St. Patrick’s Well, Dunruchan, Muthill, Perthshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 77905 17365

Getting Here

St Patricks Well on 1863 map

Take the B827 road between Comrie and Braco. If you’re coming via Comrie, going uphill for 3.1 miles (5.1km); but if from Braco Roman Camp go along and eventually downhill for 6.6 miles (10.6km), watching out for the track to Middleton Farm by the roadside.  Walk along for 125 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the boggy ground below on your left. You’re there!

Archaeology & History

Immediately east of the prodigious megalithic complex of Dunruchan, bubbling up amidst the usual Juncus conglomeratus reeds, are the boggy remnants of St. Patrick’s Well—one of two such sacred wells dedicated to the early Irish saint in Muthill parish. We’re at a loss as to why this Irish dood has such sites in his name in this area.  No doubt some transitional shamanic character was doing the rounds in this glorious landscape, muttering words of some neo-christian animism, eventually settling a mile from the great megalithic complex, perhaps hoping—and failing—to convert our healthy heathen populace into ways unwise.

The site of St Patricks Well

The shallow boggy waters

Whatever he may have been up to, a small stone chapel was built hereby and, it was said, even a christian graveyard, to tempt folk away from the ancient plain of cairns whence our ancestors had long since buried their dead.  But the christian’s chapel and graveyard has long since gone; and when historians before me had visited the place, St Patrick’s Well had also fallen back to Earth in the drier summers, taking the blood of the Earth back into Her body.  The heathen megaliths still remain however, standing proud on the moorland plain in clear sight from these once healing waters, whose mythic history, on the whole, has long since been disregarded….

Folklore

St Partick’s day on March 17—”a date very near the Spring Equinox,” as Mrs Banks (1939) reminded us—may have been the dates when the waters here were deemed particularly efficacious, although we have nothing in written accounts to tell us for sure. But in the 19th century Statistical Account we find that the site was “much frequented once, as effectual in curing the hooping cough.”  E.J. Guthrie (1885) told of an ancient rite regarding the drinking of the waters for effect of the cure, saying:

“In the course of this century a family came from Edinburgh, a distance of nearly sixty miles, to have the benefit of the well. The water must be drunk before sunrise or immediately after it sets and that out of a “quick cow’s horn”, or a horn taken from a live cow, and probably dedicated to this saint.”

Also in Muthill parish, Guthrie told, St Patrick’s memory was held in such veneration that farmers and millers did not work on his day.

References:

  1. Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folk-lore Society: Glasgow 1939.
  2. Booth, C. Gordon, “St Patrick’s Well (Muthill Parish),” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, New Series volume 1, 2000.
  3. Guthrie, E.J., Old Scottish Customs, Thomas D. Morison: Glasgow 1885.
  4. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  5. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Patricks Well

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St Patricks Well 56.332868, -3.976376 St Patricks Well

Dunruchan Hill, Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 8022 1645 —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Lisa standing with the old stone
Lisa with the old stone

Take the directions to the hugely impressive Dunruchan A standing stone.  Walk directly south, over the gate and follow the fence straight down the fields, crossing the burn at the very bottom. Walk over the boggy grassland and start veering uphill, southeast.  You’ll notice the land goes up in geological ‘steps’ and, a few hundred yards up, a small standing stone pokes up on the near skyline ahead of you.  Head straight for it!

Archaeology & History

This small standing stone was first noted after a quick visit to the major Dunruchan megalithic complex in the summer of 2016.  Photographer James Elkington was taking images of the landscape and the standing stones when he noticed a stone on the horizon a half-mile away.  As we were in a rush, he took a couple of photos from different angles on the way back to the car—both of which looked promising.  And so, several months later, we revisited the site again.  Lisa Samson, Paul Hornby, Martin Ferner and I meandered up the geological steps of the hillside until we reached the site in question.

Looking northwest
Looking northwest
Looking northeast
Looking northeast

Standing more than four-feet tall, this solitary stone overlooks the megalithic Dunruchan complex a half-mile or so to the north and northwest.  Like the Dunruchan C monolith, this smaller upright is conglomerate stone.  Paul Hornby noted what may be a single cup-marked stone roughly 100 yards east along the same ridge. (Please note that the grid-ref may be slightly out by perhaps 50 yards or so at the most. If anyone visits and can rectify my ineptitude on this matter, please let me  know.)

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Dunruchan Hill stone

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Dunruchan Hill stone 56.325264, -3.938488 Dunruchan Hill stone

Dunruchan ‘E’ Standing Stone, Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 78997 16819

Dunruchan E stone, looking N

Also Known as:

  1. Aodann Mhor
  2. Canmore ID 24790
  3. Cornoch
  4. Shillinghill

Getting Here

Follow the directions to reach the standing stone of Dunruchan D, and there on the moor immediately to your south, 100 yards or so away, it stands before you!

Archaeology & History

Dunruchan E stone, with Dunruchan D to rear

This is the southernmost of the impressive standing stones on the plain below Dunruchan Hill.  Notably more ’rounded’ at the top than most of its associates—giving a more distinct ‘female’ nature to the stone than its companions—we find again, scattered around the base of this 7-foot tall monolith, a number of smaller rocks that gives the impression an old cairn was once here.  Certainly there are a scatter of several other cairns nearby and we get the distinct impression with all of the Dunruchan stones, that a prehistoric cemetery was once in evidence here.

Ground-plan of stone & cairn
Cole’s drawing of Dunruchan E

Although this is the last of the known standing stones in this area, there is every probability of other prehistoric remains hidden amidst the heathlands—perhaps even more large standing stones that have fallen and are overgrown with vegetation. When Fred Cole came here one time with the great rock art writer, Sir James Simpson, one such fallen standing stone was reported a short distance tot he east, but it has yet to be recovered.  There may be more.

In Fred Cole’s (1911) report of this particular “south stone”, or Dunruchan E,  he wrote:

“This monolith, in respect of position, somewhat resembles the last, because it stands on the west arc of a rudely circular setting of small stones, which, however, are not placed on a mound (as in the case of Stone D), but merely lie on the flat of the moor. Five of these blocks are large enough to be noticeable, and they occupy the positions shown by the outlined stones in the ground-plan (fig. 21), the farthest to the east being 15 feet distant from the inner face of the standing monolith A.  The dimensions of this Stone are: height 6 feet 9 inches, basal girth 16 feet 1 inch. In the illustration (fig. 22) I show this Stone with the other great one near set on its platform, and to the right two of the numerous small, low cairns which are scattered about this part of the moor. ”

Folklore

According to an account in the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1860, “these stones are believed to mark the graves or commemorate the death of Roman soldiers who fell in a battle fought here between the Romans and the Caledonians.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Cole, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Phillips: Crieff 1896.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Dunruchan E

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Dunruchan E 56.328269, -3.958440 Dunruchan E

Dunruchan ‘D’ Standing Stone, Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 79044 16881

Also Known as:

  1. Aodann Mhor
  2. Canmore ID 24790
  3. Cornoch
  4. Shillinghill

Getting Here

Dunruchan D Stone – with Dunruchan E in background

Follow the directions to reach the Craigneich standing stone, then across the road and uphill past the Dunruchan B standing stone, uphill further past the Dunruchan C standing stone and onto the moorland plain just behind it. You’ll see two large standing stones ahead of you on the moor to the south, a coupla hundred yards away.  The nearest one is Dunruchan D.

Archaeology & History

Fred Coles’ 1911 drawing

Another fine large standing stone in this curious but excellent megalithic complex on the hills south of Comrie. This great monolith leans at a slight angle, and would be some 10 feet tall if the ages had kept it perpendicular. It’s truly impressive; and it emerges from the edge of a large raised cairn which almost surrounds it.  The cairn is overgrown yet some 3-4 feet tall and made up of thousands of small stones. It’s the most notable of the cairns scattering the plains of Dunruchan, and gives the best impression of the standing stones here being memorials to some ancient chief, queen or shaman.  As far as I know, this cairn has not been excavated, so we know not yet who or what lies beneath it.

Carved parallelogram design

A small section of the standing stone has some faded carving on its eastern side. These seem to be relatively recent, though a curious parallelogram design echoes the carving (albeit larger) on the Gleneagles B standing stone, 10 miles southeast, and which is thought to be Pictish.  The carving here, however, doesn’t have that feel to it.

The stone and the cairn were noted in Fred Coles’ (1911) survey, in which he called this the “south-west stone” and wrote:

“New features are presented in combination with this Stone. In lieu of being set absolutely solitary on the heath, there are, extending for a considerable area almost around its base, many stones and boulders laid in the form of a flattish circular cairn or platform (see ground-plan). The monolith, which leans over towards the north, is set to the south of the crest of the cairn, and there is a considerable fall from the crest to the level of the moor around it, indicating that a very great quantity of small stones must have been employed in making the cairn. The interior, shown dotted on the plan, bears signs of having been partially excavated, probably the cause of the Stone being so much out of the vertical. The stony cairn or platform measures 15 feet in diameter, and consists of moderate sized stones. The base of the great Standing Stone is oblong, and measures in girth 14 feet 2 inches. Down the slope of its back the length is 10 feet, and its present vertical height 8 feet 6 inches. The longer axis is almost exactly due east and west. From this spot the next Stone in order can be easily seen…”

Coles’ groundplan of cairn & stone

Several other small cairns scatter this grassy and heathland plain, all of them overgrown and none of them excavated.

Dunruchan D, looking south

As with the other Dunruchan monoliths, this one has been included in the megalithic stone row surveys by both Alexander Thom (1990) and Aubrey Burl (1993), but the staggered alignment this has with the other standing stones is more likely fortuitous than deliberate.  But this doesn’t detract from the magnitude of the megalithic cluster on this  small section of moorland.  A truly brilliant site!

Folklore

According to an account in the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1860, “these stones are believed to mark the graves or commemorate the death of Roman soldiers who fell in a battle fought here between the Romans and the Caledonians.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Cole, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Phillips: Crieff 1896.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Dunruchan D

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Dunruchan D 56.328815, -3.957708 Dunruchan D

Dunruchan ‘C’ Standing Stone, Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 79108 17137

Also Known as:

  1. Aodann Mhor
  2. Canmore ID 24790
  3. Cornoch
  4. Shillinghill
Dunruchan C, looking North

Getting Here

Follow the directions to get to the Dunruchan B standing stone, on the slopes south of Craigneich. Once there, on the hillside further above you, you’ll see a large upright stone on the moor about 300 yards to the south, standing just below the rise of a small hillock. That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Fred Coles’ 1911 drawing

The second biggest of the Dunruchan monoliths is what Fred Coles (1911) described as “the Middle Stone,” or Dunruchan C. Standing just below the rise of a large natural mound of earth, obstructing any immediate view of the western hills, it too has a long upright shape with a pointed end to the stone, leaning at a considerable angle. The massive stone of Dunruchan A is clearly visible on the grassy cairn-scattered plain 543 yards to the east and the smaller Dunruchan B to the north on the slopes below. Dunruchan C was deemed as one of the central stones in this unlikely megalithic stone row by both Aubrey Burl (1993) and Alexander Thom (1990). Mr Coles’ description of the site told:

“This huge block…rugged and irregular…makes, from the extraordinary angle at which it leans over southwards, a surprisingly picturesque object amid the heather and the various small boulders that lie scattered about in its vicinity. Of oblong basal section, the Stone tapers sharply up to a small narrow edge, which is at present 9 feet 4 inches in vertical height above the grassy ledge surrounding the base. In girth it measures over 17 feet, and the slope of its upper surface is over 12 feet in length. Intervening undulations in the moorland prevent one seeing the two Stones which stand farther down south-wards. The main axis of its base is N. 18° W. by S. 18° E. ”

Dunruchan C, looking east
The leaning pillar of Dunruchan C

Once you walk onto the mound above this stone, the landscape opens up all round you. The southernmost monoliths of the Dunruchan complex awake to the south; what seems to have been another significant boulder sits low down a few hundred yards to the west; the faint outline of a large man-made enclosure of some sort is another 100 yards west of that; and the rocky mountains west and north of here captures you with a relaxing exultation, typical of the Scottish hills.  This arena is an absolute must for all megalith fanatics!

Folklore

According to an account in the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1860, “these stones are believed to mark the graves or commemorate the death of Roman soldiers who fell in a battle fought here between the Romans and the Caledonians.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Cole, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Phillips: Crieff 1896.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Dunruchan C

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Dunruchan C 56.331127, -3.956780 Dunruchan C

Dunruchan ‘B’ Standing Stone, Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 79164 17375

Also Known as:

  1. Aodann Mhor
  2. Canmore ID 24790
  3. Cornoch
  4. Shillinghill

Getting Here

The smallest of Dunruchan’s majestic standing stones

Take the same directions to reach the Dunruchan A standing stone, taking the small track up across from the Craigneich standing stone. As you walk up the field from the roadside, don’t go thru the gate, but just walk straight uphill, following the fence through boggy & overgrown vegetation. When you get to where the hill starts to level out and the fence cuts across in front of you, notice the small standing stone on the other side of the fence, about 100 yards up. That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Fred Coles’ 1911 drawing

This, the smallest of the six Dunruchan standing stones, is what Fred Coles (1911) ascribed as “the North-West Stone,” or Dunruchan B. In size alone it has a very different character to the others on the hillside immediately above and almost seems out of character when compared to the rest. Standing amidst typical moorland vegetation, this pointed upright is more than five feet tall, and from here its huge companions can be seen rising from the Earth to both east and south. Coles’ description on this stone told:

“This block of conglomerate, not half the height of (Dunruchan A)…occupies a rather lower position 385 yards to the west. Its basal girth is 8 feet 10 inches and its height 5 feet 1 inch, the south being the smoothest of its four sides. It is not now quite vertical, having a lean to the south. Like the great North-east Stone, this one tapers to a rather fine point… From this Stone the other four in the group as well as that at Craigneich are visible. ”

Dunruchan B, looking NW
Dunruchan B, looking south

However, we couldn’t make out all the standing stones in this complex like Coles reported. The huge leaning monolith of Dunruchan C is the closest of the others from here and, perhaps, would be the reason the cluster have been added to the lists of megalithic stone rows by Burl (1993) and Thom (1990), as a spacious curved row geometrically links them together – but I’ve gotta say, I’m sceptical about this as a deliberate megalithic alignment. However, I’ve no doubt that Alfred Watkins and his fellow ley hunters would add this to their inventory of Perthshire ley lines.

Folklore

According to an account in the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1860, “these stones are believed to mark the graves or commemorate the death of Roman soldiers who fell in a battle fought here between the Romans and the Caledonians.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Cole, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Phillips: Crieff 1896.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Dunruchan B

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Dunruchan B 56.333322, -3.955971 Dunruchan B

Dunruchan ‘A’ Standing Stone, Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 79555 17388

Also Known as:

  1. Aodann Mhor
  2. Cornoch
  3. Shillinghill

Getting Here

The giant Dunruchan A stone

From Comrie town centre take the road south across Dalginross Bridge over the river, heading towards Braco, up the winding B827 road for 2-3 miles until you reach a small crossroads (you can easily miss it, so watch out!). Turn left and, about a mile on, 100 yards or so before Craigneich Farm (near its lovely standing stone), go up the track on your right up the hills. Follow the track up and through the gate, then walk straight uphill. A coupla hundred yards up you’ll see a large standing stone on the flat grassy plain to your left. That’s Dunruchan A.

Archaeology & History

Dunruchan A, looking east

This is a magnificent stone in a magnificent landscape, no doubt of considerable mythic importance to the people who lived and erected it several thousand years ago. It is the tallest of at least six standing stones to be seen on this section of moorland and  stands out on the hillside from various angles as you walk the hills and glens around here: an element that was, no doubt, intended by those who built it.  It’s probably a very old standing stone, more likely neolithic in origin than the generally ascribed Bronze Age.

The great stone in the sky
Dunruchan A, and its heathen onlooker

Standing on the flat grassy plain above Shillinghill and Craigneich, it is surrounded by many small cairns and, it would seem, was once accompanied by a cairn of its own if the scatter of small rocks around its base is anything to go by (though I’m not aware of any detailed excavations here by antiquarians, so this initial assumption may be wrong). Indeed, it seems the Dunruchan A stone stands in the middle of a scattered prehistoric cemetery if the many small overgrown piles of rocks are anything to go by: though I know of no detailed account of these many scatterings of stones (anyone know if they’re ancient, or field clearances?).  However, the great megalith hunter Fred Coles (1911) did comment on how this and the other giant standing stones nearby may “commemorate burials,” but didn’t explore the idea any further.

Approaching twelve feet tall, it was Cole (1911) who described this huge standing stone in one of his essays on the Perthshire megaliths, telling:

“Dunruchan Moor stretches, at a general height of about 700 feet above sea-level, for nearly two miles towards the south and south-west of Craigneich. At its northern extremity, and distant from the Craigneich Stone about 610 yards, stands the first and the tallest of the group (A on the plan), a huge pointed mass of conglomerate schist, its apex being 11 feet 4 inches above ground. Its base is a somewhat regular oblong, measuring along the north and south faces 4 feet 2 inches, and across the edges 3 feet 10 inches and 2 feet 2 inches, the wider of these being on the east. Small and insignificant boulders lie loosely around it. The smoothest and most vertical side faces the north. The illustration (fig. 16A) was drawn from the east, with the Aberuchil Hills as a background.”

Fred Coles’ 1911 drawing

From this great stone, looking west across the moors the giant standing stone of Dunruchan C and its companions can be noticed just a few hundred yards away.  A cup-marked stone can also be seen about 200 yards west of here. It has been suggested that this and the other standing stones were part of some curious megalithic stone row (Burl 1993; Thom 1990), but this seems most unlikely.  Thom made no notes of the archaeoastronomical potential at Dunruchan A, nor its associates.

As a megalithic complex, this area is outstanding.  The other large standing stones of Dunruchan D and Dunruchan E are on the moorland plain a few hundred yards to the southwest and must be visited if you explore the area.  This is serious megalith country!

Folklore

According to an account in the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1860, “these stones are believed to mark the graves or commemorate the death of Roman soldiers who fell in a battle fought here between the Romans and the Caledonians.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Cole, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Phillips: Crieff 1896.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Many thanks to Paul Hornby for use of his photos!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Dunruchan A

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Dunruchan A 56.333487, -3.949675 Dunruchan A

Shillinghill, Muthill, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 7936 1739 *

Also Known as:

  1. Aodann Mhor
  2. Dunruchan

Getting Here

Cup-marked stone, with Dunruchan C standing stone on horizon

We parked-up by the small trackway into the fields on the opposite side of the road 100 yards short of Craigneich across from the standing stone, then walked up the track, thru the gate, then walked uphill.  Tis boggy & bumpy as you’d expect – and then, as you espy the giant standing stones of Dunruchan on the ridges above, watch out for the large rounded boulder (amongst many) as you near the level 100 yards or so before the magnificent Dunruchan A stone.  Look around!

Archaeology & History

Close-up of cup-marks

Not far from the cup-marked stones of Blar an Rodhar is what appears to be another such carving.  Here, two archetypal cup-marks are clearly visible on one of the large rocks on the slope up to the huge standing stone of Dunruchan A.  There may be other faint cup-marks on this boulder, but the light wasn’t too good when we first found this, so I’m not sure about any others. The main two however, as the photo shows, stand out! A grassy overgrown cairn is some 10 yards away to the east, almost in line with the largest Dunruchan Stone. The Dunruchan C standing stone is also clearly visible on the skyline to the west, leaning at an angle. Many other small cairns are scattered on the grassy plain where this cup-marked stone rests.  The carving is not included on Canmore’s website, so this could be another new find.  However, the rock up here aint what I’m used to – so if any local geologists or antiquarians can show me it’s Nature’s handiwork, please lemme know and I’ll delete it from the website.

* Grid-ref may need revising, as we went out without mapping instruments. If someone gets a better coordinate, please send it in.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Shillinghill CR

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Shillinghill CR 56.333573, -3.952812 Shillinghill CR