West Mains (02), Turin Hill, Aberlemno, Angus

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 52150 53695

Getting Here

West Mains cup-marked stone

West Mains cup-marked stone

Follow the same directions as if you’re looking for the Doo’cot Woods carving; but, in the field that you have to cross before entering the trees, about 50 yards down from the top of the field, a geological ridge of stone runs along into the trees themselves.  The carving is along this ridge in the field.  Walk along and you’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Not described in earlier surveys, this is one of two cup-marked stones close to each other along this long ridge of stone reaching across the field.  The carving has just two distinct cups, as illustrated, between 2-3 inches across and half-an-inch deep. As with the adjacent carving, no other features seem to visible.

Close-up of cup-marks

Close-up of cup-marks

We must, however, be cautious with this and other ‘cup-markings’ nearby, as a lot of the stone in this area is conglomerate with nodules of differing forms of rock (visible on nearby stones) falling away to leave cup-like impressions where the softer stone has eroded. Some of the cup-markings listed in John Sherriff’s (1995) survey of this region seem to be purely geological in nature and not man-made.

References:

  1. Sherriff, John, “Prehistoric rock-carving in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.672547, -2.782480 West Mains (2)

Girdle Stane, Dunnichen, Angus

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 52808 49737

John Sheriff's 1995 drawing of Girdle Stane

John Sheriff’s 1995 drawing of Girdle Stane

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 34662
  2. Dunnichen 1
  3. Girdlestane
  4. The Girdle Stane of Dunnichen
  5. Girdle Stone

Getting Here

From The Square in Letham village, go north up Auldbar Road and out of the village for 0.6 miles (1km).  Shortly before reaching the road junction at the top, on the left-side of the road is a recess with a stone and a small aging plaque telling you that you’ve reached the Girdle Stane.

Archaeology & History

The Girdle Stane

The Girdle Stane

This cup-and-ring stone is not in its original position.  Although we know from Ordnance Survey records in the 1860s that it was located about 130 yards north of here, close to the road junction, even that is unlikely to have been its original position—but we know not where that might have been!  It is an undoubted multi-period carving, with the earliest section being our typical neolithic or Bronze Age cup-and-ring near the centre of the stone, with several outlying cup-marks toying with our intellect as per usual!  The central cup-and-ring may have an incised line running down out of it, although this isn’t highlighted on John Sheriff’s (1995) drawing of the stone.

Girdle Stane on 1865 map

Girdle Stane on 1865 map

Surrounding the central archetype, by some distance, is a much wider carved ring that almost reaches to defines the edges of the stone itself.  This large encircling motif and other features of the petroglyph—including a large elongated “S” and marks that were probably executed by the Ordnance Survey lads at the bottom corner—were ingredients which prompted Sir James Simpson (1867) to question the veracity of the Girdle Stane’s antiquity.  He wrote:

“The so-called ‘Girdle-stone’ in the…parish of Rescobie, about four feet long and three broad, is cut on its surface with two circles, the largest of which is above two feet and a half broad, and hence does not, I believe, belong to the class which we are considering in this essay”—

More recent "S"-shaped motif

More recent “S”-shaped motif

Close-up of cups, ring and lines

Close-up of cups, ring and lines

i.e., neolithic or Bronze Age petroglyphs.  And you can see his point!  My first impression when Prof Paul Hornby and I visited the site a few days ago, after the initial “that’s a cup-and-ring in the middle”, was to proclaim: “that bit’s much more recent, maybe Pictish?”  But it probably isn’t even Pictish.  This “more recent” carved element is a distinct large elongated “S”, which may have been marked onto it when the stone was used as a township boundary marker between the local parishes.  The grand historical writer Alex Warden (1882) talks about this in his magnum opus, saying:

“At the junction of two roads, a little to the northeastward of Letham, there is a rough boulder, about five feet long by three in breadth, having on its face a circle of about thirty inches in diameter, and another smaller circle about six inches across.  It is called the Girdle Stane of Dunnichen, from the larger circle resembling the utensil called the girdle, s.c. This stone marks the boundaries between the parishes of Dunnichen and Rescobie, also between the lands of Dunnichen and Ochterlony (Balmadies).  It is probably the Grey Stone referred to in a note on the marches of Dunnichen, about 1280.”

Folklore

The folklore of the stone indicates how its origins are rooted in prehistory, despite the later additional symbols.  Alex Warden (1882) tells the all-too-familiar creation myth, usually symptomatic of giant prehistoric cairns:

“Tradition says a witch was carrying this boulder from ‘the Crafts’ of Carmylie in her apron, when the strings broke, and the stone fell where it now lies.”

Carmyllie Hill is 5 miles (8km) to the south and is a place rich in fairy-lore and vandalized prehistoric sites.

References:

  1. Coutts, Herbert, Ancient Monuments of Tayside, Dundee Museum 1970.
  2. Kidd, Scott, The Churches of the Parish of Dunnichen, David Winter: Dundee 1995.
  3. Sherriff, John, “Prehistoric rock-carving in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.
  4. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
  5. Warden, Alex J., Angus or Forfarshire – volume 3, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1882.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.637054, -2.770979 Girdle Stane

West Mains (01), Turin Hill, Aberlemno, Angus

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 52137 53694

Getting Here

West Mains 1 Cup-Marks
West Mains 1

Follow the same directions as if you’re looking for the Doo’cot Woods carving; but, in the field that you have to cross before entering the trees, about 50 yards down from the top of the field, a geological ridge of stone runs along into the trees themselves.  The carving is along this ridge in the field.  Walk along and you’ll find it! (the grid-reference for this carving is slightly off-centre and needs correcting)

Archaeology & History

Cup-marks from above
Cup-marks from above

Not described in earlier surveys, this is one of two cup-marked stones close to each other along this long ridge of stone reaching across the field.  The carving has three distinct cups, as shown in the photos, and another two more faded ones. No other features seemed visible when we were here.  We must, however, be careful with this and other ‘cup-markings’ in the area, as a lot of the stone is conglomerate and nodules of differing forms of rock (visible on nearby stones) fall away, leaving cup-like impressions where the softer stone erodes. Some of the cup-markings listed in John Sherriff’s (1995) survey of this region seem to be purely geological in nature and not man-made.  Several more visits are needed here so we can ascertain the valid carvings from the geological features.

References:

  1. Sherriff, John, “Prehistoric rock-carving in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.672528, -2.782660 West Mains (01)

Doo’cot Woods, Turin Hill, Aberlemno, Angus

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 52249 53716

Getting Here

Faint Doo'cot Woods carvings
Faint Doo’cot Woods carvings

A tricky venture, best approached along the B9113 eastwards out of Forfar, towards Rescobie Loch.  Just a coupla hundred yards past the lochside, go up the track that leads you to the farmhouse called West Mains of Turin, below Turin Hill on the left-hand side of the road (north). Go up through and past the farm, up the track until you hit the gate that takes where the old quarries appear.  Looking right, a copse of woods appears. Go into it and about two-thirds way up, a slight rise marks a long ridge of rock cutting across the woodland. The carving is near the very eastern end of this ridge at the far side of the trees. Good luck!

Archaeology & History

Cup-markings, faintly visible
Cup-markings, faintly visible

Not included in John Sherriff’s (1995) survey of Angus petroglyphs, this “carving”, like many in his survey, may be deemed slightly debatable and require the attention of qualified geologists to ascertain the veracity, or otherwise, of a number of supposed cup-marked stones that he describes.  This one, found in the woodland beneath the undergrowth of years of pine needles and such things (hence the poor quality photos), has between 9 and 11 cup-markings etched on the southern sides of a large earthfast stone found in the woodland.  There may be more cups on this rock, beneath the compressed vegetation, but we didn’t spend too much time here to find out (bad boys that we are!).

References:

  1. Sherriff, John, “Prehistoric rock-carving in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.672740, -2.780809 Doocot Woods

Balinshoe, Kirriemuir, Angus

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 4164 5219

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 33871
  2. The Stannin Stane of Benshie

Archaeology & History

Site of the standing stone on 1865 OS-map
Site of the standing stone on 1865 OS-map

In a region that is full of prehistoric remains, we find here another example of another megalithic site that was sadly destroyed, not too long ago by the scale of things.  Found in association with a large prehistoric urn, we are thankful to have a couple of early local history accounts that describe the place.  The stone was obviously of some considerable height and bulk, though I can find no specific references to the dimensions of the monolith.  It was described effectively in the middle-half of the 19th century by Andrew Jervise (1853), who told us:

“‘The Stannin Stane of Benshie’, which stood for unknown ages…was demolished by gunpowder about half a century ago, and the spot is now covered by luxuriant crops of corn. This rude monument of antiquity is supposed to have been about twenty tons in weight; and at a considerable depth below it, a large clay urn, measuring about three feet in height and of corresponding circumference, was found containing a quantity of human bones and ashes.  Like its rude protector, however, the urn was broken to pieces; and, beyond the mere fact of its discovery, nothing authentic, as to either the style of its manufacture, or the precise nature or state of its contents, is preserved.”

More than 30 years later, A.J. Warden (1884) and then J.G. MacPherson (1885) all but copied Mr Jervise’s words, adding no further information.

From some reason, a small chapel dedicated to St. Ninian (NO 41567 51932) was built about 100 yards or so to the southwest of the old standing stone.  Its ruins are still to be seen. Whether this was an attempt to divert local people away from their animistic ecocentricism at the stone, into the more ecocidal egocentricism of the incoming christian cult (as was/is their common practice), we may never know for sure.

Folklore

The local name of this stone, ‘The Stannin Stane of Benshie’, indicates simply that this was “the standing stone at the hill of the faerie folk” (or variations thereof) and suggest it stood upon or next to a mound. I can find no immediate reference to stories of the little people here, and their whisper may have faded into unconscious memory.  Does anyone know more about this place?

References:

  1. Jervise, Andrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland and Knox: Edinburgh 1853.
  2. MacPherson, J.G., Strathmore: Past and Present, S. Cowan: Perth 1885.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Central Angus, Angus District, Tayside Region, Edinburgh 1983.
  4. Warden, Alex J., Angus or Forfarshire: The Land and People – Descriptive and Historical – volume 4, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1884.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.657776, -2.953512 Balinshoe