Tillicoultry House Carving, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9240 9752

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48255

Archaeology & History

Multiple-ringed carving, Tillicoultry

Multiple-ringed carving, Tillicoultry

A recent visit to try find this intricate carving—the only one of its kind in Clackmannanshire—proved unsuccessful, and so I add it here in the hope that someone might know where it is and bring it back to light.  It looked like quite an impressive petroglyph.  If the stone isn’t hiding in undergrowth at the edge of someone’s garden, it may well have been destroyed—which would be appalling.  As a unique design, this important carving should have been preserved.  Even when the Victorian explorers found it, the covering stone circle had been greatly damaged and many stones in the ring had been removed.  This carved stone remained intact however.  When Mr R. Robertson (1895) and his friend visited the site, it was covered in sand and dirt and had fallen to the side of an internal cist:

“On clearing this away a remarkable feature was brought to light.  The block was found to be elaborately ornamented on its sides and upper surface, with rings, spirals and lines.  The labour of cutting these in the hard granite with primitive tools of the period must have been very great. Several successful photos of the stone and its carvings were taken by Provost Westwood, Dollar…. This stone has now been removed to the vicinity of Tillicoultry for safety.”

In the same article, George Black told slightly more of the design:

“The covering stone of the cist…bears on the face a series of concentric circles, and spirals springing from one of the groups of circles,  Four grooves also unite the same set of circles with the left-hand edge of the stone.  On the edge shown in the photograph there is another group, consisting of two concentric circles.  The unevenness of the surface of the stone appears to have been of no moment to the sculptor of the circles, as the incisions follow the surface into its sinuosities and depressions.”

Not long after Robertson & Black’s visit, the great megalithomaniac Fred Coles (1899) came here—and he found that the “spirals” that Mr Black described were nothing of the sort.

“The huge irregularly-shaped diorite boulder which covered the cist has several cup-and-ring marks on one face and one side…. These marks are now, so I was informed when inspecting them, very much less distinct than they were when the photograph was taken (above) in 1894.  It would be difficult now to describe the incised markings with accuracy; it is difficult even to see them when wet.  But…I must take exception to the term ‘spirals’ as applied to any of these ‘rings.’  There are three groups of rings so placed as to make the outermost ring in each group touch that of the others (not an uncommon form), but there is no one true volute.

“…What is more noteworthy is the group of four long parallel, nearly perpendicular grooves issuing (probably) from the outermost ring of the group of five rings, and ending at the edge of the boulder.”

Alison Young's 1937 sketch

Alison Young’s 1937 sketch

Cole also noted that the carvings were to be found on the upper surface of the stone.  It would seem very probable that the excessive erosion which Cole described was due to the fact that the stone was, many centuries earlier, exposed to the elements within the stone circle and not buried as it later came to be.  It makes sense.

The excessive erosion was spoken of by the Royal Commission (1933) lads, aswell as the last person to describe the site, Ronald W.B. Morris (1981), who said that during his visits here between 1966-75,

“the author has only found traces of possible cups visible on the rough surface, which has flaked badly.”

Morris (1981) said that the stone measured “1½m by 1¾m by ½m (5½ft x 4½ft x 2ft)”—and was last known to be some 10 yards NW of the Tillicoultry House cottage, but we could locate no trace of the stone or its carving.  If anyone is aware of the whereabouts or fate of this important neolithic carving, please let us know.


  1. Coles, Fred R., (1899b) ‘Notices of the discovery of a cist and urns at Juniper Green, and of a cist at the Cunninghar, Tillicoultry, and of some undescribed cup- marked stones’in Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 33, 1899.
  2. MacWhite, Eoin, “A New View on Irish Bronze Age Rock-Scribings,” in Journal Royal Society Antiquaries, Ireland, 76:2, 1946.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B., ‘The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties, part II’in Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1969.
  4. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring and Similar Early Sculptures of Scotland; Part 2 – The Rest of Scotland except Kintyre,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 16, 1969.
  5. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  6. Robertson, R., Black, G.F. & Struthers, J., ‘Notice of the discovery of a stone cist and urns at the Cuninghar, Tillicoultryin Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 29, 1895.
  7. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  8. Young, Alison, “Cup-and-Ring Markings on Craig Ruenshin, with some Comparative Notes,” in Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 72, 1937.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Castle Craig, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

‘Fort’ (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9116 9769

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48294

Archaeology & History

This ancient fort could once be seen in the ancient woodlands on the western side of the Mill Glen, above the village, going into the Ochils—but it was completely destroyed, as usual, by the Industrialists when they quarried the entire structure out of existence.  It was a big thing too, by all accounts.  When Stewart Cruden (1964) saw it, shortly before its final demise, it was still impressive to look at.  He told that the fort consisted of a deep rock-cut ditch with a stone wall on the inside and the remains of a stony rampart on the outside.  Although damaged it still measured 300 feet across.  Its interior contained an almost precise circular enclosure, more than eighty feet across inside the remains of a large stone wall some twelve feet thick.

Nearly a hundred years earlier, Miss Christian MacLagan (1875) told it to be much bigger!  Not only did she report how locals remembered a stone roof on top, but it possessed three concentric circular walls, thirty-five apart, with the central area eighty feet in diameter—much as Cruden later reported.  However, even in MacLagan’s day, she told how many of the stones from the fort were being used to construct sheepfolds.  This destruction was being lamented by the local historian William Gibson (1883), who wrote:

“On the west side of the burn, and overtopping the village, stands the beautiful Castle Craig, wooded to the top, and on which stood, in ancient times, a round Pictish fortress, the traces of which can still be distinctly seen. This craig is, I think, one of the most picturesque objects on the Alva estate, and it is a very great pity that it should be so disfigured by the extensive quarrying operations that are being at present carried on at it.”

On the top of the quarry edges can still be found old walled remains crumbling at the edge of the huge cliffs, but these are unlikely to have been attached to the ancient fortress, and may just be the fragmentary memories of the sheepfolds built from the old fort.


Tradition told that this was one of the old forts of the Picts who lived in the Ochils.  If it was a fort, then the Pictish tradition is probably true.  Old lore also told that some of the stones from the fort were used in the construction of Stirling Castle, 7.8 miles (12.6km) to the west.


  1. Corbett, L., et al., The Ochil Hills, Forth Naturalist & Historian 1994.
  2. Cruden, Stewart H., “Castle Craig, Tillicoultry,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1964.
  3. Feacham, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  4. Gibson, William, Reminiscences of Dollar, Tillicoultry and other Districts Adjoining the Ochils, Andrew Elliot 1883.
  5. Maclagan, Christian, The Hill Forts, Stone Circles and other Structural Remains of Ancient Scotland, Edinburgh 1875.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  7. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Clackmannan District and Falkirk District, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1978.
  8. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

White Stane of Tam Baird, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Legendary Rock: OS Grid Reference – NS 94135 99110

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48293
  2. Tom Baird’s Stone
  3. White Stone of Tombaird

Getting Here

The White Stane of Tam Baird

Very troublesome for so little a stone. But to the nutters or climbers who enjoy a good bimble: if you’re coming on the A91 from Tillycoultry take the dirt-track up to Harviestoun, but if you’re coming from Dollar, take the dirt-track up past Belmont House – either way, keep walking till you get to Kennel Cottage. Walk past here and into the woods, then follow the burn (stream) uphill. It’s a steep climb, with waterfalls and mossy rocks. Once out of the woodland, keep following the stream. Several hundred yards uphill, you’ll pass a large rounded hillock on your left. Keep walking up the stream for another 200 yards, then walk to the right of the stream for about 100 yards. You’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

White Stane on the 1819 map

An obscure and little known site outside of the Ochils region, this stone seems to have been described for the first time in 1769 – though local people would obviously have known of its presence and mythic history centuries before this. It was then shown on the 1819 Plan of The Estates of Harviestoun and Castle Campbell, as shown here.  The White Stane is a rounded quartz block about four feet long in the grasses, laid down and hard to find, it would have been impressive had it stood upright – which it may have done in ages not so long ago – in which case we would have had a shining standing stone on the edge of the steep slope halfway up the mountain. A curious ‘D’-shaped carving that seems to be etched on the top of the rock may simply be one of Nature’s simulacra.

The White Stane, looking south

When I arrived at the stone – after taking a typically circuitous bimble up the hillsides, and passing a variety of archaeological relics on the slopes east of the burn – the view was outstanding, looking some 60 miles south into the distant peaks of the Scottish Lowlands, with the sun casting itself over the entire landscape. The quartz rock by my side was gleaming brightly in the fresh daylight. Sitting down by its side, the cold wind cutting over us, a quietude befell the place and, and as I relaxed by its side, fell into a sleep for an hour or so. All was quiet and still in both mind and heart at the stone – then when I came round, I realised the sun was going down and thought it best to get off the mountains before dark!

In Angus Watson’s (1995) survey he told us,

“The 1860 OS Name Book says this is something of a mixture of whinstone and white marble, that the local tradition was that it had been erected to commemorate a battle between Wallace and the English, and that there was “no doubt whatsoever” that it was ‘druidical’!”

Watson also informs us that the name of the rock – Tom baird – is from the Gaelic, meaning the “bard’s knoll”. However, Bruce Baillie (1998) would have it that the The White Stone of Tam Baird,

“has possibly been derived from the Gaelic Tam a Bhaird, ‘the knoll of the enclosure.’”

And there is a large five-sided enclosure on the ridge of Dollar Hill, but that’s quite some distance away and would have little bearing on the naming of this quartz stone.


  1. Baillie, Bruce, History of Dollar, DMT: Dollar 1998.
  2. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Marion Woolley for directing us to the 1819 Estate map!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Elistoun West, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NS 92220 99205

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48266
  2. Eliston Hill

Getting Here

Cairn, with Gannel Hill in the background

A helluva climb to get here.  Take the last road up towards Mill Burn at the west end of Tillicoultry and go to the picnic area & carpark, just below the footpath that takes you up the eastern slopes of the gorge.  Walk up and up the steep footpath for nearly a mile and, as the landscape begins to level out a bit and turns more into a slope, watch out for a split in the paths and make sure you hit the one that veers you to the right, towards King’s Seat instead of the one that runs alongside the edge of the Gannel Burn valley below you.  Walk along this path for a few hundred yards and you’ll come across a large pile of rocks placed atop of a much older and overgrown mass of stones, right by the path side. .

Archaeology & History

View of the green cairn, looking north

Due northwest of the curiously named Elistoun Hill, is this seemingly isolated overgrown prehistoric cairn.  Measuring some 8 yards across and more than a yard tall, this compacted fairy-mound of a hillock has the crown of many large, more recent blocks on top, thankfully highlighting it making it much easier to find!  But its isolation here is truly curious – as is the location halfway along hillside, quietly hidden away, calling out for no attention to any ancient traveller.  It was listed as an ancient monument when surveyed by Ordnance Survey in the 1970s, although I have to be honest in saying that I doubt the prehistoric prevenance of the site.  I may be wrong, but an excavation here would prove worthwhile.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

St. Serf’s Well, Alva, Clackmannanshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 8885 9722

Also Known as:

  1. St. Servanus’ Well

Getting Here

St Serfs Well, hidden in deep grasses

Along the main street running through Alva, towards Tillicoultry, watch out for the roman catholic church on your left, then shortly past it the house of St. Serfs.  Just next to this is the small road called Lovers Loan. Walk up here and just before the graveyard, walk right, into the overgrown boggy marshlands.  The first presence of the holy waters here are about 12-15 yards into the grasses, where you’ll walk right into it!

Archaeology & History

A sacred well that was named after the little known character of St. Serf, who was said to have been the hermit and tutor of the more renowned St. Mungo.

Highlighted on the 1866 Ordnance Survey map of the area as St. Servanus’ Well, 100 yards southeast of the church, it was included in MacKinlay’s (1893) fine survey, though without comment.  However it was said by Mr & Mrs Morris (1982) to be “near the south entrance of the churchyard.”   The boggy remains of the spring can indeed be found at the southern edge of the graveyard, up Lovers Loan, just below the edges of a large mound.  In Mrs Drummond’s (1936) survey of Alva, she too told that the “Well of St Servanus”,

“contained healing waters and was still to be seen in St. Serf’s Glebe in 1845, nbut it is now just a marsh on the west wisde of the lower cemetrary gate.”

The original waters have in fact been completely capped and the well is now covered by a modern concrete block, standing right next to the resurrected remains of one of Alva’s remaining standing stones.


  1. Drummond, Mrs A., The History of Alva and District from the Early Christian Period to 1900, in Transactions Stirling Natural History & Antiquarian Society, volume 58, 1936 (reprinted by Clackmannan District Libraries 1981).
  2. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  3. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea Press: Sandy 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Lady’s Well, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 91105 97510

Also Known as:

  1. Ladies Well
  2. Our Lady’s Well

Getting Here

The old spring of Lady’s Well

From the main road running through the town, head west towards Alva, and where the golf course begins, take the footpath uphill at its edge which heads towards the giant quarry.  Where the dirt-track begins, keep walking along the edge of golf course, noting that where the open field starts, a gate on your right.  Go through this, and walk up the side of the fence for some 30 yards, then go through the large gate.  10 yards in front of you, note the small stream crossing the track, and a scatter of overgrown rocks just on the other side of the wire fence. You’re here!

Archaeology & History

Thought by Angus Watson (1995) to have been possibly dedicated to ‘Our Lady’: in this context it’s difficult to know whether the dedication was to the christian Virgin, or to the heathen ‘Lady Alva’, whose web of snow and other natural garments clothe the mountains and glens of the Ochils hereby.

The first account of the place seems to be in William Gibson’s Reminiscences (1883) where he told that,

“In the year 1839, a Mr John Henderson built the only woollen mill…the water for the steam engine of which was got from the Ladies Well”,

Ladys Well on 1899 map

which was barely 100 yards to the west.  It was later highlighted on the OS-map in 1899 with an associated ‘fountain’, right by the track-side.  A water-pumping station shown at the same time on another map was, of course, the one that was built to supply the mill with water.

The present water source is slightly higher in the field than when it was shown on the early OS-maps, and it does still flow continuously—although the source is much neglected and could do with being recovered: as the photo here shows, an ugly pipe appears to be taking much of the healing waters which are now mainly feeding a large pond in the garden just below.


  1. Gibson, William, Reminiscences of Dollar and Tillicoultry, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1883.
  2. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, Perth & Kinross Libraries 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Cunninghar, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9256 9709

Also Known as:

  1. Druidical Temple

Archaeology & History

Remaining stone at the destroyed circle
Remaining stone at the destroyed circle

A stone circle was once to be found on the elevated piece of ground above the north-side of the main road between Tillicoultry and Dollar, but it was sadly destroyed sometime in the 19th century.  Listed in Burl’s (2000) magnum opus, we have very little information about the place; though an account of the site was described in the Scottish Royal Commission report (1933) which told that a —

“Stone circle, measuring about 60 feet in diameter, once stood here but was completely removed many years ago, when the stones, which are said to have been 5½ feet in average height, were taken to cover a built drain at Tillicoultry House”!

Stone circle site shown on the 1866 OS-map

Unbelievable!  Any decent local folk nearby wanna find out where this drain is, see if the stones are visible (though I doubt they are), so we can plan to uproot it and move the stones back somewhere nearby. There are a few decent spots on the slopes above where it would look good!

When visited by researchers in the 1890s, parts of an embankment which surrounded the destroyed circle were still visible.  Also, indicating there was some ritual funerary nature to the site, a local teacher called Mr Christie found the remains of an ornamented urn protruding through the ground next to where one of the monoliths had stood.  Unfortunately in his attempts to remove the urn, much of it crumbled away.

Further examinations thereafter found that a burial was (seemingly) beneath the centre of the circle; and excavations here found that a covering stone of the tomb was covered in intricate cup-and-ring designs (see the Tillicoultry House Carving for further details).  Other prehistoric remains were found a little further up the hill from here.


  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR 86: Oxford 1981.
  3. Robertson, R., ‘Notice of the Discovery of a Stone Cist and Urns at the Cuninghar, Tillicoultry…’, in PSAS 29, 1895.
  4. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian