Make a day out of this one, visiting several old places on the way. From Comrie take the B827 road to Braco, turning right at the tiny Glen Artney road a half-mile along (easy to miss). 3 miles along, pass the derelict Dalness cottage, you can follow the directions to get to the Mailer Fuar (2) cup-and-ring stone; and from here go up the field past the Mailer Fuar (1) carving, through the gate and follow the fence to your right. Keep going till your reach the Allt na Drochaide cup-and-ring stone. From here you’re heading (south) towards the rounded crags of Cnoc Brannan. It’s boggy as fuck in parts so cautiously zigzag through this section up towards the small grassy rise about 350 yards from the cup-and-ring stone. You’ll find it!
Archaeology & History
On one of the gentle rises below the northern slope of Cnoc Brannan we find this sturdy old fella, 3-4 feet tall (I didn’t measure it), looking across the stunning landscapes north, east and west along Glen Artney. Not previously recorded and seemingly isolated from other prehistoric remains, he looks all alone at first sight, but laid down in the grassy rushes (Juncus conglomeratus) to his side, is a slender seven-foot long stone which may have stood upright in the not-too-distant past, giving us another double stone setting in this area (at least two others existed in this area—the closest being at Craggish, 3.7 miles northeast). I have little doubt that other undiscovered prehistoric remains are hiding in the area. (there are a number of single cup-marked stones in the locale, although I tend to leave such examples off the catalogues as they can be somewhat dubious [and many are]. I mention this just in case any rock art students want to forage the area.)
From Comrie take the B827 road to Braco and less than a mile out of town take the tiny Glen Artney road on your right. Past the derelict Dalness cottage 3 miles on, a half-mile further, there’s a gated road veering downhill on your right. Park in the small parking-spot at the left. Walk along 100 yards to the gate on your left and walk up the old path which bends back on itself before leveling out. As it does so, just where the Mailer Fuar (2) carving lives, head uphill to the derelict house and, before reaching the fence, check out the several isolated stones on your right. You’ll find it!
Archaeology & History
This is nowt special to look at and, as I always tend to say with carvings such as this, it’s probably only gonna be of interest to the petroglyphic puritans amongst you. It was described by George Currie (2006) as possessing just one cup-mark, but there are in fact at least three of them on this sloping rock face, possibly four. One of them may—may—have a half-ring around it, but this is very hard to see and might be little more than a trick of the light and just a forlorn hope of something better… It’s worth a brief look before you venture further uphill to the much more impressive Allt na Drochaide carving.
From Comrie take the B827 road to Braco and less than a mile out of town keep your eyes peeled for the tiny Glen Artney road on your right. Past the derelict Dalness cottage 3 miles on, a half-mile further, just where you hit a track-road veering downhill on your right, you need to park up in the small parking-spot on your left. Walk along the road 100 yards, keeping your eyes peeled again for the gate set back on your left (easy to miss!); go thru here, walk up the old path which bends back on itself before leveling out and, as it does, two or three small boulders lie just off the pathway on your right, one with its own petroglyph.
Archaeology & History
There are cups, rings and lines on this old stone, with the lines in particular being somewhat troublesome when it comes to working out their origin: some are natural, some made by modern farming implements (about a hundred years back), and some that were carved thousands of years ago—and it’s not that easy to work out which is which. You’ll be able to see what I mean by looking at the photos.
Rediscovered, it would seem, by M.D. King in 1991, he described it plainly as a simple
“recumbent cup-marked stone 1900mm by 1200mm by 300mm…found in a stone dyke running down the hill from the deserted farm of Mailer Fuar. The stone may have been moved down from its original position for inclusion in the now ruinous stone dyke. Fourteen cup-marks were visible on the stone.”
But there’s much more to it than that! There are rings around the cups for starters. Four of them. Two cup-and-rings next to each other at the southeast portion of the stone are just about complete, as you can see (right); the various lines that run either side and into them seem to be a mix of early and more recent scratches—although I think we’re best asking a petromorphologist to tell us which is which! We have a similar problem for another cup-and-ring near the centre of the stone, for it has two lines going right through its centre: one of them running almost the full north-south length of the stone giving the impression it was carved a long time back, yet looking much less ancient when it comes to its form and erosion; whilst the other line—almost at right-angles to the first—has a decidedly more archaic worn appearance.
One of the more assured “ancient” carved lines is on the eastern section of the stone. (left) It’s an odd looking thing, not very clear on the photo, comprising an elongated curved line, with a fork at the bottom, almost like short legs on an elongated stick-man like the ones we drew as kids. The long line seems to eventually curve over and into one of the cup-marks. Adjacent to the bottom of this forked curve is a cup and faint incomplete ring with a faint line running out of its centre to a smaller faint cup to its west. You can see this reasonably well in the lower photo (right)
The carving needs a lot of attention if we’re to work out its original design, as the photos show. Even the millionaire computer-tech work of the Scottish rock art club didn’t really suss out the differences regarding chronological elements in this carving (I don’t think they even mentioned it), which shows how difficult some of these buggers can be! Personally, I’d love to see the impression of some good artists at this stone when the light’s just right and see what their mind’s eye brings to the fore.
After all this I’ve not even mentioned its position in the landscape. Go check it out and see for y’selves. It’s a bittova beauty!
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 Juncusconglomeratus 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.
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….
St Patrick’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.
Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folk-lore Society: Glasgow 1939.
Booth, C. Gordon, “St Patrick’s Well (Muthill Parish),” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, New Series volume 1, 2000.
Guthrie, E.J., Old Scottish Customs, Thomas D. Morison: Glasgow 1885.
MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
Amidst the colourful and nurturing landscape close to the gigantic Dunruchan standing stones and just along the road from the solitary Craigneich stone, in the field across the road above Straid farmhouse could once be seen a fascinating-sounding prehistoric site that has sadly been destroyed. Some of the remains of this old monument can be found in the field-clearance of stones just over the fence, above the top of the field (many fields round here have scatterings of large stone clearings at the field edges), but we have no detailed accounts of the site. It was mentioned in early notes by the Ordnance Survey to have been,
“A large circular heap of small stone and gravel entirely removed in 1831. An urn filled with ashes and several stone coffins were found under it.”
The local historian John Shearer (1883) later told us that,
“A small mound of earth on the farm of Strayd, called Crock-nafion or the Giant’s Knowe, or the Fingalian’s Knowe, was cleared away several years ago. An urn containing burnt bones was discovered.”
Any additional information about this site and its folklore, would be greatly appreciated.
To the west along Glen Artney whence our view takes us from here, old legend told that the valley was once the abode of a great giant who lived in a cave in one of the mountains thereby. In mythic lore, giants were the creation deities of hills, mountains and other geological forms, whose narratives were overturned and demonized by the incoming christian cult many centuries ago. It is likely that this once great tomb was deemed as the burial-place of our local giant – which would make this prehistoric site neolithic in age. But — logical though it is — this idea is pure speculation…
Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Philips: Crieff 1896.
Shearer, John, Antiquities of Strathearn, David Philips: Crieff, 1883.