Newbigging, Lethnot and Navar, Angus

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 5414 6935

Archaeology & History

Site location in 1863

Entered in Aubrey Burl’s (2000) magnum opus as a stone circle, the site has also been reclassified as a ring cairn or cairn circle, for obvious reasons.  We can haggle about definitions if we wanna get a bit anal about it, but even from what little we know, this was an impressive looking site to say the least!  Burl (1976) originally suggested that it may have been a recumbent stone circle: an Aberdeenshire outlier, so to speak—and he may have been right. Sadly the place has been destroyed, like so many megalithic rings in this neck o’ the woods.

It was first mentioned, albeit briefly, by Alexander Gardner in his 1843 summary of the parish in the New Statistical Account where he told that, “there are the remains of a Druidical Temple at Newbigging near the remains of an ancient Castle or Tower called Dennyfern.”  Our main source of information comes via the early Ordnance Survey lads after they’d visited the place in 1861.  They wrote:

“Though nothing now remains of this Circle but one very large upright stone, measuring 5 feet 4 inches high, 9 feet in circumference at the base, and 6 feet 3 inches at the top, yet its site is plainly traceable, and is slightly raised from the ground around it.  It was an immense Cairn, 40 feet in diameter according to the farmer of Newbigging, containing 400 cartloads of stones which he removed …The one Stone standing is so large that this may be considered to be the remains of a “Stone Circle” of which the large quantity of small stones formed the raised plateau, the ring of which is still visible.”

The great regional historian Andrew Jervise (1853) culled a few extra snippets of information about the place, telling us:

“Some fifty years ago, a good specimen of concentric circles stood on the farm of Newbigging, about half-a-mile north of the house, on an elevated part of the mountain; but, of the twenty or thirty large stones that enclosed an area of from fifty to sixty feet in diameter, only one remains, the rest having been carried away for various utilitarian purposes.  This boulder, which is about eight feet high, is sometimes called the Druidical, but more commonly the “Stannin’ Stane of Newbiggin’,” and many flint arrow-heads have been found in its vicinity.  When demolished, the middle of the area of the inner circle was found to be filled with small stones to the depth of about three feet, under which lay a quantity of black clammy earth, mixed with pieces of charcoal, while a track about two feet broad, composed of loose red sandstone, laid to the depth of a few inches, ran directly through the clammy earth and pebbles, from side to side of the outer circle.”

Alex Warden (1884) mentioned the remaining Stannin’ Stane of Newbiggin’ in his survey of the area, and the monolith was still in place when Cruikshank (1899), the local minister, wrote his detailed history book, but he added little more by way of Jervise’s description, merely telling that the stone circle

“on Newbigging must have been in its original state interesting and remarkable.  It was composed of upright stones of great size, as we can see by the only one now remaining, which is known as “the Stannin’ Stane of Newbiggin’.”  The blasted massive remains of the other stones form the foundation of the field dyke close by.”

It’s obvious that Burl’s idea that this circle was a recumbent one is based on Jervise’s description of it being “a good specimen of concentric circles” with the internal cairn structure giving it additional archaeomythic clout.  Its complete destruction prevents us knowing anything more.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain – volume 2, BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of the Britain Isles, Yale University Press 1976.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  4. Cruikshank, F., Navar and Lethnot: The History of a Glen Parish in the North-east of Forfarshire, Black & Johnston: Brechin 1899.
  5. Jervise, Andrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland and Knox: Edinburgh 1853.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, The Archaeological Sites & Monuments of Central Angus, Angus District, Tayside Region, HMSO: Edinburgh 1983.
  7. Warden, Alex J., Angus or Forfarshire: The Land and People – Descriptive and Historical – volume 4, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1884.

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

Craigendowie, Lethnot and Navar, Angus

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 5225 6924

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1865 map

All remains of this stone circle have long since bitten the dust.  It was already described in the past tense when Alexander Gardner wrote his summary of the parish in the New Statistical Account in 1843 where he told that, “there are the remains of two or three small Druidical temples, one at Newbigging, one at Blairno, and one said to have been at Craigendowie, but now demolished.”

A few years later Andrew Jervise (1853), in his classic tome on the Mearns, gave us the best description of the place, based either on his own personal visit here, or one given to him by a local when he was surveying the history of the area.  He wrote:

“In the vicinity of Craigendowie … among the mass of artificial-looking cairns (which are said to be the graves of warriors), there was a small circle, composed of a quantity of stones about the same size, and ranged in the same manner, as those at Fernybank…. Unlike the latter, this circle was never thoroughly explored, even at the time of its removal more than forty years ago, and if as old as prehistoric times, it cannot now be said in how far it may have been a place of sepulture.  Craigendowie has, perhaps, its true etymon in the Gaelic Craigandubh, or “the black rock,” for the craig is an immense black rock close by the river-side; but, according to a truer etymology, as well as popular story, it implies the “rock of the funeral cairn,” or perhaps the “craig of battle or mischief;” and, if any reliance can be placed on the tales regarding the malicious actions of the kelpie in the dark pool beside it, or in the story of warriors having fallen in the neighbourhood, the latter rendering may not be altogether inept!”

When the Ordnance Survey lads wrote about it their Name Book (1861) they told simply of its memory, saying,

“There is now nothing remaining to mark the site except a portion of the ground being still uncultivated, nor is there any person who recollects seeing any remains.  It is supposed to have been demolished in making an old road through it, the track of which is still plain.”

And, later still in Cruikshank’s (1899) major work on Lethnot township he added little extra information other than saying that “it was situated in the field in front of the farmhouse (but) is entirely destroyed.”

References:

  1. Cruikshank, F., Navar and Lethnot: The History of a Glen Parish in the North-east of Forfarshire, Black & Johnston: Brechin 1899.
  2. Jervise, Andrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland and Knox: Edinburgh 1853.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, The Archaeological Sites & Monuments of Central Angus, Angus District, Tayside Region, HMSO: Edinburgh 1983.
  4. Warden, Alex J., Angus or Forfarshire: The Land and People – Descriptive and Historical – volume 4, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1884.

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

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

Wellford, Fern , Angus

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 483 603 (approximation)

Archaeology & History

In an area once teeming with megaliths, this is but one that lost its life in the 19th century.  It would seem that the only reference of its existence—and demise—comes from the pen of the great regional historian Andrew Jervise (1853) who, in a description of the nearby holy well of St Ninian, in a field near Wellford,

“within the last half century there were two or three large rude boulders nearby, which were called Druidical stones.”

References:

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

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Ballengeich, Uphall, West Lothian

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 074 698

Archaeology & History

A few hundred yards west of the commemorative Wallace Stone monolith could once be seen a standing stone of considerable size.  It was described by James Primrose in his description of the standing stones of the Strathbrock region; but even in his day, remains of it were fragmentary.  He wrote:

“On Drumshoreland Moor, within the grounds of Pumpherston Oil Company, there is a stone, popularly styled Bucksides — its correct designation being Backsides — from its position at the backside of Pumpherston.  This stone, a huge whinstone boulder about 12 feet long and 8 feet broad, was blasted in 1888, to make room for the site of a bench of retorts; a few fragments of the stone, however, yet remain by the roadside.  The ancient name of this stone was Ballengeich — apparently the Gaelic for “the township towards the wind”, — as if a croft once stood here, near Pumpherston Mains, in an exposed and windy situation.”

A visit to the local history department of the local library might prove fruitful in giving us more information about this place—that’s assuming the filthy tory central government’s theft of taxpayer’s money doesn’t close it! (does that sound a bit harsh? 😁 )

Folklore

The same historian told of a “tradition…that round this stone in days gone by the Broxburn folks, along with their neighbours, used to assemble at Fair time, in the month of August, in order to witness their favourite sport of horse-racing; but whether there was any more ancient custom associated with it, we have never learned.”

References:

  1. Primrose, James, Strathbrock; or, the History and Antiquities of the Parish of Uphall, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1898.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Cnoc Brannan, Glen Artney, Comrie, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 7266 1627

Also Known as:

  1. Brannan Stone

Getting Here

Into the eve of western hills

Make a day out of this one, visiting several old places on the way.  From Comrie take the B827 road to Braco, turning right at the tiny Glen Artney road a half-mile along (easy to miss).  3 miles along, pass the derelict Dalness cottage, you can follow the directions to get to the Mailer Fuar (2) cup-and-ring stone; and from here go up the field past the Mailer Fuar (1) carving, through the gate and follow the fence to your right.  Keep going till your reach the Allt na Drochaide cup-and-ring stone.  From here you’re heading (south) towards the rounded crags of Cnoc Brannan.  It’s boggy as fuck in parts so cautiously zigzag through this section up towards the small grassy rise about 350 yards from the cup-and-ring stone.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

From the old stone, gazing S

On one of the gentle rises below the northern slope of Cnoc Brannan we find this sturdy old fella, 3-4 feet tall (I didn’t measure it), looking across the stunning landscapes north, east and west along Glen Artney.  Not previously recorded and seemingly isolated from other prehistoric remains, he looks all alone at first sight, but laid down in the grassy rushes (Juncus conglomeratus) to his side, is a slender seven-foot long stone which may have stood upright in the not-too-distant past, giving us another double stone setting in this area (at least two others existed in this area—the closest being at Craggish, 3.7 miles northeast).  I have little doubt that other undiscovered prehistoric remains are hiding in the area. (there are a number of single cup-marked stones in the locale, although I tend to leave such examples off the catalogues as they can be somewhat dubious [and many are].  I mention this just in case any rock art students want to forage the area.)

Dedication: This one’s for Pete & Sharon

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Allt Geal Chairn, Amulree, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 89079 34041

Getting Here

The old stone, looking W

Take the A822 road to the northeast of Crieff and head 4-5 miles along until you enter the Sma’ Glen.  You go past Ossian’s Stone and after crossing the river past the Newton Bridge enclosure, the road starts to go uphill.  Nearly 2 miles up, the road levels out and at the left-side of the road is a small thin car-parking spot.  Keep your eyes peeled out for it!  From here, walk back down the road for nearly 250 yards until your reach a gate into the fields on your right.  By now you should already be able to see the stone in the field, barely 100 yards away to the southwest.

Archaeology & History

The old stone, looking N

Standing within the impressive landscape of the Perthshire mountains, this 4-foot-tall monolith is a seemingly solitary fella, sliced almost straight down one side—like so many of its regional compatriots—not far from the edge of General Wade’s military road.  Not much more can be said of the old thing.  The petroglyphic cluster of Corrymuckloch begins less than half-a-mile to the north; and, in all likelihood, other prehistoric sites will exist close by that aren’t yet in the archaeological registers…

AcknowledgmentsThanks to my long-suffering daughter Naomi, for taking me up for a quick break to see this old stone…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Kirktonhill, Channelkirk, Berwickshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 474 548

Archaeology & History

Included in Aubrey Burl’s (1976) first gazetteer, without comment, the site was subsequently added to John Barnatt’s (1989) magnum opus.  He tells that in the 19th century, “early Ordnance Survey records…note a destroyed stone circle” here, but draws a somewhat sceptical opinion of its very existence as “the Ordnance Survey frequently made mistaken interpretations in the 19th century and hence this should be treated with caution.”

Despite this, early local historians refer to the site, albeit in the past tense.  The first would seem to have been Walter Elliot (1869) in his address to the respected Berwickshire Naturalists Club.  Some members of this group had visited a number of ancient sites the previous year:

“A camp above Channel Kirk was also indicated, near which a stone circle formerly existed, but it has been destroyed and the materials used for building dykes within the last five or six years.”

The “camp” was an old Roman one which has itself been almost completely destroyed, despite it still being shown on modern OS-maps.

The circle was mentioned in passing in Mr Thomson’s (1902) huge work on his descriptions of the many local hillforts.  Close to one at Kirktonhill known as the Roman or Agricola’s Camp, “forty years ago, there was said to have been a stone circle.”  This was reiterated in Craw’s (1920) survey of prehistoric monuments in Berwickshire.

Perhaps the most curious omission is in Mr Allan’s (1900) huge survey on Channelkirk parish.  His description of the Roman camp was considerable, but he made no mention of an adjoining circle.  The best we got from him was a vague allusion about some ancient pre-christian site not far from the church, when he wrote:

“Whether or not some rude form of a place of worship might then exist on the spot where now a church has stood for so long it were rash to assert, but there are certain indications that some particular place, specially marked as consecrated to religious rites, was then a local possession.”

(it should be noted that the Canmore entry for this site has its location at the prehistoric camp due west of Kirktonhill, which is incorrect)

References:

  1. Allan, Archibald, History of Channelkirk, J. Thin: Edinburgh 1900.
  2. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain – volume 2, BAR: Oxford 1989.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of British Isles, Yale University Press 1976.
  4. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  5. Craw, J H., “Early types of burial in Berwickshire“, in History Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 24, 1920.
  6. Elliot, Walter, “Anniversary Address Delivered at Berwick on the 30th of September, 1869,” in History Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 6, 1869-72.
  7. Thomson, A., Lauder and Lauderdale, Craighead Brothers: Galashiels 1902.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Whitehillocks Farm, Glen Clova, Angus

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NO 37095 66958

Getting Here

Whitehillock stone circle

From Kirriemuir town centre up the B956 Kinnordy Road, turn left where it goes along the B955 road for several miles towards Cortachy.  Keep going on the B955 for a few more miles into the quiet beauty of Glen Clova.  A third-of-a-mile (0.5km) past Glenarm house, the road splits.  Take the right-hand road, which goes down and across the river below.  Keep on this road for just over a mile (1.8km) and as you approach the large farmhouse of Whitehillock—about 200 yards before it—keep your eyes very well focused in the field on your left and you’ll see a mass of large fallen stones right up against the other side of the fence.  You’ve arrived.

Archaeology & History

Internal “cairn”

A half-mile north of Clach na Brain, or the Stone of the Raven (a stone that was traditionally used to beat woven cloth after it had been washed), we come across this ruined stone circle, which has seen better days.  Not shown on any of the early OS-maps, nor found in the standard megalithic catalogues (Barnatt 1989; Burl 2000), its existence seems to have been logged for the first time by some of the Royal Commission doods in 1999, but of late its veracity as a prehistoric site has been questioned as the local farmer alleged it to have been built by his father sometime in the 20th century.  It might have been – but if he did, he made a bloody bad job of it!  The site doesn’t have that “new” look about it and, unless someone told you that this was a stone circle, you wouldn’t give it a second look!  That aside…

The stones have been placed around the edge of a small rise in the land, within which is a scatter of small and reasonably large stones that give the impression of a cairn at its centre.  All but one of the stones (the eastern one) is still standing and measures about 3 feet in height.  The rest are either laid down or near to collapse and measure between four and six feet in length.  Without an excavation of the site, we cannot be certain of its age, but the official records still have it listed as a stone circle.  We await further examination…

References:

  1. Dorward, David, The Glens of Angus, Pinkfoor Press: Forfar 2001.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Caddam, Clova, Angus

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 33546 72144

Getting Here

Caddam stone, looking E

The only real way to get here is via Kirriemuir.  Head north to the hamlet of Cortachy and past it, as you enter Glen Clova, where the road splits make sure you bear to the left-hand (western) side.  Nearly 5½ miles along, keep your eyes peeled on your right where you can’t really miss it.  The stone’s less than 100 yards into the field.  …It may perhaps be a bit easier if you take the eastern road of the glen all the way to Clova village.  Turn right from there, over the small river bridge and as it curves to go back down the glen, a half-mile along you pass Caddam house.  Keep going for another 500 yards and you’ll notice it in the field.

Archaeology & History

Stone and its hut circle

Not to be confused with the ruined stone circle of the same name 10 miles to the south, this small standing stone—only some three feet in height—is at the eastern edge of a small overgrown hut circle measuring some 3 yards by 4 yards across.  You can just make out the overgrown low walling in the second photo (right).  The stone probably had some architectural relationship with the hut circle, but without an excavation we can’t know for certain what that relationship might have been.  A settlement of much larger hut circles can be found on the other side of the river, near Rottal, two miles southeast of here.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian