Stone Circle (ruins): OS Grid Reference – NO 15958 31227
Also Known as:
- Canmore ID 28632
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.
- Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain (2 volumes), BAR: Oxford 1989.
- Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, Yale: London 1976.
- Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
- Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
- Grant, William & Murison, David D., The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 3, SNDA: Edinburgh 1952.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, South-east Perth: An Archaeological Landscape. RCHAMS: Edinburgh 1994.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian