Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (06), Ben Lawers, Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65309 39553

Getting Here

Allt a’ Choire Chireinich 6

Follow the directions to reach the faint but impressive Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (04) petroglyph.  Standing here, you’ll notice the large boulder that looks as if it’s fallen down the slope immediately to your left.  You can’t really miss it.

Archaeology & History

Beneath the gorgeous excess of ancient lichens you can make out at least three cup-marks on the south-facing sloping rock-face in the top-half of the boulder.  There may be some other faint cups on here, but due to the lichens they are very difficult to see, so I’m erring on the side of caution regarding their veracity.  This is another one of those carvings likely to be interest only to the most ardent petroglyphic nuts amongst you.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (05), Ben Lawers, Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup- Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65305 39555

Getting Here

Allt a’ Choire Chireinich 5

Follow the directions to reach the faint but impressive Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (04) petroglyph.  Standing here, look straight down at the dried-up burn barely ten feet below you, where you’ll see a small sloping rock.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Nothing much to see here apart from a single shallow cup-marking.  Most likely of interest only to the most ardent petroglyphic explorer.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Loch Ardinning, Mugdock, Stirlingshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 56 77

Archaeology & History

The hidden Loch Ardinning stone

The hidden Loch Ardinning stone

This site-profile is one for the explorers amongst you.  It was last reported by the rock art author Ronald Morris (1981) who himself looked several times for this multiple-ringed carving, but never managed to find it.  The carving was rediscovered and described by the Glasgow archaeologist J. Harrison Maxwell, who took the only known photograph of the carving (reproduced here).  Sadly, he only left a short note about the site which read simply: “cups-and-rings to the west of Loch Ardinning.”

It seems probable that the carving would be in the area between the loch and the A81 road (between Strathblane and Bearsden) and not on the western side of the road—but we cannot be certain.  It may be hidden in the trees somewhere between the road and the lochside—which means that it’s probably completely overgrown by vegetation.  Morris (1981) described the carving as:

“a cup-and-four-rings, 2 cups-and-two-rings, and at least 4 cups-and-one-ring. Some rings are complete without radial groove and some are gapped with groove from the cup.”

If any explorers out there manage to unearth this lost carving, please give us a shout!

References:

  1. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring and Similar Early Sculptures of Scotland; Part 2 – The Rest of Scotland except Kintyre,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 16, 1969.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties – part 2,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1969.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Larkfield Moor, Inverkip, Renfrewshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 2295 7591

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 41327

Archaeology & History

When the moorland here was still free from the dodgy factory workings of Texas Instruments (UK) Ltd, a Mr F. Newall (1960) came across this curious example of ancient rock art—now long gone.  He described the find as,

“A series of cup marks and one ring, worked in laminated sandstone (that) has been located on Larkfield Moor by Mr H.M. Sinclair. In several cases the outer edge of the cup has been deeply incised through yellow sandstone to leave a slightly raised boss of red sandstone at the centre.  From the side of the outcrop bearing the cups was recovered a chert scraper, doubly notched on one edge.”

R.W.B. Morris' 1981 sketch

R.W.B. Morris’ 1981 sketch

The “chert scraper” is marked on the adjacent diagram with an “X”.

Although this carving is described on the latest Canmore survey as “possibly a freak geological formation”, we are best erring on the side of caution with their note, as it wasn’t deemed as such by the rock art authority R.W.B. Morris. (1981) (the cup-marks on this stone were, as you can see, quite large—which is the likely reason for the geophysical suggestion) In his account of this design he described the carving as having,

“6 rings up to 20cm (8in) diameters, cut so that they penetrated the next lower yellow sandstone layer; but in 4 cases having a ‘boss’ of red sandstone slightly raised in the middle, and also 3 cups. Greatest carving depth 1cm (½ in).”

References:

  1. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring Marks and Similar Sculptures of South-West Scotland,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 14, 1967.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B. & Bailey, Douglas C., “The Cup-and-Ring Marks and Similar Sculptures of Southwestern Scotland: A Survey,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 98, 1966.
  4. Newall, F., “Larkfield Moor,” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, 1960.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Tombreck (10), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65042 37559

Getting Here

Tombreck's cup-marked stone

Tombreck’s cup-marked stone

Along the A827 north road around Loch Tay, between Killin and Kenmore, a few hundred yards east of Carie—and on the same side of the road—there’s a dirt-track down to the Tombreck community.  Go into it and just past The Big Shed you’ll see the small caravan where the helpful and friendly Gabriela lives.  The stone just in front of her caravan is the one you’re looking for!

Archaeology & History

Close-up of the cups

Close-up of the cups

Although this cup-marked rock has been known about for sometime by local people, it is one of many that are not in the archaeological record.  It’s nothing like as impressive as some of its petroglyphic neighbours on the slopes of Ben Lawers, as this simple carving comprises of two well-defined simple cup-marks, and another two that appear to have been worked slightly into natural cracks in the rock.  These two remain incomplete.  It’s nothing too special to look at and is, once again, only gonna be of interest to the petroglyphic purists amongst you.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Tombreck (08), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 64795 38648

Getting Here

Tombreck (8) on its mound

Along the A827 road between Killin and Kenmore, park at the entrance to the Tombreck track and cross the road, walking up the track heading up Ben Lawers.  Pass the sheep pens, through the gate and keep going for a few hundred yards until you hit the old straight line of walling which runs off east into the pine trees a few hundred yards away. Walk along here, keeping to the south side, for less than 100 yards, watching out for a small stone on a small rise on a small hillock – and make sure your eyes are in good condition!

Archaeology & History

The stone in question

This is a seemingly unrecorded cup-marked stone, with very faint petroglyphic evidences just visible on the surface.  Set within the wider surrounds of more recent enclosure walling, this is a small slightly raised female (rounded, smooth) stone, roughly three feet in diameter, which has at least five cup-markings on its surface—mainly near the middle of the stone.  The rock itself is next to the western edge of a raised man-made feature, reminiscent of a collapsed denuded cairn or hut circle, which itself has not been archaeologically assessed.  It is one of a number of petroglyphs in relative proximity to each other on the geological ridge above Loch Tay (not visible from here).

Close-up of faint cups
Closer-up of faint cups

As you can see in the photos left and right, the cups are only truly visible when the stone has been wet.  Initially I thought that this carving may have been one that was mentioned briefly in George Currie’s (2009) notes—at NN 64736 38647, 62 (57m) yards to the east—but it doesn’t seem to be the case as the grid reference he cited differs from this.  There are going to be a number of other unrecorded carvings scattered about beneath the great shadow of Ben Lawers…

References:

  1. Currie, George, “Cup-and-Ring Marked Rocks,” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, volume 10, 2009.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Paul Hornby for the use of his photos in this site profile; and to Lisa Samson, for her landscape detective work at the site.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


MacBeth’s Stone, Belmont, Meigle, Perthshire

Standing Stone / Cup Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 27997 43473

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 30824
  2. Siward’s Stone
  3. Witches’ Stone

Getting Here

MacBeth's Stone, near Meigle

MacBeth’s Stone, near Meigle

From the centre of Meigle village, you need to go along the country lane southwest towards the village of Ardler (do not go on the B954 road).  About three-quarter of a mile (1.25km) along—past the entrance to Belmont Castle—you’ll reach a small triangle of grass on your left, and a driveway into the trees.  Walk down here, past the first house—behind which is the stone in question.  A small path takes you through the trees and round to it.  You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

MacBeth Stone on 1st OS-map

MacBeth Stone on 1st OS-map

This is a magnificent site.  A giant of a stone.  Almost the effigy of a King, petrified, awaiting one day to awaken and get the people behind him!  It has that feel of awe and curiosity that some of us know very well at these less-visited, quieter megalithic places. Its title has been an interchange between the Scottish King MacBeth and the witches who played so much in his folklore, mixed into more realistic local traditions of other heathen medicine-women of olde…

The first account of this giant standing stone came from the travelling pen of Thomas Pennant (1776) who, in his meanderings to the various historical and legendary sites of Meigle district, wrote that

“In a field on the other side of the house is another monument to a hero of that day, to the memory of the brave young Seward, who fell, slain on the spot by MacBeth.  A stupendous stone marks the place; twelve feet high above ground, and eighteen feet and a half in girth in the thickest place.  The quantity below the surface of the Earth is only two feet eight inches; the weight. on accurate computation amounts to twenty tons; yet I have been assured that no stone of this species is to be found within twenty miles.”

It was visited by the Ordnance Survey lads in 1863, several years after one Thomas Wise (1855) had described the monolith in an article on the nearby hillfort of Dunsinane.  But little of any substance was said of the stone, and this is something that hasn’t changed for 150 years, despite the huge size of this erection!  Local historians make mention of it in their various travelogues, but the archaeologists haven’t really given the site the attention it deserves.  Even the Royal Commission (1994) report was scant; and apart from suggesting it to have a neolithic provenance, they merely wrote:

“Rectangular in cross-section, the stone tapers to a point some 3.6m above the ground; each of its sides is decorated with cupmarks, as many as forty occurring on the east face and twenty-four on the west.”

MacBeth Stone (Wise 1884)

MacBeth Stone (Wise 1884)

East face of MacBeth's Stone

East face of MacBeth’s Stone

Thankfully, the fact that there are cup-markings on the stone has at least given it the attention it deserves amongst the petroglyph students.  The first account of the cup-markings seem to have come from the pen of Sir James Simpson (1867) who mentions them, albeit in passing, in his seminal work on the subject.  A few years later however, the same Thomas Wise visited MacBeth’s Stone again, and not only described the carvings, but gave us our first known illustration in his fascinating History of Paganism (1884).  He told it to be,

“A large boulder, some 12 tons in weight, situated within the policies of Belmont Castle, in Strathmore, Perthshire…is supposed to have been erected on the spot where MacBeth was slain.  Two feet above the ground this boulder has a belt of cups of different sizes, and in irregular groups.  None of these cups are surrounded by incised circles or gutters.  This boulder was probably intended for some sacred purpose, as it faces the SE.”

Running almost around the middle of the standing stone, on all four sides, are the great majority of the cup-markings (no rings or additional lines are visible).  They were very obviously etched into the stone after it had been erected, not before.  This is in stark contrast to the cup-and-rings found on the standing stones at Machrie, Kilmartin and elsewhere, where we know the carvings were done before the stones were stood upright.

Cup-narks on western face

Cup-narks on western face

Cups on the western face

Cups on the western face

On the northern face of the stone is one possible cup-marking, and three of them are etched onto its south face; but the majority of them, forty, are on its western face, and twenty-five on its eastern side.  The great majority of them on the east and west sides occur roughly in the middle of the stone, almost like a ‘belt’ running across its body.  Those on the eastern face are difficult to discern as a thick layer of lichens covers this side, so there may be even more beneath the vegetation.

An increasingly notable element in the singular monoliths of this region, echoed again here, is that at least one side of the standing stone is smooth and flat—in the case of MacBeth’s Stone the flat face is the eastern one.  Whether this was a deliberate feature/ingredient in some of the standing stones, I do not know.  If there was such a deliberate reason, it would be good to know what it meant!

The 'face' in the top of the stone

The ‘face’ in the top of the stone

Close-up of Macbeth's face

Close-up of Macbeth’s face

Another fascinating feature at this site was noticed by Nina Harris of ‘Organic Scotland’.  Meandering around the stone in and out of the trees, she called our attention to a fascinating simulacra when looking at the upper section of the monolith on its southern side.  At first it didn’t seem clear – but then, as usual, the more you looked, the more obvious it became.  A very distinct face, seemingly male, occurs naturally at the top of the stone and it continues as you walk around to its heavily cup-marked western side.  It’s quite unmistakable!  As such, it has to be posited: was this simulacra noticed by the people who erected this stone and seen as the spirit of the rock?  Did it even constitute the reason behind its association with some ancestral figure, whose spirit endured here and was petrified?  Such a query is neither unusual nor outlandish, as every culture on Earth relates to such spirit in stones where faces like this stand out.

But whatever your opinion on such matters, when you visit this site spend some time here, quietly.  Get into the feel of the place.  And above all, see what impression you get from the stony face above the body of the stone. Tis fascinating…..

Folklore

Known locally as being a gathering place of witches, the site is still frequented by old people at certain times of the year, at night.  The stone’s association with MacBeth comes, not from the King himself (whose death occurred many miles to the north), but one of his generals.  In James Guthrie’s (1875) huge work on the folklore of this region, he told that this giant

“erect block of whinstone, of nearly twenty tons in weight…(is) said to be monumental of one of his chief officers”,

which he thought perhaps gave the tale an “air of probability about it.”  But Guthrie didn’t know that this great upright was perhaps four thousand years older than the MacBeth tradition espoused!  However, as Nick Aitchison (1999) pointed out in his singular study of the historical MacBeth,

“another MacBeth was sheriff of Scone in the late twelfth century and it is possible that he, and not MacBeth, King of Scots, is commemorated in the name.”

He may be right.  Or it the name may simply have been grafted onto the stone replacing a more archaic relationship with some long forgotten heathen elder.  We might never know for sure.

When Geoff Holder (2006) wrote about the various MacBeth sites in this area, he remarked that the folklore of the local people was all down to the pen of one Sir John Sinclair, editor of the first Statistical Account of the area—but this is a gross and probably inaccurate generalization.  Nowhere in Holder’s work (or in any of his other tomes) does he outline the foundations of local people’s innate subjective animistic relationship to their landscape and its legends; preferring instead, as many uninformed social historians do, to depersonalise the human/landscape relationships, which were part and parcel of everyday life until the coming of the Industrial Revolution.  Fundamentally differing cultural, cosmological and psychological attributes spawned many of the old myths of our land, its megaliths and other prehistoric sites.  It aint rocket science!  Sadly, increasing numbers of folklore students are taking this “easy option” of denouncement, due to educational inabilities.  It’s about time researchers started taking such misdirected students to task!

References:

  1. Aitchison, Nick, MacBeth – Man and Myth, Sutton: Stroud 1999.
  2. Coutts, Herbert, Ancient Monuments of Tayside, Dundee Museum 1970.
  3. Guthrie, James C., The Vale of Strathmore – Its Scenes and Legends, William Paterson: Edinburgh 1875.
  4. Hazlitt, W.C., Faiths and Folklore: A Dictionary, Reeves & Turner: London 1905.
  5. Holder, Geoff, The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire, History Press 2006.
  6. MacNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough – volume 1, William MacLellan: Glasgow 1957.
  7. MacPherson, J.G., Strathmore: Past and Present, S. Cowan: Perth 1885.
  8. Michell, John, Simulacra, Thames & Hudson: London 1979.
  9. Pennant, Thomas, A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides – volume 2, London 1776.
  10. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, South-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1994.
  11. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
  12. Wise, Thomas A., “Notice of Recent Excavations in the Hill Fort of Dunsinane, Perthshire,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 2, 1855.
  13. Wise, Thomas A., History of Paganism in Caledonia, Trubner: London 1884.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks to Paul Hornby for his help getting me to this impressive monolith; and to Nina Harris, for prompting some intriguing ideas.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (04), Ben Lawers, Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65306 39560

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 238575

Getting Here

The petroglyph & its associates

The petroglyph & its associates

Along the A827 road between Killin and Kenmore, park-up at the Tombreck entrance and cross the road, taking the long track which eventually zigzags up the slope of Ben Lawers.  Keep your eyes on the copse of trees a few hundred yards east that runs up the slopes.  Head towards this, past the multiple-ringed Allt a’ Choire Chireinich stone, then AaCC 2 and AaCC3 carvings, then notice on the other side of the stream a couple of large boulders.  That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

This faint but intricately carved petroglyph is one in a cluster of three carvings, right next to each other—and it’s the best of the bunch by a long way.  A single cup-marking is found on the flat stone beneath this one (AaCC5); whilst the large egg-shaped boulder in front has perhaps a half-dozen cups on it (AaCC6).

Alex Hale's sketch of the carving

Alex Hale’s sketch of the carving

Faint remains of concentric rings

Faint remains of concentric rings

The large flat-topped boulder of AaCC4 however, possesses at least seventeen plain cup markings, along with twenty-four cup-and-rings, six cup-and-double-rings, three cup-and-three rings, three cup-and-four rings, and one cup-and-five rings!  There are some carved lines that emerge from several of the cups, with all of the three cup-and-four rings having a carved pathway emerging from the central cup and going out of the concentric system.  It’s quite a beauty!  And it sits upon the ridge next to the clear drinking waters of the burn, gazing out over Loch Tay and the mountains all around in a quite beautiful landscape.

Immediately above and below the carvings are a number of settlement spots or shielings, known to have been used until recent centuries.  They were quite ideal living quarters and some of the old folk here, in bygone days, would have known old customs and stories of this petroglyph.

References:

  1. Hale, Alex, “Prehistoric Rock Carvings in Strathtay,” in Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal, 2009.
  2. Yellowlees, Sonia, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Scotland Magazine: Edinburgh 2004.

Acknowledgments: Huge thanks to Lisa Samson, Fraser Harrick and Paul Hornby for their help reaching this site and exploring still further.  Let’s do it again sometime before I vanish forever up into the far North!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (03), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65249 39579  –  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Allt a' Choire Chireinich 03 Stone

Allt a’ Choire Chireinich 03 Stone

Take the same directions to reach the large rounded Allt a’ Choire Chireinich 02 carving.  Walk 65 yards (60m) northwest diagonally uphill to another large rounded stone of similar size.  That’s the one!

Archaeology & History

A large cup-marked boulder, not previously recognised, was rediscovered on the afternoon of May 15, 2015.  The great majority of the rock surface is covered in aged lichens, but at least three well-defined cup-markings were noted on the upper rounded surface of the stone: one near the middle of the stone; one near the centre-north; and another towards the top northwest section of the stone.  The cups are more than an inch in diameter and eighth-of-an-inch deep.  Others may be in evidence beneath the vegetation.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (02), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65218 39525

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 291477

Getting Here

Allt a' Choire Chireinich 2 stone

Allt a’ Choire Chireinich 2 stone

Along the A827 road between Killin and Kenmore, park-up at the Tombreck entrance and cross the road, taking the long track which eventually zigzags up the slope of Ben Lawers.  Keep your eyes on the copse of trees a few hundred yards east that runs up the slopes and when you are level with the top of it, walk along the line of walling that heads to it.  Go past the top of the trees and the first big boulder you reach is the fella in question.

Archaeology & History

Adjacent to an ancient trackway that runs across the slopes of the mountain, this large glacial boulder sits proudly on the slopes calling out for attention — and attention it certainly received countless centuries ago, when local people (perhaps) decided to cut at least nine cup-markings onto the top of the rock.

Lichen-encrusted cups

Lichen-encrusted cups

Lichen-encrusted cups

Lichen-encrusted cups

The surface today is encrusted with olde lichens of colourful hues, beneath which may be other cup and ring carvings; but as I’m a great lover of such forgotten medicinal primers, I wasn’t about to scratch beneath their bodies to find out.  This petroglyph is worth looking at when you’re exploring the other, more impressive carvings in this Allt a’ Choire Chireinich cluster.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian