Tombreck (15), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 64894 38308

Getting Here

Tombreck (15) carving

Along the A827 Loch Tay road between Morenish and Lawers, take the track uphill where Carie farmhouse and Tombreck are either side of the road. Walk up this track 2-300 yards till you go through the gate just past the sheep-folds on your left.  Ahead of you is a small grassy hillock on your right upon which you’ll find the unimpressive Tombreck-1 carving.  Walk down the grassy-slope to the boggy stream and then up the rounded knoll on the other side, where you’ll find a stone that’s been split in two.  You’re here!

Archaeology & History

This is another unrecorded carving, found amidst this already large petroglyphic cluster on August 9, 2020.  Carved on a stone that’s been spilt in half, three simple cup-marks can be seen on the larger easternmost section, with the lowest of them having a possible short line running towards the cup on the right.  It seems that the right-hand (north) side of the stone has also been cut, but there is no trace of this part of the stone on the ground.  Additionally, there is the possibility that this stone once stood upright, as evidenced by its very worn rounded top and the larger bottom end of the stone being distinctly lower compared to the ground all round it. But this is speculative.

The 3 cups, highlighted
3 cups on the lower stone

Although the rock is close to being on the top of a rounded knoll, giving good visibility both east and west for a few miles along the extensive grassy ridge (where many other petroglyphs exist), the grandeur of Loch Tay  in the glen below is not and could never have been visible from this, or indeed many other carvings on this ridge.  I mention this due to the fact that some students are positing that the existence of so many carvings along here may relate to some sort of deification of Loch Tay.  But here and at many others along this ridge, the idea simply aint valid, unfortunately.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.517351, -4.197451 Tombreck (15)

Brae of Cultullich (6), Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 8818 4906

Getting Here

X supposedly marks the spot

Out of Aberfeldy, take the A826 road as if you’re going up Glen Cochill.  Not far up, just where the housing of Aberfeldy itself ends and the green fields open up either side of you, keep on the road for a half-mile where you meet a small copse of trees on your left, with a dirt-track that runs down the slope.  Go along the track for 0.8 miles (1.3km), past the Ursa Major Stone and where the track splits, go left past the Quartz Stone and follow the track through the farmyard.  It’s somewhere there – or is supposed to be!

Archaeology & History

On our visit here, we couldn’t locate the cup-and-ring stone that’s described in Sonia Yellowlee’s (2004) regional rock art survey.  She described it, only as archaeologists ever do, in the briefest manner, telling us simply:

“Leaning against a pile of rubble in the farmyard there is a split boulder bearing eighteen cupmarks, one of which is ringed.”

It may have been destroyed, as we were told by a couple of locals that there used to be “a real miserable sod” living there.  When we visited the place and tried to ask the present farm owner, sadly he wasn’t to be found.  If any rock art explorer manages to locate this seemingly lost cup-and-ring, please let us know – and mebbe send us some photos so that we can add them to this site profile. 😉

References:

  1. Yellowlees, Sonia, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, RCHAMS 2004.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to the crew – this time being Neens Harris, Paul Hornby & Frank Mercer.  And the stunning resource of Scotland’s 1st edition OS-maps is Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.620009, -3.823868 Brae of Cultullich (6)

Quartz Stone, Brae of Cultullich, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 88104 49001

Also Known as:

  1. Brae of Cultullich (4)

Getting Here

The cupmarked Quartz Stone

Out of Aberfeldy, take the A826 road as if you’re going up Glen Cochill.  Not far up, just where the housing of Aberfeldy itself ends and the green fields open up either side of you, keep on the road for a half-mile where you meet a small copse of trees on your left, with a dirt-track that runs down the slope.  Go down here and follow the slightly meandering track for 0.8 miles (1.3km), a short distance past the Ursa Major Stone where the track splits.  Take the track to the left and there, less than 100 yards on you’ll hit a large boulder on your left.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Not previously recorded, this simple cup-marked stone will probably only be of interest to petroglyph aficionados, or those folk who are into  ‘energies’ at sites.  This latter aspect is due entirely to the carving being etched onto a huge rock, much of which is composed of quartz—which isn’t too unusual in this part of the world.  But that aside…

Looking down at the cups
The cupmarks highlighted

It is one in a group of carvings within a few hundred yards of each other, with its nearest neighbour 20 yards to the north.  That one’s covered in cups—but on this large Quartz Stone, only two of them exist, on the top near the centre.  Just a couple of inches across and half-an-inch deep, they’re pretty clear once you see them.  The raised piece of ground behind the stone is artificial and has variously been described by antiquarians and archaeologist alike, as either a prehistoric dun, or a stone circle.  Whatever it may be, some of it is certainly man-made.  Check it out – and mebbe ask the friendly fat fella who lives nearby what he thinks.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.619461, -3.825080 Quartz Stone

Ursa Major Stone, Brae of Cultullich, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 87958 49022

Also Known as:

  1. Brae of Cultullich (3)

Getting Here

The stone from the trackside

Out of Aberfeldy, take the A826 road as if you’re going up Glen Cochill.  Not far up, just where the housing of Aberfeldy itself ends and the green fields open up either side of you, keep on the road for a half-mile where you meet a small copse of trees on your left, with a dirt-track that runs down the slope.  Go down the track, bending to the right, then the left and then on for a quarter of a mile until the lines of trees appear either side of you.  Barely 200 yards along, the track swerves slowly to your right, and the field above you slopes uphill.  Keep your eyes peeled at the fencing on your right and you’ll see a stone sloping towards you right by the fence with faint cupmarks on it.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

A truly fascinating cup-marked stone recently uncovered by Paul Hornby on another one of our TNA meanderings. Fascinating because of the curious arrangement of the cups on the stone.  Often, cup-marked stones have little to interest the causal visitor – but this one’s different.  As can be seen quite clearly, the cups are arranged in the shape of the constellation of the Great Bear, or Ursa Major – albeit with an extra ‘star’ in this design.  But it’s damn close!  In all likelihood (he says with his sceptical head on 😉 ), the design is fortuitous when it comes to the Ursa Major.  I know from many years experience how easy it is to see meaningful shapes and designs in the almost entirely abstract British petroglyphs, but the design is very close to the constellation we all got to know when we were kids.

Looking along the stone
Gazing down at Ursa Major

The stone itself slopes upwards at an angle of about 60º, before starting to level out as it rises.  All of the cupmarks have been pecked onto this sloping surface (the vast majority of carvings are found on top of stones).  Altogether, at least twelve faint and shallow cups were exposed when we looked at it—measuring the usual inch to inch-and-half across—but it is likely that more of them are hidden beneath the turf at the top of the stone.  We could discern no rings or other features in the design.

This is just one carving amidst a good cluster of petroglyphs within a few hundred yards of each other (the Quartz Stone being one of the nearest) that are well worth checking out if you like your rock art.  It may also be of interest to astronomy students, or those exploring archaeo-astronomy.

References:

  1. Yellowlees, Sonia, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, RCHAMS 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.619617, -3.827468 Ursa Major Stone

Cupar Stone Circle, St. Martin’s, Perthshire

Stone Circle (ruins):  OS Grid Reference – NO 15958 31227

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 28632

Getting Here

The stone circle on 1867 map

Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the Witches Stone of St. Martin’s.  On the way up the long dirt-track, just where the track has levelled out above the slope, keep your eyes peeled on the left (west) for a line of large long boulders on the other side of the barbed-wire fence, laid down, just at the edge of the field.  That’s what’s left of the place!

Archaeology & History

This site is in a sad state of affairs and no discernible ‘stone circle’ of any form can be seen here.  The stones that constituted the megalithic ring were uprooted and dumped at the side of the huge field sometime in the latter-half of the 20th century.  The site is shown clearly on the early OS-maps but at some point in more recent years, the land-owner here (I presume) uprooted the stones and dumped them at the field-side, where they remain. Not good.

Cupar Stones from the track

One of the stones here bore the curious name ‘Cupar’, which probably relates to it being a place where criminal trials were held, or justice dispensed. (Grant 1952)  Traditions such as this were enacted at other megalithic rings and ancient sites in earlier times.

The first mention of the circle I can find is in the old Name Book of 1865, which informs us:

“Three large boulders set up edgeways, and part of a circular earthen bank.  There is no local tradition regarding the stones but the Rev Park believes them to be the remains of a Druidical Temple. The name Cupar Stone is not well known locally but still appears on the estate map.”

Cupar Stones at field-edge

It originally stood on the edge of the large flat plateau, just at the point where the land slopes down to the south, with the curious Witches Stone of MacBeth on the same level plateau just over 400 yards to the north.  This small monolith may have been a deliberate outlier from the ring, perhaps relating to the calendrical airt of death (the direction ‘north’ commonly denotes Death in pre-christian cultural cosmologies).  But we know little else about the ring.  In Margaret Stewart’s (1965) notes about the site, she indicated that some of the stones were still standing when she saw them, saying how the “largest remaining stones are to the south and west.”  They’re not anymore!

Postulating it as a possible ‘four-poster’ stone circle (a dubious one, he said), Aubrey Burl (1988) told us:

“In the south corner of a partly cleared wood…there are three large stones, two of them fallen. They are in a roughly straight line running NNE-SSW.  Nearby is a fourth prostrate stone in a boundary wall.  Stewart (1965:21) suggested that they had once formed a ring approximately 24ft 6in (7.5m) in diameter. Different opinions have been that if there had been a circle, it was probably larger.”

In light of the near-complete destruction of the Cupar stone circle, I feel that note should be made of a somewhat worrying trend, not only here, but many other prehistoric sites in the country.  In the site profile Canmore has given the Cupar stone circle, its destruction and vandalism has been termed “agricultural improvement”, as if to sound ‘acceptable’ and that it’s OK to destroy stone circles – which it plainly is not!  If you or I were to do such a thing, we’d be arrested!  We need to make sure that, as individuals and organizations, we treat what some term “agricultural improvement” for what it is: vandalism (usually by rich tory land-owners who give back-handers, or similar things, to make sure the official paperwork looks OK).  I know a lot of archaeologists agree with this too, but cannot speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain (2 volumes), BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Burl, Aubrey,  The Stone Circles of the British Isles, Yale: London 1976.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  4. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  5. Grant, William & Murison, David D., The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 3, SNDA: Edinburgh 1952.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, South-east Perth: An Archaeological Landscape. RCHAMS: Edinburgh 1994.
  7. Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Excavation of a Circle of Standing Stones at Sandy Road, Scone, Perthshire“, in Transactions & Proceedings Perthshire Society Natural Science, volume 11, 1965.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.465595, -3.365523 Cupar circle

Aikenhead Farm, Blairgowrie, Perthshire

Cup-and Ring Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 143 430

Archaeology & History

In John MacDonald’s History of Blairgowrie (1899), he describes a number of the prehistoric sites in the neighbourhood, including the cup-marked standing stone at nearby Glenballoch. However, one petroglyph that seems to have escaped the attention of all previous surveys was, “one unearthed in 1897 at Aikenhead,” southeast of Blairgowrie.  Mr MacDonald described it as possessing “a large number” of cup markings “of various sizes.” But even in his day he reported that the carving had, “unfortunately, been destroyed.”

I can find no other references to this site.  Is anyone aware of any, or know anything more about this lost stone?

References:

  1.  MacDonald, John A.R., The History of Blairgowrie, Advertiser: Blairgowrie 1899.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.571411, -3.394949 Aikenhead Farm

Dunkeld Park, Dunkeld, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 01426 42994

Dunkeld Park monolith
Dunkeld Park monolith

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 27205
  2. Dunkeld House
  3. Pulney Lodge

Getting Here

Take the A923 road through Dunkeld and across the river, making sure that where the road veers sharply to the right as you go out of town, you go the left as the road bends round.  100 yards along, past the trees on your left, fields open up. A few hundred yards along on the left, you’ll note the small standing stone about 50 yards in the field below the wall, getting close to some trees again. That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

Standing stone, looking NE
Standing stone, looking NE

The stone is given only a passing mention in the Royal Commission’s (1994) poor work on the region, describing neither its height nor form and erroneously relating it to what is probably a much earlier series of pit alignments in the same field.  Thankfully we had a better description from the early 20th century antiquarian Fred Cole (1908) who visited and drew the site and who told us:

“This Stone is marked on the Ordnance Map in a field behind the Lodge, at a height above sea-level of 300 feet, and styled “sepulchral.”  In size and character it much resembles the Kilmoraich monolith, and seems to have stood solitary for ages.  It is a roughly oblong slab of schist, set with its longer axis nearly east and west, the north face measuring 4 feet and the south 4 feet 9 inches, and the basal girth about 10 feet 7 inches.  It is 4 feet 9 inches in height.  The grandly-timbered policies of the ducal estate enclose this site on all sides.  In the illustration…the Stone is drawn as seen from the east.”

Fred Cole's 1908 drawing
Fred Cole’s 1908 drawing
Dunkeld Stone looking north
Dunkeld Stone looking north

Close to the walling on the WNW just a few yards away, we see a cluster of small rounded stones and a couple of larger stones, much overgrown, giving the impression that they were field clearance.  There is a possibility that they may have had something to do with the standing stone in earlier times; the small stones being very worn and perhaps being part of a cairn—although there seems little evidence of this in the on-line aerial surveys.  The stone was also mentioned in Elizabeth Stewart’s Dunkeld (1926), where she wrote:

“In the park near Polney Loch, one mile from Dunkeld, is a Standing Stone, quite noticeable from the Highland road. This monolith is one of those styled sepulchral, and is a rough oblong slab of schist, its basal girth being 10 feet 7 inches, and its height 4 feet 9 inches. Mr. Coles, who describes this stone in the “Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries”, supposes it to have been part of a circle. It is not far from the ancient stronghold on King’s Seat.”

References:
  1. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire – Northeastern Section,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume 42, 1908.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, South-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1994.
  3. Stewart, Elizabeth, Dunkeld: An Ancient City, Munro Press 1926.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Dunkeld Park stone

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Dunkeld Park stone 56.568499, -3.605786 Dunkeld Park stone

Fortingall Churchyard, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 7417 4703

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25003
The stone & the yew
The stone & the yew

Getting Here

Go into the Fortingall churchyard, turning left through the gates (walking across in front of the enclosed sacred yew tree), towards the dip in the walling past the graves.  Go over this wall, turning left and through another small gate.  Immediately through the gate, note the small upright stone on your right, below an offspring of the old yew tree.  That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

In the legendary churchyard at Fortingall — home to remains from a panoply of beliefs — below the sacred yew tree we find the remains of this hewn piece of stone, recovered from the Earth beneath the roots of the old tree more than 100 years ago.  Upon its crown we see a cluster of cup-markings: Fred Coles (1910) counted 14, I counted 13, the Ordnance Survey boys counted 9, and other surveyors are somewhere in between.

Fred Cole's sketch of the stone
Fred Cole’s sketch of the stone
Photo of the cup-markings
Photo of the cup-markings

Described and illustrated in the Strathtay rock art survey of Sonia Yellowlees (2004), it seems that the earliest mention of the stone was by our Perthshire megalith hunter Fred Coles (1910).  When he wrote about it, the site had only recently been rediscovered.  He told that he was,

“informed by Rev. W. Camphell, minister of the parish, that in 1903, when some alterations were being made in that portion of the burying-ground belonging to the late Sir Donald Currie of Garth, the workmen came upon this Stone lying at a depth of 8 feet, at a point not many feet distant from the stem of the famous Yew-tree. Noticing the cup-marks on the Stone, the workmen raised it and set it up erect on the site it now occupies, close to the western wall of the Garth burial-ground — about 25 feet from the spot where it was unearthed: In the plan annexed (fig.2) the oblong bounded by the letters A B C D shows the dimensions of the base, and the small cup-marked surface, evidently much broken, and 2 feet 10 inches above ground, shows all that now remains of the work of the prehistoric artificer. There are no rings or grooves, and the cups, except for clearness and neatness of finish, do not present any special features.”

...and another angle.
…and another angle.

Mr Coles then made some intriguing suggestive remarks regarding the position of the carving beneath the ancient yew tree (which to those of you who aren’t aware, is believed to be the oldest yew tree in Europe and has a pagan altar next to it), wondering whether the animistic tradition of the tree had anything to do with the carving itself.  It would certainly make sense.  But there is also the possibility that the carving was brought from elsewhere and placed by the tree at a later date.  We simply don’t know.

References:

  1. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 44, 1910.
  2. Yellowlees, Walter, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Scotland Magazine: Edinburgh 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Fortingall churchyard

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Fortingall churchyard 56.598265, -4.051006 Fortingall churchyard

Dull Cross, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – NN 80710 49136

Also Known as:

  1. Cross of Dull
Dull cross (by Ferelith Molteno)

Getting Here

From Aberfeldy, take the B846 road over the river bridge, past Weem, a couple of miles down the valley until you see the small road on the right which leads up to the ancient hamlet of Dull.  Go up and round the corner until you reach the centre of the village; and here the road turns back downhill.  At this point, right by the roadside, entrapped within old railings, you’ll see the Cross of Dull.

Archaeology & History

Dull Cross behind bars
Dull Cross behind bars

Standing more than three feet tall, the remains of this old cross with one of its extended arms broke off in previous centuries, was one of three such monuments that used to stand in the valley.  This and its associates were, according to christian legend, placed as markers at an ancient centre of christian learning at Dull around the time of Adamnam (who died in Glen Lyon in 704 AD).  The area was said to be an early druid college, which was later incorporated into early christian teachings.  Hilary Wheater (1981) also told that in previous centuries, if anyone fell foul of the law,

“Within the boundaries of these crosses debtors, offenders or miscreants were protected from retribution.  One of the crosses stands in the centre of Dull village to this day, having been used as a market cross in more recent times, and the other two, having been stolen for use as gateposts during the (19th) century, were placed in the old kirk at Weem for safety.”

References:

  1. Stuart, John, The Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Aberdeen 1856.
  2. Wheater, Hilary, Aberfeldy to Glenlyon, Appin Publications: Aberfeldy 1981.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.618838, -3.945546 Dull cross

Loch Glassy, Weem, Perthshire

Sacred Loch:  OS Grid Reference – NN 850528

Also Known as:

  1. Loch Glassie

Folklore

Here we have another case of another loch in Scotland that was said by local people to be inhabited by legendary water monsters.  In the tale which follows we may simply have a case of a very bad accident that was, in more superstious times, bestowed upon this legendary animal.  We may never know.  James Kennedy (1928) told the story, saying:

“It was inhabited, like Loch Derculich, by the ‘Each Uisge‘ of Icelandic origin.  On summer evenings it could be seen roaming at large on a green meadow adjacent to the tarn, and to all appearance a canny enough creature.  One summer Sunday afternoon, six Strathtay girls and a boy set out from their homes to inspect the ‘Each Uisge.’  They found him, patted him on the head and neck, and this kindness is apparently relished, for it lay on the sward and allowed them to sit on its back.  The boy, who had a semi-bald scabbed head, stood at a distance and watched developments.  He concluded that this animal was not the genuine horse it seemed to be, and thought that it grew considerably larger than it was at first.  When the Each has the six girls comfortably seated on its back, it suddenly rose, plunged into the loch, and drowned the lot.  The boy immediately took to his heels and the Each after him, but fear enabled the boy to outstrip the horse, who would stop now and again in the pursuit and cry, “Fuirich mo ghille maol carrach!  Fuirich mo ghille maol carrach!” — Stop, you bald scabbed-headed boy.  Ultimately the Each gave up the chase, and the boy, much frightened, got safely home and related all that happened on that eventful Sunday evening.  The parents of the girls found parts of their bodies floating on the waters of the loch, and the name Loch Lassie was given to it, which it retains to this day.”

References:

Kennedy, James, Folklore and Reminiscences of Strathtay and Grandtully, Munro Press: Perth 1928.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian