Follow the same directions as if you’re going to the Corrycharmaig East 3 carving. Walk off the rocky outcrop here, below the tree, and head diagonally across the boggy grasses back towards the River Lochay. After about 50 yards you’ll see a rocky promontory ahead of you that overlooks the very edge of the river, with trees around it. That’s the spot – right on the edge above the river!
Archaeology & History
For me, this was the most intriguing of the newly-found Corrycharmaig East carvings. Intriguing because this is on the same geological ridge as that on which the brilliant Stag Cottage carvings are found, right across on the other side of the river. That singular rise of rock emerging from the field, heading to the river, continues on this side — though is much less conspicuous here, and is much smaller and covered with olde trees and Nature’s marshy greenery. It was this fact which led me to look at these rocks in the first place…wondering if our neolithic ancestors had continued etching their mythographies on the other side of the living waters. And so it turned out.
But don’t expect anything like as impressive as the Stag Cottage carvings. Here instead, as the photos show, are just five distinct cup-markings: three running along one line near the SE side of the stone, with another two on its NW side. The cups are all roughly the same size, being a couple of inches across; one is an inch deep. There may be more beneath the excess of mosses along this and the adjacent rocks, but I didn’t look.
Follow the directions as if you’re visiting the other Corrycharmaig carvings, but as you cross the bridge over the River Lochay, turn immediately left and follow the edge of the river down the field till you reach the fence. Go over here, but then head up the slope away from the river, over another fence up the small grassy hill ahead of you. As you near the very top of the hill, you’ll find the stone in question.
Archaeology & History
Found near to the famous Stag Cottage and Duncroisk carvings, this previously unknown example is found on a small rounded female stone, barely 2 feet by 2 feet across. The most notable feature is the large cup-marking, 2-3 inches wide and half-and-inch deep. When I first found the stone, twas a cloudy grey day and I wasn’t sure whether a small carved arc along one edge of the cup continued into a semi-circle — but as the photo here shows, the cup-mark seems to have a large faint ring going about three-quarters of the way round it. Hopefully I’ll get some better images of the stone when I visit again in the coming weeks.
The stone gave the impression that it belonged in a cairn of sorts, but a brief rummage in the grasses immediately around the rock showed nothing. However, barely 10 yards down the grassy slope there was a small overgrown cairn — though it didn’t seem to have that prehistoric pedigree about it. This carving is one in a group of at least four others—including Corrycharmaig East 3—not previously catalogued. It’s likely that more remain undiscovered on the many other rocks nearby.
Follow the directions from Killin, down Glen Lochay, as if you’re going to the other Corrycharmaig carvings; but as you cross the bridge over the River Lochay, turn immediately left and follow the edge of the river along the field, crossing the first fence, keeping close to the riverside and over and over another fence. Head across the boggy grassland and you’ll see a small green outcrop of rocks just above the tree-line above the river. That’s the spot!
Archaeology & History
Another carving that’s a short distance from the famous Stag Cottage carvings on the opposite side of the river. This lovely moss-covered rocky mass has two sections of cup-markings on it – both of which have proved difficult to photograph because of the vivid green primal cover. It’s found less than 100 yards from the CE04 carving and below the hillock of the CE02 cup-and-ring (as you can see in the photo above).
The rock itself has two carved sections: an upper and lower section, with at least three cup-markings on the lower section and three on the upper portion as well. Some natural geological marks on the lower part of the rock may have been added to, but this is by no means clear. There may well be other elements to this ancient carving, but I wasn’t about to strip all the lovely moss from the stone just to find out. It’s a truly beautiful stone in a gorgeous setting and, despite the day being grey and overcast, I wasn’t about to defile the greenery here. It’s one of a group of at least four carvings east of Corrycharmaig that have not previously been catalogued. Other carvings likely remain to be found close by.
In Betty MacDougall’s (1966) short work on this history of the island she describes the finding and subsequent destruction of these fascinating underground prehistoric ‘houses’ (as some have called them), telling:
“The vestigial remains of an ‘earth house’, a subterranean dwelling, were uncovered here about 1856 when the road was being made. The entrance was to the north of the road, under a now empty schoolhouse, and the passage stretched south-eastwards under the road, emerging into a roughly circular chamber, now laid bare in a gravel pit.”
MacDougall, Betty, Isle of Coll, John Miller: Glasgow 1966.
Ritchie, Graham, “Early Settlement in Argyll,” in The Archaeology of Argyll, Edinburgh University Press 1997.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Argyll – volume 3: Mull, Tiree, Coll and Northern Argyll, HMSO: Edinburgh 1980.
Wainwright, F.T., The Souterrains of Southern Pictland, RKP: London 1963.
Cup-and-Ring Stone (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NO 379 204
Archaeology & History
Here’s another old carving that has succumbed to the lack of animistic respect endemic in modern culture. Ronald Morris (1981) reported that this carved rounded boulder was “dynamited by the farmer and (is) now no longer extant.” First described in 1872 and later included in the Fife Inventory (1935), the large smooth rock used to lay within a nice copse of dense gorse, measuring 2½m x 1¾m across and about 1m high from ground level. Morris described the petroglyphs as follows:
“2 cups-and-one-complete ring (one mostly weathered off), diameters 10cm (4in) and 27 cups (carving depth and angle of slope not now known.”
Its isolation from any other known petroglyphs is a little odd and there is every possibility is accompanied a prehistoric burial of some sort; although from the attitude of the farmer, all trace of that would have gone too.
Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Eleventh Report with Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1935.
From Kenmore, take the road towards Acharn on the south-side of Loch Tay for about a mile. Just as you go out of Acharn, watch for the small road of Queens Drive on your left going uphill. Go up here, following the tree-lined burn (stream) towards the superb Falls of Acharn, crossing the track over it and winding uphill still, until the track veers left across open fields towards the large woodland 400 yards east. Just before the track meets the trees, notice the small burn running into the woods. Follow this for some 200 yards – and where it bends more sharply to go uphill, keep going for another 75 yards upstream until you meet with another opening going east. The rocky outcrop here is where this carved stone is found. Look around!
Archaeology & History
Hidden deep within the woods where wet feet and good ankles come together, is this fine example of a cup-and-ring stone, perhaps having something in times of olde to do with the meeting of the waters. A cluster of urisks and prehistoric remains scatter this lovely rolling section of southern Loch Tay, but I’ve found nothing specific to this bitta woodland that might give added mythos to the site. The carving was described in Mr Stark’s (2005) fine little work on the local rock art, saying:
“A rock outcrop, situated in woodland between Acharn Burn and the burn running down to Remony House, bears at least thirty-six cupmarkings. There are twenty-four plain cups, three cups each with a single ring, three cups each with double rings, and a cup surrounded by three faint rings, which has a gutter leading to the NW. The cups range from 40mm to 75mm in diameter and from 60mm to 120mm in depth.”
The next time we visit the place, I’ll make sure I get some good photos – and visit the stone circle and settlement a few hundred yards further up the hill…
Stark, Gordon (ed.), Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Breadalbane Heritage Centre 2005.
Take the single-track Glen Lochay road down past the Bridge of Lochay hotel at the edge of Killin, as if you’re gonna visit the superb cup-and-ring carvings opposite Stag Cottage (or Duncroisk 1). Immediately past the garden of Stag Cottage is a small copse of trees and a couple of old wartime-looking buildings in the field above the roadside. Go up past these buildings and onto the rise at the back. You’re here.
Archaeology & History
This is a fascinating site of multi-period historical usage, which Dugald MacInnes (2001) thinks may have its origins in the early Bronze Age or neolithic; but which I reckon was probably first used in the Iron Age. Either way, we have here a large interesting well-preserved prehistoric stone enclosure, that has yet to be excavated. I first came across it whilst gathering firewood from the adjacent copse and was quite puzzled by what seemed to be an extensive curved line of ancient walling running from its east to northeastern section, typical of prehistoric Iron Age walled structures common in northern England and beyond. I must have paced back and forth along a 75 yard length of this section of walling a half-dozen times, wondering what the hell this place was. And the more I looked at this section of the enclosure, the greater my conviction grew that this was constructed in prehistoric times. And thereafter came the puzzle.
For along the southern walled section were a number of much more modern medieval and much later walled sections, including the remains of buildings that looked barely Victorian in age and nature. The site was obviously being used presently by the local farmer for his cattle. And so it became obvious that here was a large oval-shaped stone-walled enclosure or settlement that had been used over and over again through many centuries, with its origins seeming to be Iron Age in nature. Measuring approximately 195 yards (178m) in circumference, the structure has a maximum E-W diameter of 78 yards (71m) and N-S measurement of 44 yards (40m).
Despite the size of the place, no literary reference of it occurs before MacInnes and his team came here. His description is as follows:
“An oval enclosure, its boundaries formed principally from large water-worn boulders interspersed with drystone walling and in part by an earthen bank in the easternmost section, sits atop of a natural terrace about 155m OD. The terrace slopes steeply to the west and south and cut into the western slope is a track, the course of which cannot be determined beyond the extent of the slope. This track displays revetment in the form of stone coursing.
“The SW corner of the enclosure is angular rather than the rounded character of the other sections. The W and SW sections are composed of coarsely constructed stonework in which large, 1m wide, often 1m high, water-worn boulders at two to three metre intervals, are interspersed with smaller boulders which form crude drystone coursing.
“The NE section is formed largely of large boulders, one of which is 1.5m in width and 1.2m high by 0.8m wide. Sections of the northern part would appear to be robbed out, perhaps to construct the modern wall which lies about 25m to the north. There are no remaining large boulders there, however, which could indicate their absence in the original construction of the enclosure. The central section of the northern perimeter may be constructed of two outer skins of boulders, forming a wall about 0.9m wide, 0.4m high on its exterior, but reducing to 0.3m on its interior side. Two sections could possibly be filled with a rubble core.
“The E section is formed by a low 0.3m high earthen grass-covered bank with occasional boulders. This bank is about 0.2m high relative to the interior, but is about 0.5m to.0.8m high on its exterior side. The NW side shows on the western side more evidence of double skin, rubble construction. Close inspection of the stonework around the perimeter of the enclosure has revealed no evidence of shot-holes. However a monolith situated in the NE has been split, but this would appear to be natural. The interior of the enclosure is more or less level and grass-covered. There is however, a slight drop in level in the western third of the interior. This is defined by a linear slope which may be a lynchet.”
Northeast of the enclosure about 40 yards away is the normal drystone walling running along the sloping hillside. But more intriguingly to archaeologists is the second line of much more ancient walling 76 yards (70m) further up the grassy slope, running at an angle across and uphill in a northwesterly direction. This line of walling has a distinctly Iron Age flavour to it and is composed of some very large upright monoliths, almost Bronze Age in nature! It continues into the next field for some 400 yards and onto Duncroisk Burn — the other side of which we find another line of ancient walling with an impressive cup-and-ring stone incorporated.
There’s tons more to be said of this region…
…to be continued…
MacInnes, Dugald, An Archaeological Field Survey of a Deserted Settlement at Duncroisk Farm, Glen Lochay, Association of Certified Field Archaeologists: Glasgow 2001.
There have long been rumours of stone circles on the druid’s isle of Iona, but many are dismissed as little more than errors on behalf of antiquarians, or false descriptions of hut circles and settlement remains. The stone circle of Sithean Mor however, does seem to have existed until only a century or two ago. It was first mentioned by the great traveller, Thomas Pennant (1776), who visited Iona more than once. He told us:
“On my return I saw, on the right hand, on a small hill, a small circle of stones, and a little cairn in the middle, evidently druidical, but called the hill of the angels, Cnoc nar-aimgeal; from a tradition that the holy man had there a conference with those celestial beings soon after his arrival. Bishop Pocock informed me that the natives were accustomed to bring their horses to this circle at the feast of St. Michael, and to course round it. I conjecture that this usage originated from the custom of blessing the horses in the days of superstition, when the priest and the holy-water pot were called in: but in latter times the horses are still assembled, but the reason forgotten.”
The day of the “feast of St. Michael” that Pennant mentioned was our indigenous heathen New Year, or Halloween, now usurped and misrepresented by countless plastic pagans and christians alike. It would appear from Pennant’s description that the circle in question was more likely a cairn circle. The fact that the heathen islanders celebrated annual rites here at Samhain, strongly implies there was once a hero-myth and a creation myth in evidence, but I am unaware of any remaining tales that may help confirm this. The coming of St. Columba may be responsible for this lack of oral tradition.
More than a century after Pennant’s visit here, the ring of stones had been destroyed. We know this from the description given by Archie MacMillan (1898) in his fine text on the antiquities of Iona, where he said,
“Angel Hill, called in the vernacular Sithean More. There was, not so very long ago, a circle of standing stones on the top of this hillock. They have been used for other purposes.”
The most commonly recited tale of this grassy rise is that when St. Columba brought christianity to the island, he communed here with the angels. This is a simple displacement tale: of a new faith replacing an older one. The old name of the hill, Sithean Mor, tells that the littlepeople or fairy folk once held influence here.
Cumming, C.F.G., In the Hebrides, Chatto & Windus: London 1883.
MacMillan, Archibald, Iona: Its History and Antiquities, Houlston & Sons: London 1898.
Pennant, Thomas, A Tour in Scotland, 1772 – Part 1, Benjamin White: London 1776.
Legendary Stone & Healing Well (lost): OS Grid Reference – NN 579 323
Also Known as:
Fuaranna Druidh Chasad
Whooping Cough Well
Archaeology & History
The grid-reference given for this site is only an approximation based on the description given by Hugh MacMillan (1884), below. The exact whereabouts of the place remains forgotten, but based on the story we have of the place it would be great if we could locate it and — as far as I’m concerned — be highlighted and preserved as an important spot in the history of religious and social history for the people of Killin and the wider mountain community. The region here was well populated all along the northern and southern sides of the adjacent Loch Tay before the coming of the Highland Clearances (Prebble 1963), and so the lore which MacMillan describes below was very likely of truly ancient pedigree.
Not to be confused with a site of the same name (and attributes) as the healing well at Balquhidder, this site comprises of a large stone, typical of the region, covered in that delicious carpet of old mosses and lichen bestowed by the aged love from Nature that bedecks much of the hidden sites in the area. Upon one side of the rock was a large hollow, in which water was always collected: of both dew and rain and the breath of low clouds, within which were great medicinal virtues long known of by local people. Foreign or shallow archaeologists would denounce this rock and its virtues as little more than the superstitious beliefs of an uneducated people living in uneducated times, but such derision is simply foolish words from pretentious souls who know little of the real world. For the attributes and mythic elements at this old stone is another example of living animism: vitally important ingredients in the spiritual background and nourishment of a people not yet overcome by the degrading influence of homo-profanus. Here we still find the living principles of the natural world, sleeping away in the consensus trance of modern folk…
The stone and its ‘healing well’ are not mentioned in the standard Scottish texts on holy wells (MacKinlay 1893; Morris 1982) and we have to rely solely on Hugh MacMillan’s first-person account of the place from the latter-half of the 19th century. He told that the stone was to be found “in the woods of Auchmore at Killin,” some twelve miles from a similar curative rock at Fearnan called the Clach-na Cruich:
“This stone is called Fuaranna Druidh Chasad, or the Well of the Whooping-Cough. I heard of it incidentally last year in Paisley from a native of Killin, who remembered vividly when a boy having been taken to drink the water in the cavity of the stone, in order to cure the whooping-cough, from which he was suffering at the time. Happening to be in Killin lately, enjoying a few days’ holiday, I made inquiries in the village; but though some of the older inhabitants remembered having heard of the stone, and the remarkable practice connected with it, I could not get any one to describe the exact locality of it to me, so completely has the superstition passed away from the mind of the present generation. I went twice in search of the stone; and though, as I afterwards found, I had been within a very short distance of it unawares on both occasions, I was unsuccessful in finding it. At last I met an old man, and after some search we found the stone, and he identified it.
“I understood then what had puzzled me before, viz., why it should have been called Fuaran or Well, for I had supposed it had a cavity in a stone like that at Fernan. It was indeed a cavity; but it was in the projecting side of the stone, not on its top surface. It consisted of a deep basin penetrating through a dark cave-like arched recess into the heart of the stone. It was difficult to tell whether it was natural or artificial, for it might well have been either, and was possibly’ both; the original cavity having been a mere freak of nature — a weather-worn hole — afterwards perhaps enlarged by some superstitious hand, and adapted to the purpose for which it was used. Its sides were covered with green cushions of moss; and the quantity of water in the cavity was very considerable, amounting probably to three gallons or more. Indeed, so natural did it look, so like a fountain, that my guide asserted that it was a well formed by the water of on underground spring bubbling up through the rock. I said to him, “Then why does it not flow over?” That circumstance he seemed to regard as a part of its miraculous character to be taken on trust. I put my hand into it, and felt all round the cavity where the water lay, and found, as was self-evident, that its source of supply was from above and not from below; that the basin was simply filled with rain water, which was prevented from being evaporated by the depth of the cavity, and the fact that a large part of it was within the arched recess in the stone, where the sun could not get access to it. I was told that it was never known to be dry — a circumstance which I could well believe from its peculiar construction.
“The stone, which was a rough irregular boulder, somewhat square-shaped, of mica schist, with veins of quartz running through it, about 8 feet long and 5 feet high, was covered almost completely with luxuriant moss and lichen; and my time being limited, I did not examine it particularly for traces of cup-marks. There were several other stones of nearly the same size in the vicinity, but there was no evidence, so far as I could see, of any sepulchral or religious structure in the place. There is indeed a small, though well-formed and compact so-called Druidical circle, consisting of some seven or eight tall massive stones, with a few faint cup-marks on one of them, all standing upright within a short distance on the meadow near Kinnell House, the ancestral seat of the Macnabs, and it is a reasonable supposition that the Fountain of the Whooping-Cough may have had some connection in ancient times with this prehistoric structure in its immediate neighbourhood; for, unlike the cavity in the stone at Fernan, the peculiar shape of the cavity in this stone precluded its ever having been used as a mortar, and apparently it has never been used for any other purpose than that which it has so long served. There can be no doubt that the fountain dates from a remote antiquity; and the superstition connected with it has survived in the locality for many ages. It has now passed away completely, and the old stone is utterly neglected. The path leading to it, which. used to be constantly frequented, is now almost obliterated. This has come about within the last thirty years, and one of the principal causes of its being forgotten is that its site is now part of the private policies of Auchmore. The landlady of the house at Killin, where I resided, remembered distinctly having been brought to the stone to be cured of the whooping-cough; and, at the foot of it, there are still two flat stones that were used as steps to enable children to reach up to the level of the fountain, so as to drink its healing waters; but they are now almost hidden by the rank growth of grass and moss. There is more verisimilitude about the supposititious cures effected at this fountain than about those connected with the stone at Fernan; for one of the best remedies for the whooping-cough, it is well known, is change of air, and this the little patient would undoubtedly get, who was brought, it may be, a considerable distance to this spot. I am led to understand that, in connection with the cure, the ceremonial turn called “Deseul” was performed. The patient was required, before drinking the water, to go round the stone three times in a right-hand direction, which may be regarded as an act of solar adoration. This practice lingered long in this as in other parts of the Highlands, and the “deseul” was religiously performed round homesteads, newly-married couples, infants before baptism, patients to be cured, and persons to whom good success in some enterprise was wished; while the “Tuathseul,” or the unhallowed turn to the left, was also performed in cases of the imprecation of evil.”
Should anyone know the whereabouts of this fascinating healing stone and its waters, please let us know!
MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
At the pub by the bridge which crosses the Falls of Dochart (aptly called the ‘Falls of Dochart Inn’), walk downstream following the dirt-track which runs parallel with a section of the river for a good 5-600 yards. In the field that appears on your right, watch out for the rise of the stones as you approach the large gates which take you into the ground of Kinnell House. You can climb over the gate just into the field and go straight to the stones.
Archaeology & History
Found on the field called Kinnell Park in the grounds of Kinnell House, less than a mile out of Killin, this is a well-preserved site consisting of six stones. It appears to have been described first of all by Thomas Pennant in 1772, in the same breath as the megalithic remains at Lawers on the other side of Loch Tay. Pennant wrote:
“In going through Laurs observe a Druidical circle; less complete indeed than one, that should have been mentioned before, at Kinnel, a little southwest of Killin; which consists of six vast stones, placed equidistant from each other.”
It would seem that the site has changed little since Pennant’s visit. Sitting on a reasonably level grassy plain, the hills rise and surround the small ring of stones, with the lower horizons running along the south. Due west (equinox) we have the large pyramidal hill of Meall Clachach; whilst to the north are the legendary hills of Creag na Cailleach and Ben Lawers, each with their own rich mythic archaeological legacies. Legendary stones and wells are also close by, some with rites still enacted by old local people keeping truly ancient traditions alive.
The first detailed archaeological survey of the Kinnell site was done by Fred Coles and published in 1910. It has yet to be superseded. Mr Coles wrote:
“Taking the Stones in the usual order…I here give their dimensions and characteristics: Stone A, 6 feet 3 inches high, springs from an oblong base which girths 11 feet 4 inches, to a rough irregular top; Stone B leans forward towards the centre of the Circle, and measures along its sloping back 6 feet 9 inches, the present height from the ground to its upper edge being 4 feet. It is of smooth garnetiferous schist, and free from the deep fissures and rifts so common in these Stones. Stone C, a very rectangular but narrow block of schist, has a 15 Feet-girth at the base of 9 feet, but tapers up from both ends to a pyramidal summit, 5 feet 4 inches above ground. Its inner face is over 6 feet in breadth. Stone D, 4 feet 6 inches high, is a broad, flat-topped, very massive block, measuring 9 feet 5 inches round the base, but near the middle of its height 11 feet 2 inches. Stone E, the shortest of the group, is only 4 feet high, has a rough, uneven top, and a basal girth of 8 feet 11 inches. Stone F, the tallest, measures 6 feet 4 inches in height, but in girth only 7 feet 3 inches. It is very rough, vertically fissured in many places, and full of white quartz veins.
“Neat, well-defined, and comparatively small as this Circle is, it is to be noticed that the positions of the Stones do not conform to perfect regularity as points on the circumference. On working out the plan, the measurements prove that a diameter of 29 feet exactly bisects three of the erect Stones, B, C, and F, but leaves the other two untouched. The interspaces of the settings are not all quite equal, a space of 14 feet 8 inches dividing the centres respectively of F and A, A and B, F and E, and E and T); but between D and C it is 13 feet 8 inches, and between 0 and B I S feet 5 inches. Yet, the Stones stand proportionally near enough to each other to give one a satisfying impression that these six megaliths represent the group in its completeness, and that there were no smaller blocks between any two of them. The space enclosed by these stones is quite smooth and level, bearing no indication of having at any time been disturbed.”
Many years later, the late great Alexander Thom came here and, with his geometric perspective, gave a more precise ground-plan and lay-out. Thom (1980) defined the site as a “Type B flattened circle, or possible ellipse,” with a perimeter of 35 megalithic yards and diameter of 11.8 MY. Aubrey Burl’s commentary described Kinnell as:
“Six stones of schist stand evenly spaced on the circumference of an ellipse 32ft 7in x 27ft 5in (9.9 x 8.4m) in diameter. The stones are graded in height towards the SW where the two tallest are over 6ft (1.8m) high.”
One of the upright stones was said by Hugh MacMillan (1884) to have had cup-markings on it in the 19th century, when he told of the circle possessing “some seven or eight tall massive stones, with a few faint cup-marks on one of them.” But these appear to have faded, or were cut into the one of the missing stones.
Close to the Kinnell circle could once be found a curious large boulder, covered in moss, but with a large cavity in which water gathered. Local lore ascribed the rock to actually be a well, as it was known as ‘The Well of the Whooping-Cough’, or Fuaran na Druidh Chasad, measuring some eight feet long and five feet high. Local people visited the site to be cured of the said disease, but Hugh MacMillan also suggested that the miraculous well-in-the-stone was connected with ancient rituals once enacted at the Kinnell circle, saying:
” it is a reasonable supposition that the Fountain of the Whooping-Cough may have had some connection in ancient times with this prehistoric structure in its immediate neighbourhood…”
He may have been right!
…to be continued…
Burl, Aubrey, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, New Haven & London 1995.