Weeping Stone, Fladaigh Chuain, Skye

Legendary Rock: OS Grid Reference – NG 3638 8091

Getting Here

Unless you’ve got your own boat, forget it!  This one’s miles out on the isolated uninhabited island of Fladda-chuain about 5 miles off the northwest tip from Duntulm, Trotternish.  I wouldn’t mind a coupla weeks alone on the isle though – if anyone can get me there!

Archaeology & History

This little rocky island was allegedly another one of the many visiting places that St. Columba frequented in his copious ventures, trying to sell his new religion to local people wherever he went.  Here he came to the legendary clach known as the Weeping Stone: a place of reverence to the druids and indigenous people.  But St Columba came here to christianize the rituals that were had at the site; and, eventually, he was allowed to build a  small stone chapel close by.

Folklore

In Otta Swire’s (1961) excellent work on the folklore and history of the Isle of Skye, she wrote:

“In Duntulm Bay lies Tulm Island and beyond it, in clear weather, Fladdachuan, Fladda of the Ocean, can be seen. In olden times this was a sacred spot, held by many to be Tir-nan-Og, the Isle of Perpetual Youth, which lay in the west; here it is always summer and the sun never sets. The puffins recognized its sacred nature and never began any venture until they had circled the island three times sunwise; this they did also on arriving in Skye and before leaving it. It was held by some to be the reason why in Skye people used to turn three times sunwise before starting a new enterprise. The Druids held it in veneration and St. Columba caused a chapel to be built there. On its altar lay a black stone which some say was the original altar stone of the Druids and which was known as the Weeping Stone because it was always wet. Until fairly recently fishermen used to land on the island and pour three handfuls of seawater on the stone to procure favourable winds or to stop bad floods. The Weeping Stone no longer exists, or at least is no longer to be found where the altar once stood.”

I can’t find anything more about this place.  Does anyone know owt more about it?

References:

  1. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1961.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.740219, -6.431216 Weeping Stone

Brimham Rocks, Hartwith, North Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SE 210 649

Also Known as:

  1. Brimham Crags

Getting Here

Sunfall behind Mushroom Rock

From the lovely village of Summerbridge (near Pateley Bridge), go up the steep Hartwith Bank road, going straight across at the crossroads for another few hundred yards, passing the old tombs of Graffa Plain on your right…and they’ll start appearing on your left-hand side (west).  Do not go into the expensive National Trust car-park.  Instead (if you’ve already gone too far), about 100 yards before the Car Park you’ll find a small dirt-track on your left a short distance away.  But if you drive past the rip-off car park, another 100 yards on there’s another spot where you can easily park up on the right-hand side of the road.  Then cross the road and follow y’ nose…

Archaeology & History

The OS grid reference given above is an approximation — for obvious reasons.  This is a huge area that’s covered by Britain’s finest natural megalithic features, obviously sculptured by Nature Herself — though many are the historians who sought to give Druids the credit here.   God knows how!  The area over which these magnificent rock sentinels live covers some 60 acres and is some 1000 feet above sea level.  The view from the hill around which the encircling parade of rocks guards is excellent, allowing our eyes to catch focus on the distant lands of Whernside, Simon’s Seat, York Minster, the Cleveland Hills and Kilburn’s white horse.  It’s quite a view.

Easternmost Rocking Stone
Idol Stone (Godfrey Higgins 1826)

But this tends to be overlooked when you first visit the place, as the rocks which surround and walk alongside you overwhelm with impressions not encountered before.  To those with spirit, you’ll be bouncing and running all day here, clambering upon rocking stones, jumping between dodgy gorges that await falls, and just aching to climb pinnacles that deny you.  But then, if you need the selfishness of silence, this arena will only grant such solace when the rains are about, or dense fog and low cloud keeps others from this haunting amphitheatre.  And it’s not surprising…  The mass of rocks contort into the most beautiful and curious simulacra, which would not have gone unnoticed, nor deemed unimportant in the sacred landscape of our ancestors…

Brimham Rocks have been written about since the 17th century, though they didn’t receive the serious attention of outsiders until the 19th, when numerous Victorian writers — from antiquarians and geologists, to archaeologists and Druids — got to hear about the place.  And by the beginning of the 20th century, a veritable mass of articles had been written in journals and travelogues of all persuasions!  These quiet Yorkshire Rocks had become truly famous!

Brimham Rocks (Walbran 1856)
Old Woman and her consort

A lengthy essay was written in the distinguished archaeology journal of its time, Archaeologia, by northern historian Hayman Rooke (1787), who thought that some of the rocks here had been tampered with by the druids; with the legendary Cannon Rock in particular possessing oracular properties.  The site as a whole was, he posited, a temple for Druids in ancient days.  Certainly the place would have been deemed as sacred, whether by the druids or our more remote neolithic and Bronze Age ancestors.

Harry Speight & his mates, c.1890

In Harry Speight’s magnum opus, Nidderdale (1894), he described these rocky giants as best as he could, admitting as others before and since, that no mere words can convey the impression that only a personal encounter liberates, saying:

“The Brimham Rocks are among the greatest natural wonders of Yorkshire, and many have been the theories from time to time advanced as to the cause of their extraordinary aspects… The resemblances to natural and artificial objects are most striking.  There we have the Elephant Rock, the Porpoise Head, the Dancing Bear (a very singular, naturally-shaped specimen), the Boat Rock, showing the bow and stern completely, etc.  Then there is the great Idol Rock, a most mysterious-looking object, of almost incredible size and form.  It is a perfectly detached block, fully twenty feet high, weathered along face joints into three roughly circular pieces, each from 40 to 50 feet in circumference, piled one above the other; the whole mass, weighing by estimation over 200 tons, being poised on a pyramid 3½ feet in diameter; the pivot itself supporting this immense column having a diameter of barely 12 inches.

“East of the guide’s house are the famous Rocking Stones, consisting of a group of four rocks, which were discovered to be movable in the year 1786.  The two on the west side weighing approximately 50 and 25 tons, require but little force to vibrate, while those on the east side, though much smaller are not so well poised and do not move readily.  Each of the larger stones has a basin-like cavity on the top, and a kind of knee-hole open to the north, said to be the work of Druids.  Close to the Rocking Stones are the appropriately-named Oyster-shell Rock, and the Hippopotamus’ Head.  Turning now some thirty yards north of the Idol Rock we ascend Mount Delectable, where is the agreeable Courting or Kissing Chair, happily at not too close quarters with the above Hippopotamus’ Head and Boar’s Snout.  The Chair consists of a single seat, but why it should be so called, I had better leave the amorous lover to solve.  West of these is the more sober Druid’s Reading Desk, with its church-like lectern on a stout stone base.  The we come to the Lover’s Leap, a gigantic and abrupt face of beetling crag, weathered to the west, and rising to a height of 60 to 70 feet, with three immense fragments balanced in a very remarkable manner at the summit.  The rock is in tow principal sections, and an iron hand-rail has been fixed across the chasm to enable visitors to look down from the top.  Further south are the Frog and Tortoise Rocks, the latter presenting from one point of view a capital resemblance to a tortoise creeping up the face of the crag towards the imaged frog.  A little below this is a good imitation of a cannon, projecting from the edge of the cliff.  In addition to these singular resemblances there are many others which the guide points out, such as the Yoke of Oxen, Mushroom Rocks, Druid’s Oven, Dog’s Head, Telescope, and the curiously perforated Cannon Rock, etc.”

In a later work, Speight (1906) also mentioned the existence of a Druid’s Circle some 300 yards west of the main natural temples, but this site appears to have been destroyed.  Thankfully the large standing stone on Hartwith Moor, a mile to the south, can still be found upright…

Folklore

Idol Stone (Hargrove 1809)

In folklore, there’s little surprise this place was held by just about every 18th and 19th century historian as a ‘druidic site.’ But more interesting – in the light of Paul Devereux’s (2001) work on acoustic archaeology – is what Edmund Bogg (c.1895) said of these huge contorted stones:

“In bygone days these immense stones were supposed to be the habitation of spirits. The echo given from the rocks was said to be the voice of the spirit who dwelt there, and which the people named the Son of the Rocks. From a conversation we had with the peasantry not far from here, it seems the ancient superstition had not yet fully disappeared.”

This is precisely the notion of spirit given to rocky places elsewhere in the world, where the very echo was perceived as the ‘voice of the rocks’.  Meditate on it a bit, in situ. (a fine summary of this notion and its implications — which has crept into archaeology of late — can be found in Paul Devereux’s work, Stone Age Soundtracks)

One of Brimham’s southwestern rocks was known as the Noon Stone when Mr Rooke (1787) came here.  There are many stones with this name scattering Yorkshire and other northern counties, each with the same mythic background: that the sun casts a shadow from it at midday to indicate the time of day.  Of this Noon Stone Mr Hooke also told us that,

“On Midsummer Eve fires are lighted on the side.  Its situation is apposite for this purpose, being on the edge of a hill, commanding an extensive view.   This custom is of the most remote antiquity.”

On the very southern edge of Brimham’s Rocks (some might say beyond their real border) is the Beacon Rock — and it is aptly named: as in the year 1887 on the day of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, a great beacon fire was lit here, signalling to others in the distance.  Its title however, pre-dates Victoria’s Jubilee, though we don’t know how far back in time it goes…

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Bogg, Edmund, From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, James Miles: Leeds c.1895.
  2. Devereux, Paul, Stone Age Soundtracks: The Acoustic Archaeology of Ancient Sites, Vega: London 2001.
  3. Grainge, William, The History and Topography of Harrogate and the Forest of Knaresborough, John Russell Smith: London 1871.
  4. Harrison, William, A Descriptive Account of Brimham Rocks in the West Riding of Yorkshire, A. Johnson: Ripon 1846.
  5. Michell, John, The Earth Spirit: Its Ways, Shrines and Mysteries, Thames & Hudson: London 1975.
  6. Michell, John, Simulacra, Thames & Hudson: London 1979.
  7. Rooke, Hayman, “Some Account of the Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire,” in Archaeologia journal, volume 8, 1787.
  8. Speight, Harry, Nidderdale and the Garden of the Nidd, Elliot Stock: London 1894.
  9. Speight, Harry, Upper Nidderdale, with the Forest of Knaresborough, Elliot Stock: London 1906.
  10. Walbran, John Richard, A Guide to Ripon, Fountains Abbey, Harrogate, Bolton Abbey, etc, Johnson: Ripon 1856.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Brimham Rocks

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Brimham Rocks 54.079598, -1.680521 Brimham Rocks

Weeping Stone, Fladaigh Chuain, Skye

Legendary Rock: OS Grid Reference – NG 3638 8091

Getting Here

Unless you’ve got your own boat, forget it!  This one’s miles out on the isolated uninhabited island of Fladda-chuain about 5 miles off the northwest tip from Duntulm, Trotternish.  I wouldn’t mind a coupla weeks alone on the isle though – if anyone can get me there!

Archaeology & History

The little rocky island itself was allegedly another of the many visiting places of St. Columba in his many ventures to sell his religion to the peasants and displace the druids, who were alleged to practice pre-christian rites here and deemed it as sacred.  St. Columba’s chapel on this island was built to displace the heathen traditions.

Folklore

In Otta Swire’s (1961) excellent work on the folklore and history of the Isle of Skye, she wrote:

“In Duntulm Bay lies Tulm Island and beyond it, in clear weather, Fladdachuan, Fladda of the Ocean, can be seen. In olden times this was a sacred spot, held by many to be Tir-nan-Og, the Isle of Perpetual Youth, which lay in the west; here it is always summer and the sun never sets. The puffins recognized its sacred nature and never began any venture until they had circled the island three times sunwise; this they did also on arriving in Skye and before leaving it. It was held by some to be the reason why in Skye people used to turn three times sunwise before starting a new enterprise. The Druids held it in veneration and St. Columba caused a chapel to be built there. On its altar lay a black stone which some say was the original altar stone of the Druids and which was known as the Weeping Stone because it was always wet. Until fairly recently fishermen used to land on the island and pour three handfuls of seawater on the stone to procure favourable winds or to stop bad floods. The Weeping Stone no longer exists, or at least is no longer to be found where the altar once stood.”

I can’t find anything more about this place.  Does anyone know owt more about it?

References:

  1. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1961.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Druid’s Oak, Caton, Lancashire

Legendary Tree:  OS Grid Reference — SD 5297 6467

Also Known as:

  1. Caton Oak
  2. Fish Stones Oak

Getting Here

The Druid's or Caton Oak
The Druid’s or Caton Oak

Dead easy! Near the western end of Caton village, right on the edge of the main road (A683) running through the village (south-side of the road), enclosed by railings, you’ll see the remains of this ancient tree, just by the side of the stream.  Keep your eyes peeled!

Archaeology & History

The small scruffy-looking remnant of an oak standing here by the roadside in Caton village, surrounded by protective railings, is the dying remnants of the old tree, standing upon the sandstone steps which were known as the Fish Stones: a curious monument that has been listed as a protected monument by the Dept of National Heritage.  A small plaque on the side tells:

“The three semi-circular sandstone steps, shaded by the oak tree, were used in medieval times by the monks of Cockersand Abbey to display and sell fish caught from the River Lune.  The ancient oak tree, reputed to date back to the time of the druids, and the Fish Stones, have become a landmark and Symbol of Caton.”

Druid's Oak, Caton
Druid’s Oak, Caton

This was probably the local moot spot for villagers and those living in outlying farms and hills in medieval times.  No doubt a market of some sort was also once here; perhaps even an old cross, as the Fish Stones have all the appearance of some village cross steps.  I’ve found little else about this old tree, nor any folklore (but aint looked too hard if truth be had!).  There’s surely more to be said about this once sacred tree.

More sites related in folklore to druids can be found not too far away at the collapsed cairn near Bordley; the Druid’s Altar and nearby Druid’s Well on the outskirts of Bingley; the Druid’s Stone of Bungay in Suffolk and many more…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Druid's Oak

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Druid\'s Oak 54.075801, -2.720116 Druid\'s Oak

Busky Dike Druidical Altar, Fewston, North Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 187 545

Archaeology & History

The original position and nature of this site was difficult to ascertain and left us wondering whether the place was once a monolith, stone circle or legendary rock outcrop, as seemed that there were no remains left of the place.  Aswell as that, the only reference we had that describing this place is from William Grainge’s History of Knaresborough (1871), where he wrote:

“At Busky Dike, a place between Cragg Hall and Fewston, according to the report of tradition, there once existed a Druidical altar; and that same venerable authority declares that the same place is the haunt of a Bharguest; and many of the country people yet tremble as they pass that place in the dark, for fear they should meet that strange and terrible beast.”

The latter remark would indicate that something decidely pre-christian was once of renown here.  But it seems that an old rock outcrop was the place in question here, found in the now wooded area on the south side of the Busky Dike Road, just northwest a half-mile outside of Fewston itself.  It would be good to hear more about this place…if anyone knows owt…

References:

  1. Grainge, William, The History of Harrogate and the Forest of Knaresborough, 1871.
  2. Grainge, William, The History and Topography of Little Timble, Great Timble and the Hamlet of Snowden, William Walker: Otley 1895.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Busky Dike

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Busky Dike 53.986216, -1.716311 Busky Dike

Druid’s Well, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 09394 39894

Getting Here

If you’re a bittova unhealthy dood, give this site a miss, as it takes a bitta getting to!  Otherwise, get to the rocks at the very bottom of the Druid’s Altar and walk to the right (east) until you hit the walling a few hundred yards along.  Near the bottom of the slope, where the land levels out, there are several lovely moss-strewn boulders in their music of graceful hues.  One of them, you’ll see, has water emerging from it base.  You’re here!

Archaeology & History

The Druid's Well, Bingley
The Druid’s Well

I first visited this old site with the holy wells writer Edna Whelan sometime in the early 1980s, when we went in search of the sacred spring of water known as the ‘Altar Well,’ shown on early maps to be just a short distance beneath the small cliffs called the Druid’s Altar.  We didn’t find it!  Another visit with Graeme Chappell and Edna (again) sometime later also proved fruitless – but something else was found which we didn’t know about on our first sojourn: the Druid’s Well, or more accurately the Druid’s Spring. (no stone trough y’ see)  Not far from the spot that the Altar Well could once be seen, this beautiful spring of sweet water emerges beneath the rich lichen-encrusted boulder, painted with dappled mosses and an overhang of vivid ferns.  Tis a fine oracular site, if ever there was one!

The waters run slowly from beneath the great old rock, upon which grows a fine specimen of a birch tree – a truly old thing!  And if there was ever any truth about this regions association with the druids, one of their most important sacraments grows profusely here when the season is right: no, not mistletoe (though it can be found sparingly upon the old oaks), but a wealth of the sacred Amanita muscaria, to whose spirit visionary journeys were bestowed.

Close-up of the waters beneath the boulder

The name of the woodlands in which our Druid’s Spring emerges — the Hollin Wood — might also have had some associative relationship with this well, or the Altar above (modern maps call it the Hollin Plantation, as much of the old woods have been felled and copsed by modern man).  Place-name texts ascribe this to be the ‘woodland of holly trees’, but during our wander through the woods a few weeks ago (when we got the photos of the Druid’s Well) holly trees were not common.  It may be that the Hollin Wood originally derived from ‘holy wood’, as this old well and the Druid’s Altar above would have surely made the site sacred to the druids.  Just a thought.  We will probably never know (if someone finds out for sure, one way or t’other, lemme know and I’ll amend where necessary!).

References:

  1. Greenbank, Sydney, The Druid’s Altar, Bingley, R.G. Preston: Bingley 1929.
  2. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.
  3. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire’s Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Druid's Well

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Druid\'s Well 53.855192, -1.858672 Druid\'s Well