St Fillan’s Chair, Killin, Stirlingshire

Sacred Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 56432 32010

Getting Here

Take the road to Auchlyne from Killin which follows the north side of the River Dochart, and on the edge of the village the stone will be seen on the left hand side behind a hedge, opposite the entrance to ‘Springburn’.

Archaeology & History

The chair is mentioned in Rev. Gillies’ exemplary work, In Famed Breadalbane (1938):

St. Fillan would appear to have had a great liking for stone seats.  Besides the one already mentioned…there is..a..flat stone on the top of a knoll about a mile to the west of the village, and on the north side of the river, on which he is said to have sat and taught

St Fillan’s Chair, ‘twixt road and river
The ‘seat’, facing the River Dochart

Two local ladies told us that the Chair had recently been uncovered from the vegetation. It is a flattish earth-fast slab of rock, which has on the right hand side a seat indentation, which faces the river bank about 12 feet away. Its proximity to the river bank would seem to limit its use as a preaching pulpit, and yet, well over a millennium after the death of Fillan, his ‘Chair’ is still remembered. Did the Chair serve another purpose, a purpose that long preceded Fillan and Christianity?

Here at Killin we are in an area of Scotland where Christianity was for long a veil worn very lightly over long-held ancient animistic beliefs and customs. Indeed in the early nineteenth century, missionaries were sent in the face of considerable local opposition by the Haldanes into Gaelic speaking Breadalbane to try to convert the locals to Christianity.

St Fillan and other saints had it seems become the named facilitators for healing at ancient places on behalf of the incoming religion from the Middle East.  To the west of Killin, there are the St Fillan’s Pools at Auchtertyre near Tyndrum, where he is reputed to have cured madness but which continued to be used for that purpose until the late eighteenth century at least.  There are stones for preventing measles and whooping cough near Killin that are still known and pointed out.  So what of our chair?

There is a nineteenth century story of a chair of St Fiacre (Irish born like Fillan) at the village church of St Fiacre near Monceaux in France being used to ‘confer fecundity upon women who sit upon it ‘.  The shape and proximity to the river may otherwise suggest St Fillan’s Chair was a birthing Chair?  Maybe some very old locals still know the true story of this Chair, but would they tell it?

References:

  1. Anon., Phallic Worship – a Description of the Mysteries of the Sex Worship of the Ancients, privately Printed: London 1880.
  2. Calder, Walter, Lawers, Lochtayside: A Historical Sketch, Macduff, Cunning & Watson, c.1930.
  3. Gillies, William, In Famed Breadalbane, Munro: Perth 1938.

© Paul T Hornby 2020

 

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  56.458306, -4.331382 St Fillans Chair

Cragganester (5), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65379 38389

Getting Here

3 cups on the side & 2-3 on top

From Killin, take the A827 road to Kenmore. 6 miles along, on your right, is the track down to the Big Shed at Tombreck.  Keep on the A827 for exactly ⅓-mile (0.53km), and opposite the driveway to Craggantoul is a small parking spot.  Go through the gate here and walk up the little hill right in front of you until you can see an electricity pylon 200 yards away.  Head for, go up the slope behind and along until you drop into a tiny little valley where a long line of very distinct old walling runs east-west.  Walk back and forth along it till you see a reasonably large earthfast stone on its own.

Archaeology & History

Close to a long line of what I think is pre-medieval walling—possibly Iron Age—is what can only be described as a truly crap-looking petroglyph which, to be honest, I’d walk past and give not a jot of notice if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s been recorded.  When we visited here, three very worn large cup-marks were visible on its sloping west face, with what looked like two more on top of the stone—but these seemed questionable in terms of them being man-made.  Apparently there’s another one on it, but in the searing heat and overhead midday sun when we visited, this couldn’t be seen.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.518218, -4.189608 Cragganester (5)

Cragganester (9), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65596 38828

Getting Here

The stone in its setting

From Killin, take the A827 road to Kenmore. 6 miles along, on your right, is the track down to the Big Shed at Tombreck.  Keep on the A827 for exactly ⅓-mile (0.53km), and opposite the driveway to Craggantoul is a small parking spot.  A few yards on the road, over the burn, go thru the gate on your left.  Follow the straight line of walling up for 800 yards where the walling hits the burn, then follow the water up until you cross a fence.  Once over this, 50- yards to your right you’ll see a large rounded rock and companion.  It’s the rounded rock.

Archaeology & History

As with most the carvings along here, it is the setting that captivates more than the petroglyph.  This is another one mainly for the purists amongst you, but there’s a distinct feel of other carvings hiding very close by that remain hidden.  Anyhoo…

4 of the cups numerated
Rough sketch of design

This reasonably large, rounded, female stone has the usual scatter of quartz in its veins, along with at least four cup-marks on its upper sloping surface.  Three of them are seen in a slight arc on the more northern slope of the stone with one of them particularly faint; but the most notable of the lot on the very crown of the stone. (see the numerated image, right)  A fifth cup-mark is clearly visible on the western face of the boulder, shortly below where the rock begins to level out.  You’ll see it.  Some 200 yards west of this carving, the prominent rock hosting the Cragganester 10 carving is visible on top of its rounded knoll.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.522217, -4.186317 Cragganester (9)

Cragganester (10), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65796 38799

Getting Here

The stone on its knoll

From Killin, take the A827 road to Kenmore. 6 miles along, on your right, is the track down to the Big Shed at Tombreck.  Keep on the A827 for exactly ⅓-mile (0.53km), and opposite the driveway to Craggantoul is a small parking spot.  A few yards on the road, over the burn, go thru the gate on your left.  Follow the straight line of walling up for 7-800 yards and then walk to your right, into the field.  About 300 yards into the overgrown meadowland you’ll see a rounded knoll with a very notable boulder on its crown. Y’ can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

It’s the setting of this carving that captures you way more than the carving itself—which is probably somewhat of a disappointment to most folk, unless you’re a petroglyph fanatic like myself.

The five cup-marks
…and from another angle

Found relatively close to other carvings, this reasonably large boulder has, upon its roughly smooth top, just five simple cup-marks with varying degrees of weathering, from the very noticeable to the somewhat faint—hinting at the unlikely possibility that it might have been carved at different times.  A possible sixth cup can be seen in certain daylight conditions on the southwest section of the stone.  That’s it!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.522014, -4.183054 Cragganester (10)

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)

Tombreck (10), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65042 37559

Getting Here

Tombreck's cup-marked stone

Tombreck’s cup-marked stone

Along the A827 north road around Loch Tay, between Killin and Kenmore, a few hundred yards east of Carie—and on the same side of the road—there’s a dirt-track down to the Tombreck community.  Go into it and just past The Big Shed you’ll see the small caravan where the helpful and friendly Gabriela lives.  The stone just in front of her caravan is the one you’re looking for!

Archaeology & History

Close-up of the cups

Close-up of the cups

Although this cup-marked rock has been known about for sometime by local people, it is one of many that are not in the archaeological record.  It’s nothing like as impressive as some of its petroglyphic neighbours on the slopes of Ben Lawers, as this simple carving comprises of two well-defined simple cup-marks, and another two that appear to have been worked slightly into natural cracks in the rock.  These two remain incomplete.  It’s nothing too special to look at and is, once again, only gonna be of interest to the petroglyphic purists amongst you.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Tombreck (CR10)

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Tombreck (CR10) 56.510646, -4.194623 Tombreck (CR10)

Tombreck (07), Ben Lawers, Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65022 38285

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 238573

Getting Here

Tombreck 7 carving, beneath Ben Lawers

Tombreck 7 carving, beneath Ben Lawers

Take the A827 road that runs alongside Loch Tay between Killin and Kenmore, and about 6 miles from Killin watch out for the signposts for The Big Shed.  Stop and walk NW up the track across the road from there, up toward Ben Lawers.  Several hundred yards up, past the sheep-fold on the left-side of the track, a line of ruinous walling runs straight over the grasslands. Walk along here until it meets with the next walling that runs uphill.  Look down into where the wall has collapsed.  It’s under your nose!

Archaeology & History

This is a fascinating and pretty impressive example of a simple cup-marked stone.  It’s the design that does it I suppose – similar in some ways to the well-known Idol Stone carving on my old playground of Ilkley Moor (that’s what this one reminded me of when I first clapped eyes on it)—but much better!

Lines of cups from above

Lines of cups from above

The carving from the east

The carving from the east

Its similarity lies in the series of parallel rows of cup-marks running very close together along the line of the low-lying rock, found at the base of some ancient walling that runs up the mountain for several hundred yards.  Not only that, but the line of walling itself also has a parallel line of walling running adjacent for the same distance up the mountainside — more than half-a-mile from start to finish.  This “parallel” feature of walling and cup-markings is a curious coincidence, perhaps.  But certainly the linearity of the cup-marks was itself a very deliberate feature by the person who carved it, representing something ‘structural’, in whatever mythic form that may have been!

The carving in its walling

The carving in its walling

Of the rows of cups constituting this petroglyph, four of them run completely from one side of the stone to the other, rough north to south; with four other shorter rows running only halfway across the rock surface.  Altogether there are perhaps seventy cups etched onto the rock.  No rings or semi-circles of any form were visible in our visit here—although the skies were grey and overcast, making any decent visual analysis more difficult.

A damn good carving and well worth checking out by anyone into prehistoric rock art!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Tombreck (CR7)

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Tombreck (CR7) 56.517178, -4.195342 Tombreck (CR7)

Samson’s Stone, Crieff, Perthshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NN 82519 22021

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 96866

Getting Here

Samson Stone on 1866 map

Samson Stone on 1866 map

Tale the A85 road between Comrie and Crieff and, roughly halfway between the two towns, take the minor road south to Strowan (it’s easily missed, so be aware!).  A few hundred yards along, stop where the trees begin and walk into the fields immediately east.  Keep walking, below the line of the trees, and you’ll get to it within five minutes.

Archaeology & History

Samson's Stone, looking east

Samson’s Stone, looking east

Mistakenly cited by some as a standing stone, the large boulder which rests here on the hillside just below the woodland is a glacial erratic.  Highlighted on the 1866 OS-map of the region, I hoped that we might find some rock art on the stone, but cup-and-rings there were none.  However, there is a curious ‘footprint’ on top of it, similar to the ones found at Dunnad, at Murlaganmore and other places (see Bord 2004); but I can find no previous reference to this carved footprint.

'Footprint' on top of stone

‘Footprint’ on top of stone

In 1863 the site was described in the local Name Book, where it was reported to be “a large oblong shaped stone lying on the surface, eight feet long, four wide, and three thick”; but, much like today, it was also reported that “There is no tradition respecting it in the neighbourhood. Supposed to have received the name in consequence of its great size.”

Most peculiar…..

References:

  1. Bord, Janet, Footprints in Stone, Heart of Albion Press 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Samson Stone

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Samson Stone 56.375822, -3.903839 Samson Stone

Lawers, Comrie, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 80102 22666

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25535

Getting Here

Lawers01 (9)

Lawers standing stone, Comrie

Take the A85 road between Comrie and Crieff.  Nearly 1.7 miles (2.7km) east out of Comrie—or 4 miles (6.44km) west out of Crieff—keep your eyes peeled on the fields to the south-side of the road, below and across the mansion of Lawers House.  Alongside a long but small plantation of trees you’ll see a large upright stone.  You can walk along the track adjacent to the field and through the gate.

Archaeology & History

The stone on 1886 OS-map

The stone on 1886 OS-map

Shown on the early Ordnance Survey maps of the area, this probably neolithic monolith was suggested by Fred Coles (1911) to have once been part of a larger megalithic circle—although Aubrey Burl (2000) didn’t consider it as a good enough contender to be listed as such in his gazetteer; and unless we can have some positive affirmation, either through folklore or excavation, we should maintain its status as a singular monolith.  There is the possibility that it stood as an outlier or had some relationship with a nearby prehistoric tomb—but even this is contentious.  Nevertheless, the stone itself is an impressive one!

Mr Coles curiously got the size of the old stone wrong too (although, we have to give him credit, as he did all of his work without electricity or any of our modern ‘stuff’).  He wrote that:

“This massive boulder of whinstone is rounded at the base, where it girths 10 feet 3 inches, but tapers upwards to its apex of 5 feet 10 inches, with the eastern edge somewhat jagged and broken.  Near its base on the west is a small slab-like fragment of stone, quite earthfast.  The north and south surfaces are smooth and nearly vertical, and the longer axis is ESE 75º by WNW 75º.”

Fred Coles' 1911 sketch

Fred Coles’ 1911 sketch

Lawers monolith, looking SE

Lawers monolith, looking SE

The stone is actually larger than Coles described, being more than 6 feet 6 inches tall.  His sketch (right) “shows the stone from the east”, and is pretty much as we find it today.  A notable crack in the stone along the southern face, about a third of the way up, suggests that the stone was broken at some time in the past.

Local architect Andrew Finlayson (2010) included the stone in his local megalith guide and noted how the axes of the stone, east-west, lines it up with Ben Halton to the west and The Knock to the east.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Coles, F.R., “Report on stone circles in Perthshire principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Lawers stone

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Lawers stone 56.381094, -3.943188 Lawers stone

Gray Stone, Dunning, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 02182 11809

Also Known as:

  1. Big Stane
  2. Canmore ID 26681
  3. Grey Stone
  4. Maormar‘s Stone

Getting Here

Grey Stone, looking northeast

Grey Stone, looking northeast

Take the B934 road south, uphill, out of Dunning, for 2.1 miles (3.4km), past Kippen, past Pitmeadow and past Quilts.  It’s the track to Knowes that you’re after!  Along this track, keep to the field-side on your right, following the edge of the fencing until you reach the small copse of trees.  At the far side of the trees a gate takes you into the field with the standing stone, which is just over 100 yards to the north. You can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Although mentioned in several folklore works and just a couple of archaeology tomes, almost nothing has been written about this large upright standing stone.  A very bulky stone nearly seven feet tall, it has been broken into pieces at sometime in the recent past but, thankfully, good locals put the stone back together and positioned it upright again.  Its position in the landscape is quite superb, overlooking the lowlands of Tayside below and then far into the rising mountains of Perthshire and beyond, easy fifty miles or more.

Gray Stone on 1866 OS-map

Gray Stone on 1866 OS-map

Grey Stone, looking south-ish!

Grey Stone, looking south-ish!

The name of the stone is a slight puzzle, for in a lot of cases ‘gray’ stones (and their variants) are found on local boundaries, but the nearest boundary from here is some distance to the east.  It may simply relate to the colour of the rock (though this is unlikely).

Folklore

Gray Stone, looking east

Gray Stone, looking east

The local farmer told that the field where the Grey Stone stands is known as the Big Stane Field. Legend tells that the Gray Stone was the burial place of Maormor, the Steward of Atholl in the Battle of Duncrub, after dying in Thanes Field (Watson 1995), on land to the north of Dunning village in 964-5 CE.

References:

  1. Holder, Geoff, The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire, History Press 2006.
  2. McKerracher, Archie, Perthshire in History and Legend, John Donald: Edinburgh 1988.
  3. Swarbrick, Olaf, A Gazetteer of Prehistoric Standing Stones in Great Britain, BAR: Oxford 2012.
  4. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Gray Stone

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Gray Stone 56.288600, -3.581804 Gray Stone