Cup-and-Ring Stone: OS Grid Reference – NC 56995 52656
Also Known as:
- Canmore ID 5375
- Lochan Hacoin
- Ribigill carving
Whether you take the A836 or A838 into Tongue (through truly beautiful wilderness), make sure you go into the village itself—and then keep going, south, along the tiny country road. Nearly 2½ miles along, note the small loch of Lochan na Cuilce on your right. A few hundred yards past this, on the other side of the road (barely visible at first) is Lochan Hakel. Walk around to the south-side of the loch until you find the Lochan Hakel 1 carving. Then look up at the rock right above you. That’s the one!
Archaeology & History
In James Simpson’s (1867) primary work on British petroglyphs, he mentions this site as being in the lands of “Ribigill, near Tongue”, although it is a little further to the south. A certain “Mr Mitchell” had come across it in one of his many rambles in the hills. Simpson told that he had:
“discovered cups and circles upon a large stone, about nine feet square, apparently lying in its original position, close to the edge of a loch, which contains the remains of an old castle… The surface of the stone shows eighteen or twenty round cup excavations, about an inch deep. There is a ring of ‘hollow around each cup.'”
Although there aren’t rings around every cup, a great number of clear and impressive rings exist around many of them and are, thankfully, still reasonably visible amidst the mass of lichens.
Around the same time as Mr Simpson’s description, James Horsburgh (1868) wrote about the carving, telling us:
“On the edge of the precipitous bank of the loch, and exactly opposite the island, there is a large boulder with a flat top, and on this there are a number of cups and rings… This stone is not generally known. Old Ross, the gamekeeper at Tongue, first told me of it, and he and I scraped off the moss and exposed the whole. He thought it was for playing some game. On the left of the stone, on a bit separated by a crack, there is a sort of a figure which appears to have been formed by cutting away the stone around it and leaving it in relief, and also some artificial cutting on the right, a sort of circular groove.”
A better description of the carving came near the beginning of the 20th century, when the Scottish Royal Commission (1911) lads included the site in their inventory. They told:
“At the S end of Lochan Hacoin, to the SE of the islet on the top of the bank, is a large earth-fast boulder, on the flat upper surface of which are a number of cup and ring marks placed irregularly over it. The total number of undoubted markings is thirty-four, of which those surrounded by a ring number eleven. No cup with a double ring round it is observable. The best defined cup-mark measures 3″ across by 1¼” deep, and the enclosing ring is 7″ in diameter. Eight of the markings are well defined; the others less noticeable. At the S end there is a boss or projection, roughly rectangular, measuring 12″ x 6″. A sketch of this stone, made about the year 1866 by Mr James Horsburgh, is preserved in the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.”
Does anyone know if this drawing still exists?
In Horsburgh’s essay on the prehistoric remains of the area, he said how local people told that the cup-and-rings “were made by the high heels of a fairy who lived in the castle” on the island of Grianan about 40-50 yards away.
Close-Brooks, Joanna, Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands, HMSO: Edinburgh 1995.
Horsburgh, James, “Notes of Cromlechs, Duns, Hut-circles, Chambered Cairns and other Remains, in the County of Sutherland,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 7, 1868.
- o’ Reilly, Kevin, What to See Around the Kyle of Tongue, privately printed 1980.
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments & Constructions of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Sutherland., HMSO: Edinburgh 1911.
- Simpson, J.Y., “On Ancient Sculpturings of Cups and Concentric Rings,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 6, 1866.
- Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
Acknowledgments: Huge thanks to Sarah MacLean for guiding me to this carving, and also for the kind use of her photos in this site profile. Cheers Sarah! And to Donna Murray again, for putting up with me whilst in the area! Also – Huge thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map in this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian