Judge’s Cairn, Dunblane, Perthshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NN 73944 05618

Judges Cairn, surveyed 1862

Judges Cairn, surveyed 1862

Also Known as:

  1. The Big Cairn
  2. Canmore ID 24661
  3. Dalbrack

Getting Here

Judges Cairn, looking west

Judges Cairn, looking west

Along the A820 road between Dunblane and Doune, from the Dunblane-side, take the very first minor road on your right a few hundred yards after you’ve come off (or over) the A9 dual-carriageway.  Go all the way to the very top of this long and winding road for several miles, until you reach the gate which prevents you going any further. Walk up the slope on your left (west) and you’ll see the large grassy mound a coupla hundred yards ahead of you. That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This is a large rounded prehistoric cairn of some considerable size, whose position in the landscape allows for an impressive 360° view—a deliberate ingredient, no doubt, when it came to building this probable tomb.  I say “probable”, as there has never been a dig (not an ‘official’ one anyway) into the heart of this overgrown rocky mound.

Looking SE, at the Ochil Hills

Looking SE, at the Ochil Hills

More than 60 feet in diameter at its greatest and 6 feet high, with a circumference of 67 yards (61m), the top of the mound has been disturbed and, clearly, has been dug into at some time in the past—but archaeohistorical accounts are silent on the matter.  The first description of the Judge’s Cairn seems to have been in Peter Stewart’s (1839) notes on local antiquities of Dunblane, where he described it most simply:

“The Judges Cairn, yet undispersed, a circular heap of rough mountains stones covered with furze, on the farm of Bowie, barony of Kilbride.”

Along with the Ordnance Survey lads who came here in 1862, all subsequent visits gave rise to only short notes about the place.  Odd, considering its size and distinct vantage point.  And yet it remains hidden from view unless you come from the north, from whence that archetype of a fairy mound raises itself above Nature’s fair body into the eyes of any ambling wanderer…. A wonderful place sit and dream for a while…

Folklore

Judges Cairn, looking NE

Judges Cairn, looking NE

We enquired with a local whose family had been resident here since the mid-18th century about the name and folklore of the site, but he said he knew of nothing.  However, in earlier times it was said to be a place where the local sheriff held court and dispensed justice.  Mr Mackay (1984) told that the site “has been connected with the Judge’s Seat at Severie” nearby.  It seems possible that, as “it is just outside the parish boundary” between Doune and Dunblane, this may have been a moot site in ancient times, from whence laws were dispensed.  Old perambulation records may, perhaps, prove fruitful…

References:

  1. Barty, Alexander, The History of Dunblane, Eneas MacKay: Stirling 1944.
  2. Mackay, Moray S., Doune – Historical Notes, Forth Naturalist: Stirling 1984.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.
  4. Shearer, John E., “Prehistoric Man and Prehistoric Remains in Britain,” in Transactions of the Stirling Natural History & Archaeological Society, 1907.
  5. Stewart, Peter G., Essay on the Dunblane Mineral Springs, Hewit: Dunblane 1839.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Judge's Cairn

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Judge\'s Cairn 56.226399, -4.034878 Judge\'s Cairn

Cromlix Lodge, Dunblane, Perthshire

Long Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NN 7617 0671

Also Known as:

  1. Bracklin Burn
  2. Canmore ID 73465

Getting Here

Long line of the cairn, looking S

Long line of the cairn, looking S

Take the B8033 north out of Dunblane and, immediately out the other side of Kinbuck, as you cross the river, take the first track on your left to Cromlix.  Keep right along here to Cullings and beyond, till you reach the edge of the forestry plantation.  Go left instead of going into the trees and, instead, follow the edge of the woodland for about 750 yards.  You’ll see the land rise up on the other side of the stream and the huge length of stones thereby.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Main axis of the cairn

Main axis of the cairn

Not included in any major archaeology tomes, this giant long prehistoric pile of rocks—probably constructed in neolithic times—sits along the edge of a natural ridge, out of sight of all but the lone wanderer and the birds.  Aligned ESE to WNW, this huge monument measures more than 61 yards (56m) in length and is 12 yards across at its present widest section.  Much of the tomb has been severely robbed for stone in making the local walling: two of which emerge out of the structure itself—one running directly downhill from its larger eastern edge, and a more extensive wide line of walling running west and northwest for quite some distance.  This western section of walling has the hallmarks of being constructed as far back as the Iron Age, which may be when the initial destruction of the chambered cairn first started.  But, until we get an excavation here, we won’t know for sure.

Portion of the central mass of stones

Portion of the central mass of stones

Western wall leads to the cairn

Western wall leads to the cairn

The next closest tomb of any great size is the Judge’s Cairn, 1½ miles (2.4km) to the southwest.  Clusters of smaller single cairns exist about nearly a mile northwest, with prehistoric settlement traces accompanying them—but nothing seems in immediate attendance to this Cromlix giant.

Other sites, obviously, await discovery in this area.  We know that a spring of water roughly 50 yards east of here was used by so-called ‘witches’ in earlier centuries, for both healing and sympathetic magick.  Whether this tradition ever had any relationship with the cairn is difficult to say.

 

References:

  1. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Braes of Doune: An Archaeological Survey, Edinburgh 1994.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.236729, -3.999269 Cromlix Lodge cairn

Glen Shurig, Kilbride, Arran

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NR 99 36

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 39685

Archaeology & History

Along the B880 glen road that cuts Arran roughly in half, known as The String, could once be seen a stone circle that one early writer told was quite impressive.  Today It seems that all trace of the circle has gone.  The earliest mention of it seems to be in James Headrick’s (1807) work, where, in discussing what he thought were “Druidical” remains of obelisks and cairns in the area,

“A more entire circle of this sort is seen on the rising ground at the mouth of Glen Shirreg, towards the west.”

But he tells us no more.  Shortly afterwards—according to reverend Allan McNaughton in the New Statistical Account of the 1830s—it was destroyed. He said that,

“about twenty-four years ago, a very complete circle at the mouth of Glensheraig was removed, in clearing the field in which it stood for the operations of the plough.”

Despite this short remark, eighty years later we had J.A. Balfour (1910) inform us that,

“On the right of the String Road going west in Glen Sherraig is a small ruined monument of which three small standing stones alone remain, so disposed as to suggest that the original structure was a double circle.”

However, Balfour’s site may be an altogether different one to that mentioned by Headrick and McNaughton.

Aubrey Burl (2000) lists it in his major work; but its ancient life was, once again, brought to end in these recent years by those of less sound minds than our ancestors.

References:

  1. Balfour, J.A., The Book of Arran – volume 1, Arran Society of Glasgow 1910.
  2. Bryce, James, “Account of excavations within the stone circle of Arran“, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 4, 1863.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  4. Headrick, James, View of the Mineralogy, Agriculture, Manufactures and Fisheries of the Islland of Arran, with Notices of Antiquities, D. Willison: Edinburgh 1807.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.580785, -5.190289 Glen Shurig stone circle