From Killin heading out along the northern Loch Tay road, turn left just past the Bridge of Lochay hotel and go right to the very end of Glen Lochay, just past Kenknock. From here you’ve gotta keep walking along the glen’s dirt-track, and when you go through the third gate along (about a mile), another 100 yards on, keep your eyes peeled for a reasonably large boulder on the left of the track. This is your marker to go up on the right-hand side of the track, where the large stone is about 20 yards up the slope.
Archaeology & History
Not far from a prehistoric hut circle relocated by archaeologist Dugald MacInnes I found this, a previously unrecorded cup-marked stone, when I was ambling about around the top of this beautiful valley last week. It’s only a simple cup-marked stone with two very distinct cups and a probable third in the middle of the well-defined ones. A covering of aged lichen was living on the carved rock and it seemed that there may have been other cups beneath the lichen — but I’ve got a real love of these old plants and wasn’t about to tear them from their homely stone.
There are some other little-known unrecorded human remains all along the slopes above here, which I’ll have a look at when next up this Valley of the Black Goddess…
Take the single-track Glen Lochay road down past the Bridge of Lochay hotel at the edge of Killin, as if you’re gonna visit the superb cup-and-ring carvings opposite Stag Cottage (or Duncroisk 1). Immediately past the garden of Stag Cottage is a small copse of trees and a couple of old wartime-looking buildings in the field above the roadside. Go up past these buildings and onto the rise at the back. You’re here.
Archaeology & History
This is a fascinating site of multi-period historical usage, which Dugald MacInnes (2001) thinks may have its origins in the early Bronze Age or neolithic; but which I reckon was probably first used in the Iron Age. Either way, we have here a large interesting well-preserved prehistoric stone enclosure, that has yet to be excavated. I first came across it whilst gathering firewood from the adjacent copse and was quite puzzled by what seemed to be an extensive curved line of ancient walling running from its east to northeastern section, typical of prehistoric Iron Age walled structures common in northern England and beyond. I must have paced back and forth along a 75 yard length of this section of walling a half-dozen times, wondering what the hell this place was. And the more I looked at this section of the enclosure, the greater my conviction grew that this was constructed in prehistoric times. And thereafter came the puzzle.
For along the southern walled section were a number of much more modern medieval and much later walled sections, including the remains of buildings that looked barely Victorian in age and nature. The site was obviously being used presently by the local farmer for his cattle. And so it became obvious that here was a large oval-shaped stone-walled enclosure or settlement that had been used over and over again through many centuries, with its origins seeming to be Iron Age in nature. Measuring approximately 195 yards (178m) in circumference, the structure has a maximum E-W diameter of 78 yards (71m) and N-S measurement of 44 yards (40m).
Despite the size of the place, no literary reference of it occurs before MacInnes and his team came here. His description is as follows:
“An oval enclosure, its boundaries formed principally from large water-worn boulders interspersed with drystone walling and in part by an earthen bank in the easternmost section, sits atop of a natural terrace about 155m OD. The terrace slopes steeply to the west and south and cut into the western slope is a track, the course of which cannot be determined beyond the extent of the slope. This track displays revetment in the form of stone coursing.
“The SW corner of the enclosure is angular rather than the rounded character of the other sections. The W and SW sections are composed of coarsely constructed stonework in which large, 1m wide, often 1m high, water-worn boulders at two to three metre intervals, are interspersed with smaller boulders which form crude drystone coursing.
“The NE section is formed largely of large boulders, one of which is 1.5m in width and 1.2m high by 0.8m wide. Sections of the northern part would appear to be robbed out, perhaps to construct the modern wall which lies about 25m to the north. There are no remaining large boulders there, however, which could indicate their absence in the original construction of the enclosure. The central section of the northern perimeter may be constructed of two outer skins of boulders, forming a wall about 0.9m wide, 0.4m high on its exterior, but reducing to 0.3m on its interior side. Two sections could possibly be filled with a rubble core.
“The E section is formed by a low 0.3m high earthen grass-covered bank with occasional boulders. This bank is about 0.2m high relative to the interior, but is about 0.5m to.0.8m high on its exterior side. The NW side shows on the western side more evidence of double skin, rubble construction. Close inspection of the stonework around the perimeter of the enclosure has revealed no evidence of shot-holes. However a monolith situated in the NE has been split, but this would appear to be natural. The interior of the enclosure is more or less level and grass-covered. There is however, a slight drop in level in the western third of the interior. This is defined by a linear slope which may be a lynchet.”
Northeast of the enclosure about 40 yards away is the normal drystone walling running along the sloping hillside. But more intriguingly to archaeologists is the second line of much more ancient walling 76 yards (70m) further up the grassy slope, running at an angle across and uphill in a northwesterly direction. This line of walling has a distinctly Iron Age flavour to it and is composed of some very large upright monoliths, almost Bronze Age in nature! It continues into the next field for some 400 yards and onto Duncroisk Burn — the other side of which we find another line of ancient walling with an impressive cup-and-ring stone incorporated.
There’s tons more to be said of this region…
…to be continued…
MacInnes, Dugald, An Archaeological Field Survey of a Deserted Settlement at Duncroisk Farm, Glen Lochay, Association of Certified Field Archaeologists: Glasgow 2001.
From the north side of Killin, take the minor road next to the Bridge of Lochay Hotel at Killin, past the hydroelectric station, through the wooded section until the fields open out again. The first gorgeous old house you come to is on the right-hand side of the road. Stop here! (I could really do with living here misself – tis a truly superb place!) You can ask the lady at the house where the carvings are and she’s very happy to point them out – they’re on the rocky crag near the bottom-end of the field on the other side of the road.
Archaeology & History
What a brilliant setting and clump of carvings we have here! As you get to the rocky hillock in the field, you see that there are numerous rocks visible along the ridge, a number of which have carvings on them – some with just cups, but most possess a number of cup-and-rings. It’s an excellent spot! Depending on the time of year when you come here will determine whether or not you get a better look at the carvings or not. I’d recommended April and May as the best time, as the vegetation is at its lowest then. Visiting the site near the end of summer doesn’t give you as good a view — but even then, if you like your rock art, you’ll still love it! The rocks here are mainly quartzite schist, with a number of the surfaces being almost pure quartz. Intriguingly, none of the pure quartz sections appear to have been carved on.
The carvings here were first mentioned in an article by D. Haggart (1895), who described them as “a very remarkable set of incised rock sculptures…discovered lately in this neighbourhood by Mr John McNaughton.” And remarkable they are indeed! In Ronald Morris’ (1981) survey of this site — which he labelled Duncroisk 1 — he counted eight separate rock surfaces that had been carved, marking them as carvings a-h, but there are at least eleven of them here; and in all honesty, if we could strip the surface of the hill of its vegetation, we’d probably find a few more hidden away!
As you’ve walked across the field from the road, past the first unrecorded cup-marked stone near the start of the rocky rise, we reach Mr Morris’s ‘stone A’ near the easternmost end of the ridge, which is just a small slab of stone with “at least 6 cup-marks” on its surface. It’s easily missed in poor light, so watch out. However, if you reach ‘stone b’ (described below), just walk back ten steps and you’ll see it.
Ten yards west is ‘Stone B’, seemingly split into two sections, whereupon we find “a cup-and-two-rings and at least 12 cups-and-one-ring, up to 19cm in diameter – some rings gapped, others not, some with and some without a radial groove from the cup, and some with a “runner” or cup in a ring. There are also at least 58 cups” on this section of rock. ‘Stone C’ can also be missed, this time due to its size and the fact that the larger cup-marked surfaces are ahead of you. But assuming you don’t miss it, this carving consists of “a well-preserved cup-and-two-complete-rings 25cm in diameter, and a cup.”
‘Stone D’ is just next to ‘stone C’, but with rather more ornate designs etched upon it. This is one of the more archetypal petroglyph designs that are found in the photo-guides and textbooks. Morris (1981) told that it consisted “of a cup-and-two-complete-rings and 2 cups-and-one-complete-ring up to 20cm in diameter, also a cup-and-one-complete-ring and 2 cups.” The photo here shows it pretty clearly.
‘Stone E’ is the next one along, just a foot or two away and Mr Morris (1981) told that the carving consists of “2 cups-and-one-ring up to 13cm in diameters, 1 complete, the others gapped, joined by groove to a cup, and at least 33 cups (C.G. Cash counted 42 in 1911).” Most of the carved elements on this rock are around the edges of the stone. A very large faded circular depression, man-made, is also visible on this section of the petroglyph (above left), suggestive of lunar symbolism.
‘Stone F’ is less than 10 yards further west and has the greatest number of cup-markings of the entire group here, as Morris described: “3 cups-and-one-complete-ring up to 9cm in diameter, and at least 80 cups, a few of which are widely scattered over a big area sloping steeply further south, beyond the attached diagram.” It’s perhaps the most notable of the carved rocks along the ridge here — not by virtue of its design, more its geological physique than anything else.
‘Stone G’ is next along and has a curious look about it, suggestive of more modern times. At first sight it doesn’t seem to have quite the magnitude that Morris’ description affords it, but on closer inspection by rolling some of the covering turf back away from the rock, you can see what he meant. This stone has “10 cups-and-one-complete-ring, up to 10cm diameter…and also 15 cups.” One of the cup-and-rings on this section was found by Morris to have been “the smallest so far recorded by the author in Scotland.”
Then we reach ‘stone H’ at the eastern end of the carved ridge, consisting of simply 3 cup-markings. One of them has a faint arc pecked around it. Further along the rock, a complete cup-and-ring is visible close to the edge.
This entire line of petroglyphs is a fine place in a fine setting, perfect for meditative practices! Other carvings can be found close by: Duncroisk 3 is a coupla hundred yards east across the field just over the fence by the riverside; and Duncroisk 2 is on the other side of the fence down towards the River Lochay on the same side of the adjacent burn less than 100 yards away (though this is trickier to reach). Other prehistoric sites can be found not too far away…
Local people tell of having seen curious lights flitting along the edges of the field, river Lochay and roadside close to the carved rocks hereby.