The easiest way to see this is to reach the Nether Glenny 2 Cairn, looking north to the slope a coupla hundred yards away, where you can see a long rock halfway up. If you can’t see it from here, walk to the impressive Nether Glenny 35 Carving, where the large long slab is much more obvious on the hillside. Walk through the gates to the Nether Glenny 37 carving and then diagonally up to the rock itself. You can’t really miss it.
This 15-foot long stone halfway up the slope was said by the Royal Commission lads to have “four possible cup-marks” on it, whereas there are at least nine of them and maybe as many as eleven! Most of them are dead certs as prehistoric etchings, not just ‘possibles’.
The more visible cup-marks here are found on the more western end of the stone, just below the grass-line. The cups here are quite distinct, measuring some two-inches across and nearly half-an-inch deep in two of them. The others in this section are a little smaller and further down the slope of the rock. Seemingly not noticed for a long long time however is a small cluster of very faded cups, gathered like a very faint 4-star Pleiades cluster more than halfway along out in the photo here (I hope!).
This entire area is covered with cup-and-ring stones, possessing one of the greatest densities of carvings anywhere in Scotland.When we visited the place last week, Nature was pouring with rain, so we weren’t able to sketch the design. Something that we’ll hopefully amend in the near future!
About 1 mile west of where the B8034 meets the A81, between the Port of Menteith and Aberfoyle, a small road on the right (north) at Portend takes you up the single-track road to Upper Glenny. Go 2-300 yards up past Mondowie Farm and take the next track, left. Walk up through the gate for nearly 300 yards, going through the gate on your left and onto the fields. Follow the fence for 300 yards then go through the gate into the next field—past one of the Nether Glenny cairns—and walk across it until you reach an open gate at the far side, just where the hillside goes up. It’s nearly under your feet!
Archaeology & History
This single cup-and-ring carving, found amidst the massive cluster of both simple and highly complex petroglyphs between Ballochraggan and Upper Glenny, doesn’t seem to have been included in any previous surveys. It was located during the incredible rains yesterday on Sunday 7 February, wetting this and other rocks, enabling better visibility of otherwise invisible symbols faintly remaining here and on other stones. The carving appears to have been etched into naturally occurring notches and fissures. Certainly worth looking at when exploring the other incredible carvings on this hillside.
Take the same directions as if you’re visiting the nearby Nether Glenny 2 cairn. Once here, walk less than 100 yards further down into the same field, north, roughly parallel with the fencing. You’ll reach several large rocks, and the elongated one on the slight rise closer to the fence is the one you’re after. You’ll find it!
This is one in a number of impressive cup-and-ring stones scattered along this grassy ridge overlooking the Lake of Menteith and the Gargunnock Hills to the south. Petroglyph lovers amongst you will love it! And it seems that with each and every analysis, the carvings gives up more and more of its ancient symbolism. When it was first described (in a literary sense) by Maarten van Hoek (1989) he told it to be:
“Irregular outcrop with at least 72 single cups; 3 cups with 2 rings; 6 cups with 1 ring and 2 possible horse-shoe rings only.”
But when Kaledon Naddair (1992) visited the site a few years later he amended this initial description, telling us how,
“Further temporary turf removal extended the total to 124 solo cups, and 9 cups with 1 ring, and 5 cups with 2 rings.”
Naddair’s description is closer to our own inspection, although I think that a small number of the ‘cups’ are natural. Other features that we’ve found occur on the more western side of the rock. A faint partial-double-ringed cup is accompanied a few inches away by a carved element that seems to have been unfinished. An initially indistinct circle, faintly pecked, has internal lines at the quadrants, akin to an early cross form. A line emerges from this symbol which also seems to have been slightly worked.
Subsequent investigations of this carving has uncovered much more which, to be honest, requires almost an entire re-write of this profile……
Take the same directions to reach the Nether Glenny cairn (about 1 mile west of where the B8034 meets the A81, between the Port of Menteith and Aberfoyle, up a small road on the right [north] at Portend) and walk to its companion cairn 100 yards north. From here, walk west across the field towards the nearby forest. Nearly 20 yards from the wall and about 35 yards from the corner of the field where it meets the forest, this elongated stone lies amidst the grasses and reeds. You’ll find it.
Archaeology & History
Looking somewhat like a small fallen standing stone (the Royal Commission list just such a stone nearly 200 yards east), this slim elongated rock was first described in Maarten van Hoek’s Menteith (1989) survey where he told it to be a “loose slab north of the…burn, bears at least thirteen cups.” But of the “thirteen cups”, only five of these (seven at the most) appear to be man-made. The others are, quite distinctly, geophysical in origin (and in all probability, the other cups were forged from the geological nicks and dimples). One of them may have the faint remains of a ring around it, but this is uncertain. When we visited the site yesterday, the light was poor and although this ‘ring’ seems to show up on a couple of photos, I’m erring on the side of caution.
Take the same directions to locate the cup-and-ring stone of Ballochraggan 12. There are several rocks adjacent. The one immediately next to it, to the northeast, is the one you’re looking for. Be gentle and careful if you’re gonna look at it — deadly serious, be very careful indeed!
Archaeology & History
One of the most intriguing and most fascinating of all the prehistoric carvings I’ve yet to discover. Not that this was all my own work. If it hadn’t been for Paul Hornby, we might have simply walked past it as being little more than a single cup-marked stone—and in this area, single cup-marks tend to be little more than geological in nature.
After we’d looked over several of the registered carvings close by, I did my usual meandering back and forth, stroking stones and seeing if there were any carvings that had been missed by previous surveyors. And in walking past a small piece of smooth rock, a singular cupmark seemed to stand out. I walked past it, shouting across to my colleague.
“It looks like we’ve got a single cup-mark here Paul,” I said, “with possible half-ring.” Thankfully Mr Hornby gave it his better attention.
The sun was still out and shining across the smooth rock surface, which tends to mean that you’re not seeing any carving on the stone quite as good as it actually is. Thankfully however, the sun was beginning to get lower and, when this happens, if we wet the rock, any carvings that might be there stand out much better. And this little fella just seemed to get better and more curious the more attention Paul gave it!
The first thing that became obvious were a series of faint carved lines above the single cup-mark. Initially these didn’t seem to merit much attention (straight lines on rock are usually more the product of geophysical action than that of humans), but as the rock got wetter, Paul saw something very distinct indeed.
“There’s a face on it!” he exclaimed. And indeed there was. A Rorschach response no doubt, but it was still very much like a face. This looked for all the world akin to the stylised olde English gentry sort of countenance, as in old cartoons. It was quite ‘distinct’, as such characters themselves insist on being! Yet around this initial face, more lines seemed to be emerging as the stone gave up more and more of its hidden story.
Standing back from an initial investigation, the carving was seen to consist of a triple-ring, but without the traditional ‘cup’ in its centre. Instead, the centre was marked simply by a small ‘dot’—perhaps, originally, being a small conglomerate hole formed as a result of another tiny harder fragment of stone falling away from its larger mass. But a ‘dot’ it was. The other carved ‘lines’ however, immediately below and attached to the triple-ring, gave us something almost unique—and another strong Rorschach response. As the photos clearly show, we have a distinct second ‘face’ made up of the same lines but in a quite different form. This ‘face’ has all the attributes we usually associate with pictures of mythical spirits, demons, or a mask—hence the name!
Paul took a series of fine photos, hoping that he could catch the image that our eyes could clearly see. And thankfully, his digital camera brought the image to life even better than our eyes did! The ‘mask’ is comprised of carved lozenge forms, akin to the more decorative ones we find at Kilmartin, and more especially around Newgrange, Ireland. We sat and talked about this: wondering and working out routes that we’d take over mountains and moors, from Ireland, to Kilmartin, then onto Ballochraggan, etching the same designs onto the rocks hereby and attaching similar mythic notions to them: of shamanism and kingship; underworlds and journeys—paradigms lost and certainly misunderstood in the non-polysemia of many modern academics.
…The stone here was still slightly covered over and, beneath the loose grasses, another feature emerged of another petroglyphic rarity. At the topmost western side of the rock a straight line ran across the surface, seemingly marked by the hand of man, with a curious little line almost doubling back on itself for just an inch or so, and then feeling to run down the stone, towards the concentric rings and the face below. When we stood back and took the photos, this line and its tracer took on a form that I’ve only seen echoed in one of the Netherlargie tombs at Kilmartin, Argyll, 44.4 miles (73km) to the west. It is very distinct.
Spuriously ascribed as being ‘axe’ carvings (oh how archaeologists love this Rorschach projection), the Netherlargie North tomb cover-stone in Kilmartin has a series of burial ‘urns’ or beakers carved onto the rock, amidst a scattered collection of cup markings. (Beckensall 2005:73-4; Bradley 1983:92-3; Royal Commission 1971:68-70; Twohig 1972, etc) Here too at Ballochraggan we find another such symbol, but just a singular example, much larger and more clearly a beaker or urn, as are traditionally found within many old neolithic and Bronze Age tombs; although no tomb is immediately apparent at this Ballochraggan carving.
The entire carving is very faint indeed (you can’t even see it when you’re looking directly at it unless conditions are good) showing that it remained open to the elements for thousands of years. Other adjacent carvings lack the erosion that we find on this one, even on those which, as archaeologist Lisa Samson said, is “softer sandstone rock than this one”—implying that it’s one of the older carvings in this incredible cluster.
The carving was covered over when we finished examining it, to ensure that Nature’s erosion keeps it alive for just a few more centuries at least, hopefully…..
Beckensall, Stan, The Prehistoric Rock Art of Kilmartin, Kilmartin Trust: Kilmartin 2005.
Bradley, Richard, Altering the Earth, Society of Antiquaries Scotland: Edinburgh 1993.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1971.
Twohig, Elizabeth Shee, The Megalithic Art of Western Europe, Clarendon: Oxford 1981.
Acknowledgments: Huge thanks again to Mr Paul Hornby for his considerable help with this site, and for use of his photos.
Take the same directions as if you’re visiting the Ballochraggan 12 carving, or nearby standing stone. Literally 10 yards above the leaning monolith, you’ll see what looks like a glacial rock drop ahead of you (though it’s actually volcanic). That’s the stone you want!
Archaeology & History
A site that was first described in Maarten von Hoek’s (1989) survey of the area, where he told this carving to be “a loose boulder (that) bears 14 cups, some possibly natural.” There is very little doubt about it—many of the ‘cups’ on this stone are indeed natural, caused directly by the erosion and subsequent falling of conglomerate rock nodules coming away from the larger rock mass, leaving holes in it that look like cup-marks, but are blatantly natural in origin.
When Paul Hornby and I visited the site on August 28, 2014, we looked briefly at the stone and then walked on by—but we took some photos, “just in case the archaeo’s have this listed as a monument, ” I said. And they do! Several of the ‘cups’ shown in the images here might be man-made. Might…. It’s difficult to say for sure (are there any geologists in the house?) Of course, if the faint half-ring below one of these large ‘cups’ turns out to be legitimate, we’ve got a definite here. But even that looks a bit dodgy!
Despite these marks possibly being geophysical, we must not forget, nor rule out, that this rock had some importance to the neolithic or Bronze Age people who frequented this region. Natural marks on rock would be emulated by humans sometimes, or seen as elements of spirit in the stone itself—as found all over the world. A standing stone is only yards away, and we have highly impressive multiple cup-and-ring stones very close by. The natural ‘cups’ on this and other adjacent rocks may have catalysed the petroglyphs themselves.
Check it out when you visit the other, much more impressive multiple-ringed carvings hereby; but also watch out for the many conglomerate rocks still scattering this hill—some with the softer rounded nodules of rock fallen, leaving cups, and others still in place in quite a few of the stones, awaiting their own geological timing to leave more cup-marks ready for some folk to misread. (I did it misself in younger years!)
Take the same directions as if you’re visiting any of the upper Ballochraggan petroglyphs, but 100 yards before the carvings, out in the open on the grasslands, below the reach of the forest, you’ll see the leaning stone if you wander about. You can’t really miss it!
Archaeology & History
Not included in any of the Canmore, Royal Commission or Ordnance Survey records, this standing stone appears to have eluded official records until now. Found close to the petroglyph-rich arena of the Ballochraggan complex, with attendant tombs to the east, there is the possibility that this large leaning stone was itself, once, a part of a long-gone cairn, as Paul Hornby suggested. The small cluster of stones around its base certainly adds to that idea (similar to the incredible Dunruchan cluster, more than 17 miles (28km) northeast).
The stone leans at a considerable angle from a previously upright position. When standing it would have been nearly five-feet tall and measures nearly as wide. The stone is roughly triangular in shape, above ground. What appear to be two faint cup marks on its topmost surface are very probably due to conglomerate rock erosion and not the handiwork of humans.
Park by the entrance to Ballochraggan, which is set back off the A81 between Aberfoyle and Port of Mentieth. Walk up the track, and just before you reach the cottage, notice the large boulder on your left, about 50 yards away. That’s it.
Archaeology & History
This large dolmen-capstone-like boulder in front of the old cottage, was reported by Maarten von Hoek (1989) to possess about 10 faint cup-markings, with a large one near the centre of its upper surface. When Paul Hornby and I visited the site yesterday, several ‘cups’ were visible, but these were purely geological in nature; and even the large cup in the middle seemed somewhat dubious. The markings are the product of conglomerate rock, where smaller softer types of stone that are embedded in the boulder fall away, leaving cupmark-like indentations and other hollows. There are a lot of conglomerate rocks in these hills and it is essential that all students make themselves aware of the difference between the geological ‘cups’ and those forged by humans. In many cases this can be difficult, so apply the rule: if in doubt, kick it out—and err on the side of caution.
Some carvings in this region (and elsewhere in the country) possess conglomerate marks that have been enhanced and possess additional rings and carved lines. On this particular stone, such marks do not seem to exist. A dodgy example indeed…..
von Hoek, Maarten, ‘Menteith (Port of Menteith parish): Rock Art Sites’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1989.
Acknowledgements: Huge appreciation to Paul Hornby for his photo and assessments.
Takes some finding this one! We parked up by the entrance to Ballochraggan on the A81 between Aberfoyle and Port of Mentieth. Walk up the track, then up the burnside past the house. Keep to its right-side and head uphill towards the very top of the forestry edge, staying in the grasslands. As you near the very top NE corner of the grassland boscage (NOT into the forest), about 100 yards before it, zigzag about through the gorse and keep your eyes peeled. It’s there!
Archaeology & History
This is a small, flat, smooth piece of stone with a simple carving clearly visible, in a region replete with highly impressive multiple-ringed petroglyphs. Very little has been said of this design and even the Canmore lads tell us only that the carving “includes one cup and ring marking and two cups within an oval ring.” And that’s that! However, other faint lines are evident on the surface of the stone, with the single cup-and-ring appearing to have another partial second-ring encircling a section of it. Outlying this are very shallow worn lines that seem to bear the hallmarks of human interference, but they were difficult to see with any certainty and our camera didn’t pick up additional elements with any real clarity. What seemed to be another cup-and-half-ring (not visible in the photos) was just beneath the edge of the grass where the rock fell back into the Earth.
The most catching element of the design is the very obvious ‘eye’ symbol peering up at us as we look down. Whether this symbol was deliberate or not, we can be sure that the old archaeologist O.G.S. Crawford (1957) would have loved it and added it to his old dreams of eye goddesses!
Other carvings nearby will blow your head off! The recently discovered Mask Stone, right next to this Ballochraggan 12 carving, being just a taster of the things to come.