This large boulder found off the Cromarty coast, was highlighted on the 1880 OS-map of the region. It is one of the ancient boundary stones of the township.
We know from the vast array on the folklore of stones that many were imbued with magickal abilities, some of which were witnesses to vows and others to make curses from. This large boulder off the coast of Cromarty was, according to Donald MacKenzie (1935), a place where the latter used to be done. He told us:
“At Cromarty there is a big boulder known as the Clach na Mallachd (‘Stone of Cursing’). Curses were delivered when an individual stood or knelt bare-kneed upon it.”
In an earlier account by the Ordnance Survey lads in one of their Name Books, they gave the following tale that had been narrated to them:
“A large stone Situate at the Low Water, and forming one of the boundary Stones of the burgh, the reason of its having this name is, that a young lad while Sitting on it was overwhelmed by the advancing tide and drowned, his mother when told of it, cursed the stone, hence the name Clach Mallach (Accursed Stone)”
MacKenzie, Donald A., Scottish Folk-lore and Folk Life, Blackie: Glasgow 1935.
The Cross was close to the Tudor era Byrnand Hall which stood on the north side of the High Street. The Hall was demolished around 1780, and replaced by the present building, now a political club. The Cross was taken down around the same time, so we’re fortunate to have a contemporary sketch.
Harry Speight (1906), the Great Yorkshire antiquarian, described the Cross when he was writing of the ‘big houses’ of Knaresborough, saying:
“Another notable old mansion was Byrnand Hall, which stood at the top of the High Street facing Gracious Street, and was rebuilt about a century ago. It was the property and seat for many generations of one of the leading families of Knaresborough, named Byrnand, one of its members being recorder of York in 1573. Opposite the house stood a very ancient stone cross, consisting of a plain upright column, without date or inscription, supported by several rudely-formed stones placed on three tiers or steps. It appears that one Richard Byrnand paid a fine and was permitted to enclose a cross standing on a piece of waste land then lately belonging to Robert Nessfield. The cross may be conjectured to have been either a memorial or boundary-stone. In those days ” it was not enough,” says the old antiquary, Hearne, ” to have the figure of the cross both on and in churches, chapels, and oratories, but it was put also in church-yards, and in every house, nay, many towns and villages were built in shape of it, and it was very common to fix it in the very streets and highways.
“This ancient relic, the site of which is now marked by a brass cross sunk in the causeway, was in after times called the Byrnand Hall Cross, from its proximity to the house of the same name. It stands on the road equidistant between York and Leeds, being eighteen miles from either place.”
At the end of the eighteenth century, E. Hargrove wrote:
“The (Byrnand) family mansion was situated at the end of the High-street, leading towards York. Near it formerly stood an ancient Cross, which being placed on the outside of the Rampart, and opposite to the entrance into the borough, seems to have been similar in situation, and probably may have been used for the same purpose, as that mentioned by Mr. Pennant, in his History of London, which stood without the city, opposite to Chester Inn; and here, according to the simplicity of the age, in the year 1294, and at other times, the magistrates sat to administer justice. Byrnand-Hall hath been lately rebuilt, by Mr. William Manby, who took down the remains of the old Cross, and left a cruciform stone in the pavement, which will mark the place to future times.”
Abbot J.I. Cummins, writing in the 1920s about the Catholic history of Knaresborough, told:
“Of the Byrnand Cross beyond the old town ditch the site is now marked in York Place by a brass cross let into the pavement for Christians to trample on.”
The Cross occupied an important position in the Knaresborough of old, at one of the highest points of the town by the junction of the modern High Street and Gracious Street, this latter being the road down the hill to the riverside and the troglodytic shrines of St Robert of Knaresborough and Our Lady.
Assuming the eighteenth century drawing is an accurate representation of the Cross, it does give the impression of considerable antiquity, and looks to have been 15-16 feet (4.75m.) high. From its appearance it looks like either a prehistoric monolith or an Anglo-Saxon ‘stapol‘ or column, and if it was the latter, it may have been erected to replace an earlier heathen wooden column or sacred tree following the replacement of the old beliefs by Christianity. If so, there may be no reason to deny Hargrove’s speculation that Byrnand Hall Cross once had a similar juridical function to the Chester Inn Cross in London.
Bintley, Michael D.J., Trees in the Religions of Early Medieval England, Woodbridge, Suffolk, Boydell Press 2015.
Cummins, J.I., “Knaresborough,” in The Ampleforth Journal, Vol XXIV, No II, Spring 1929.
Hargrove, E., The History of the Castle, Town and Forest of Knaresborough, 5th Edition, Knaresborough 1790.
Speight, H., Nidderdale, from Nun Monkton to Whernside, London, Elliot Stock, 1906.
Follow Long Lane northwards from Scorton, over the crossroads at Crosshill Four Lane Ends, and the cross base will be found at the road edge immediately to the right of the driveway of ‘Sandalwood’ on the left hand side of the road.
Archaeology & History
Described in the Historic Buildings listing citation as:
“Cross base, probably mediaeval. A sandstone boulder, roughly rectangular, with rectangular socket.”
The base of one of the numerous mediaeval wayside crosses that once adorned this part of Lancashire. So what happened to the cross? It’s possible that it was wilfully destroyed in the early nineteenth century as we have a likely culprit in the person of the Reverend Richard ‘Cross Smasher’ Wilkinson (c.1791 – 1823), Curate of Whitechapel, who took it upon himself to destroy the symbol of his religion wheresoever he could find it.
Immediately to the north west of the Cross is Cross Hill. The cross itself was probably a waymarker on the road over Harrisend Fell from Oakenclough, and Bradshaw may be the name of the locality, there being a Bradshaw Bridge just outside Street to the north west, while the 1846 6-inch OS map records a ‘Bradshaw Smithy’ on the same road.
Along the main A913 Perth Road that runs round the northern edge of Abernethy village, as you approach the village from the western side, go right at the mini-roundabout up the Main Street into the village. However, just where this roundabout is, there’s a footpath into the trees known as the Castlelaw. Walk up here, keeping to the left-side of the burn (don’t cross over onto the right-hand side!) and after about 200 yards or so, keep your eyes peeled for a large upright stone, almost overgrown in dark vegetation on your left.
Archaeology & History
An intriguing standing stone in a most unusual position: a small wooded glen with a steep slope on its immediate eastern side, very enclosed. It’s quite a big thing too, standing some six-feet high with the usual worn rounded crown, typical of olde stones.
In the very brief account of this site by Hallyburton & Brown (2000) they describe this “previously unrecorded /lost standing stone and possible ruinous stone circle.” This is also echoed in Canmore’s description. A standing stone we certainly have, but in several visits here there was no evidence of any stone circle either side of the burn. It was suggested that the “circle” may once have been atop of the slope immediately above this stone, but again there is no evidence at all to suggest this and old maps show nothing. I’m extremely doubtful of any megalithic ring here (I’d love to be wrong though).
Hallyburton, I. & Brown, R., “Abernethy Den (Abernethy Parish),” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, New Series – volume 1, 2000.
To find this stone take the A91 to Gateside and turn into Station Road. Follow to the end, then turn right. 200 yards on there is a parking spot for the Bunnet Stane, and a track to follow. As you go up this track towards the Bunnet, approximately 280 yards on is this beauty.
Archaeology & History
At over 6ft high, this previously unrecorded standing stone has quite a presence on this slight incline. It’s hard to tell the true height as he is set in a grassy bank with a drystane wall behind. It has obviously been used as a gatepost at some time in the past, but there’s no hint of being moved for that purpose. There are many ancient relics in this area and there used to be a stone circle across the road and behind Nether Urquhart Farm, along with several burial cairns. I reckon there is a lot more to be found, and we fully intend to go back there.
Travelling south on the A961, take the first road left past St Margaret’s Hope, and follow it over the cross roads, and down the hill towards the sea, and it’s visible on the left hand side. You can’t miss it! It’s accessed by a narrow pathway which has been partly ditched – be careful!
Archaeology & History
One of the less well known but most impressive of the Orkney standing stones, and seemingly one of the least visited. On my visit in July 2019, it was clear no one had walked the path for several months. The Royal Commission Inventory describes it as being, “14′ – 14′ 6″ high with some packing at the base. At 3′ above ground level, it is 2′ 6″ wide and 18″ thick, thickening to 21-22″ as it rises.”
It has a distinctly top-heavy look, and although invisible from the west above the brow of the hill, it can be clearly seen from the sea.
George Low visited the stone on May 11th 1774, saying:
‘In this beautiful hollow, in a cornfield, saw a large erected stone about 16 feet above ground, probably monumental, tho’ tradition is silent about it, and by digging nothing was found that could certainly prove this’.
Described by local historian George Barry (1748 – 1805):
‘To the north (of South Ronaldsay), – at no great distance, is a most beautiful vale, with the ocean on one side, and gently declining hills on the other; which, for the production of every sort of beneficial crop, is far superior to any other part of the island. In the middle of this pleasant spot, on the brow of a hill, is a monumental stone, sixteen feet high, which, like many others through the country, bears no marks of human art, in carving, figures, or inscription. The whole delightful dale is known by the name of Paplay’ .
If you’re in the islands, this impressive stone is certainly worth a detour!
Barry, Dr George, History of the Orkney Islands, Longman,Hurst,Bell & Orme: London 1808.
Low, George, A Tour Through the Islands of Orkney and Schetland…collected in 1774, William Peace & Son: Kirkwall 1874.
Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland, HMSO 1946.
When the Ordnance Survey lads visited this area in 1860, they stood upon this small knoll that was known as Torrnacloch – or the Knoll of the Stone. They were informed that a ring of stones had stood here, but had been destroyed about 1840, apparently by a local farmer. The stones were described as being about 3 feet high. They subsequently added it on the earliest OS-map of the area, but also made note that a cist was found within the site. The circle was included and classed as a stone circle in Aubrey Burl’s (2000) magnum opus, but had previously been classed as a cairn with “a kerb of large boulders” by the Royal Commission doods. (1983) They based their assessment on the appearance of some of the stones found on a gravel mound behind the farm which had apparently been removed from the circle when it was destroyed. Andrew Jervise (1853) gave us the following account:
“The Chapelry of Dalbog was on the east side of the parish, due west of Neudos. The time of its suppression is unknown; and though no vestige of any house remains, the site of the place of worship is still called the “chapel kirk shed” by old people, and, in the memory of an aged informant, a fine well and hamlet of houses graced the spot. This field adjoins the hillock of Turnacloch, or “the knoll of stones,” which was probably so named, from being topped in old times by a so-called Druidical circle, the last of the boulders of which were only removed in 1840. Some of them decorate a gravel mound behind the farm house; and, on levelling the knoll on which they stood, a small sepulchral chamber was discovered, about four feet below the surface. The sides, ends, and bottom, were built of round ordinary sized whinstones, cemented with clay, and the top composed of large rude flags. It was situate on the sunny side of the knoll, within the range of the circle; but was so filled with gravel, that although carefully searched, no relics were found.”
Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
Jervise, Anrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1853.
MacLaren, A. et al, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Central Angus, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1983.
Acknowledgements: Big thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map in this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Unless you’re venturing down the tiny Loch Awe roads, the easiest way here is to turn right off the A816 Lochgilphead-Oban road, 1½ miles north of Kilmartin. Go along this winding minor road for literally 2½ miles where, after coming out the tree-lined road, just past the small Loch Ederline, the fields re-appear on both sides of the road. Just here, where the trees end, just a few hundred yards before the hamlet of Ford, in one of the field on the left, you’ll see a tall upright stone. That’s it!
Archaeology & History
I was very fortunate, many years ago, to live in the old farmhouse of Auchinellan in the trees by this ancient stone. It became a companion many a time, as I sat with it in rain and mist and darkness sometimes, beneath the bright Moon. It always had a good feeling about it. And so when a small bunch of us visited here again recently, it was almost as if I’d never been away. Tis a magickal part of our landscape.
Standing ten-foot-tall on a grassy plain with craggy hills all round, this old fella once had another companion close by its side—this time, a stone one! Accounts of it are curious to say the least, with one telling us it was only “a few inches high” – which is plain daft, to say the least. The now-lost stone was in fact about six-feet tall; and the story of its disappearance was that it was moved into the grounds of Auchinellan House, somewhere in the garden. Clive Ruggles (1984) told that it could be found at grid-reference NM 8653 0268, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.
As far as I can tell, the first written testimony of this stone was by the Ordnance Survey lads after they’d visited here in 1871 and, several years later, highlighted it on their maps. (above) On this is clearly shown, just yards apart, the two standing stones. Much later, when the Royal Commission (1988) doods did their survey, they described the stone in their usual brief way:
“Situated on the top of a slight rise in a pasture field 270m SW of the Ford Hotel, there is a standing stone which measures 0.7m by 0.55m at the base and rises with straight sides to a flat top at a height of 3m…”
The site was included in Thom’s (1990) major survey on prehistoric stone rows where, again, only a brief description is given, saying:
“On a terrace near Loch Ederline is a standing stone which leans to the E. It is 9ft 6 (2.9m) high.”
It’s a beautiful place in a beautiful setting and is one of countless prehistoric monuments in this part of Scotland.
The Gaelic names for this site—Achnacarra and Achadh nan Carradh—means “the field of the burial stone”, which relates to the folklore of the stones reputedly marking the place of an ancient grave.
Campbell, Marion & Sandeman, M., “Mid Argyll: An Archaeological Survey,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 95, 1964.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – Volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.
Ruggles, Clive L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
Thom, Alexander, Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.
Acknowledgements: Big thanks to Neens Harris, Paul Hornby & Frank Mercer. And the stunning resource of Scotland’s 1st edition OS-maps is Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Roughly halfway between the staggering standing stone at Kintraw and the farmhouse of Salachary a coupla miles east along the A816 road to Kilmartin, a small overgrown car park nearly hides on the south-side of the road, just below the forestry. 50 yards west of this, a small track winds uphill. 650 yards (0.6km) up here, once it levels out, a hairpin in the track veers NW; ignore it, instead walking into the marshy grass in front of you (south) for 50-60 yards up and round the small rocky crag. Once you get round the edge of this, immediately east, you’ll see one of the tall monoliths 50 yards ahead of you.
Archaeology & History
Rediscovered in recent times by Marion Campbell (1962), this damaged row of three tall standing stones is cited in Swarbrick’s (2012) poorly-arranged survey as being “difficult to find in broken ground”; although patience brings the stones clearly into sight for any explorer. They’re big too! Sadly only one of them still remains fully upright—but that one’s nearly 9 feet tall!
In Miss Campbell’s initial description of the site, following their rediscovery, she told how,
“A chance sighting led to the discovery of a group of three monoliths, one erect, one sloping and one prostrate, on the West side of a wide glen leading S from the upper part of the Bealach Mor; the site commands a fine view into the northern hills. The spot is about 550ft above sea level and this is therefore the highest group of standing stones so far recorded in the area.
“The erect stone is 8ft 4in x 2ft x 1 ft, lozenge-shaped in section, with a pointed top. The leaning stone, also lozenge-shaped, is 10ft x 1ft 8in x 1ft, and pointed. The fallen stone is over 11ft x 2ft wide, too deeply buried in turf for the thickness to he measured. The stones appear to have stood in line, the nearest points of the first and third stones 9ft apart and the line joining them running north and south. Along a ridge running S behind the stones are a number of small ruins, oval and rectangular, in old cultivations. No surviving placename has been recovered for the site so far.”
Indeed, no subsequent investigation has led to either an early name nor any traditions about the site, and the stones cannot be found on any early maps of the area. A pity, as they’re quite impressive stones and would have had some old stories known of them in ages gone by.
Twenty years after Miss Campbell’s discovery, in May 1982, the stones were visited and surveyed by the Royal Commission lads. Their description very much tallied with Miss Campbell’s, but it’s worth citing anyway. They told us that:
“On a terrace on the W side of an unnamed valley to the S of Bealach Mor and about 850m SW of Salachary, there is a setting of three large standing stones which is aligned from N to S. Only the N stone is still upright; it measures 0.7m by 0.72m at the base and rises with straight sides to a pointed top at a height of 2.75m. The central stone is of similar proportions, but it now leans to the NE at an angle of about 15° to the horizontal. The S stone, which measures 3.4m by 0.65m has fallen with its top to the SE.”
Around the same time, Clive Ruggles (1984) assessed the Salachary stones for any potential astronomical alignments and found—as Alexander Thom & Aubrey Burl did in their own survey (1990)—that as they pointed virtually north-south they stood beyond any solar or lunar functions. Thom found the stones align almost perfectly north-south, with a notch in the southern horizon at 178°, and on the northern horizon the hilltop of Meall Reamhar at 2° west of north. This northern line may relate to the airt of death, although no other immediate archaeological remains have been found to fortify this idea (however, other unrecorded standing stones are close by and their relationship with Salachary has yet to be adequately assessed).
Aubrey Burl’s first description of this stone row told us:
“There are three stones in a N-S row situated on a terrace on the W side of a glen. The N stone, with a pointed top, stands 8ft 4 (2.5m) high. The central stone leans dramatically at 20°. It is 10ft (3m) in length. The S stone is prostrate and half-buried. It is 11ft (3.4m) long. The row is about 13ft (4m) long. From the site there is a fine view of the northern hills.”
In truth, the main north-south axis relates to the more open geological avenue of the landscape. Both the east and west are all but blocked by crags and hills, and the stones seem to have been positioned to echo the hollowed section of the landscape. The land runs in curious geological folds and has a distinct genius loci which I enjoyed in differing (usually wet) conditions when I used to live nearby. The site is well worth a walkabout if you’re in the area – and there are more unrecorded stones still hiding in Nature’s rocky folds nearby.
Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
Campbell, M. & Sandeman, M., “Mid Argyll: An Archaeological Survey,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 95, 1964.
Campbell, Marian, ‘Salachary, Kintraw’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1962.
Ferguson, Lesley, “A Catalogue of the Alexander Thom Archive Held in the National Monuments Record of Scotland,” in Records in Stone (ed. C. Ruggles), Cambridge University Press 1988.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.
Ruggles, Clive L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
Ruggles, Clive L.N., “The Stone Alignments of Argyll,” in Records in Stone (ed. C. Ruggles), Cambridge University Press 1988.
Swarbrick, Olaf, A Gazetteer of Prehistoric Standing Stones in Great Britain, BAR: Oxford 2012.
Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.
Weston, Garth, Monuments and Mountains, Ashridge: Bakewell 2007.
Acknowledgements: This site profile could not have been written without the help and of Nina Harris, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer and Belinda Sales.
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.
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.
Miller, T.D., Tales of a Highland Parish, Munro Press: Perth 1929.