Cup-and-Ring Stone (removed): OS Grid Reference – NO 5061 5565
Archaeology & History
Close to the western walls of the Finavon Iron Age hillfort this small (portable?) cup-and-ring stone was found at ground level in 1987. It was probably knowingly reused in the construction of the hillfort, but whether it was just deemed as an innocuous carving thrown into the mass, or whether it held a place of importance cannot be known.
The primary design consists of a cupmark surrounded by a double-ring, with a line coming out of the central cup towards the edge of the stone. The stone itself—measuring 12 inch by around 10 inch—has been cut from a larger piece, meaning the original design may have been larger. It is now housed in the McManus Museum in Dundee (a damn good place, with very helpful staff).
From Kirriemuir town centre up the B956 Kinnordy Road, turn left where it goes along the B955 road for several miles towards Cortachy, following the same route as if you’re going to the curious Whitehillocks stone circle. Literally two miles (3.2km) along the road past Whitehillocks farmhouse, a large “parking” spot is at the right-hand side of the road. From here, walk along the road for 230 yards and go thru the gate on your left. The first low-rise hut circle is to your immediate right; and from here, meander along the track ahead of you, keeping your eyes peeled…
Archaeology & History
Despite being initially difficult to make out (as the photos here indicate), once your eyes have adjusted to the landscape morphology, you realise what an impressive prehistoric complex you’re wandering through. Saying that, it’s primarily a site that’s gonna be of interest to antiquarians, archaeologists and historians, as this is a settlement you’re looking at, lacking in megaliths, petroglyphs and similar ritual sites.
The first site that you’ll probably notice is visible from the road—but it’s not the first part of the settlement that you’ll pass. Immediately through the gate (as I’ve said) is the embanked rise of earth—only one or two feet high—making up the first notable hut circle (NO 36612 70453), measuring roughly 15 yards across. The shape and form of this circle typifies the others in the arena ahead of you, so that once you’ve made yourself aware of what this one looks like, you’ll be able to see the others with greater ease. Another low embanked circle of roughly the same size is just a few yards away at NO 36605 70439.
Straight back onto the track you’ll notice another larger D-shaped enclosure immediately on your left (NO 36622 70406), about 17 yards across; this is accompanied by what looks like a cairn immediately right of the track (NO 36609 70413), but this is actually a much smaller D-shaped enclosure, just right for one or two people.
The small rounded hill in front of you has what may be a circular enclosure on its top, but I wasn’t too sure about it. But looking down from this hill is the most visible of all the structures in the settlement (NO 36580 70307)—and the one I mentioned as being visible from the road. At first it’s a little deceptive in appearance, as you get the impression that the oval of stones (top photo) is what constitutes this hut circle, when in fact this element may be mediaeval in nature as it’s been built on top of an earlier Iron Age (?) enclosure. You can barely see this earlier form at ground level, so it’s best to walk back up the rounded hillock and cast your gaze back and forth and round the side of the ring of stones. You’ll see, eventually, the shallow overgrown walling of a larger oval-shaped enclosure, measuring eighteen yards across, whose edges start from the bottom of the hillock and arc around to the outer edges of the stone construction.
Back onto the track and further into the meadows, the next hut circle you’ll meet is (keep your eyes peeled) right by the track-side (NO 36573 70230). It has wide embanked walls that are low to the ground and completely overgrown, measuring 15 yards (E-W) by 18 yards (N-S), with what looks to be the original entrance or door on its south-side. A similar large circle exists on the other side of the track a little bit further along (NO 36499 70138).
There’s much more to this settlement, including lengths of walling in the grasslands below the last two circles and where, if you look carefully, you’ll see one of at least two cairns in this area. On the other side of the road are one or two other small hut circles and a much larger construction in the field further down the road, measuring 25 yards in length (NO 36569 70481). This would seem to be the largest of the lot.
The age of this settlement probably covers a considerable period of time: beginning perhaps in the Bronze Age, certainly in the Iron Age and all the way through into the mediaeval period where, all down Glen Clova, remnants of such hamlets still live beneath the soil. This entire arena is bathed in silence, save the wind and call of the birds. Tis a beautiful space to spend a few endless hours…
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
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…
Dorward, David, The Glens of Angus, Pinkfoor Press: Forfar 2001.
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 Glen Clova, past the Caddam stone and eventually, after going over the bridge into Clova village, you turn left and go up towards the mountains. Nearly 3 miles along you see the very conspicuous and impressive rising crag, like a small volcano on the right-hand side of the road, which is Dun Mor. Walk up the steep climb round to the back of it – and you’re in the middle of the old ruins…
Archaeology & History
Highlighted on the 1865 OS map of the region, Dun Mor is Gaelic for a “large or great fort” – and such it is! Those of you with a nose for these sorts o’ things will no doubt take to the remains pretty quickly. Its position in the landscape is a bit of a gem! On its north-side— invisibile to anyone in the glen below—an overgrown arc of walling some 3 feet high and about 70 yards long bends towards the crag of rocks on each side, with a notable “dip” or entrance about 8 feet wide in the middle of it. The walling itself averages about 4 yards wide all along its arc.
It’s quite impressive once you get a good feel of the place and envisage it as it once was. The sheltered fortress within the rise of Nature’s crags is about 100 yards across and would be ample space for several families to live in when it was first built, in those mythic times of so so long ago. It was probably constructed in the Iron Age, although several ruined rectangular stone structures inside it are thought to be medieval shelters; and even in those more recent times, the people here would have regularly heard the howl of the wolves, whose names are kept in the hills above as reminders of a world not too long past….
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
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.
First highlighted on the 1933 OS-map of the area, it was located alongside the old fence-line, but no subsequent description of the carving has been made since then. A small boulder and a number of other stones can be found along the line of fencing, but none seem to be possessed of petroglyphs and apart from it being shown on the old maps, I can find no reference or description of it. Some researchers have wondered if the carving was mistakenly marked at this spot by surveyors who confused it with some others more than 500 yards to the southeast (described by Fred Coles in 1903), but this would seem an unlikely error to have been made. It may have been destroyed.
Coles, Fred, “Notices of …(4) of Some Hitherto Undescribed Cup-and-ring-marked Stones…” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 37, 1903.
Acknowledgements:Many thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.
A long long way for a single little spring, go from Kirriemuir town centre up the B956 Kinnordy Road, going straight across at the crossroads up the countryside lane towards Lednathie (signposted 8 miles): dead straight, long-and-winding, up-and-over…. Stick to this single road, all along, ignoring all turn-off junctions until, once reaching the hamlet of Easter Lednathie, stay awake for the turn up to Glenprosen, 2 miles along, over the bridge. Turn left until and a few hundred yards along go over the next little bridge until you reach the “Private Road” sign, then walk up the track past Katy’s Cottage. ¾-mile along just before Balnaboth, keep your eyes peeled for a splatter of quartz rocks with a spring of water thereby. At long long last, you’ve reached your destination!
Archaeology & History
Miles to the winding north of Kirriemuir, in the depth of the olde mountains, this clear spring of iron-bearing water (still fresh and drinkable) was, earlier in the 20th century, covered over by someone-or-other and surrounded by straight slabs of stone. The waters were maintained however, by the builders who cut a small hole into the moss-embolded rock allowing this pure water to still run freely for all to use…
Shown on the early OS-maps, its sacrality or holy association would seem to be lost from the tongues of the older folk, most of whom seem long gone from this beautiful glen-to-nowhere. The only remaining religious connection we might have relating to the place comes from the ruined 17th century chapel less than 250 yards away to the west on the slope above the track, from where a singular stone-lined footpath runs dead straight to the well.
But another important feature found here is the large scatter of quartz rocks a few yards away from the water source. They are in disarray but would seem to have once been built around the spring where it first emerged from beneath the ground, then being cast aside to their present positions when the more modern stone structure was built above it. We can’t prove this with any certainty, but there are a number of other holy wells with this quartz-defining feature elsewhere in Scotland: the St Mary’s Well at Callander and Beltane Well of Kenmore to name just two.
Robertson, D.O., Long-Ago Legends of Clova, Edinburgh 1872.
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.
This little-known iron-bearing spring can still be found in the woodland known today as the Heugh of Mawse, a mile north of Blairgowrie. It was included in the Object Name Book of 1863, where they referred to an earlier account in the New Statistical Account, which told that,
“On the south end of it is a chalybeate spring much resorted to by the people of the locality. “There are one or two chalybeate springs in the parish; but they have never been chemically analyzed. There is one very fine spring called the “Heugh Well” It springs from the face of the “Heughs of Mause” (a mortar cliff of singular appearance; which descends abruptly into the bed of the river with an almost perpendicular declivity of about 200 feet) and judging from its colour, contains a considerable quantity of ferruginous matter. The use of its water has been found to be very beneficial in cutaneous eruptions, & affections of the Stomach.””
Subsequently highlighted on the 1867 OS-map, a singular footpath led to the site and no further. It was mentioned by the regional historians J.G. McPherson (1885) and John MacDonald (1899), albeit briefly, where they respectively told that its waters were “formerly much resorted to by persons in the neighbourhood.” It possessed considerable medicinal properties which, according to tradition, were “found very beneficial for skin diseases and derangement of the stomach”! Doubtless such attributes will still be effective.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NO 180 452
Archaeology & History
The Well Meadow in the middle of Blairgowrie was once the place where the 5th century Apostle of the Southern Picts, or St Ninian, baptised local folk into the so-called “new faith”. It’s long since gone. The local historian John MacDonald (1899) told that it was located opposite the buildings on the north-side of the square, adding:
“St Ninian, one of the earliest Christian Celtic missionaries, on his tour through Scotland, pitched his camp where the Wellmeadow now is, and quenched his thirst at an old well or spring which ever afterwards bore the name of “St Ninian’s Well,” until it was covered in and the water led into the town drains.”
Highlighted on the 1865 OS-map, this lost water source was located between the Brechin cathedral/round tower and the curiously-named St. Michael’s Mount, whose history seems to be lost. It would seem to be the well which Ruth & Frank Morris (1981) name as the ‘Ancient Well’ in their survey.
The reason behind this site being classified as a sacred (or holy) well is based on the tradition that the Culdees had a religious convent here in the 12th century and, according to David Black (1839),
“This convent is believed to have stood a little to the west of the present parish church, in the gardens now belonging to the kirk-session, still called “the College Yards.” A small well of delightfully pure water in these gardens receives the name of the College Well, and is reported, by tradition, to have been the well of the Culdee convent.”
On the issue of St. Michael, students of folklore will know that, in the christian cult, he was an early dragon-slayer. His annual commemoration day is September 29. One of his shamanistic functions “relates to the very old tradition of Michael as the receiver of the souls of the dead.” (Attwater 1965)
Black, David D., The History of Brechin, Alexander Black: Brechin 1839.
Gibson, Colin, Folklore of Tayside, Dundee Museum c.1968.