Legendary Rocks: OS Grid Reference – SE 1058 4490
By whichever route you wanna take, get y’self to the prominent cup-and-ring marked rocks known as the Thimble Stones near the very top of these moors. From here, walk roughly 400 yards southwest onto the bare open moors (there are no footpaths here) and you’ll see these two isolated prominent boulders living quietly on their own. You can’t really miss ’em! You’re there.
Archaeology & History
Of the two giant boulders here, both are included in the petroglyph surveys of Hedges (1986) and Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) as possessing “all natural” cup-marks on their top and vertical surfaces. Those on top of the rocks certainly seem to be Nature’s handiwork, whilst many of the seeming ‘cups’ on the vertical face of one (not the one pictured here) are due to gunshots. I’m not quite sure when they were done, but they certainly didn’t exist during the many visits I made here in the in the 1970s and ’80s.
They stones included in most of the standard antiquarian surveys of the 19th century, with the earliest being Forrest & Grainge (1869) who described them as,
“two detached masses of rock, standing alone upon the moor. The first is 14ft in length by 8ft in height, tapering to the ground; a set of cups and channels occupy the highest point. The other, distant 13 yards, is of an irregular square form, 45 yards in circumference and 7ft high. This stone appears to be tilted on its edge, presenting its cleavage upwards, and has hollows containing water, but is so much wasted above that if it has ever borne the cups and channels, they are now obliterated.”
Collyer & Turner (1885) described “a number of cups” on the edge of the northern rock; and Romilly Allen (1896) likewise. Even that historical literary giant, Harry Speight (1900), added his own tuppence here, telling folks how both Eggs “are channelled and bear cups.”
It’s very possible that these isolated stones did have some sort of significance to our prehistoric ancestors. There are innumerable examples worldwide of rocks like this possessing ritual and mythic lore—and many in the British Isles too. And the cupmarks on the stones may have been enhanced by those same prehistoric ancestors. But we’ll never know for sure…
The creation myth behind the Two Eggs is one echoed in traditions across the world. Folklore tells that the Eggs were said to have been laid here by a great dragon who lived within a hill some distance to the south. All other aspects of the tale have sadly long since been forgotten…
- Allen, J. Romilly, “Cup and Ring Sculptures on Ilkley Moor,” in The Reliquary, volume 2, 1896.
- Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
- Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
- Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
- Forrest, Charles & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rombald’s Moor, Northern Antiquarian: Bradford 2012 (1st published 1867-69).
- Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
- Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian