Raven’s Stone, Elgol, Strathaird, Skye

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NG 520 144

Folklore

This once-famous standing stone appears to have gone.  It was described in Otta Swire’s (1961) superb book on the folklore of Skye, where she wrote:

“Overlooking Elgol is Bidein an Fhithich. Near here once stood the famous Raven’s Stone, about which the Brahn Seer prophesied. It is believed that this prophecy, however, can never be fulfilled, as seventy or eighty years ago the stone was broken up and the main portion of it is now incorporated in one wall of the Glendale church, according to the Rev. A. R. Forbes’ Place Names of Skye. The stone was believed to have had some connexion with old pagan religious ceremonies.”

The Brahn Seer (more commonly known as the Brahan Seer) was Coinneach Odhar, a 16th century prophet who is said to have foretold the Battle of Culloden and other events.

References:

  1. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Sons: Glasgow 1961.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.153729, -6.101386 Ravens Stone

Na Clachan Bhreige, Kirkibost, Strathaird, Skye

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference –  NG 5432 1768

Also known as:

  1. The False Stones
  2. Na Clachan Breitheach
  3. Strathaird Circle

Getting Here

Way off from seemingly anywhere this one – on the southern foothills of the great Cuillins, by the western edge of a seemingly unnamed loch. (most unusual) Take the Elgol road (A881) south from Broadford, nearly to its end, keeping an eye out for Kirkibost a few miles from the very end of the road. Just past here, stop and walk the track west to Camasunary a half-mile along, through the small forestry-bit, then follow the line of the trees north and keep going a bit more till y’ reach the nice stream that feeds that unnamed loch. Cross the stream!

Archaeology & History

Alexander Thom's 1967 drawing

Alexander Thom’s 1967 drawing

A fascinating little site this one! Perhaps consisting of as many as eight stones at one time, only three stand visible today.  Alexander Thom (1967) reported finding other stones in this circle “being buried in the peat, but prodding revealed their position roughly” — as shown on his drawing here.  There may at one time have been as many as eight stones here, but the site itself is quite small, making a ring of stones only 21-feet across (or 8 megalithic yards as Thom had it).  The ruinous state of the site was put down to the stupidity of the Church of Scotland issuing “instructions that all stones in Skye were to be thrown down” a few centuries back.

Aubrey Burl's later 'four-poster' summary

Aubrey Burl’s later ‘four-poster’ summary

Aubrey Burl reported that “there were once at least 4 stones here, the tallest being of 6ft 6ins (2m) high,” and wondered whether this was one of the many ‘four-poster’ stone circles that scatter Scotland and elsewhere.  An issue he seemed comfortable to proclaim a few years later in his survey of such sites. (Burl 1988) Of those stones still standing, the tallest is just 5 feet high; but there’s the impressive 11½-foot long monolith laying on the southeast edge of the ring!  Mr Burl also pointed out that some

“casual digging  inside the ring around 1860 uncovered a blackpolished stone about 1½ ins (4cm) long, ‘somewhat resembling a small pestle.’”

I found the proximity of the Cille Mhaire burial ground a mile west of here more than a bit intriguing (though didn’t have time to assess its geomantic relationship further).  And the reported presence of prehistoric cairns nearby imply that the Na Clachan Bhreige ‘circle’ had some relationship with death and burial.

Folklore

The folkname of ‘The False Stones’ comes from that well-known tale of the site “supposedly being the remains of three men turned into stone for deserting their wives.”  Something which Otta Swire (1964) thought was likely told by christian converts.  It would have probably replaced an earlier tale of the stones being the site where some ancestral spirits lived.  Swire also told that,

“these were once, if tradition is to be believed, Stones of Wisdom who could both foretell the future and show justice as between man and man.”

Burl (1988) also points out how,

“The name, Na Clachan Bhreige, has been variously pointed translated as ‘the judicial stones’, a place where medieval law courts were held, as in several other Scottish rings.  It has also been interpreted as ‘the stone of lies, or falsehood.’”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR: Oxford 1988.
  2. Grinsell, L.V., Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, Hale: Newton Abbot 1976.
  3. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Sons: Glasgow 1961.
  4. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Megalithic Rings, BAR: Oxford 1980.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.183969, -6.067265 Na Clachan Bhreige

Kilmarie, Kirkibost, Strathaird, Skye

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NG 552 172

Also Known as:

  1. Cille Mhaire

Folklore

Omitted from Burl’s (2000) magnum opus, the great Scottish folklorist Otta Swire (1961) is the singular reference to the forgotten stone circle that once existed here.  She wrote:

“The site of the old church of Kilmarie and of the stone circle whose proximity no doubt originally called it into being are now no longer to be seen. The ruins of the old church, I am told, were swept away by the sea during that great storm in the 1920s which also blew down the Dunvegan woods.  The storm followed not long after the burial near the old church of an unknown sailor taken from the sea, and there were those who believed this to be the cause of the church’s disappearance, for, as the old Gaelic rhyme says: “The sea will search the four russet divisions of the universe to find her children,” and Kenneth MacLeod advises that a body taken from the sea should always be buried near the water’s edge, or the sea, desiring to recover her own, will flood much land in search of it.

“This church is said to have stood on the site of an older church of St. Maelrhuba (Servant of Peace) who was the patron saint of south-eastern Skye.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1961.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.180565, -6.051418 Kilmarie circle

Raven’s Stone, Elgol, Strathaird, Skye

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NG 520 144

Folklore

This once-famous standing stone appears to have gone.  It was described in Otta Swire’s (1961:230) superb book on the folklore of Skye, where she wrote:

“Overlooking Elgol is Bidein an Fhithich. Near here once stood the famous Raven’s Stone, about which the Brahn Seer prophesied. It is believed that this prophecy, however, can never be fulfilled, as seventy or eighty years ago the stone was broken up and the main portion of it is now incorporated in one wall of the Glendale church, according to the Rev. A. R. Forbes’ Place Names of Skye. The stone was believed to have had some connexion with old pagan religious ceremonies.”

The Brahn Seer (more commonly known as the Brahan Seer) was Coinneach Odhar, a 16th century prophet who is said to have foretold the Battle of Culloden and other events.

References:

Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Sons: Glasgow 1961.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Kilmarie, Kirkibost, Strathaird, Skye

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NG 552  172

Also Known as:

  1. Cille Mhaire

Folklore

Omitted from Burl’s (2000) magnum opus, the great Scottish folklorists Otta Swire (1961) is the singular reference to the forgotten stone circle that once existed here.  She wrote:

“The site of the old church of Kilmarie and of the stone circle whose proximity no doubt originally called it into being are now no longer to be seen. The ruins of the old church, I am told, were swept away by the sea during that great storm in the 1920s which also blew down the Dunvegan woods.  The storm followed not long after the burial near the old church of an unknown sailor taken from the sea, and there were those who believed this to be the cause of the church’s disappearance, for, as the old Gaelic rhyme says: “The sea will search the four russet divisions of the universe to find her children,” and Kenneth MacLeod advises that a body taken from the sea should always be buried near the water’s edge, or the sea, desiring to recover her own, will flood much land in search of it.

“This church is said to have stood on the site of an older church of St. Maelrhuba (Servant of Peace) who was the patron saint of south-eastern Skye.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1961.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Na Clachan Bhreige, Kirkibost, Strathaird, Skye

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference –  NG 5432 1768

Also known as:

  1. The False Stones
  2. Na Clachan Breitheach
  3. Strathaird Circle

Getting Here

Way off from seemingly anywhere this one – on the southern foothills of the great Cuillins, by the western edge of a seemingly unnamed loch. (most unusual) Take the Elgol road (A881) south from Broadford, nearly to its end, keeping an eye out for Kirkibost a few miles from the very end of the road. Just past here, stop and walk the track west to Camasunary a half-mile along, through the small forestry-bit, then follow the line of the trees north and keep going a bit more till y’ reach the nice stream that feeds that unnamed loch. Cross the stream!

Archaeology & History

Alexander Thom's 1967 drawing
Alexander Thom’s 1967 drawing

A fascinating little site this one! Perhaps consisting of as many as eight stones at one time, only three stand visible today.  Alexander Thom (1967) reported finding other stones in this circle “being buried in the peat, but prodding revealed their position roughly” — as shown on his drawing here.  There may at one time have been as many as eight stones here, but the site itself is quite small, making a ring of stones only 21-feet across (or 8 megalithic yards as Thom had it).  The ruinous state of the site was put down to the stupidity of the Church of Scotland issuing “instructions that all stones in Skye were to be thrown down” a few centuries back.

Aubrey Burl's later 'four-poster' summary
Aubrey Burl’s later ‘four-poster’ summary

Aubrey Burl reported that “there were once at least 4 stones here, the tallest being of 6ft 6ins (2m) high,” and wondered whether this was one of the many ‘four-poster’ stone circles that scatter Scotland and elsewhere.  An issue he seemed comfortable to proclaim a few years later in his survey of such sites. (Burl 1988) Of those stones still standing, the tallest is just 5 feet high; but there’s the impressive 11½-foot long monolith laying on the southeast edge of the ring!  Mr Burl also pointed out that some

“casual digging  inside the ring around 1860 uncovered a blackpolished stone about 1½ ins (4cm) long, ‘somewhat resembling a small pestle.'”

I found the proximity of the Cille Mhaire burial ground a mile west of here more than a bit intriguing (though didn’t have time to assess its geomantic relationship further).  And the reported presence of prehistoric cairns nearby imply that the Na Clachan Bhreige ‘circle’ had some relationship with death and burial.

Folklore

The folkname of ‘The False Stones’ comes from that well-known tale of the site “supposedly being the remains of three men turned into stone for deserting their wives.”  Something which Otta Swire (1964) thought was likely told by christian converts.  It would have probably replaced an earlier tale of the stones being the site where some ancestral spirits lived.  Swire also told that,

“these were once, if tradition is to be believed, Stones of Wisdom who could both foretell the future and show justice as between man and man.”

Burl (1988) also points out how,

“The name, Na Clachan Bhreige, has been variously pointed translated as ‘the judicial stones’, a place where medieval law courts were held, as in several other Scottish rings.  It has also been interpreted as ‘the stone of lies, or falsehood.'”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR: Oxford 1988.
  2. Grinsell, L.V., Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, Hale: Newton Abbot 1976.
  3. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Sons: Glasgow 1961.
  4. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Megalithic Rings, BAR: Oxford 1980.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian