Giant’s Stones, Arnbathie, Perthshire.

Legendary Stones: OS Reference – NO 16695 26086

Getting Here

The two stones in relation to each other

Travelling north from Perth on the A94, take the right turning for Murrayshall just before entering Scone, then take the first right and continue up to the road junction, and park up at the trackway opposite.  You’ll see the big stone in the field to the right, up against the road embankment; and the small stone is in the paddock to the left of the trackway at the edge of the trees.

Archaeology & History

Two large glacial erratics which have acquired mythic status and picked up a Christian triumphalist message on the way.

Folklore

In Lawrence Melville’s (1939) excellent local history work, he thankfully put to pen an all-but-forgotten tale of oral tradition:

“Where the road from the Muir of Durdie leaves Kilspindie parish, a grass grown road leads north to Boglebee….. A few yards from the highway lie two large stones, said to have been flung from the Giant’s Hill in Collace parish – the flat topped eminence lying due north from the stones, about two or three miles away, better known as “Macbeth’s Hill”, or “Dunsinane Hill”.

The ‘string’ marks of legend
The smaller stone with its ‘string’ marks

“When the church dedicated to St John in Perth was being built and its tower began to appear, a witch living in Collace was enraged to see this proof of the approach of Christianity and determined to destroy it. She had a son, a giant (after whom the hill receives one of its names), whom she sent to the top of the hill, giving him two huge stones with which to destroy the rising church.

“By her incantations she had supernatural power and knew that when Christianity came her power would be destroyed. She gave him her mutch from her head to be used as sling and in it the giant put the two huge stones. Whirling it around his head, he aimed them in a line with the tower, but, just as he let them fly, the string of his mother’s cap broke and the stones only went the length of Boglebee. The marks on the stones are said to be the marks of the witch’s mutch strings.”

Another view of the larger stone

A familiar folkloric message is remembered the length of Britain:  a giant, a devil or other supernatural being throwing stones that either spill out of an apron or otherwise miss their mark.  And in this case an unsubtle message to anyone trying to take on the might of the church.  But what was the original story of these stones as told by the old time oral storytellers before Christian missionaries stalked the land?

If the string hadn’t broken and the stones had followed their original trajectory they would have fallen south of St John’s Kirk, but it was the thought that counted….

Reference:

  1. Melville, Lawrence, The Fair Land of Gowrie, William Culross: Coupar Angus, 1939.

©Paul T. Hornby 2020, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.419613, -3.351980 Giants Stones

Murrayshall, Scone, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 15200 26263

Also Known as:

  1. Balgarvie (Swarbrick)
  2. Canmore ID 28135
  3. Mill of Bonhard

Getting Here

Murrayshall standing stone

On the main road (A94) through Scone, go east along either Murrayshall Road or Bonhard Road for a short distance until you go out of the town and into the countryside. About ⅓-mile (0.5km) along the country lane, go left at the road junction; and just another ¼-mile on, notice the field-gate on your left.  As you’ll see, the standing stone is just over 100 yards away in that field.

Archaeology & History

Murrayshall on 1867 map

In a region littered with megaliths, this fine upright single stone stands, quite deliberately, at a point in the field where you have excellent 360° views, which to the north looks way into the orgasm of the Scottish mountains.  History and tradition seem to tell it has always been a loner, without companions, but no archaeological excavation has taken place here to my knowledge; and the apparent proximity of some type of prehistoric ring-ditch 30 yards away may be related to the stone.  But we don’t for sure…

Close-up of cupmark

North-face with cupmark

Despite being shown on the first OS-map of the region in 1867 and despite being a large monolith more than 6 feet tall, very little seems to have been said of it.  It was included in Swarbrick’s (2012) poorly arranged survey; and the Royal Commission (1994) merely listed it, without comment, other than to say “it bears no markings.”  Yet when Paul Hornby and I visited the place recently, a large single cup-mark is plain to see on the north-face of the stone.

Although the stone is alone in this field, once you start exploring the hills a short distance to the south and the farmed fields heading north and east, masses of prehistoric sites begin to appear.  It’s well worth checking out!

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, South-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1994.
  2. Swarbrick, Olaf, A Gazetteer of Prehistoric Standing Stones in Great Britain, BAR: Oxford 2012.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks as always to Paul Hornby for getting us to this site.  Plus, accreditation of early OS-map usage is reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Murrayshall stone

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Murrayshall stone 56.420926, -3.376245 Murrayshall stone