West Dron Hill, Bridge of Earn, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 11845 15169

Getting Here

West Dron’s petroglyph

In the middle of Bridge of Earn village, take the Heughfield Road until, ⅓-mile on you hit the T-junction.  Turn left along Forgandenny Road and go along the curvaceous road for just over a mile where you need to keep your eyes peeled for the small left turn that takes you up the dead straight road.  At the top, turn left at the junction and go ⅔-mile, turning right at the next junction until after 400 yards you reach the houses on your right.  Go up the footpath opposite the houses (south) until, after nearly 400 yards, it splits.  Bear right and zigzag up the track for nearly a mile till you reach a large opening in the forest.  40 yards up the slope to your left is the stone—at last!

Archaeology & History

After the trail to get here, you might not be overly impressed by what you see – and it’s nothing special to look at to be honest.  But its location is a good one: reasonably high up on a sloping plateau which would have given good views were it not for the surrounding forestry plantations.  The only literary description of the site was the brief one in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, shortly after being rediscovered.  Mrs Johnson (1960) wrote:

Close-up of the carving

“A cup-marked stone was found by Mr. J. R. Morrison on the N side of West Dron hill.  The stone measures approx. 4ft long by 1ft 9in broad.

There are 17 cup-marks: five of which have channels, and two of which are joined in the form of a dumb-bell.  The stone lies with its longer axis NE-SW, and its broad face uppermost.”

Its seeming isolation is a peculiarity that I don’t buy.  Other carvings are going to be in the locale, probably on the same north- or north-east facing ridges – but due to the dense forestry, any other petroglyphs will remain hidden for quite some time…

References:

  1. Johnson, M., “Dron, Perthshire,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, SRG 1960.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Theresa Hughes for the use of her photos of this carving.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.320681, -3.426903 West Dron

Bengengie North, Alva, Clackmannanshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – NN 86680 00601  —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Aerial view of Bengenie enclosure
Aerial view of Bengenie enclosure

This really take a lot of effort to find. From Alva, go up through the graveyard past St. Serf’s Well, turning left and across cross the lane. A gate into the field takes you past Rhodders Farm then up the zigzagging track up the steep hill called The Nebit and into the Ochils. Where the track stops zigzagging, keep your eyes peeled for a left turn (west) about 1000ft up. Go along this, parallel above Alva Glen, for about 2 miles till you reach the sheep fanks. Naathen – go straight uphill towards Bengengie peak, steering to the right (north) side, avoiding the cliffs and onto the level moorland. Once there, you’ll see a rounded hillock a coupla hundred yards ahead. That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

Southeastern corner of the ditch & bank
Southeastern corner of the ditch & bank

This is a bittova long hike to see a very overgrown site – but if you really enjoy the hills, it’s a good little side-track to visit.  I came across it recently on a long bimble over the Ochils, on my way back home after travelling to three of the Ochil peaks.  Walking carefully across the swampy heights of the Menstrie Moss, a rounded hillock north of Bengengie seemed to have the pimple of a cairn on its top—so I veered over to have a look.

The cairn was small and overgrown, with just a half-dozen rocks visible above ground, and a collection of others in the same pile beneath the heathland grasses.  It was obviously a man-made assemblage, but I couldn’t say for sure whether this was the grave of a person or someone’s favourite sheep a few centuries back!

Small cairn inside the enclosure
Small cairn inside the enclosure

It was when I walked around the cairn to try and get some photos of it, that another very distinct feature—not immediately visible—stood out and gave this single cairn a series of additional ingredients that really brought this site to life!  For just a few yards east of the cairn I noticed an obvious ditch and outer embankment, running roughly north-south, which may have relevance to the pile of stones.  And so I walked along the edge of the embankment, for about 10 yards, only to find that it turned to the right and continued onwards, east-west, for some distance.  This then turned at a similar angle again about 30-35 yards along, and then again, and again, until I returned to where I had stood initially a few minutes earlier!

There was no doubt about it: this was a man-made, roughly rectangular-shaped enclosure, whose bank and ditch averaged 1-2 yards across.  The maximum height of the outer embankment is less than 3 feet.  Its eastern and western lengths measured roughly 17-18 yards long, and the longer lengths north and south were between 30 and 35 yards at the most.  The cairn feature that I’d initially noticed is found at the near-eastern edge of the enclosure. Apart from that, my initial ramble here indicated few other internal features that were visible, except several small stones.

Southern line of bank & ditch, running left to right
Southern line of bank & ditch, running left to right
Eastern section of ditch & bank, looking north
Eastern section of ditch & bank, looking north

The great majority of the site is very overgrown and, as you can see, the photos of the ditch and bank constituting the enclosure are sadly not that easy to make out.  You can see it mostly by the colour changes of the vegetation, running in lines either across or up through the middle of the photos.  I need to get up there again and try get some better images sometime soon—and also to see if there are other features hiding away on the heights of these old hills, long since said to have been the abode of one of the great Pictish tribes (there is also a considerable mass of old faerie-lore in these hills, indicating considerable ancient activity of people whose cosmos was inhabited by spirits and forms long since forgotten in the consensus trance of most moderns).

As for the age of the enclosure: it’s difficult to say on first impression and I’m not keen on making a guess on this one.  It’s certainly old, as the overgrown vegetation clearly shows, both on the photos and when you see it first-hand.  It’s already been suggested by one graduate as possibly neolithic, but I’m a little sceptical about that, as its linearity isn’t consistent with neolithic features we know about in the mid-Pennines. However, this geographical arena is new landscape for me and so the possibility remains open until better, more competent investigation gives us a clearer time period.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.184494, -3.827335 Bengengie North