Clach an Eolas, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NF 101 996?

Also Known as:

  1. Stone of Knowledge

Archaeology & History

This stone has very similar qualities to the one found upon Mullach-geal, ⅔ of a mile to the west, as a place where ritual magick was performed.  And, just like the Mullach-geal stone, we only have an approximate position of its whereabouts: “behind the village”, as Mr Sands (1878) said.  The same words were used by other St Kildan writers when it came to describing the whereabouts of Tobar Childe, so we must assume it to be reasonably close to the old well.

Folklore

Mr Sands seems to be the first person to write about it, telling us,

“At the back of the village is a stone, which does not differ in external appearance from the numerous stones scattered around, but which was supposed to possess magical properties.  It is called Clach an Eolas, or Stone of Knowledge.  If any one stood on it on the first day of the quarter, he became endowed with the second sight — could “look into the seeds of Time,” and foretell all that was to happen during the rest of the quarter.  Such an institution must have been of great value in Hirta, where news are so scanty.  To test its powers I stood on it on the first day of Spring (old style) in the present year, but must acknowledge that I saw nothing, except two or three women laden with peats, who were smiling at my credulity.”

Charles MacLean (1977) mentioned the stone a hundred years later, but seems to have just copied this earlier description.  Does anyone up there know its whereabouts?

References:

  1. MacLean, Charles, Island on the Edge of the World, Canongate: Edinburgh 1977.
  2. Sands, J., Out of the World; or Life in St. Kilda, Maclachlan & Stewart: Edinburgh 1878.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.815359, -8.570241 Clach an Eolas

Mullach-Geal Stone, St Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NF 092 996

Archaeology & History

This is a most intriguing site, whose exact location seems to have been forgotten.  It was first mentioned in Macaulay’s History of St Kilda (1764) as being one of four stone altars that the islanders used for worship.  Three of them were related to the early christian figure of St. Brendan, whose well and chapel remains are on the south-side of the island.  However, this fourth stone altar possessed a purely magickal and heathen function.  Macaulay initially gives the location as being “on top of a hill to the southwest” of St. Brendan’s chapel; but subsequently tells us it was upon “Mulach-geall” which is a mile NNW.  It was an important place to the people of Hirta and its exact position needs to be found and, hopefully, the altar still exists.

Folklore

Despite Macaulay’s conflicting directions of how to get here (a common feature of early writers), he wrote:

“I have already made mention of one St. Kilda altar, that in Brendans Chapel.  There are no less than four more in the island, of which three lie at considerable distances from the holy places.  There is one particularly on the top of a hill to the south-weft (sic), dedicated according to tradition to the God who presides over Seasons; The God of thunder, lightning, tempests and fair weather.  To avert the terrible judgments inflicted by this mighty Divinity, the ancient St. Kildians offered propitiatory sacrifices on this altar, sacrifices of different forts, much like the old Pagans, who offered a black sheep to Winter, or the Tempest, and a white one to the Spring…  The place where the people of this island, offered their victims to Taranis, is called Mulach-geall, that is to say, the White eminence or hill…”

More than a hundred years later, Seton (1878) made mention of it, but added no further details.

The invocation to Nature’s elements is something we find echoed at some sites further east, such as the Well of the North Wind on Iona and its compatriot Well of the South Wind.  At both these places, so-called ‘pagan’ rituals were used to both placate and invoke the gods and spirits of the wind.  This one on St Kilda possessed additional magickal prowess.  But where is it?  Have we lost it, or is it sleeping somewhere on the edge of Mullach-Geal…?

References:

  1. Macaulay, Kenneth, The History of St. Kilda; Containing a Description of This Remarkable Island; the Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants; the Religious and Pagan Antiquities There Found, T. Becket: London 1764.
  2. Seton, Gordon, St. Kilda – Past and Present, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1878.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.814575, -8.585289 Mullach-geal Stone

Blakey Topping, Allerston, North Yorkshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SE 8719 9338

Getting Here

Old stones of Blakey Topping (James Elkington)

From Pickering, take the A169 towards Whitby. When you get to the Car Park at the ‘Hole-of-Horcum’ – (you can’t miss it), park the car and walk North along the side of the road towards Whitby. After 60 yds, take the track East. Follow this for approximately a mile until the track splits. Take the concrete track left towards the farm-house of ‘Newgate Foot’. Go through the yard past the house on the right, and you will come to a stream and a gate. Enter the field on the right and up the track. The stones are in front of you.

Archaeology & History

The great rounded hill of Blakey Topping—recorded as early as 1233 CE and meaning the ‘black mound’ or ‘black meeting-place’— has the ruins of a stone circle living several hundred yards to its south, little-known to many.  The early writer George Young (1817) seemed to come close here, mentioning the ‘druidic’ standing stones of Blakey Moor and district, but gave no specific indication of the ruinous ring we’re visiting here.  Instead, the first real description was penned by Robert Knox (1855) who, at the time of writing, was under the academic spell of druidism: prevalent as it was amongst most universities and places of learning back then.  Also, beset by the equally sad plague of Biblical comparitivism—beloved even to this day by halfwits—Knox’s formula about this ancient ring was founded on the druidical reverence of Blakey Topping as a site beneath which our Bronze age tribal ancestors erected their stones with the rounded hill immediately to the north, as signified by its early name, black. (In early place-names, ‘black’ and its variants—dubh, dove, etc—relates to the cardinal direction of ‘north’ and actually means ‘shining’; and white or ban is ‘south’, when both elements are located in relative proximity.)  Knox told us:

“At the southwest side of this arch-Druid’s tomb-like hill (Blakey Topping) a far more conspicuous cluster of larger Druid stones occurs; here three pillars form a triangle…and a smaller one…stands one hundred and fifty paces east of these nearer to the farmhouse there.  These single stones, possibly, once formed part of a circle… The diameter of a circle formed on this triangle of stones would be about fifty-five feet; but as these pillars form a nearly equilateral triangle, the number of stones in that circle cannot now be correctly ascertained, if, indeed, they ever formed part of a circle…

“These three sandstone pillars, untouched by tools…are much weather-worn; and hence it may be inferred that they are very ancient.  I shall only add that the tallest pillar here is nine feet high, from two-and-a-half to three feet wide, and rom fifteen to twenty inches thick, and is the tallest ancient pillar next to the celebrated one in Rudston churchyard, now standing in the eastern part of Yorkshire.  When I last visited the Blakey Topping Druid-stones in 1836, I learned that the farmer, on whose ground they stand, “had talked about breaking the three large ones to pieces,” and perhaps nothing but the trouble of doing so has hitherto preserved them, and many others.  I told him what had been their use, and begged he would preserve them.”

Stone re-used as gatepost (James Elkington)

And thankfully they remain there to this day!  Around the same time of Mr Knox’s visit, the Ordnance Survey lads came here too and, in 1854, highlighted the remaining ‘Druidical Stones’ on the first map of the area.  But references to the stones from here onwards are sparse and add nothing pertinent to its archaeomythic status.  It was a Mr & Mrs Elgee (1930) who were the next to tell us about the site in their exposition on Yorkshire archaeology.  They wrote:

“Three large standing stones about 6 feet high on the south-west side of Blakey Topping…are the remains of a circle about 18 yards in diameter.  Two or three hollows in the ground indicate the position of other stones, some of which are serving as gateposts nearby. Others have been broken up to help build a wall.  These stones are associated with a large settlement sites similar to (one) on Danby Rigg not very far from the imposing Bridestones and approached by an ancient trackway known as the Old Wife’s Trod.”

The general interpretation by the great megalithic archaeologists Aubrey Burl, John Barnatt and their fellow associates, is that these stones are the remains of a stone circle – which seems apt.  But of even greater importance seems to be the great hill of Blakey Topping itself, to which this olde ring no doubt related to.  Many other prehsitoric sites once scattered this area, but sadly most of them have been destroyed.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain (2 volumes), BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, New Haven & London 1995.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  4. Elgee, F., Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  5. Elgee, F. & H.W., The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  6. Gutch, Mrs E., Examples of Printed Folklore Concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, David Nutt: London 1899.
  7. Knox, Robert, Descriptions Geological, Topographical and Antiquarian in Eastern Yorkshire, London 1855.
  8. Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia, RKP: London 1976.
  9. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  10. Spratt, D.A., Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North-East Yorkshire, BAR: Oxford 1982.
  11. White, Stanhope, Standing Stones and Earthworks on the North Yorkshire Moors, privately printed: Scarborough 1987.
  12. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – 2 volumes, Clark & Medd: Whitby 1817.

Links:

  1. Mountains, Myths and Moorlands

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to the photographer James Elkington, for use of his photos in this profile. Cheers mate.  Also, accreditation of early OS-map usage, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

© Paul Bennett & James ElkingtonThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.328552, -0.660786 Blakey Topping circle

Stone Hill Head, Allerston Moor, North Yorkshire

Standing Stone (missing):  OS Grid Reference – SE 881 947

Archaeology & History

A number of standing stones were reported by regional historian Robert Knox (1855) in his antiquarian work of this area, but forestry and vandalism has seen the demise of some.  This one, however, may possibly still be found, laid down somewhere on the tops, along the ridge aptly-named as Stone Hill Head.  Where precisely it might be, we know not—but one of you Yorkshire antiquarian ramblers might be able to find and resurrect it by following old Mr Knox’s notes.  Writing extensively of the ancient remains around nearby Blakey Topping this is what he told us of the Stone Hill Head monolith:

“The pillar…standing erect, is five and a half feet high, three broad, and from ten inches to two feet thick.  This is much corroded either by natural decomposition, or designedly made so by manual labour; some of the holes in it being circular, as if intended to fit the heads of human beings into them, at the time of their immolation, while laid prostrate on the ground… This stone stands northeast from Blakey Topping, distant about six furlongs, and is the furthest pillar in this collection from that hill.”

If the real explorers amongst you manage to rediscover the stone, please let us know.

References:

  1. Knox, Robert, Descriptions Geological, Topographical and Antiquarian in Eastern Yorkshire, London 1855.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  54.340255, -0.646408 Stone Hill Head

Lund Well, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 0973 4091

Archaeology & History

Lund Well on 1852 map

Lund Well on 1852 map

Once found in a cluster of three little wells all very close to each other near the top of the field where the Crossflatts roundabout joins up with the Aire-Valley trunk road, this is an intriguing site if you happen to be a pagan, or have an interest in druidism — and for one main reason: its name.  When I first came across a reference to the place about 25 years ago, the only piece of information I could find about it came from the arduous detailed researches of the Victorian industrial historian J. Horsfall Turner who, unfortunately, neglected to record much of the fading folklore in the region at his time.  Marked on the 1852 6-inch Ordnance Survey map, ‘Lund’ was a bit of an etymological curiosity, and Mr Turner (1897) thought the well’s name was little other than that of a local mill owner, whose nickname was ‘Lund’ Thompson.  He was guessing of course…and I thought little more about it…

Years later when looking through A.H. Smith’s (1961-63) magnum opus on the place-names of West Yorkshire, I found that he didn’t include the Lund Well in his survey.  However, an eventual perusal of Kenneth Cameron’s (1996) work told that in Old Norse place-names (and there is a preponderance of such places scattering Yorkshire and Lancashire), lund or lundr was a “‘small wood, grove,’ also had a meaning, ‘sacred grove’.” The word is echoed in old French, launde, meaning ‘forest glade’.  In A.H. Smith’s (1954) earlier etymological magnum opus he said that the word derives from a “small wood, grove, also a sacred grove, one offering sanctuary.”  However, Margaret Gelling (2000) urged caution on the origin of lund as a sacred grove and erred more to the usual English tendency of depersonalizing everything, taking any animistic attribution away from its root meaning; but we must urge caution upon her caution here!  Neither Joseph Wright (English Dialect Dictionary vol.3 1905) nor William Grant (Scottish National Dictionaryvol.6, 1963) have entries for this word, so we must assume the Scandinavian root word origin to be correct.

One vitally important ingredient with the Lund Well is its geographical position.  For across the adjacent River Aire the land climbs uphill—and a few hundred yards above we reach the well-known and legendary Druid’s Altar, with its Druid’s Well just below.  This association is what suggests our Lund Well may have had a real association with a “sacred grove of trees”, as—despite us knowing very little about them—we do at least know that druids performed rites in sacred groves.  In Greenbank’s (1929) historical analysis of the Druid’s Altar, he was left perplexed as to the origin of its name as all early accounts and popular culture assigned it this title, and so he opted for the probability that the druids did indeed once perform rites here.  If this was true, then our seemingly innocuous Lund Well once had a much more sacred history than anyone might have thought.  Sadly, those self-righteous industrialists destroyed it….

References:

  1. Cameron, Kenneth, English Place-Names, Batsford: London 1996. 
  2. Gelling, Margaret, Place-Names in the Landscape, Phoenix: London 2000.
  3. Greenbank, Sydney, The Druid’s Altar, Bingley, R.G. Preston: Bingley 1929.
  4. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1954.
  5. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – 8 volumes, Cambridge University Press 1961-63.
  6. Wainwright, F.T., Scandinavian England, Phillimore: Chichester 1975.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Lund Well

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Lund Well 53.864317, -1.853532 Lund Well

Wallace’s Oak, Larbert, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Legendary Tree:  OS Grid Reference – NS 847 836?

Also Known as:

  1. Wallace’s Tree

Archaeology & History

The archaeology and traditions ascribed to this ancient tree (exact position unknown) is based on words that were first penned two hundred years ago.  It was thankfully recorded with a reasonable description when William Nimmo wrote about the great Sir William Wallace in the second edition of his Stirlingshire (1817) work.  Known about in oral tradition by local people, Nimmo told how:

“Torwood was a place where he and his party, when engaged in any expedition in this part of the country, often held their rendezvous, and to which they retreated in the hour of danger.  Here is still to be seen an aged oak, well known by the name of Wallace’s Tree; which seems to have been, even then, rotten and hollow within, and is said to have often afforded a lodging to him and a few of his trusty friends. It is supposed to have been one of the largest trees that ever grew in Scotland.  It is now almost quite decayed; but, from its ruins, appears to have been of an uncommon size. The remaining stump is no less than eleven or twelve feet in diameter. It stands upon the summit of a small eminence, which is surrounded on all sides by a swamp.  A rugged causeway runs from the south through the swamp, and leads up to the tree.  Some other vestiges of the stonework are discernible, surrounding the tree in a circular form, and leading to the conjecture that this oak is of a very high antiquity; and that, having been much frequented by Druidical priests, amongst whom the oak was sacred, the causeway had been laid for their approach to it, and the performance, underneath its branches, of religious rites.”

Nimmo may have a point here.  Not necessarily of druids (although druidic traditions and reality is known from many old tracts to have continued in many of the hidden places in Scotland), but certainly in relation to the paved track leading to a what may have been a recognised moot-hill, on top of which this great oak once stood.  Great trees and ancient meeting places were held in high esteem, not only in the legends of druidism and more established animistic pantheons, but in the recognised pragmatism of local tribal gatherings, in Scotland, Wales, England and in traditional cultures all over the world. (Gomme 1880) The traces of stonework leading to the hill strongly implies an archaeological site in the paving alone; but moreso, as an important site in the traditions of the Scottish people.  The fact that these stone ruins were still visible when Nimmo visited the site in the latter-half of the 18th century in the context he describes, implies it may have been the remains of a possible crannog; or a moot hill; or even, with its great oak surmounting, a sacred grove!  In my mind, it was probably being used as a gathering place long before William Wallace and his men gathered here…

In 1880, a 3rd edition of Nimmo’s Stirlingshire was published and edited by R. Gillespie.  Herein were additional notes about Wallace’s Oak that had been uncovered by Mr Gillespie.  Although he’d visited the place,

“Not the smallest vestige…of the Wallace oak remains. Even the ” oldest inhabitant” can say nothing of it save what he has gathered from tradition.  Sir Walter Scott, in his Tales of a Grandfather, speaks of having seen some of its roots eighty years ago; and recently we were shown a treasured morsel of the tree in the Chambers’ Institute at Peebles. Wallace, undoubtedly, often chose the solitude of the Torwood as a place of rest for his army, raised and roused to oppose the tyranny of Edward.  Here he concealed his numbers and his designs, sallying out suddenly on the enemy’s garrisons, and retreating as suddenly when afraid of being overpowered. While his army lay in these woods, “the oak” was his head-quarters. Within it, the illustrious hero generally slept, the hollow trunk being huge enough to afford shelter both to himself and one or more of his associates.”

When John Gibson (1908) came to write about it, he told that “Wallace’s Oak, which stood on another part of Woodside (low Torwood), has…vanished.” No roots, no lingering trunk—nothing.  But although the tree has long since gone, William M. Stirling pointed out in 1817 that,

“A young tree is pointed out in the neighbourhood, as having sprung from an acorn of Wallace’s Oak.”

If and when we can locate the old toll-house of Broomage at Larbert, we get much closer to identifying the exact location of this long lost oak.  Then, perhaps, a commemorative plaque should surely be placed there to remind people of their great history, and included on tours of sites relating to Sir William Wallace.

References:

  1. Gibson, John C., Lands and Lairds of Larbert and Dunipace Parishes, Hugh Hopkins: Glasgow 1908.
  2. Gomme, George L., Primitive Folk-Moots, Sampson Low: London 1880.
  3. Nimmo, William, The History of Stirlingshire (2nd edition), John Frazer: Stirling 1817.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.031823, -3.851130 Wallace\'s Oak

Rocking Stone, Golcar, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 076 163

Also Known as:

  1. Holed Stone
  2. Holy Stone
  3. Whole Stone

Archaeology & History

Like many old rocking stones, this was destroyed due to quarrying operations many years ago and sadly, I believe, we have no illustrations of the place to show the site.  This legendary site—also known as the ‘Holed’ or ‘Holy Stone’—is preserved in the place-name of Rocking Stone Hill and, unlike many other alleged rocking stones, actually swayed to and fro if the old records are owt to go by.  Not far away (and also destroyed some 200 years back) were two stone circles which probably had some mythic relationship to this legendary rock.

The stone was first described by John Watson in his monumental History of Halifax (1775), where he told that is was,

“so situated as to be a boundary mark, dividing the two townships of Golcar and Slaightwait in the Parish of Huddersfield, adjoining to the Parish of Halifax on Wholestone Moor.  The stone as measured by the late Thomas Perceval, or Royton…is 10½ feet long, 9ft 4in or 5in broad, and 5ft 3in thick.  Its weight…is 18 tons, 190lbs.  It rests on so small a centre, that at one particular point, a man may cause it to rock; though some years ago it was damaged a little, in this respect, by some masons, who endeavoured, but in vain, to throw it off its centre, in order to discover the principle on which so large a weight was made to move.”

Mr John Crabtree (1836) included it in his survey, and it was illustrated on the very first Ordnance Survey map in the 1840s where it was described as ‘Supposed Druidical’.  But the old stone sadly didn’t last much longer.  Once the self-righteous Industrialists got here, round about the year 1886, the Rocking Stone was destroyed by quarrying operations.  All that remains of the place today is a small cluster of place-names..

Folklore

Thought by Watson (1775) and his contemporaries to have had druidic associations (without evidence), when Philip Ahier (1942) came exploring this area in 1936, he came upon “an old resident (who) informed me that he had sat upon the stone when a youth and had caused it to rock.”

References:

  1. Ahier, Philip, The Legends and Traditions of Huddersfield and District, Advertiser Press: Huddersfield 1942.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish & Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  4. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  53.643158, -1.886516 Rocking Stone

Dun Bhuirg, Iona, Argyll

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – NM 2649 2462

Also known as:

  1. Canmore ID 21638
  2. Dun Cul Bhuirg

Getting Here

Take the road that cuts across the island, west, until you reach the stupid golf-course.  Walk across it, heading for the coast (not the building at Culbuirg), then follow the little footpath up until you reach the large rocky rise about 500 hundred yards north.  That’s it!

Folklore

Dun Bhuirg on 1881 map

Shown on the 1881 OS map of the region, the small remains of this Iron Age hillfort was said to be the place where St. Columba saw a rain-cloud which he predicted would bring a plague of ulcers to the people of Ireland. To prevent such a plague, Columba thence dispatched a monk called Silnan to Ireland, armed with some bread which he’d blessed. This bread was then dipped in consecrated water and given to those afflicted with the plague, who were thereafter cured.

Wee-ird……

Another tradition told that this old fort was once an important meeting place for the druids, though Geoff Holder (2007) writes that this is little more than a “spurious nineteenth century tradition” which he dismisses as without foundation. Though a short distance from here, he also told how one “Fiona MacLeod” (real name, William Sharp) one night watched the ghost of the Culdee, Oran, a couple of hundred yards away, “and so he never went that way again at night.”  In truth, traditions of druidism tend to be animistic traits: legends remembered from pre-christian days, and blanket dismissals of such folklore are themselves untrustworthy—especially on this Isle of the Druids.

References:

  1. Holder, Geoff,The Guide to Mysterious Iona and Staffa, Tempus: Stroud 2007.
  2. MacLeod, Fiona, Iona, Floris: Edinburgh 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.334709, -6.426904 Dun Bhuirg

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

Simon’s Seat, Skyreholme, North Yorkshire

Sacred Hill:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0788 5981

Getting Here

Simon’s Seat in the centre & the Lord’s Seat immediately east

Tons of ways here.   To those who drive, take the Grassington-Pateley Bridge (B6265) road and a couple of miles past the village of Hebden, you’ll see the high rocks climbing on your southern horizon, with another group of rocks a few hundred yards along the same ridge.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This is an awesome site, full of raw power. It commands a brilliant view all round, but it is the north which truly draws the eye’s attention. Beneath the great drop of this huge outcrop is the haunted and legendary Troller’s Ghyll. The scent of as yet undisclosed neolithic and Bronze Age sites purrs from the moors all round you and there can be little doubt that this was a place of important magick in ancient days.

What seems to be several cup-markings on one of the topmost rocks are, to me, authentic. Harry Speight mentioned them in his 1892 work on the Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands – but there are a number of other rocks in this giant outcrop with “possibles” on them.

Folklore

The name of this great rock outcrop has long been a puzzle to historians and place-name experts.  One tale that was told of Simon’s Seat to the travelling pen of one Frederic Montagu in 1838, told that,

“It was upon the top of this mountain that an infant was found by a shepherd, who took it to his home, and after feeding and clothing it, he had the child named Simon; being himself but a poor man, he was unable to maintain the foundling, when it was ultimately agreed to by the shepherds, that the child should be kept “amang ’em.”  The child was called Simon Amangham and the descendants of this child are now living in Wharfedale.”

The usually sober pen of Mr Speight thinks this to have been one the high places of druidic worship, named after the legendary Simon Druid. “It is however, hardly likely,” he wrote, “that he ever sat there himself, but was probably represented by some druidical soothsayer on whom his mystic gifts descended.”

I’ve gotta say, I think there’s something distinctly true about those lines. Visit this place a few times, alone, during the week, or at night – when there’s no tourists about – and tell me it isn’t…

References:

  1. Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
  2. Montagu, Frederic, Gleanings in Craven, Simpkin Marshall: London 1838.
  3. Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands, Elliott Stock: London 1892.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Simons Seat

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Simons Seat 54.034216, -1.881182 Simons Seat