Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the Falls of Monzie (2) carving; but instead of walking off the track to see that particular carving, keep to the track for about another 60 yards then go up the slight slope on your right. The stone is pretty much overgrown, but if you’re patient you’ll find it.
Archaeology & History
It is difficult to say with any certainty whether or not this petroglyphs has previously been reported. A somewhat confusing series of descriptions by several writers would indicate that is has not been recorded; but I’m happy to be shown otherwise… It’s nowt much to look at if truth be had. Heavily eroded by the elements, this elongated flat stone possesses seven very shallow cups, with a possible eighth, as you can see highlighted in the photo.
A couple of miles east of Crieff, take the A822 road from the Gilmerton junction towards the Sma’ Glen. After literally 1¾ miles (2.8km)—just 100 yards before the track up to Connachan Farm—you’ll reach a dirt-track on your left that leads into the hills. Go along here for 250 yards (230m) yards (the track has straightened out here) and then walk into the reeds on your right. About 15 yards in, look around!
Archaeology & History
Another one of those fascinating carvings that had me here for an hour, maybe more, poring over more and more features as the light, shadow and rock gave more and more depending on how I looked at it. Tis the same with many petroglyphs, of course… But I liked this one.
On initial impression it didn’t seem up to much: maybe a few faint cups—some certain, others no so much. But the more attention we gave this stone, so more of those unlikely faint cups became much more real. At first there were a dozen; then 15 or more; but as we gave it more and more attention, so more of the petroglyphic design showed its original form. They do that, these stones! When George Currie rediscovered this carving in 2008 he found 17 cup-marks on the stone, but at least thirty of them go to make up this petroglyph. There may even be a very faint, albeit incomplete ring around one of them, but I’ll let the computer-tech kids work that one out!
This carving has that peculiar and not-too-infrequent element of having some cups carved into the natural cracks in the stone. In this case, at least four of them can be seen etched into the large deep crack that runs along its more northern edge. They’re quite distinct once you get your focus on them. In this case—albeit it to a much lesser extent—this feature reminded me of the impressive West Strathan carving in Sutherland. But where this natural crack finishes, it has been artificially extended until it reaches the eastern edge of the stone. You’ll also notice in the photos highlighting this feature, that another artificial line has been carved at right-angles to it, heading south, until it meets another natural crack in the stone. It’s quite distinct. And along this second artificial line, you’ll notice another cup or three—one of which has been cut into the line. These two man-made extended cracks in the stone, give the simple impression of an early cross symbol. Features such as this, whilst seemingly trivial to the bog standard explorer, possess some very curious myths in some living traditions elsewhere in the world; but such things are beyond the remit of this site profile.
Currie, G., “Falls of Monzie, Perth and Kinross (Crieff parish), Cup-marked rock”, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland (New Series) volume 9, 2008.
Along the A822 road past Crieff and then Gilmerton, shortly past here is a small road to Monzie and the Glenturret Distillery or Famous Grouse Experience. Go on this road and after a just a coupla hundred yards you’ll see the large old gatehouse for Monzie Castle on the left. Ask at the gatehouse and they’ll point you to the stone—in the field about 300 yards past the Monzie stone circle, 200 yards past the gatehouse itself. You can’t really miss it!
Archaeology & History
This is a fascinating stone for a variety of reasons—not least of which it enabled us to identify an otherwise curious geological anomaly as an unerected standing stone some 16 miles SSW…but that’s a story for later! The stone here leans at an angle in the field, as shown in the photo, but it still rises 5 feet tall and is a thick chunky fella, with one face very flat and smoothed indeed from top to bottom. This side of the stone was obviously cut and dressed this way when first erected. As Paul Hornby then noted, its western face is also quite flat and smoothed aswell, with the edge between the two sides almost squared at right-angles. The eastern and southern sides of the stone are undressed, as the phrase goes. These physical characteristics have just been found at a newly found pair of un-erected standing stones on the western edges of the Ochils, just below a newly found cairn circle.
There were several early descriptions of this stone, two of which talked about an avenue or road along which the stone seemed to stand within. This ‘avenue’ was in fact the very edge of what is probably an earlier prehistoric enclosure—but you can’t really see this anymore unless you’re in the air (check Google Earth, which shows it reasonably well).
In J. Romilly Allen’s (1882) account, he mentions the stone only in passing, telling it to be “a single standing stone measuring 4 feet by 3 feet and 5 feet high (with) no markings on it.” It was later described in Fred Coles’ (1911) survey of the region where he told:
“This monolith is the westerly of the two prehistoric sites grouped on the O.M. as Standing Stones. It stands a few yards to the south of the avenue, almost half a mile from the East Lodge. The Stone has a slight lean towards the north. Its southern side is remarkably broad and smooth, measuring 4 feet across the base on that side, in girth 13 feet 1 inch and in vertical height 4 feet 9 inches.”
In Alexander Thom’s edited magnum opus (1980) he found that this standing stone—800 feet northwest of the superb Monzie cup-and-ring stone and associated megalithic ring—marks the midsummer sunset from the stone circle. We noted on our visit here, that this alignment runs to the distant cairn on the far northwest horizon, many miles away.
In Joyce Miller’s (2010) excellent work on Scottish heathenism, she told the folowing tale of this stone:
“The standing stone is said to mark the site of Kate McNiven or MacNieven’s, sometimes known as the witch of Monzie, execution. The story goes that she was put in a barrel and rolled down what is now known as Kate MacNieven’s Craig on the north side of the Knock of Crieff before being burnt. Kate had been the nurse to the Grahams of Inchbrackie, and was accused of witchcraft, including turning herself into a bee. Graham of Inchbrackie tried to save her but to no avail, but as she was about to die it is said that she spat a bead from her necklace into his hand. The bead – a blue sapphire – was turned into a ring and it was believed that the ring would keep the family and lands secure. She did, however, curse the laird of Monzie, although whether this worked or not is not known. MacNiven or Nic Niven was also believed to be the name of the Queen of Fairies. Indeed it is not clear whether Kate MacNiven was a real person or is a conflation of stories. There do not appear to be any contemporary records of her execution at or near Crieff, and dates for her unpleasant death are variously given as 1563, 1615 and 1715.”
From Gilmerton village, take the A822 Dunkeld road north. Go for about 200 yards and take the little road to Monzie; watching carefully another 200 yards on for the dirt-track on the left taking you across the fields. Go along the track, watching out for the small stones in the field on your right less than 200 yards along. You can’t really miss ’em! This small ring of stones is the Monzie Cairn Circle. The carving is just in front of it!
Archaeology & History
Although we know this brilliant carved stone has some relationship with the Monzie cairn circle only five yards away (it was linked via a man-made stone causeway, running between the circle and the carving), the stone itself is very much deserving of its own entry here — and at the same time I can give Andrew Finlayson’s (2010) excellent book a decent plug aswell! (the superb drawings of the stone, top & bottom, are from Andy’s work)
First mentioned (I think) in Simpson’s (1867) early survey, the carving was described soon after by J. Romilly Allen (1882), who gave us an early drawing of the stone. Thought by some to have originally stood upright, the carving was described by Aubrey Burl (2000) as being, “decorated with forty-six cupmarks, cup-and-rings, nine double, one triple, there are grooves and a pair of joined cups.” It’s certainly an impressive carving!
Although the carving has been posited by some archaeologists as an outlier to the Monzie circle, it’s probable that the circle emerged from the carving — a concept that some may find difficult to understand. I’m not aware of any modern excavations here (the last, I think, was in 1938), but my guess would be that the stone causeway laid between the cup-and-ring stone and the circle ran towards the circle from the carving, and not the other way round. The carving is probably older than the stone ring — though of course, without excavation, my idea could be utter bullshit! (there are also some cup-marked stones in the circle aswell – though none as impressive as this)
One of my truly favourite megalith fanatics (despite some of his alignments being out), Alexander Thom, came here and thought this old carving “coincided with a rough stellar alignment from the centre-point of the cairn” (Hadingham 1974); though his notes in Megalithic Rings (1980) tell that,
“from the cupmarked stone beside the circle, the midsummer sun sets above an outlier some 800ft distant.”
The “outlier” that Thom mentions is known as the Witches’ Stone of Monzie; which Simpson (1867) appears to have mistakenly thought was the name of this very carving…..or have I gorrit wrong…?
Allen, J. Romilly, “Notes on some Undescribed Stones with Cup Markings in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 16, 1882.
Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
Hadingham, Evan, Ancient Carvings in Britain, Garnstone: London 1974.
Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
Thom, Alexander, “Megalithic Astronomy: Indications in Standing Stones,” in Vistas in Astronomy, volume 7, 1966.
Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, H.A.W., Megalithic Rings, BAR: Oxford 1980.