Montalt, Dunning, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 06 13

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 26675
  2. Mount Alt Farm

Archaeology & History

Montalt’s curious cup-marked stone

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.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Montalt CR

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Montalt CR 56.299723, -3.528439 Montalt CR

Gray Stone, Dunning, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 02182 11809

Also Known as:

  1. Big Stane
  2. Canmore ID 26681
  3. Grey Stone
  4. Maormar‘s Stone

Getting Here

Grey Stone, looking northeast

Grey Stone, looking northeast

Take the B934 road south, uphill, out of Dunning, for 2.1 miles (3.4km), past Kippen, past Pitmeadow and past Quilts.  It’s the track to Knowes that you’re after!  Along this track, keep to the field-side on your right, following the edge of the fencing until you reach the small copse of trees.  At the far side of the trees a gate takes you into the field with the standing stone, which is just over 100 yards to the north. You can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Although mentioned in several folklore works and just a couple of archaeology tomes, almost nothing has been written about this large upright standing stone.  A very bulky stone nearly seven feet tall, it has been broken into pieces at sometime in the recent past but, thankfully, good locals put the stone back together and positioned it upright again.  Its position in the landscape is quite superb, overlooking the lowlands of Tayside below and then far into the rising mountains of Perthshire and beyond, easy fifty miles or more.

Gray Stone on 1866 OS-map

Gray Stone on 1866 OS-map

Grey Stone, looking south-ish!

Grey Stone, looking south-ish!

The name of the stone is a slight puzzle, for in a lot of cases ‘gray’ stones (and their variants) are found on local boundaries, but the nearest boundary from here is some distance to the east.  It may simply relate to the colour of the rock (though this is unlikely).

Folklore

Gray Stone, looking east

Gray Stone, looking east

The local farmer told that the field where the Grey Stone stands is known as the Big Stane Field. Legend tells that the Gray Stone was the burial place of Maormor, the Steward of Atholl in the Battle of Duncrub, after dying in Thanes Field (Watson 1995), on land to the north of Dunning village in 964-5 CE.

References:

  1. Holder, Geoff, The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire, History Press 2006.
  2. McKerracher, Archie, Perthshire in History and Legend, John Donald: Edinburgh 1988.
  3. Swarbrick, Olaf, A Gazetteer of Prehistoric Standing Stones in Great Britain, BAR: Oxford 2012.
  4. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Gray Stone

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Gray Stone 56.288600, -3.581804 Gray Stone

Borland Glen, Glendevon, Perthshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NN 99766 07093

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 223154

Getting Here

View from the arc of stones above the circle
View from the arc of stones above the circle

Takes a bitta finding this one. Best found by going along the gorgeous, little-known Dunning Glen in the eastern Ochils, till you reach Littlerig house. Cross the road from there and follow the line of the burn and forest till it veers sharp left. Keep along the fencing until the marshland levels out and streams fall away both east and west. From here, walk uphill until you reach level ground, then, looking down the Borland Glen, zigzag downhill for 100 yards.  Keep your eyes peeled for stones emerging from the Juncus grasses.

Archaeology & History

This four-poster stone circle isn’t included in Aubrey Burl’s (1988) survey of that name, nor his 2000 AD magnum opus on megaliths.  The site appears to have only recently been rediscovered. Shown on modern OS-maps in non-antiquated lettering, this may be due to verification being required to authenticate its prehistoric status. It’s certainly in a peculiar position in the landscape here — and seems more likely to have been built just 100 yards uphill on the level grassland plain where views east, south and west open up almost with the majesty of Castlerigg!

Fondling & puzzling over cup-marks on one of the stones
Fondling & puzzling over cup-marks on one of the stones

When Paul Hornby and I ventured here yesterday, we mistook the arc of three stones on the flat plain with the ring of stones that are down the Borland Glen slope ahead of us, so good was the position!  But at least one thing came of this: of the arc of three stones shown in the photos here, one of the rocks possesses cup-markings, which you can make out here in one of the close-ups.

The dimensions of the four stones that make up the ‘circle’ down the slope was measured and described by the Scottish Royal Commission lads as follows:

It comprises four stones, which define a trapezium measuring 3.2m along its N and W sides, 2.7m along the S and 2.5m along the E. All the stones are set square at the corners with their long axes lying E and W, and they present a long flat face to the interior. The two on the N are markedly larger than the others, and that on the NW is also the tallest. The dimensions of the stones are as follows: NW – 1m by 0.5m and 0.65m high, NE – 0.8m by 0.4m and 0.3m high, SE – 0.73m by 0.43m and 0.2m high and SW – 0.73m by 0.38m and 0.4m high.

One of the most notable features a visitor to this site will find, is the utter silence as you walk up the slopes to reach the place. And then, once away in the opening landscape, a view of velvet Earth in all Her beautiful shades surrounds you – assuming you go here on a sunny day!  Well worth the wander if quiet hidden megaliths are your pleasure…

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.

Acknowledgements:

Many thanks to Paul Hornby for use of his photos.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.245772, -3.619047 Borland Glen circle