Clach a’ Phoanais, Strontian, Inverness-shire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NM 81581 61360

Also Known as:

  1. Branks Stone

Getting Here

As you enter the village from the east, onto the A861 road, the Strontian Hotel is on the right-hand side of the road and you can’t fail to notice. Stop!

Archaeology & History

Clach a’ Phaonais on 1872 map

Shown on the first edition OS-map of the region in 1875, this old worn standing stone, more than six-feet tall, can be seen at the edge of the drive.  There’s an iron ring is attached to it, which I thought might have made it an old Bull Stone in bygone days, but no such lore is remembered.  Also known as the Branks Stone, it’s Gaelic name probably means the ‘stone of penance,’ and folk were chained to it in eaelier days for bad behaviour.  It was widespread across the Highlands to tie criminals to stones and wooden poles, naked, for 24 hours and let the midges get to them.  Crime was down to a minimum up here!


As the locals at Strontian Hotel told me (thanks Finlay), “several stories have emerged locally. It marks a clan chief’s grave, a sighting stone for the equinox but the most plausible one is based on the fact that there is an iron ring on the side of the stone facing the loch and it was used to tie up barges taking lead from the local lead mine.  It supplied the raw material for shot during the Napoleonic and Crimean wars.”

Aknowledgements:  Big thanks to Anne and the Megalithic Portal for additional help on this one.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian