Puidrac, Balquhidder, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid References – NN 54058 20794

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24141
Puidrac Stone, looking southeast
Puidrac Stone, looking southeast

Getting Here

From Balquhidder village, take the road east towards Auchtubh as if you’re gonna visit the Priest’s Stone, just past the house of Tom na Cruich on the right-hand side of the road. When you get to the house, if you ask the owners there how best to get to the stone, they are very friendly and very helpful in pointing you in the right direction.

Archaeology & History

This solitary standing stone first seems to be mentioned in J.W. Gow’s (1887) essay on the prehistoric antiquities of this part of Rob Roy’s country.  Found below the house and hillock where the old gallows used to be, he told:

“On the level ground below (Tom na Croich) …there is a prominent monolith, standing about 4½ feet above ground, quite flat, on the top. It is shaped like a wedge, with the edge to the east, and is famous in Balquhidder as the place where trials of strength took place.”

Note the stones in the next field
Note the stones in the next field
Puidrac Stone, looking north
Puidrac Stone, looking north

Below the standing stone is a small rock, whose predecessor played an important part in some local traditions relating to this site. (see ‘Folklore’ below)  Also, due west of here in the next field, you will be able to see a couple of seemingly upright stones in the tall reeds 200 yards away, which early records say were part of a stone circle—now much in ruin—known as Clachan Aoraidh or the Worshipping Stones.  There is the possibility that this single stone was an outlier to the circle.  It’s astronomy might be worth checking….

Folklore

'Lifting stone' in front of Puidrac
‘Lifting stone’ in front of Puidrac

When we visited the stone last week, the owners of the house above asked if we’d managed “to lift the stone”—and I wondered what they meant at first, until they told us the folklore about the site.  They narrated the tale almost exactly as it had been described first of all in J.W. Gow’s (1887) essay, which said the following:

“It is shaped like a wedge, with the edge to the east, and is famous in Balquhidder as the place where trials of strength took place.  A large round water-worn boulder, named after the district, ‘Puderag’, and weighing between two and three hundredweight, was the testing stone, which had to be lifted and placed on the top of the standing stone. There used to be a step about 18 inches from the top, on the east side of the stone, on which the lifting stone rested in its progress to the top. This step or ledge was broken off about thirty years ago, as told to me by the person who actually did it, and the breadth of the stone was thereby reduced about 8 inches. This particular mode of developing and testing the strength of the young men of the district has now fallen into disuse, and the lifting-stone game is a thing of the past.  A former minister of the parish pronounced it a dangerous pastime.  Many persons were permanently injured by their efforts to raise the stone, and it is said that he caused it to be thrown into the river, but others said it was built into the manse dyke, where it still remains.  There were similar stones at Monachyle, at Strathyre, and at Callander, and no doubt in every district round about, but the man who could lift ‘Puderag’ was a strong man and a champion.”

The present stone that is positioned on the ground below the standing stone was put here in much more recent times.

References:

  1. Gow, James M., “Notes in Balquhidder: Saint Angus, Curing Wells, Cup-Marked Stones, etc”, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 21, 1887.

AcknowledgementsTo Kenny and Laura for their help and guidance here. Huge thanks!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Puidrac stone

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Puidrac stone 56.356932, -4.363558 Puidrac stone

Basan an Sagairt, Balquhidder, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 5419 2089

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24140
  2. Priest’s Basin

Getting Here

The carved bowl of Basan an Sagairt
The carved bowl of Basan an Sagairt

From Balquhidder village, take the road east towards Auchtubh as if you’re heading to the Clach nan Sul or Wester Auchleskine cup-marked stones. Before reaching either of these sites, a few hundred yards on the road as you pass Tom na Cruich on the right-side of the road, you need to look in the next field past this house.  About 40 yards past here in the field, and less than 10 yards from the wall, you can see the large rock from the roadside.  If not, you’re damn close! Ask the owners of the adjacent house, who are very friendly and helpful.

Archaeology & History

This curious, large, man-made cup-marking or bowl was first described in J.M. Gow’s (1887) essay on Balquhidder antiquities. He wrote:

“Regaining the high road, and still going east, about 40 yards from the cottage of Mr Macdiarmid, there lies just inside the road dyke a large five-sided stone, about 8 feet long by 5 feet broad at the broadest part, and about 2 feet above ground.  It is called “Basan an Sagairt” (the Priest’s Basin).  When the present road and dyke were made, its name must have saved it.  The hollow or basin is 18 inches in diameter and 6 inches deep, and is unmistakably artificial. The stone is the mica slate of the district, hard and granitic.”

Looking down on the basin
Looking down on the basin

The large bowl here was also deemed to be artificial by members of Ordnance Survey and Royal Commission archaeologists who have inspected the site.  It is thought to have been a healing stone of some sort, or at least possessed some religious function, but we have no records stating this with any certainty.  In examples similar to this, the water which collects in the carved bowl is deemed to have curative properties.  It may have been a christian attempt to take locals away from magickal healing stone practices enacted at the Clach nan Sul, or Stone of the Eyes, just a couple of hundred yards along the road east of here.  Or it may have being a stone used by indigenous medicine men for other medicinal purposes.

Carved stone in one of the fields across the road
Carved stone in one of the fields across the road

On the other side of the road from here, in the field immediately past Wester Auchleskine farm, as you go through the gate just ahead of you is a rounded earthfast stone with a similar man-made circular impression like the Priest’s Basin carved upon it. (NN 5451 2089) However, this carving doesn’t appear to have been finished.  Whether it has any mythic relationship to the Priest’s stone or the cupmarked rocks at Wester Auchleskine in the same field, is not known.

References:

  1. Gow, James M., “Notes in Balquhidder: Saint Angus, Curing Wells, Cup-Marked Stones, etc”, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 21, 1887.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.357843, -4.361195 Basan an Sagairt

Wester Auchleskine, Balquhidder, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 54584 20876

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24154

Getting Here

Wester Auchleskine cup-marked stone
Wester Auchleskine cup-marked stone

From Balquhidder village, walk eastwards along the road for a few hundred yards until you reach Auchleskine Farm on your left.  A short distance past here there’s a gate taking you into the rough field on the left. Go through here and note a large clump of rocks diagonally up the slope about 100 yards away.  That’s your spot!

Archaeology & History

Very little has been said of this large cup-marked stone, just up from the road near Balquhidder.  It was first found and described in J.M. Gow’s (1887) fine essay on the local antiquities of the area, where he told:

“About 400 yards directly east from the farm-house there is a group of three large water-worn boulders of coarse mica-schist, with veins of quartz, the largest of which is about 15 feet long, 7 feet broad, and nearly 5 feet above ground. On the top of this stone there are seven cup-marks of various sizes. The largest are 5 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep; the smaller ones are shallower and from 1½ to 2½ inches in diameter. There may have been more marks on this stone, as a portion of the top near the marks has been broken off, and there are several other faint hollows, but, in my opinion, not sufficiently pronounced to indicate that they ever were cups.”

Cupmarks on top of the rock
Cupmarks on top of the rock
The carving from above
The carving from above

Although his caution on the number of cups on the stone is to be commended, it was obvious during our visit to the site a few days ago that there are at least 18 cup-marks on the surface of this large rock.  There may be more (the grey cloudy day and misty light wasn’t good in allowing us to see the carving clearly). The most pronounced of the cups are on the very top of the stone, whilst others were carved mainly on the eastern slope of the rock.

At least two other cup-marked stones occur at the farmhouse itself, whilst on the road immediately below was once the cup-marked healing stone known as Clach nan Sul. It’s likely that other carvings are hiding away in the hills hereby…

References:

  1. Gow, James M., “Notes in Balquhidder: Saint Angus, Curing Wells, Cup-Marked Stones, etc”, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 21, 1887.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Wester Auchleskine CR

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Wester Auchleskine CR 56.357777, -4.355142 Wester Auchleskine CR

Clach nan Sul, Balquhidder, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NN 5456 2084

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24150
  2. Stone of the Eyes

Archaeology & History

Looking down Balquhidder Glen from the Clach nan Sul's old home
Looking down Balquhidder Glen from Clach nan Sul’s old home

Apparently destroyed, although some remains of the stone were said to be seen in the walling by the roadside; but when visiting this spot a few days ago the summer vegetation had completely covered any potential finds here.  The stone fell foul of the usual self-righteous industrialists when the track alongside which it had sat for countless centuries was turned into a road and the stone was “blasted”.  It was found some 20 yards below the large cup-marked stone known as Wester Auchleskine, seen amidst the clump of rocks in the field above.

The stone was described in MacKinlay’s (1893) fine survey on Scottish holy wells due to the healing properties of the waters that collected into the rock basin here.  The earliest record of the site that I’ve found comes from the hallowed papers of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, where—in J.M. Gow’s (1887) rambles just east of Balquidder—he told us the following:

“Going still further east to the first turning of the road beyond the farmhouse of Wester Auchleskine, and on the left-hand side, there used to be a large boulder with a natural cavity in its side, famous as a curing well for sore eyes.  This stone was called “Clach nan sul” (the Stone of the Eyes).  In 1878 the road trustees caused it to be blasted, as it was supposed to be a danger in the dark to passing vehicles.  Its fragments were broken up, and used as road metal.”

Whether or not the site known as the Priest’s Basin, or Basan an Sagairt—a couple of hundred yards west by the roadside—was of a similar nature, or an attempt by christians to draw people away from the old healing Clach nan Sul and use this other one instead, we do not know.  There are numerous accounts of other stones in this mountainous region of Scotland where rocks-with-hollows filled with water were attributed with healing properties, like the Whooping Cough Stone at Struan, the Measles Stone at Fearnan, and many others.

Folklore

The folklore described by Mr Gow was reiterated in MacKinlay’s (1893) survey. He also told how,

“The hollow in the Clach-nan-Sul at Balquhidder…contained small coins placed there by those who sought a cure for their sore eyes. Mr J. Macintosh Gow was told by some one in the district that ‘people, when going to church, having forgotten their small change, used in passing to put their hands in the well and find a coin.’  Mr Gow’s informant mentioned that he had done so himself.”

References:

  1. Gow, James M., “Notes in Balquhidder: Saint Angus, Curing Wells, Cup-Marked Stones, etc”, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 21, 1887.
  2. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.357551, -4.355497 Clach nan Sul