harrogate and Bath Spas.  But it failed pretty fast, sadly.

Bottles of the water were marketed and sold as ‘Dollar Mineral Water’ in many of the large cities, but sales weren’t too good.  Johnston & Tullis (2003) pointed out how the waters would have been coloured like brandy; and despite it being good for anaemia, a good tonic, and favourable in treating cuts and bruises, the mineral spring was no longer of any value as a business, dying a quick death.  Local people still kept using the waters, but in recent years the spring appears to have died too.

References:

  1. Johnston, Tom & Tullis, Ramsay (eds.), Muckhart, Clackmannanshire: An Illustrated History of the Parish, MGAS 2003.
  2. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.164034, -3.634884 Mineral Well

Cairnpark, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference — NS 9618 9802

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48240

Archaeology & History

The destruction of this site more than two hundred years ago almost beggars belief.  It isn’t merely the fact that the self-righteous Industrialists did such things consistently, but that this particular tomb was more than just a few cartloads of stone being removed.  The site would also have been completely lost to history were it not for the diligent research of local historian William Gibson (1883).  In exploring the local place-names of the village, he asked the old locals as to “the origin of the name of Cairnpark in Dollar.” This is what he found:

“I have just learned, in the course of my present inquiries, that at the beginning of this century Dollar was possessed of an object of very great interest, but which unfortunately was entirely removed about the year 1806 or 1807. This was nothing less than a great pyramid (well, it was not quite so big as the famous one of Egypt, but still it was a great pile) which had evidently been erected to commemorate some great battle, or the death of some celebrated warrior; and it certainly is very much to be regretted that it should have been removed.  This was an immense cairn of stones, some thirty feet high, and as many square at the base; and the park in which it stood took its name from it—Cairnpark; and the street leading up to the Academy also got its name—Cairnpark Street—from its being made through this park.  It will scarcely be believed, yet it is nevertheless true, that this ancient and interesting cairn was removed for the ignoble purpose of being broken into road-metal for the new turnpike road that was then being constructed along the foot of the Ochils.  By whose orders it was removed I cannot say; but the late Mr. William Blackwood, of the New Town, superintended its removal, and kept a correct note of the cart-loads that were in it, and found they amounted to the astonishing number of one thousand! (my emphasis, PB)

“When the bottom was reached, there were found in the centre of it a number of ancient clay urns, showing that this immense cairn was a thing of great antiquity, and connected with some important event, and, had it been allowed to remain, would have been an object of interest second only to Castle Campbell itself, and an additional attraction to the ancient town of Dollar.  The Rev. Mr. Watson got possession of some of the urns, but what became of them is not now known.”

More than fifty years later, A.L. Drummond (1937) mentioned this old tomb, but could add no further details about it.  Does anyone know what became of the burial remains?  And how on earth could a giant tomb nearly 10 metres tall (Newgrange is 12m), consisting of 1000 cartloads of stone, be destroyed with barely any record of its existence? Astonishing!

Folklore

In a field south of the giant tomb, Gibson (1883) reported, “we used to have glorious ‘bonfires’ on the King’s birthday.”  In Simpkins’ (1914) work, we read of an excess of witches nearby; and of a local giant responsible for creating parts of the landscape—akin to those we sometimes find attached to giant tombs—but nothing specifically relating to this tomb.  Surely there must be remains of some traditions of this place, somewhere…?

References:

  1. Drummond, A.L., “The Prehistory and Prehistoric Remains of the Hillfoots and Neighbouring District”, in Transactions Stirling Natural History & Antiquarian Society, volume 59, 1937.
  2. Gibson, William, Reminiscences of Dollar, Tillicoultry and other Districts Adjoining the Ochils, Andrew Elliot 1883.
  3. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Clackmannan District and Falkirk District, Edinburgh 1978.
  4. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.163563, -3.673073 Cairnpark

Moir’s Well, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 96535 98711

Getting Here

Moirs Well on 1866 OS-map
Moirs Well on 1866 OS-map

Go up the road alongside the Dollar Burn, turning right, up the steep hill as if heading to the Wizard’s Stone and the impressive Castleton monolith, a mile further along.  Before reaching the Wizard’s Stone, keep your eyes peeled on the right for the street-name, ‘Moir’s Well’.  From here, walk up the road less than another 100 yards and till you reach the water-cover.

Archaeology & History

Site of the old Muir's Well
Site of the old Muir’s Well

There is little known about any history of this now-covered old well, halfway up the steep slope towards Lochy Launds.  It was noted by Ordnance Survey in 1861 and subsequently published on the earliest OS-map a few years later. It was obviously a wayside well for those venturing up the steep hill and used to have an old stone trough into which the waters ran.  Although we don’t know for certain, the etymology of the well probably comes from the surname Muir, which according to William Gibson (1883) was common in the old village.

People living in the houses below here, told us that after heavy rains their gardens become very boggy, which is probably due to the sub-surface water from Muir’s Well.  Tis good to know that the waters are still finding their way out!

References:

  1. Gibson, William, Reminiscences of Dollar, Tillicoultry and other Districts Adjoining the Ochils, Andrew Elliot 1883.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.169783, -3.667871 Moirs Well

Deil’s Cradle, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NS 9686 9906

Also Known as:

  1. Devil’s Cradle
  2. Devil’s Rock

Folklore

The Deil’s Cradle stone

Close to the legendary old Wizard’s Stone we find there’s a real cluster of witch-lore in this small area to the north of Dollar, which deserves careful analysis from competent researchers and students.  Not only is there the legendary Lochy Launds of the Black Goddess hereby, there was also this curious rock, described by one ‘J.C.’  in an early edition of the Scottish Journal (1848), which told:

“On the confines of the parish of Dollar, not far from Hillfoot, the seat of John McArthur Moir, Esq., lies a glen, called Burngrens, watered by a small stream and planted with numerous large trees.  A great number of these, however, have fallen, during the last few years, beneath the unsparing axe; but strong, healthy saplings are rising rapidly to supply their place.

“In this glen there is a large stone, of peculiar formation, in every way like a cradle. It is currently believed by the superstitious in the vicinity, that the stone, every Hallowe’en night, is raised from its place, and suspended in the air by some unseen agency, while “Old Sandy,” snugly seated upon it, is swung backwards and forwards by his adherents, the witches, until daylight warns them to decamp.

The following rather curious affair is told in connection with the “Cradle:”

“One Hallowe’en night a young man, who had partaken somewhat freely of the intoxicating cup, boasted before a few of his companions that he would, unaccompanied, visit the stone. Providing himself with a bottle, to keep his courage up, he accordingly set out.  The distance not being great, he soon reached his destination.  After a lusty pull at the bottle, he sat down upon the “Cradle,” boldly determined to dispute the right of possession, should his Satanic majesty appear to claim his seat. Every rustle of a leaf, as the wind moaned through the glen, seemed to our hero as announcing the approach of the enemy, and occasioned another application to fortifying “bauld John Barleycorn.” Overpowered at last by repeated potations, our hero, dreaming of “Auld Nick,” and his cohort of “rigwuddie hags,” fell sound asleep upon the stone.

“His companions, who had followed him, now came forward. With much shouting and noise, they laid hold of him, one by the head and another by the feet, and carrying him, half-awake, to the burn, dipped him repeatedly, accompanying each immersion with terrific yells. The poor fellow, thinking a whole legion of devils were about him, was almost frightened to death, and roared for mercy so piteously that his tormentors thought proper to desist. No sooner had our hero gained his feet than he rushed up the glen, and ran home, resolving never to drink more, or attempt such a feat again. For many a long day he was ignorant who his tormentors really were.

“We stood upon the stone about a week ago. Ivy and moss are slowly mantling over it, a proof that it is some considerable time since the Devil has been rocked on it.”

Historian Angus Watson (1995) told the place to be “south of Wizard’s Stone…near Kelty Burn,” and also that,

“it is said to be where witches rock Satan to sleep on Halloween.”

Above here, the tree-topped rounded hill to the north was one of the meeting places of the witches of Fife, Perthshire and Clackmannan.  Something of sincere pre-christian ritual importance was undoubtedly enacted in this region as the sites of the Maiden are also a short distance due north. Does anyone know more about this fascinating sounding place?

References:

  1. ‘J.C.,’ “The Deil’s Cradle”, in The Scottish Journal, February 5, T.G. Stevenson: Edinburgh 1848.
  2. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914.
  3. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.173072, -3.662833 Deil\'s Cradle

Wizard’s Stone, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 9656 9904

Getting Here

Wizard's Stone on the 1866 OS map
Wizard’s Stone on the 1866 OS map

From Dollar town centre, take the road up to the gorgeous Castle Campbell, but instead of turning up towards the castle, keep on the road, uphill, for another quarter-mile.  As the road begins to level out, a small field and driveway on your left heads up to Kiloran house. Stop here, and note the stone in the field, right by the fence alongside the footpath which runs uphill by the field-side up into the woods.  That’s the Wizard’s Stone.

Archaeology & History

The small Wizard's Stone, Dollar
The Wizard’s Stone, Dollar

This site doesn’t seem to be the remains of an authentic prehistoric standing stone (unlike the one along the same ridge a mile east at Castleton), but is more of a memorial rock relating to some witch traisl that occurred here several centuries ago.  By virtue of this, I felt it needed to be included on TNA.

Not listed by Canmore, the stone is found in an area with a rich cluster of heathen place-names—most intriguing of which is the ‘Lochy Launds’ woodland, right above where this Wizard’s Stone now rests.  The stone has been broken into smaller pieces in recent years—as the photos here show—and the small standing stone which remains is barely 3 feet tall at the edge of the field.

The local writer and historian Rennie McOwan (1989) told that it marked the spot where a warlock was burned in the 16th century.  Years later, a local land-owner called John Moir erected the stone here as a memorial to the event.  This was subsequently echoed by fellow local history writer Bruce Baillie (1998), when he wrote:

“A large whinstone in a field in a field is known as ‘The Wizard’s Stone’, having been set there by one of the Moirs to take the place of a rotting stake said to mark the spot where the last Dollar witch (and, naturally, the last Scots one), named Forrester, was burnt, though this is probably folk confusion with the vicar of Dollar, Thomas Forrest.”

Angus Watson (1995) could find no early references of this stone, other than it being mentioned in the 1860 Ordnance Survey Name Book.  Further information on the site would be most welcome.

Folklore

Wizard's Stone, looking down to the road
Wizard’s Stone, looking down to the road

Reputedly one of the haunts and gathering places of the witches of the area, this spot was also known as Lochyfaulds, which the place-name giant W.J. Watson (1926) tell us means the ‘place of the Black Goddess,’ like the “Valley of the Black Goddess” of Glen Lochay, 40 miles to the northwest of here near Killin.  Modern folklore ascribed the wizard here to have been Merlin—as highlighted in the adjacent place-name of “Merlin Park.”

References:

  1. Baillie, Bruce, History of Dollar, DMT: Dollar 1998.
  2. McOwan, Rennie, The Green Hills, CDL: Alloa 1989.
  3. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDL: Perth 1995.
  4. Watson, W.J., The History of the Celtic Place-names of Scotland, Edinburgh 1926.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.172894, -3.667954 Wizards Stone

Maiden’s Well, Glendevon, Perthshire

Healing Well: OS Grid Reference – NN 9703 0139

Also Known as:

1. Maiden Well

Maidens Well on 1866 map
Maidens Well on 1866 map

Getting Here

Follow the same directions as if you’re going to the Maiden Castle fairy hill.  About 100 yards before reaching the hill, on the right-hand side of the footpath between the tree-line and the small stream, you’ll see a small pool of water. This is Maiden’s Well.

Archaeology & History

Maiden's Well - and the fairy haunt of Maiden Castle hill behind
Maiden’s Well – and the fairy haunt of Maiden Castle hill behind

A mile northeast of the faerie-haunted Butter Well, just on the border of Clackmannanshire and Perthshire, we find this little-known magickal spring.  More than a century ago, the story of this remote well was heard about hundreds of miles away by one Rev. Andrew Clark of Oxford, “who heard it from the late sexton of the parish of Dollar, in the county of Clackmannan” and who then mentioned its existence to the great Victorian Celtic scholar John Rhys (1901), who subsequently wrote of it as being “a fine spring bordered with flat stones, in the middle of a neat, turfy spot”, close to the legendary faerie hall of Maiden Castle. The well itself has now given birth to a pool whose waters, so folklore and text ascribe, always provides good clear water even in the height of summer.

The local historian Hugh Haliburton (1905) told that the well obtained its name from a princess who was held captive in Castle Campbell in the valley to the southwest, and that she was sometimes allowed out of prison by her captors, to walk to the well and drink its waters.

Folklore

This tale has been mentioned by various historians and, no doubt, has some religious relevance to the faerie lore of Maiden Castle, close by, Bruce Baillie (1998) told:

“A story associated with it states that it is haunted by the spirit of a beautiful maiden which only appears at night and, should any male attempt to kiss her, coronary thrombosis occurs.”!

The Maiden's Well pool
The Maiden’s Well pool

Earlier accounts tell of magickal rites that could be used to invoke the beautiful maiden, but once again dire consequences may befall the poor practitioner.

To this day, local people visit the well and make offerings to the spirit of the waters, as you’ll see if you come here.  Some of the remains here are very old; and a visit not long ago indicated that offerings were made even when surrounded by depths of snow in the middle of a freezing winter.

References:

  1. Baillie, Bruce, History of Dollar, DMT: Dollar 1998.
  2. Fergusson, R. Menzies, The Ochil Fairy Tales, Clackmannan District Libaries 1985.
  3. Haliburton, Hugh, Excursions in Prose and Verse, G.A. Morton: Edinburgh 1905.
  4. Rhys, John, Celtic Folklore – Welsh and Manx: volume 1, Oxford University Press 1901.
  5. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.193924, -3.660908 Maidens Well

Maiden Castle, Glendevon, Perthshire

Legendary Hill: OS Grid Reference – NN 9710 0141

Also Known as:

  1. Maiden’s Castle

Getting Here

1860 map showing Maiden Castle (and the Maiden's Well)
1860 map showing Maiden Castle (and the Maiden’s Well)

Take the small steep road uphill from the town of Dollar in Clackmannanshire towards Castle Campbell. Less than 100 yards above the small parking spot by the small white house near the top of the hill, turn to walk up the footpath on your right above the house, following the edge of the depleted forestry plantation parallel with the valley.  Cross the valley a few hundred yards up, but keep to path on the other side that stays parallel with the stream.  You’ll hit a small rocky glen a half-mile up. Walk thru it, alongside the very edge of the forest till the trees break and there’s a gap in the hills.  You’ve just walked past the Maiden’s Well and in front of you is a large natural rounded hill, which the footpath bends around. This hill is the Maiden Castle. (if you walk round this, a view into the eastern hills and a small lake opens up ahead of you)

Archaeology & History

The fairy hill of Maiden Castle
The fairy hill of Maiden Castle

A large rounded hill marking the opening of Glenquey to the north and the Glen of Care to the south. Although ascribed in place-names old and new as a ‘castle’, there are no remains as such left here to account for this title. Angus Watson (1995) tells of the possibility of the place deriving its name from the Gaelic Creag Ingheann, or maiden crag. In Bruce Baillie’s (1998) survey of the area, in trying to give some relevance to the place-name, he points out that whilst no hillfort or cairn that might help account for the folklore (see below),

“Large-scale maps indicate a spot opposite on Hillfoot Hill as Greig’s Grave. There would seem to be something ancient here but of what nature it is, at the moment, impossible to say.”

When we visited the place yesterday, snow still covered much of the ground hereby, so we couldn’t do our usual explorations seeking for old sites (even the hut circles 100 yards away were covered over). The legendary healing waters of the Maiden’s Well are below here, by the side of the burn.

Folklore

This large rounded hillock was evidently a place of some importance in bygone days if the folktale here is anything to go by. Although the story echoes the some of the core sequences of modern ‘close encounter’ abduction events, other ingredients here tell of more arcane peasant rites that were once part of the social structure of our ancient heathen tribes:

“A piper, carrying his pipes, was crossing from Glendevon to Dollar in the grey of the evening. He crossed the Garchil (a little stream running into the Quaich), and looked at the Maiden Castle and saw only the grey hillside and heard only the wind soughing through the bent. But when he had passed beyond it, he suddenly heard a burst of lively music and turned round to look at what was causing it. And there, instead of the dark knoll which he had seen a few moments before, he beheld a great castle, with lights blaring from the windows, and heard the noise of dancing issuing from the open door. He went back somewhat incautiously to get a closer view, and a procession issuing at that moment from the Castle’s open door, he was caught up and taken into a great hall ablaze with lights, while people were dancing on the floor. He was at once asked to pipe to them and was forced to do so, but agreed to do so only for a day or two. At last getting anxious, because he knew his people would be wondering why he had not come back in the morning, as he had promised to do, he asked permission to return home. The faeries seemed to sympathise with his anxiety and promised to let him go if he played a favourite tune of his, which they seemed fond of, to their satisfaction. He played his very best. The dance went fast and furious, and at its close he was greeted with loud applause. On his release he found himself alone in the grey of the evening, beside the dark hillock, and no sound was heard save the purr of the burn and the soughing of the wind through the bent. Instead of completing his journey to Dollar, he walked hastily back to Glendevon in order to relieve his folk’s anxiety. He entered his father’s house and found no kent face there. On his protesting that he only gone away for a day or two before, and waxing loud in his bewildered talk, a grey old man was aroused from a doze beside the fire, and told how he had heard when a boy from his father that a piper had gone away to Dollar on a quiet evening, but had never been seen or heard since, nor any trace of him found. It turned out the piper had been in the ‘Castle’ for a hundred years.”

The Fortean experts John Keel (1971) and Jacques Vallee (1970) both contended, quite rightly, that some aspects of the ancient encounters related in such folklore has strong parallels to modern UFO ‘abduction’ events. In addition, Paul Devereux (1989) cites that such events occur where strong geomagnetic forces exist in proximity to rock outcrops, as found here.

There is the additional feature in these stories of the music of both faerie and pipers alike, whose revelling jigs carry the mortal out of time and, when returning back to human life, find no one recognises them.  This is a condition of some rites of passage in traditional societies, where mothers and fathers no longer recognise their child after they have been through the rituals after visiting spirit-lands and returning as adults for the first time: an element in our faerie-lore that has been overlooked in assessing the nature of these fascinating tales.

References:

  1. Baillie, Bruce, History of Dollar, DMT: Dollar 1998.
  2. Devereux, Paul, Earthlights Revelations, Blandford: London 1989.
  3. Fergusson, R. Menzies, The Ochil Fairy Tales, David Nutt 1912.
  4. Keel, John A., UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, Souvenir Press: London 1971.
  5. Rhys, John, Celtic Folklore – Welsh and Manx: volume 1, Oxford University Press 1901.
  6. Vallee, Jacques, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, Tandem: London 1975.
  7. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Maiden Castle

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Maiden Castle 56.194769, -3.660167 Maiden Castle

Castle Campbell, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 9613 9928  —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Cup-markings at Castle Campbell

From Dollar, take the steep road up to Castle Campbell (ask a local if you get lost).  When you’ve got into the building and paid your fiver, walk straight forward as if you’re heading to the front gardens, but stay within the castle by walking left on the inner-front section of the building, all the way along to the dark room in the far corner at the end of the path.  Just before you walk into the end room, look at the ground rock beneath your feet.

Archaeology & History

My first and only visit to the superb half-restored ruins of Castle Campbell was in the company of the author Marion Woolley.  It was a damn good day and the castle here is really worth checking out!  But as Marion and I wandered the grounds and internal remains, my eyes caught sight of what looked like a cluster of cup-markings, never previously recorded, on a section of earthfast rock over which a section of the Castle had been built.

A distinct arc of at least four cup-marks was accompanied with outlying single cups on either side of it.  Beneath the gravel it seemed that more were waiting to be be unearthed—but we left them alone.  As you can see in the photo here, the cup-marks seem typical of those we find in their thousands across northern Britain.  However, the rock hereby is volcanic and conglomerate and may be the result of such natural processes.  I’m truly not sure.  A local archaeologist in Stirling thought the carving looked authentic – but we need to return here and brush off the rest of the gravel to see in greater detail the extent of the cups.  There seemed to be more of them hiding at the edges.

If anyone finds out more about this, or gets some better photos, or ascertains this as a simple geophysical artifact, please lemme know.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.174846, -3.674641 Castle Campbell carving