Four Stanes, Glendevon, Perthshire

Stone Circle (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – NN 95294 05196

Getting Here

1860 OS-map of site location
1860 OS-map of site location

Take the A823 road up from Gleneagles to Glendevon and at the top of the long hill, where the road starts to level out and slightly drop, where the two glens meet up, take the right turn (west) and park up by the cattle-grid.  Walk back onto the A823 and walk about 200 yards south towards Glendevon, to the small copse of trees past the cottage.  As you get to the trees, look by the fencing and you’ll see one archetypal rounded standing stone, with another one next to it. You’re here!

Archaeology & History

Remains of stones at Fourstanes
Stones by the roadside at Fourstanes

At long last my huge nose is twitching back to its authentic sniffing-out lost sites in the landscape.  During a visit to the St. Mungo’s Well a few days ago, on the way back to the car I kept saying to my fellow antiquarian Paul Hornby that “there’s something missing round here.”

“Wotcha mean?” he said.

“Summat missing Paul. It feels there should be a four-poster or summat like that here — where the two glens meet up.  I can smell it.  Summat should be here, or was here in the past.”

I said it several times as we walked back along the old track to the car.  We took the photos and he set off to give me a grateful lift back home.  But as we got back onto the road, we noticed a couple of upright stones just set back at the edge of a small copse of trees.  One was very rounded and about four-feet tall, with a smaller companion next to it.  But we didn’t stop to check them out as it was getting late.

A few days later Paul rang me to ask if I’d had a look at the old maps of the region where we’d visited and seen the old place-name where we’d been.

“No, why?”

“It’s known as the ‘Four Stanes’,” he said. “And right where those stones were standing by the trees!”

A few happy expletives came out, as usual for me.  So I sought out the map he was talking about and, as we can see above, the “Fourstanes” (or Stones) are right where my ‘feelings’ and the stones were seen.

Fourstanes02Fourstanes04On the 1860 Ordnance Survey map of the area, a small building is shown and named as ‘Fourstanes’ right by the roadside, on the south side.  It was also named as such in an earlier account of 1851 and was told to be inhabited by a Mrs Foote in 1866. Sometime after this the cottage appears to have been left to neglect and no trace of it now remains.  According to evidences of the place-name societies in England and Scotland and the studies of Smith (1956), Scott (2004) and others, unless the term derives from the Gaelic fuar, meaning cold or chilly, it is usually evidence of ‘four stones’ in relation to megalithic remains like those found from Shetland to the more southerly counties in England. Dr Aubrey Burl (1988) shows clearly in his textbook of the same name, that “four poster stone circles” are common megalithic architectural features in the Perthshire landscape — where this happens to be!  He also states that such place-names should be listed and checked as possible “sites of destroyed four posters.” So we did just that!

Although the stones look very good contenders in the photos and also when you first see them close up, there are some elements here that need highlighting that throw a more sceptical view of them as authentic megaliths.  The larger of the two stones—very rounded and worn, typical of other four-poster remains—is three feet high.  The lichen vegetation covering it on all sides is old—except on its back (northern) upright face, where there is almost no vegetation at all.  Indeed, this face is almost entirely clear of any natural plant growth, showing it was moved into this position from a lower horizontal level and pushed upright, I would say within the last century.  The smaller, lower stone next to this upright oddity, is laid down and covered on all sides by an excess of vegetation expected of a monolith that has been in this position for several centuries at least. The lichen growth on this stone is very old.

Both of these stones occur along the line of an old wall and may have originally been a part of such a structure, instead of any four poster megalithic feature.  However, the road that runs past here replaced the earlier track (which you can still walk along on the other side of the river 100 yards away) running through Glen Devon and into Glen Eagles.  This “new road” as it was then, was made sometime in the 19th century. It may be that, upon the construction of the new road, the ‘fourstanes’ themselves were “in the way of Progress” (as they like to say) and so were rolled down the side of the new road and into the position they now occupy.  It’s difficult to say.

There is one additional element that needs exploring. The hill immediately above Fourstanes is called ‘The Law.’  Although this word can be a simple “hill”, there are additional historical factors to a place-name.  In Laurence Gomme’s (1880: 260-77) excellent work on the subject, he illustrates time and again across Scotland that heathen gatherings, tribal meetings and early court sessions or ‘moots’ were held at places with this place-name element.  It should come as no surprise then, that at other megalithic sites in Britain called the Four Stones, ancient pagan moot were also held there. (Gomme 1880; Grinsell 1936, 1976)

We’re going back onto The Law itself in the next week or two, just to see if these ‘fourstanes’ are hiding away in the heather on the tops, where oh so many megalithic rings tend to be found….

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  2. Dwelly, Edward, The Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary, Gairm: Glasgow 1973.
  3. Gomme, Laurence, Primitive Folk Moots, Sampson Low: London 1880.
  4. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
  5. Grinsell, Leslie V., Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, David & Charles: London 1976.
  6. Scott, Margaret Rachel, The Germanic Toponymicon of Southern Scotland: Place-Name Elements, Glasgow University Press 2004.
  7. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – 2 volumes, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  8. Watson, Alexander, The Ochils – Placenames, History, Tradition, Perth & Kinross District Libraries 1995.

AcknowledgementsHuge thanks to Paul Hornby for considerable help in checking out the maps and helping in the rediscovery of this site.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Four Stanes

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Four Stanes 56.227695, -3.690485 Four Stanes

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

Garchel Burn, Glendevon, Perthshire

Hut Circles:  OS Grid Reference – NN 9696 0182

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25942

Getting Here

Line of walling to hut circle on ridge
Line of walling to hut circle on ridge

Along the A823 road from the Pool of Muckhart up to Glendevon, watch out for the small left turning opposite the car-parking spot by the Castlehill Reservoir a couple of miles up the road.  Walk up this small road a mile or so to the Glenquey reservoir, taking the footpath on your right and making sure you walk along the north-side of the waters.  You’ll eventually reach a small set of beautiful mossy green waterfalls (with the rounded fairy hill of Maiden Castle ahead of you).  This is the Garchel Burn. Take steep the path up the side until it levels out a bit, heading for the small clump of stones on the near skyline a couple of hundred yards ahead. That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This is a curious little cluster of seemingly multi-period remains sitting on the edges above the gorgeous waters of the Garchel Burn.  The Royal Commission Canmore report ascribes the scattered rocky cluster below the deer-fencing as the main hut circle – and the line of walling running slightly down the slope does have that traditional Iron Age look about it.  But it’s yet to be excavated.  The larger ring of stones constituting the main ‘circle’ is very much bogged-down, literally, amidst tussock and marshland, with an arc of stones running away from the circle and it’s obviously been made use of it by people in more recent times.

Small 'hut circle' to centre
Small ‘hut circle’ to centre

Below the larger rock cluster is a lovely oval structure, built upon a slight rise overlooking the burn, with all the rocks in the structure overgrown with age and grasses.  Tis a beautiful spot to sit and hear the silence of the waters around you.  Aerial images show the outlines of other roughly circular remains in the same area, but none are yet excavated – and some are distinctly much later in period, medieval by the look of things and very probably used by farmers in more recent centuries.  In all probability, there are more things to be found up here, hiding within the forests…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Garchel Burn

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Garchel Burn 56.197824, -3.662189 Garchel Burn

Maiden’s Well, Glendevon, Perthshire

Healing Well: OS Grid Reference – NN 9703 0139

Also Known as:

1. Maiden Well

Maidens Well on 1866 map
Maidens Well on 1866 map

Getting Here

Follow the same directions as if you’re going to the Maiden Castle fairy hill.  About 100 yards before reaching the hill, on the right-hand side of the footpath between the tree-line and the small stream, you’ll see a small pool of water. This is Maiden’s Well.

Archaeology & History

Maiden's Well - and the fairy haunt of Maiden Castle hill behind
Maiden’s Well – and the fairy haunt of Maiden Castle hill behind

A mile northeast of the faerie-haunted Butter Well, just on the border of Clackmannanshire and Perthshire, we find this little-known magickal spring.  More than a century ago, the story of this remote well was heard about hundreds of miles away by one Rev. Andrew Clark of Oxford, “who heard it from the late sexton of the parish of Dollar, in the county of Clackmannan” and who then mentioned its existence to the great Victorian Celtic scholar John Rhys (1901), who subsequently wrote of it as being “a fine spring bordered with flat stones, in the middle of a neat, turfy spot”, close to the legendary faerie hall of Maiden Castle. The well itself has now given birth to a pool whose waters, so folklore and text ascribe, always provides good clear water even in the height of summer.

The local historian Hugh Haliburton (1905) told that the well obtained its name from a princess who was held captive in Castle Campbell in the valley to the southwest, and that she was sometimes allowed out of prison by her captors, to walk to the well and drink its waters.

Folklore

This tale has been mentioned by various historians and, no doubt, has some religious relevance to the faerie lore of Maiden Castle, close by, Bruce Baillie (1998) told:

“A story associated with it states that it is haunted by the spirit of a beautiful maiden which only appears at night and, should any male attempt to kiss her, coronary thrombosis occurs.”!

The Maiden's Well pool
The Maiden’s Well pool

Earlier accounts tell of magickal rites that could be used to invoke the beautiful maiden, but once again dire consequences may befall the poor practitioner.

To this day, local people visit the well and make offerings to the spirit of the waters, as you’ll see if you come here.  Some of the remains here are very old; and a visit not long ago indicated that offerings were made even when surrounded by depths of snow in the middle of a freezing winter.

References:

  1. Baillie, Bruce, History of Dollar, DMT: Dollar 1998.
  2. Fergusson, R. Menzies, The Ochil Fairy Tales, Clackmannan District Libaries 1985.
  3. Haliburton, Hugh, Excursions in Prose and Verse, G.A. Morton: Edinburgh 1905.
  4. Rhys, John, Celtic Folklore – Welsh and Manx: volume 1, Oxford University Press 1901.
  5. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.193924, -3.660908 Maidens Well

Maiden Castle, Glendevon, Perthshire

Legendary Hill: OS Grid Reference – NN 9710 0141

Also Known as:

  1. Maiden’s Castle

Getting Here

1860 map showing Maiden Castle (and the Maiden's Well)
1860 map showing Maiden Castle (and the Maiden’s Well)

Take the small steep road uphill from the town of Dollar in Clackmannanshire towards Castle Campbell. Less than 100 yards above the small parking spot by the small white house near the top of the hill, turn to walk up the footpath on your right above the house, following the edge of the depleted forestry plantation parallel with the valley.  Cross the valley a few hundred yards up, but keep to path on the other side that stays parallel with the stream.  You’ll hit a small rocky glen a half-mile up. Walk thru it, alongside the very edge of the forest till the trees break and there’s a gap in the hills.  You’ve just walked past the Maiden’s Well and in front of you is a large natural rounded hill, which the footpath bends around. This hill is the Maiden Castle. (if you walk round this, a view into the eastern hills and a small lake opens up ahead of you)

Archaeology & History

The fairy hill of Maiden Castle
The fairy hill of Maiden Castle

A large rounded hill marking the opening of Glenquey to the north and the Glen of Care to the south. Although ascribed in place-names old and new as a ‘castle’, there are no remains as such left here to account for this title. Angus Watson (1995) tells of the possibility of the place deriving its name from the Gaelic Creag Ingheann, or maiden crag. In Bruce Baillie’s (1998) survey of the area, in trying to give some relevance to the place-name, he points out that whilst no hillfort or cairn that might help account for the folklore (see below),

“Large-scale maps indicate a spot opposite on Hillfoot Hill as Greig’s Grave. There would seem to be something ancient here but of what nature it is, at the moment, impossible to say.”

When we visited the place yesterday, snow still covered much of the ground hereby, so we couldn’t do our usual explorations seeking for old sites (even the hut circles 100 yards away were covered over). The legendary healing waters of the Maiden’s Well are below here, by the side of the burn.

Folklore

This large rounded hillock was evidently a place of some importance in bygone days if the folktale here is anything to go by. Although the story echoes the some of the core sequences of modern ‘close encounter’ abduction events, other ingredients here tell of more arcane peasant rites that were once part of the social structure of our ancient heathen tribes:

“A piper, carrying his pipes, was crossing from Glendevon to Dollar in the grey of the evening. He crossed the Garchil (a little stream running into the Quaich), and looked at the Maiden Castle and saw only the grey hillside and heard only the wind soughing through the bent. But when he had passed beyond it, he suddenly heard a burst of lively music and turned round to look at what was causing it. And there, instead of the dark knoll which he had seen a few moments before, he beheld a great castle, with lights blaring from the windows, and heard the noise of dancing issuing from the open door. He went back somewhat incautiously to get a closer view, and a procession issuing at that moment from the Castle’s open door, he was caught up and taken into a great hall ablaze with lights, while people were dancing on the floor. He was at once asked to pipe to them and was forced to do so, but agreed to do so only for a day or two. At last getting anxious, because he knew his people would be wondering why he had not come back in the morning, as he had promised to do, he asked permission to return home. The faeries seemed to sympathise with his anxiety and promised to let him go if he played a favourite tune of his, which they seemed fond of, to their satisfaction. He played his very best. The dance went fast and furious, and at its close he was greeted with loud applause. On his release he found himself alone in the grey of the evening, beside the dark hillock, and no sound was heard save the purr of the burn and the soughing of the wind through the bent. Instead of completing his journey to Dollar, he walked hastily back to Glendevon in order to relieve his folk’s anxiety. He entered his father’s house and found no kent face there. On his protesting that he only gone away for a day or two before, and waxing loud in his bewildered talk, a grey old man was aroused from a doze beside the fire, and told how he had heard when a boy from his father that a piper had gone away to Dollar on a quiet evening, but had never been seen or heard since, nor any trace of him found. It turned out the piper had been in the ‘Castle’ for a hundred years.”

The Fortean experts John Keel (1971) and Jacques Vallee (1970) both contended, quite rightly, that some aspects of the ancient encounters related in such folklore has strong parallels to modern UFO ‘abduction’ events. In addition, Paul Devereux (1989) cites that such events occur where strong geomagnetic forces exist in proximity to rock outcrops, as found here.

There is the additional feature in these stories of the music of both faerie and pipers alike, whose revelling jigs carry the mortal out of time and, when returning back to human life, find no one recognises them.  This is a condition of some rites of passage in traditional societies, where mothers and fathers no longer recognise their child after they have been through the rituals after visiting spirit-lands and returning as adults for the first time: an element in our faerie-lore that has been overlooked in assessing the nature of these fascinating tales.

References:

  1. Baillie, Bruce, History of Dollar, DMT: Dollar 1998.
  2. Devereux, Paul, Earthlights Revelations, Blandford: London 1989.
  3. Fergusson, R. Menzies, The Ochil Fairy Tales, David Nutt 1912.
  4. Keel, John A., UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, Souvenir Press: London 1971.
  5. Rhys, John, Celtic Folklore – Welsh and Manx: volume 1, Oxford University Press 1901.
  6. Vallee, Jacques, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, Tandem: London 1975.
  7. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Maiden Castle

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Maiden Castle 56.194769, -3.660167 Maiden Castle