Spittal of Glenshee, Kirkmichael, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 10865 70201

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 29609

Getting Here

Spittal of Glenshee stone

Take to A93 road, north, between Blairgowrie and Braemar, keeping your eyes peeled many miles on, to turn left along the minor road as you approach the tiny Spittal of Glenshee hamlet. Just as you go over the ancient bridge, park up on your left, below the church.  Walk round the back of the church and you’ll see a large tree-covered mound.  Walk onto its top.

Archaeology & History

Stone marked on 1862 map

This quiet, almost hidden, six-foot tall standing stone on what initially seems to be a large fairy mound or tumulus at the back of the rude church, has been occluded from general view (in my opinion, deliberately) by the construction of the more debased christian edifice right in front of it.  But it detracts not from its gentle majesty once you reach its ancient body, atop of the old hill.

The stone is one in a cluster of prehistoric sites in and around this Glen of the Fairy Folk (as its name tells), where the rivers Shee and Beag converge.  If the church didn’t obstruct the view, some of the other sites would have been visible from here.

Folklore

The old stone, looking east

Folklore tells that when the christians came into the Glen to build a church—initially a half-mile or so to the east—the little people were much annoyed at the actions of the incomers, as it intruded on one of their sacred rings of stone close by.  By night they came out, and every stone that had been laid by the christians in the day was removed.  Each day the insensitive christians came and built their church without asking, and each night the little people removed it.  Eventually an agreement was made, and the fairies let them build the church next to this standing stone.  So goes the tale….

A veritable cluster of stories about Fingal, Ossian, Dermid and Grianne scatter this area, with many of them relating to ancient sites, but I’ve not found one directly relating to this stone.

References:

  1. Miller, T.D., Tales of a Highland Parish, Munro Press: Perth 1929.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Spittal of Glenshee stone

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Spittal of Glenshee stone 56.814728, -3.461654 Spittal of Glenshee stone

Tom-a-Clachan, Kirkmichael, Perthshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 0808 5985

Archaeology & History

Kirkmichael parish was an area that was described by George Chalmers (1887) as possessing “a vast body of Druid remains,” there being “a number of Druid cairns in the vicinity of Druidical circles.”  As we know, the term ‘druid’ has long fallen out of favour; and with it in this area, the sites themselves have taken a similar fate.

Found just south of the village, on raised ground 100 yards west of the river, this stone circle is not listed in any of the archaeological catalogues, but its existence was thankfully recorded in one of the essays by regional historian Charles Fergusson.  He told us that,

“one of these Druidical circles stood at Tom-a-Chlachan — the Hillock of Stones — where the Manse of Kirkmichael now stands, and there two thousand years ago our rude ancestors worshipped, according to their faith, in their circle of stones; and there, as elsewhere, when the pioneers of Christianity came to the district, they found it expedient to place their new church where the old circle of stones had stood, so the first church of St Michael was reared where the old clachan stood, on what the natives already considered holy ground.”

In the same tradition (but this time, without the destruction), on the other side of the River Ardle from here, what was once known as a heathen well later became known as the Priest’s Well.

References:

  1. Chalmers, George, Caledonia – volume 1, Alexander Gardner: Glasgow 1887.
  2. Fergusson, Charles, “Sketches of the Early History, Legends and Traditions of Strathardle and its Glens – part 5,” in Transactions of Gaelic Society Inverness, volume 21, 1899.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.721054, -3.503791 Tom-a-Clachan

Balnabroich, Kirkmichael, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 09175 56752

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 27267

Getting Here

1867 OS-map showing the stone

1867 OS-map showing the stone

Take the A924 road north of Blairgowrie, between Pitlochry and Bridge of Cally and, about 4.6 miles (7.5km) along, roughly halfway between Ballintuim and Kirkmichael, in the field by the roadside immediately west, you’ll see this conspicuous upright stone standing all alone – unless the cattle are meandering slowly around it!

Archaeology & History

This single monolith that stands today as a cattle rubbing post, may at one time in its distant past have been related to the present pair of standing stones hiding in the small remain of trees 148 yards (135.5m) to the south; although neither Aubrey Burl (1993) nor Alexander Thom (1990) ascribe the stone such an association in their relative tomes on aligned stone rows.

Balnabroich stone, looking south

Balnabroich stone, looking south

Balnabroich stone, looking west

Balnabroich stone, looking west

When the great standing stone lover Fred Coles (1908) came here, he was as reliable as ever in his subsequent exposition of the place – and despite getting his measurements slightly out he told us almost liltingly, like an antiquarian Uncle Monty stroking his megaliths, that

“At a point almost 176 yards due north of (the) two stones is a tallish and unshapely monolith standing but a few yards west of the main road.  Its most notable feature is the extreme irregularity of its shape.  If any proof were needed to show how uncritical were the people who raised such stones, how totally devoid of any regard for symmetry or neatness of contour in the monoliths they set up, surely the ground-plan of this block of rent and riven quartz-veined whinstone, fissured and uncouth in all its parts, would supply it.

“The contour here shown was measured by laying down an irregular rhomboidal figure, and from each of its sides measuring by offsets to the depths 0f the curves which are so prominent on the north, the northwest and the southeast sides.  The ground-plan this obtained shows that, taken between their prominent angles, the four sides measure almost exactly 3 feet each, and the main long axis of the stone which lies due east and west and measures 4 feet 6 inches.  The monolith stands 5 feet 8 inches above the ground and…appear to have been unconnected with circles, so far at least as it was possible to glean any information.”

References:

  1. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire – Northeastern Section,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume 42, 1908.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, North-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Balnabroich stone