St Fillan’s Chair, Killin, Stirlingshire

Sacred Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 56432 32010

Getting Here

Take the road to Auchlyne from Killin which follows the north side of the River Dochart, and on the edge of the village the stone will be seen on the left hand side behind a hedge, opposite the entrance to ‘Springburn’.

Archaeology & History

The chair is mentioned in Rev. Gillies’ exemplary work, In Famed Breadalbane (1938):

St. Fillan would appear to have had a great liking for stone seats.  Besides the one already mentioned…there is..a..flat stone on the top of a knoll about a mile to the west of the village, and on the north side of the river, on which he is said to have sat and taught

St Fillan’s Chair, ‘twixt road and river
The ‘seat’, facing the River Dochart

Two local ladies told us that the Chair had recently been uncovered from the vegetation. It is a flattish earth-fast slab of rock, which has on the right hand side a seat indentation, which faces the river bank about 12 feet away. Its proximity to the river bank would seem to limit its use as a preaching pulpit, and yet, well over a millennium after the death of Fillan, his ‘Chair’ is still remembered. Did the Chair serve another purpose, a purpose that long preceded Fillan and Christianity?

Here at Killin we are in an area of Scotland where Christianity was for long a veil worn very lightly over long-held ancient animistic beliefs and customs. Indeed in the early nineteenth century, missionaries were sent in the face of considerable local opposition by the Haldanes into Gaelic speaking Breadalbane to try to convert the locals to Christianity.

St Fillan and other saints had it seems become the named facilitators for healing at ancient places on behalf of the incoming religion from the Middle East.  To the west of Killin, there are the St Fillan’s Pools at Auchtertyre near Tyndrum, where he is reputed to have cured madness but which continued to be used for that purpose until the late eighteenth century at least.  There are stones for preventing measles and whooping cough near Killin that are still known and pointed out.  So what of our chair?

There is a nineteenth century story of a chair of St Fiacre (Irish born like Fillan) at the village church of St Fiacre near Monceaux in France being used to ‘confer fecundity upon women who sit upon it ‘.  The shape and proximity to the river may otherwise suggest St Fillan’s Chair was a birthing Chair?  Maybe some very old locals still know the true story of this Chair, but would they tell it?

References:

  1. Anon., Phallic Worship – a Description of the Mysteries of the Sex Worship of the Ancients, privately Printed: London 1880.
  2. Calder, Walter, Lawers, Lochtayside: A Historical Sketch, Macduff, Cunning & Watson, c.1930.
  3. Gillies, William, In Famed Breadalbane, Munro: Perth 1938.

© Paul T Hornby 2020

 

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  56.458306, -4.331382 St Fillans Chair

Cragganester (5), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65379 38389

Getting Here

3 cups on the side & 2-3 on top

From Killin, take the A827 road to Kenmore. 6 miles along, on your right, is the track down to the Big Shed at Tombreck.  Keep on the A827 for exactly ⅓-mile (0.53km), and opposite the driveway to Craggantoul is a small parking spot.  Go through the gate here and walk up the little hill right in front of you until you can see an electricity pylon 200 yards away.  Head for, go up the slope behind and along until you drop into a tiny little valley where a long line of very distinct old walling runs east-west.  Walk back and forth along it till you see a reasonably large earthfast stone on its own.

Archaeology & History

Close to a long line of what I think is pre-medieval walling—possibly Iron Age—is what can only be described as a truly crap-looking petroglyph which, to be honest, I’d walk past and give not a jot of notice if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s been recorded.  When we visited here, three very worn large cup-marks were visible on its sloping west face, with what looked like two more on top of the stone—but these seemed questionable in terms of them being man-made.  Apparently there’s another one on it, but in the searing heat and overhead midday sun when we visited, this couldn’t be seen.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.518218, -4.189608 Cragganester (5)

Cragganester (9), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65596 38828

Getting Here

The stone in its setting

From Killin, take the A827 road to Kenmore. 6 miles along, on your right, is the track down to the Big Shed at Tombreck.  Keep on the A827 for exactly ⅓-mile (0.53km), and opposite the driveway to Craggantoul is a small parking spot.  A few yards on the road, over the burn, go thru the gate on your left.  Follow the straight line of walling up for 800 yards where the walling hits the burn, then follow the water up until you cross a fence.  Once over this, 50- yards to your right you’ll see a large rounded rock and companion.  It’s the rounded rock.

Archaeology & History

As with most the carvings along here, it is the setting that captivates more than the petroglyph.  This is another one mainly for the purists amongst you, but there’s a distinct feel of other carvings hiding very close by that remain hidden.  Anyhoo…

4 of the cups numerated
Rough sketch of design

This reasonably large, rounded, female stone has the usual scatter of quartz in its veins, along with at least four cup-marks on its upper sloping surface.  Three of them are seen in a slight arc on the more northern slope of the stone with one of them particularly faint; but the most notable of the lot on the very crown of the stone. (see the numerated image, right)  A fifth cup-mark is clearly visible on the western face of the boulder, shortly below where the rock begins to level out.  You’ll see it.  Some 200 yards west of this carving, the prominent rock hosting the Cragganester 10 carving is visible on top of its rounded knoll.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.522217, -4.186317 Cragganester (9)

Cragganester (10), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65796 38799

Getting Here

The stone on its knoll

From Killin, take the A827 road to Kenmore. 6 miles along, on your right, is the track down to the Big Shed at Tombreck.  Keep on the A827 for exactly ⅓-mile (0.53km), and opposite the driveway to Craggantoul is a small parking spot.  A few yards on the road, over the burn, go thru the gate on your left.  Follow the straight line of walling up for 7-800 yards and then walk to your right, into the field.  About 300 yards into the overgrown meadowland you’ll see a rounded knoll with a very notable boulder on its crown. Y’ can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

It’s the setting of this carving that captures you way more than the carving itself—which is probably somewhat of a disappointment to most folk, unless you’re a petroglyph fanatic like myself.

The five cup-marks
…and from another angle

Found relatively close to other carvings, this reasonably large boulder has, upon its roughly smooth top, just five simple cup-marks with varying degrees of weathering, from the very noticeable to the somewhat faint—hinting at the unlikely possibility that it might have been carved at different times.  A possible sixth cup can be seen in certain daylight conditions on the southwest section of the stone.  That’s it!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.522014, -4.183054 Cragganester (10)

Tombreck (15), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 64894 38308

Getting Here

Tombreck (15) carving

Along the A827 Loch Tay road between Morenish and Lawers, take the track uphill where Carie farmhouse and Tombreck are either side of the road. Walk up this track 2-300 yards till you go through the gate just past the sheep-folds on your left.  Ahead of you is a small grassy hillock on your right upon which you’ll find the unimpressive Tombreck-1 carving.  Walk down the grassy-slope to the boggy stream and then up the rounded knoll on the other side, where you’ll find a stone that’s been split in two.  You’re here!

Archaeology & History

This is another unrecorded carving, found amidst this already large petroglyphic cluster on August 9, 2020.  Carved on a stone that’s been spilt in half, three simple cup-marks can be seen on the larger easternmost section, with the lowest of them having a possible short line running towards the cup on the right.  It seems that the right-hand (north) side of the stone has also been cut, but there is no trace of this part of the stone on the ground.  Additionally, there is the possibility that this stone once stood upright, as evidenced by its very worn rounded top and the larger bottom end of the stone being distinctly lower compared to the ground all round it. But this is speculative.

The 3 cups, highlighted
3 cups on the lower stone

Although the rock is close to being on the top of a rounded knoll, giving good visibility both east and west for a few miles along the extensive grassy ridge (where many other petroglyphs exist), the grandeur of Loch Tay  in the glen below is not and could never have been visible from this, or indeed many other carvings on this ridge.  I mention this due to the fact that some students are positing that the existence of so many carvings along here may relate to some sort of deification of Loch Tay.  But here and at many others along this ridge, the idea simply aint valid, unfortunately.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.517351, -4.197451 Tombreck (15)

Tombreck (10), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65042 37559

Getting Here

Tombreck's cup-marked stone

Tombreck’s cup-marked stone

Along the A827 north road around Loch Tay, between Killin and Kenmore, a few hundred yards east of Carie—and on the same side of the road—there’s a dirt-track down to the Tombreck community.  Go into it and just past The Big Shed you’ll see the small caravan where the helpful and friendly Gabriela lives.  The stone just in front of her caravan is the one you’re looking for!

Archaeology & History

Close-up of the cups

Close-up of the cups

Although this cup-marked rock has been known about for sometime by local people, it is one of many that are not in the archaeological record.  It’s nothing like as impressive as some of its petroglyphic neighbours on the slopes of Ben Lawers, as this simple carving comprises of two well-defined simple cup-marks, and another two that appear to have been worked slightly into natural cracks in the rock.  These two remain incomplete.  It’s nothing too special to look at and is, once again, only gonna be of interest to the petroglyphic purists amongst you.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Tombreck (CR10)

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Tombreck (CR10) 56.510646, -4.194623 Tombreck (CR10)

Tombreck (08), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 64795 38648

Getting Here

Tombreck (8) on its mound

Along the A827 road between Killin and Kenmore, park at the entrance to the Tombreck track and cross the road, walking up the track heading up Ben Lawers.  Pass the sheep pens, through the gate and keep going for a few hundred yards until you hit the old straight line of walling which runs off east into the pine trees a few hundred yards away. Walk along here, keeping to the south side, for less than 100 yards, watching out for a small stone on a small rise on a small hillock – and make sure your eyes are in good condition!

Archaeology & History

The stone in question

This is a seemingly unrecorded cup-marked stone, with very faint petroglyphic evidences just visible on the surface.  Set within the wider surrounds of more recent enclosure walling, this is a small slightly raised female (rounded, smooth) stone, roughly three feet in diameter, which has at least five cup-markings on its surface—mainly near the middle of the stone.  The rock itself is next to the western edge of a raised man-made feature, reminiscent of a collapsed denuded cairn or hut circle, which itself has not been archaeologically assessed.  It is one of a number of petroglyphs in relative proximity to each other on the geological ridge above Loch Tay (not visible from here).

Close-up of faint cups
Closer-up of faint cups

As you can see in the photos left and right, the cups are only truly visible when the stone has been wet.  Initially I thought that this carving may have been one that was mentioned briefly in George Currie’s (2009) notes—at NN 64736 38647, 62 (57m) yards to the east—but it doesn’t seem to be the case as the grid reference he cited differs from this.  There are going to be a number of other unrecorded carvings scattered about beneath the great shadow of Ben Lawers…

References:

  1. Currie, George, “Cup-and-Ring Marked Rocks,” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, volume 10, 2009.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Paul Hornby for the use of his photos in this site profile; and to Lisa Samson, for her landscape detective work at the site.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Tombreck (CR8)

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Tombreck (CR8) 56.520364, -4.199218 Tombreck (CR8)

Tombreck (07), Ben Lawers, Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65022 38285

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 238573

Getting Here

Tombreck 7 carving, beneath Ben Lawers

Tombreck 7 carving, beneath Ben Lawers

Take the A827 road that runs alongside Loch Tay between Killin and Kenmore, and about 6 miles from Killin watch out for the signposts for The Big Shed.  Stop and walk NW up the track across the road from there, up toward Ben Lawers.  Several hundred yards up, past the sheep-fold on the left-side of the track, a line of ruinous walling runs straight over the grasslands. Walk along here until it meets with the next walling that runs uphill.  Look down into where the wall has collapsed.  It’s under your nose!

Archaeology & History

This is a fascinating and pretty impressive example of a simple cup-marked stone.  It’s the design that does it I suppose – similar in some ways to the well-known Idol Stone carving on my old playground of Ilkley Moor (that’s what this one reminded me of when I first clapped eyes on it)—but much better!

Lines of cups from above

Lines of cups from above

The carving from the east

The carving from the east

Its similarity lies in the series of parallel rows of cup-marks running very close together along the line of the low-lying rock, found at the base of some ancient walling that runs up the mountain for several hundred yards.  Not only that, but the line of walling itself also has a parallel line of walling running adjacent for the same distance up the mountainside — more than half-a-mile from start to finish.  This “parallel” feature of walling and cup-markings is a curious coincidence, perhaps.  But certainly the linearity of the cup-marks was itself a very deliberate feature by the person who carved it, representing something ‘structural’, in whatever mythic form that may have been!

The carving in its walling

The carving in its walling

Of the rows of cups constituting this petroglyph, four of them run completely from one side of the stone to the other, rough north to south; with four other shorter rows running only halfway across the rock surface.  Altogether there are perhaps seventy cups etched onto the rock.  No rings or semi-circles of any form were visible in our visit here—although the skies were grey and overcast, making any decent visual analysis more difficult.

A damn good carving and well worth checking out by anyone into prehistoric rock art!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Tombreck (CR7)

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Tombreck (CR7) 56.517178, -4.195342 Tombreck (CR7)

The Green, Glen Lochay, Killin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference — NN 53976 35248

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 274203
  2. Falls of Lochay

Getting Here

The cliff-face and its ledge

Going out of Killin towards Kenmore on the A827 road, immediately past the Bridge of Lochay Hotel, turn left. Go down here for just over 2 miles and park-up where a small track turns up to the right (half-mile before the impressive Stag Cottage carvings), close to the riverside and opposite a flat green piece of land. Notice a small cliff-face just over the fence by the road and a small ledge about 3 feet above ground level. That’s yer spot!

Archaeology & History

Deep & shallow cups together

Rediscovered by rock art student George Currie in 2004, this small, little-known and unimpressive cup-marked site was carved onto a rocky ledge just off the roadside down Glen Lochay.  Comprising of at least three very distinct cup-marks—two next to each other on the far-right of the ledge and the other on the nose of the rock—at least another three more shallow cups are on the same surface. What looks like an unfinished cup, or deliberately etched crescent-Moon-shaped cup, has been cut into the same ledge a yard to the left of the prime cluster.

In Currie’s (2004) brief description of the site, he told:

“Ledge, 1m above ground level on a rock face; four cups, 50 x 25mm, 45 x 15mm and two at 40 x 10mm.”

Looking down at rock surface

Curious crescent-shape ‘cup’

It’s unusual in that the cups have been carved onto a small ledge that’s too small to stand upright on.  Whilst not without parallels, it’s an odd position to find petroglyphs and begs the question, “why here?” when there are other rocks close by that are easier and more accessible.

References:

  1. Currie, George, “Falls of Lochay (Killin parish): Cup-Marked Rocks”, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, volume 5, 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

The Green CR

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The Green CR 56.486693, -4.373006 The Green CR

Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (04), Ben Lawers, Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65306 39560

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 238575

Getting Here

The petroglyph & its associates

The petroglyph & its associates

Along the A827 road between Killin and Kenmore, park-up at the Tombreck entrance and cross the road, taking the long track which eventually zigzags up the slope of Ben Lawers.  Keep your eyes on the copse of trees a few hundred yards east that runs up the slopes.  Head towards this, past the multiple-ringed Allt a’ Choire Chireinich stone, then AaCC 2 and AaCC3 carvings, then notice on the other side of the stream a couple of large boulders.  That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

This faint but intricately carved petroglyph is one in a cluster of three carvings, right next to each other—and it’s the best of the bunch by a long way.  A single cup-marking is found on the flat stone beneath this one (AaCC5); whilst the large egg-shaped boulder in front has perhaps a half-dozen cups on it (AaCC6).

Alex Hale's sketch of the carving

Alex Hale’s sketch of the carving

Faint remains of concentric rings

Faint remains of concentric rings

The large flat-topped boulder of AaCC4 however, possesses at least seventeen plain cup markings, along with twenty-four cup-and-rings, six cup-and-double-rings, three cup-and-three rings, three cup-and-four rings, and one cup-and-five rings!  There are some carved lines that emerge from several of the cups, with all of the three cup-and-four rings having a carved pathway emerging from the central cup and going out of the concentric system.  It’s quite a beauty!  And it sits upon the ridge next to the clear drinking waters of the burn, gazing out over Loch Tay and the mountains all around in a quite beautiful landscape.

Immediately above and below the carvings are a number of settlement spots or shielings, known to have been used until recent centuries.  They were quite ideal living quarters and some of the old folk here, in bygone days, would have known old customs and stories of this petroglyph.

References:

  1. Hale, Alex, “Prehistoric Rock Carvings in Strathtay,” in Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal, 2009.
  2. Yellowlees, Sonia, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Scotland Magazine: Edinburgh 2004.

Acknowledgments: Huge thanks to Lisa Samson, Fraser Harrick and Paul Hornby for their help reaching this site and exploring still further.  Let’s do it again sometime before I vanish forever up into the far North!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.528694, -4.191400 Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (04)