Blarnaboard (3), Gartmore, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 51084 97979

Getting Here

Blarnaboard (3) carving

On the A81 road from Aberfoyle to Strathblane, about a mile south of Aberfoyle take the tiny right turn (keep your eyes peeled!) to Gartmore.  Along the tiny curving road for exactly 1km (0.61 miles), where the road has straightened out there’s a small dirt-track with a parking spot along it. A few hundred yards along there’s a crossroads of dirt-tracks: walk to your left (SW) for nearly a mile (or exactly 1.5km) keeping your eyes peeled for a small distinct footpath leading down-slope on your left. Walk along this undulating path for just over 200 yards till you go through the gate, then walk immediately to your right down the side of the fence in the field for about 20 yards.  Y’ can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Blarnaboard (3), NE-SW

Located on the land of the early bards of Gartmore, we could speculate that those early orators told tales of, and from this old stone—but that’s all it would be: dreamy speculation.  Instead, passing that aside, the petroglyph itself brings us a feast to drool over!

Made up of four distinct carved sections of almost interconnecting rock, this flat thin line of stone is covered with an impressive array of cups and multiple rings.  Running downhill in a northeast to southwest line, it would appear to have been rediscovered by Lorna Main (1988) who subsequently described it in the usual archaeological shorthand, simply telling that,

“There are at last 28 cups, 3 cup and one ring, 4 cup and two rings, 2 cup and three rings, 1 cup and five rings and 1 cup and seven rings.”

Multiple ringed element
Section 1 overview

…But, as usual, there’s much more to be said of it than that.  Of the four sections, we’ll start at the uppermost northeastern section and work down the sloping ridge, looking at the respective symbols as we go.  Section 1 has the largest surface area, but isn’t the most decorated of the bunch.  Nonetheless, what we find here is impressive. About a dozen single cup-marks of various ages are scattered over the surface in what initially seems to be no recognizable order; these are accompanied by two single cup-and-rings: one of which could be said to be of standard size and form, whilst the other has a much larger and broken ring, near the middle of the rock, about 12 inches across.  This larger ring has two or three of the cup-marks incorporated into its outer edges.  The most impressive element of Section 1 is the large multiple-ringed design, five in all, radiating outwards or funneling inwards (depending on what was intended) around a central cup.  The outer ring of this is incomplete.

Impressive cup & 7 rings
Scatter of cups & rings

Section 2 is the most visually impressive of all the Blarnaboard (3) carvings: almost an evolutionary development of what we see on the first part.  A 2-dimensional panorama shows off a distinct cup-and-ring close to the edge of the soil, and there’s a somewhat wonky incomplete cup with double-ring below it.  A very clear cup-mark to the right of this has another faint incomplete double-ring round it—but this is hard to see. The same cannot be said of the cup with seven concentric rings surrounding it! (the outer two of these are incomplete)  As I walked round and round this section, drooling somewhat, it became obvious that a number of well-defined cup-marks had been carved around the outer edges of the rings, deliberately creating an eighth ring comprised purely of cup-marks.  It gave me the impression of it representing heavenly bodies revolving around the central Pole Star; but also of it defining the movement of the Moon through the heavens during a calendar year. (the astronomy of my youth still comes through at times!)

Section 3 carving
Faint double cup-and-ring

By comparison, the third and smallest section of Blarnaboard (3) almost pales into insignificance, possessing a mere cup-and-double-ring—and a  very faint one at that.  From a certain angle it looked like it possessed a third ring, but this was probably more to do with me wanting to see more than there is!  Just below this double-ring, a single cup has what might have once been another incomplete ring round it—but we’d need the computer graphic students among you to suss that bit out!  You can’t make it out on the photos here, sadly…

Section 4 carving
Faint double-arc, lower cup

The fourth section is the most visually unimpressive of the entire cluster and was probably carved much later than the rest.  The poor little fella has just five single cup-marks, with a sixth at the top-corner or northeastern part with what seems to be a small carved double-arc, or partial lozenge, that was started and never finished.

A couple of other exposed sections of stone running a few more yards further down the same line have no carvings on them—but there may well be more to this petroglyph hiding beneath the turf, which covers quite a large area.  I have no doubt that other unrecorded carvings exist in close by, but due to excessive forestry plantations all around here, they’ll either be covered over or will have been destroyed.  Don’t let this put you off looking for others though!

Cup-and-five-rings
Cup-and-seven rings

An interesting feature of this long line of stone is its potential alignment.  When we were photographing the site, a local man came over and got chatting with us.  He knew of the carving and had been here many times and told us that his wife had looked at this one and found it aligned with another cup-and-ring on the south-side of Blarnaboard farm and another one (officially unrecorded) even further along.  I checked this when I got home and found that this long line of petroglyphs did indeed line up with the Blarnaboard farm carving, perfectly.  Whether this was intentional and/or possesses an astronomical function, we might never know.  The third carving along the line has yet to be located.  I must emphasize however, that the relationship between earthfast petroglyphs and alignments is very rare and, where found, is little more than fortuitous.  But when we find cup-markings on alignments of standing stones and other prehistoric monuments, the relationship seems to be much more intentional and would have had a specific mythic function.

If y’ follow the fence-line from this carving down to the small burn, on the other side is the much less impressive Blarnaboard (2) cup-marked stone.

References:

  1. Main, L., “Blarnaboard (Aberfoyle parish), Cup and Ring Marked Outcrop,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1988.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Blarnaboard (2), Gartmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 50977 97972

Getting Here

Blarnaboard (2) site

Anyone who’s going to visit this carving will be doing so as a result of visiting the impressive Blarnaboard (3) cup-and-ring stone, 115 yards (105m) away.  From Blarnaboard (3), walk down the slope on your right (west), cross the tiny burn and go round to the other side of the small rocky hawthorn-topped hillock just a few yards in front of you.  Fumble about and you’ll find what you’re looking for!

Archaeology & History

It’s possible that there’s more to this carving than meets the eye.  On the west-side of this small rocky rise, along a thin elongated raised section in the stone, a gently meandering line of nine deep cups runs roughly northeast to southwest.  You can’t really miss them as they average some 2 inches across and 1 inch deep, strongly suggesting that they were cut and reworked over and over for a long period of time.

Line of cups, from above
Rough NE-SW alignment

It was first described in distinct brevity by L. Main (1988) who told that, “over a length of 60cm on a north-east facing outcrop are 9 cup marks.”  And, whilst all of the cups are clearly visible, one of them at the edge of the stone has been cut or worked into a natural curved hollow.  You’ll see what I mean when you visit the site (it’s pretty clear in the photos).

Beneath the roots and soil there may well be other cup-markings that are still hiding away on this rocky dome.  I have no doubt that other unrecorded carvings exist in this area, but due to the excessive forestry plantations all around here, they will be covered over or have been destroyed.

References:

  1. Main, L., “Blarnaboard (Drymen parish), Cup Marked Rock,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1988.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

West Cowden Farm, Comrie, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 77451 20648

Getting Here

Cowden Farm cup-marks

From Comrie take the B827 road (towards Braco) out of town and where the fields open up on both sides of you, 400 yards along the straight road you’ll see a large bulky stone right by the roadside (it’s the standing stone known as the Roman Stone). Stop here and look on the ground just a couple of yards past the monolith where, amidst the grasses and mosses, you’ll see this small smooth stone (you might have to roll some of the mosses back to see it properly).

Archaeology & History

More than a hundred years ago when John MacPherson (1896) wrote his essay on the history of this area, he described there being “three large stones, supposed to be the remains of a Druidical temple.”  He was talking about the Roman Stone here, with its two companions—although only the Roman Stone remains upright today. He noted that one of them, on the ground was “a round, flat boulder” which “bears upon its surface cup-marks arranged in irregular concentric circles.”

This seems to have been the first mention of the carving.  Fifteen years later when the great Fred Coles (1911) looked at the same standing stones, he found the adjacent petroglyph to still be in situ, stating that,

“The surface is covered with a group of twenty-two neatly made cups … the majority being about 2 inches in diameter, with a few much smaller. Two cups measure only 1 inch in diameter.”

R.M. Pullar’s 1914 photo
Fred Coles’ 1911 sketch

A few years after this, members of the Perthshire Natural History Society on an excursion to Glen Artney in May 1914, stopped here to have a look at the same standing stones and they also pointed out that one of the stones “lying on the ground…is remarkable for the numerous cup-marks on its surface.”  In truth, it’s not that remarkable compared to some of the other carvings, but it’s still worth checking out when visiting the other sites in the area. Many of the cups that were visible a hundred years back are difficult to make out unless the light is good; and it seems as if some of them have been chipped away, perhaps due to farming activity.

References:

  1. Barclay, W., “Winter Session, 1914-1915,” in Transactions & Proceedings Perthshire Society Natural Science, volume 6, 1919.
  2. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Philips: Crieff 1896.
  4. Mac Pherson, John, “At the Head of Strathearn,” in Hunter’s Chronicles of Strathearn (David Philips: Crieff 1896).

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

West Lamberkine (2), Aberdalgie, Perth, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NO 0654 2296

Archaeology & History

All trace of this carving seems to have gone.  It was first recorded by the great Fred Coles (1903) who found it within a small group of stones, but no one has seen it since.  Unless it’s been shifted into one of the nearby walls, it may have been destroyed.  Coles told us it could be found,

Cole’s 1903 sketch of the carving
Stone ‘A’ is the culprit

“at a point 333 yards east of the farm-steadings, where two hedges meet at right angles.  Four stones…lie close together.  They appear to be all of bastard whinstone.  The middle stone, B, has its longer axis ESE and WNW.  It is only 3in inches thick.  The stones D and C are each 6 inches thick.  No marks are to be seen on any of these.  But on A is the very distinct sculpturing shown in the illustration…unfortunately not complete, owing to the flaking off of large strips of the weathered lower portion of the slab.  There is a strong suggestion of a cist-cover in the shape and size of this stone, which the close proximity of the two other squarer and thinner stones helps to enforce. Though these  stones have been known to the tenant for over thirty years, this is, I believe, the first record made of their position and features.”

The records at Canmore have suggested that this lost carving and the missing petroglyph of West Lamberkine (1) nearby are one and the same.  This is unlikely.  West Lamberkine (1) was described simply as a cup-marked stone, whereas this stone possessed clear identifiable cups and rings.  It would be difficult to make such an elementary mistake.

References:

  1. Coles, Fred,  “Notices of…Some Hitherto Undescribed Cup-and-ring-marked Stones…” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 37, 1903.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Wester Glentarken (4), St Fillans, Comrie, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 66412 24837

Getting Here

Wester Glentarken (4) in situ

1½ miles out of St Fillans on the A85 road towards Lochearnhead you reach the boating marina by the lochside.  100 yards or so past this, park up.  Cross the road and walk 50 yards to your right then follow the dirt-track up into the trees.  After ⅓-Mile (0.5km) turn left to the old house on your left and follow the green path around it, then around the right-side of the rocky knoll to the Wester Glentarken (1) and (2) carvings. From here walk straight uphill, direct north, past the pylon and onto the rocky outcrop behind the gorse shrubs. You’re here!

Archaeology & History

Away from the edge of this relatively flat rock surface, hemmed in between three geological scars, this decent petroglyph shows its memory to prying eyes.  It was first described by George Currie (2005) as being just “17 cups (and) one pair of cups are linked”, but there are, as usual, more elements to it than that.

Faint cup-&-rings visible

As we can see quite clearly in the photos here, two of the cups possess rings around them.  One of the cup-and-rings near the middle of the mass of cups is complete, with a short line running out of it and into the longest of the natural cracks that frame the design and that runs all the way across the surface of the stone.  This cup-and-ring plays a part in a rough circle of cup-marks surrounding a central cup, with one of the outer cups possessing a companion just outside the ring.  Two cups in this circle are elongated.  There is a possibility that the cup-and-ring I’ve mentioned has another line running from it into the cupmark at the centre of the circle.

On the same side of the long natural crack, outside the circle of cups, is another cup with a faint ring around it.  Tis difficult to say whether or not this was originally complete, but when we zoom in it’s pretty damn close!

Framed secondary cluster
The carving when dry

On the other side of the long natural crack is a haphazard spread of nine more cup-marks, with at least one of them seeming to possess a very faint incomplete ring around it.  You can just make it out in one of the attached photos.  From some angles it seems that two other cups may possess fragments of carved rings around them, but more visits are needed in better light before we can say this with any certainty.  One of the cups in this cluster is elongated, whilst two other cups in this bunch are conjoined.  Another crack to the side of this secondary cluster has one or two more cups cut into it.  Altogether we have between 19 and 21 cups on this petroglyph, with rings around several of them.  Worth checking out when you visit this neck o’ the woods.  And, of course, if you’re a serious rock art researcher, scan the slopes hereby as other carvings yet remain hidden.  You can almost feel them breathing…..

References:

  1. Currie, George, Wester Glentarken, Perth and Kinross (Comrie parish), Cup-marked Rocks,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, volume 6, 2005.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Gala House Museum (2), Galashiels, Selkirkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 49165 35897

Archaeology & History

Gala House (2) carving

One of two petroglyphs housed in the Gala House Museum, whose background is somewhat of a mystery.  When the northern antiquarian Paul Hornby visited the museum, his enquiries regarding its history and place of origin drew a blank.  This small squared block of stone has obviously been broken from a larger piece, but the whereabouts of its adjoining fragments are unknown.  The section that remains that we see here is somewhat more complex than it’s companion petroglyph, comprising as it does (in the photo on the right) a concentric cup-and-two-rings,with another arc above it that has a carved line running vertically into it.  An elongated cup-mark sits to the side of this line.  On the lower-left side we can see where a fragment of the stone has been broken off and here is a cup marking with a double arc above it, that may originally have been another cup-and-two rings.  The curious angular lines at the bottom of the stone look like more recent scratches, perhaps from an industrial machine (tractor?) created when the stone was moved from its place of origin.  If anyone knows anything about this carving, please let us know.

Acknowledgments:  Big thanks to Prof Hornby for use of his photo. 🙂

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Gala House Museum (1), Galashiels, Selkirkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 4917 3590

Archaeology & History

Gala House Museum stone

A curious stone, inasmuch as nothing seems to be known about it!  When the northern antiquarian Paul Hornby visited the Gala House Museum he was pleasantly surprised to find this multiple-ringed petroglyph on display.  Upon enquiring as to its history and original location, he was informed that it had been donated locally but nothing was known about it.  Incredible!  One of two carvings in the museum (the origin of the other carving is equally mysterious), this portable petroglyph has three rings surrounding the central cup, which has a short line running out of it and to the edge of the third ring.  The petroglyph may have come out of a nearby prehistoric tomb.  If anyone knows anything about this carving, please let us know.

Acknowledgments:  Big thanks to Prof Hornby for use of his photo. 🙂

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Priest’s Stone, Lethnot & Navar, Angus

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 5404 6892

Archaeology & History

Priest’s Stone on 1865 map

Despite being shown on the early OS-maps of the area, I can find few references this place.  The Ordnance Survey lads themselves, when visiting here in 1863, merely told that this it was “a standing stone of which nothing is known except the name.  It is 3 feet high, three feet in diameter at base, and a foot and a half at top.”  Even in Cruikshank’s (1899) definitive survey of this township he could add little more, merely telling:

“About a quarter-of-a-mile north of Bellhill is a field known as “the Priest’s Field.” There is a large right stone in the middle of it, called “the Priest’s Stone,” and it is so given on the Ornance Survey map. not simply because such is the local name, but also because the skilled surveyors after examining it concluded that it had been used for sacrifice. It stands just behind the site of the old farm steadying of Upper Argeith, or vulgarly, Townhead.”

Quite what he meant by saying that “it had been used for sacrifice,” god only knows!  But the writer was the local minister and so would have been possessed by the usual delusions.  Anyhow, the stone was uprooted and destroyed by the farmer at Newbigging, sometime prior to 1958.  Idiot!

A half-mile north of this could once be seen a stunner of a site: a double-ringed giant tomb from where hundreds of cartloads of stone were taken.  It too no longer exists!

References:

  1. Cruikshank, F., Navar and Lethnot: The History of a Glen Parish in the North-east of Forfarshire, Black & Johnston: Brechin 1899.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, The Archaeological Sites & Monuments of Central Angus, Angus District, Tayside Region, HMSO: Edinburgh 1983.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Fernybank, Glen Esk, Lochlee, Angus

Ring Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 5381 7877

Archaeology & History

Location of site on 1864 OS-map

This is one of many sites that were thankfully recorded by the fine pen of Andrew Jervise (1853) in the middle of the 19th century, without whose diligence in antiquarian interests all knowledge would have vanished.  His works remind me very much of those by the late-19th early-20th century writer Harry Speight in Yorkshire, whose veritable madness on that region’s history remains unsurpassed even to this day.  But I digress…

Jervise told us that,

“About the year 1830, while the tenant of Fernybank was levelling a hillock in the haugh between the farm-house and the Powpot Bridge (about two miles north-west of Colmeallie), he removed a number of stones varying in length and breadth from eighteen to twenty-four inches. They were ranged singly, and stood upright in a circle at short distances from each other, enclosing an area of about twelve feet in diameter. On the knoll being trenched down, the encircled part (unlike the rest of the haugh, which was of a gravelly soil) was found to be composed of fine black earth; but on several cart-loads being removed, operations were obstructed by a mass of stones that occupied much the same space and form as the layer of earth. Curiosity prompted the farmer to continue his labours further, but after digging to the depth of three or four feet, and finding stones only, he abandoned the work in despair, without having discovered anything worthy of notice… Had this cairn been thoroughly searched, it is probable that some traces of sepulture might have been found in it.”

A short time after this however, Jervise reported the finding of “old warlike instruments, both in the shape of flint arrow-heads and stone hatchets, have been found in the same haugh, and so late as 1851 a spear-head made of iron, and about fifteen inches long, was also discovered; it was much corroded, but had part of the wooden hilt in it.”  These were prehistoric artifacts that were subsequently moved to Edinburgh’s central museum where, I presume, they remain to this day.

About ten years later the Ordnance Survey lads came here and were fortunate to be able to meet with the same man who’d uncovered the site.  They told that,

“in contradiction to (Jervise’s narrative), the tenant of Fernybank who gave the information to Mr. Jervise, states that he continued the search to the bottom of the Cairn and found a quantity of Charred wood.”

There were a number of other prehistoric sites in this neck o’ the woods, many of which were also destroyed but, again, were thankfully recorded by Mr Jervise.

References:

  1. Jervise, Andrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland and Knox: Edinburgh 1853.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Clunskea Burn, Glen Brerachan, Moulin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NO 003 650

Archaeology & History

When you’ve visited the impressive cup-marked stone at Dalnavaid, this long lost carving might be worth seeking out by the real explorers among you.  It’s not been seen for a hundred years and was only reported in brief by the reputable local historian Hugh Mitchell (1923).  It’s located a mile north of the Dalnavaid carving, up in the hills on the other side of the road, “on the East side of Clunskea Burn, and on the West shoulder of Ben Skievie.” He described the carving as “having some 16 or 18 cups, and at present it forms part of a grouse butt.”

So if we locate the grouse-butt (they’re usually not too difficult to find), the carving will obviously follow.  Mitchell gave us an extra piece of info regarding its location.  He described the existence of several other seemingly prehistoric remains within a few yards of the grouse-butt, curious “pit dwellings”, three of them:

“they are of circular shape, about 9 feet in diameter and nearly 5 feet below the surface of the ground, and had evidently been roofed over at one time.  The entrance to each is at the lowest level and acts as a drain, to keep the house dry.  They are almost the only examples in the district of neolithic dwellings.”

Let us know if you find it!

References:

  1. Mitchell, Hugh, Pitlochry District: Its Topography, Archaeology and History, L. Mackay: Pitlochry 1923.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian