Take the A59 road from Harrogate and Skipton and at the very top of the moors keep your eyes peeled for the small Kex Ghyll Road on your left(it’s easy to miss, so be diligent!). It goes past some disused disused quarry and after a mile or so where you hit a junction, turn left, past the Outdoor Centre of West End and straight along Whit Moor Road. About a mile past the Outdoor Centre go left down to Brays Croft Farm and over the ford, then keeping to the footpath up to the right (west) and note the clump of trees on the moors above you to the west. That’s where you need to be.
Archaeology & History
Several natural basins that might have been worked in prehistoric times are accompanied by several distinct cup-marks near the middle-edge of the stone, in a rough triangular formation, with two others slightly more eroded a little further down the same side. Boughey and Vickerman (2003) noted several other cupmarks on the rock, some distinct, some not so.
Adjacent to this carved stone is another naturally worn stone of some size, with incredibly curvaceous ripples over the top of the rock which, in all probability, possessed some animistic property to the people who carved this and other nearby carvings. Check the place out. It’s a gorgeous setting!
Armstrong, Edward A., The Folklore of Birds, Collins: London 1958.
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
Follow the directions to reach the Ancestors’ Stone and the Sunrise Stone; and there, roughly halfway between them, right by the edge of the old collapsed walling, you’ll see this rise of a stone with a large ‘bowl’ on top. That’s it!
Archaeology & History
Laid upon the same geological ridge as our Ancestors’ and Sunrise carvings, there are one, possibly two faint cup-marks visible on the low flat surface near the edge of this rock, barely visible unless the light’s right. But the important element here, perhaps regardless of the cup-marks, is the ‘bowl’ or rock basin on top of the stone. Internally, it’s smoothed equally on all sides and, due to being in-between the two impressive petroglyphs, may well have had a practical function to it. Bear with me on this one…
Stone ‘bowls’ or cavities—natural and otherwise—have been made use of in many cultures for simple functional purposes, such as grinding flour, herbal mixes, etc. We find such traditions in some of the bullauns of Ireland and Scotland; whereas in similar stone bowls known as cat troughs in nearby Haworth, milk was poured to appease the spirits of the land (this tradition was still being maintained in 2001!). Folklore and traditions of such rock basins spread far and wide beyond the UK: one of the German terms for rock basins is Opferkessel, meaning ‘sacrificial basin’ and suggests ritualistic usage by early societies. Elsewhere on Earth there are numerous accounts of the ritual use of petroglyphs in which indigenous peoples tell of their use of plant- or rock-based paints (in many cases red ochre) to decorate the carvings. And it’s this element that I’m interested in here.
The Sunrise and Ancestors’ Stones 10-15 yards either side of this Mixing Stone are ideal candidates for such petroglyphic paintings using early ochre and other stone or plant-based agents. Such activities would always have been ritualised, either in honour of ancestors, genius loci, calendrical rites, or whatever the pertinent ingredient was at that place and time. I’m suggesting simply that the rock basin on the Mixing Stone was used for just such purposes. This is no spurious suggestion, but at the same time it’s important to recognise that my thoughts here represent merely an idea, nothing more—not a fact. Whilst we know full well that these carvings were imbued fundamentally with animistic properties—a simple ‘fact’—this functional idea is just that—an idea. Students and petroglyph-nuts need to understand this. And the faded cup-marks at its edge are perhaps merely incidental…. though I don’t buy that misself!
If you’re coming up from Otley or Askwith, take the same directions as if you’re going to visit the impressive Naked Jogger Carving (stone 612), not far from the well-known Tree of Life Stone. From the Naked Jogger carving, walk up to the small outcrop of rocks that bends above you. There’s a small collapsed line of walling just behind the outcrop. Walk along this up the slope as if you’re heading for the Sunrise Stone carving, but only 30 yards along, low down and right into the edge of the wall itself, you’ll see this elongated piece of stone. That’s the spot!
Archaeology & History
If you’ve caught the petroglyph-bug, you’ll like this one! It received its name from the curious fusion of natural cracks with the man-made pecked lines that shows, quite distinctly when the light is right and the stone is wet, the outline of two humanesque forms joined to each other. Figurative rock engravings of ancestors in the UK are extremely rare and when we came across this example, we noticed how the design could be interpreted as two Askwith Moor ancestor figures. Figurative rock art images elsewhere in the world such as the magnificent Wandjina paintings and the extensive galleries of figures engraved at Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula) in Western Australia, might provide an initial comparison, though more specific work needs to be done to better understand this unique petroglyph.
You can almost make out the figures in the above photo: the upper torsos of two beings on the right-hand side of the rock, almost fused together. And the carved shapes of these “ancestral beings” are morphically similar to some elements in the Sunrise Stone just 50 yards away – which themselves remind me of a Northumbrian carving near Doddington known as West Horton 1a. (Beckensall 1991) But we should’t get too carried away by the idea because—as we can see here in the sketch of the carving—when looked at from a different angle above, we could infer the right-hand carved elements to be representative of an animal: a deer, perhaps. Rorscharch’s once more tickle the exploring mind….
The rock has been quarried into at same time in the past (just like the nearby Sunrise Stone), leaving us to wonder what the complete carving might have looked like. No doubt some pieces of it will be in the collapsed walling either side of the stone. All we have left to see are the two unfinished cup-and-rings above the natural cracks that give rise to the “ancestral being” appearance. The faint double cup-and-ring has curious linear arcs to its side, with two well-defined cups enclosed by two of them. It’s a nice-looking carving when the light is good. The petroglyph was carved over a long period of time, as evidenced by the differing levels of erosion in different sections of the design. It’s a common attribute. The oldest section is the faint double cup-and-ring, whose mythic nature was added to / developed at a much later date, perhaps even centuries later.
In the always-expressive archaeocentric description of Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) otherwise valuable tome, they told this carving to be,
“Long, narrow, thick rock of medium grit. Six cups, one with a double ring with a tab out and two with at least partial single rings, grooves.”
It’s very likely that this carving had some mythic relationship with its close neighbours either side of it, probably over a very long time period and I’m inclined to think it somehow related to the rising of the sun, just like its solar companion further up the slope. Please note how I emphasize this ingredient in the site profile of its neighbour, the Mixing Stone 10-15 yards away—roughly halfway between this and the Sunrise Stone. A distinct place of ritual was happening in this close-knit cluster of carvings…
Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Motifs of Northumberland – volume 1, 1991.
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
Reeder, Phil, “Snowden Carr Rock Carvings,” in Northern Earth Mysteries, no.40, 1990.
Along the only road that crosses Askwith Moor, park up at the single carpark on the east-side of the road. Walk up the road for 350 yards and through the gate on the left-hand (west) side of the road onto the moorland. Once through the gate, walk directly west into the heather immediately below the path for some 25-30 yards. Look around!
Archaeology & History
Rediscovered by Helen Summerton in May 2022 are at least two simple hut circles on this level piece of land close to the roadside, amidst this much wider and impressive prehistoric landscape.
The small ring of stones (SE 17430 50978) closest to the road is slightly more troublesome to make out due to it being more deeply embedded in the peat than its companion about 30 yards away. Comprising of typically small rubble walling, this first circle is only 4 yards across and would certainly have been fine for one person or, at a push, perhaps a small family.
Its companion immediately west (SE 17401 50953) is somewhat larger and slightly more elongated in shape, being 10 yards along and 5-6 yards across, as well as being in a better state of preservation. This larger hut circle has been raised on a notable artificial earth-and-rubble plinth, being one or two feet higher than the surrounding peatland. A notable internal stretch of walling only a yard or two in length exists within the southeastern side of the construction, whose nature can only be discerned upon excavation: an issue we can say applies to the many prehistoric settlements and tombs across this small moorland. It’s very likely that other settlement remains will be found close to these two hut circles.
The remains of another hut circle can be found closer to Shooting House Hill, several hundred yards away; whilst five hundred yards southwest we find a small but impressive cairnfield. There are also a good number of petroglyphs close by and on much of the surrounding landscape.
Acknowledgments: Huge thanks to Helen Summerton (not Winterton) for finding these ‘ere remains – and for the photos accompanying this site profile.
Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the James Stone monolith. From here, walk about 60 yards southeast and zigzag about in the heather until you find a small squarish-shaped earthfast rock, barely 6 inches above ground-level (might be hard to find when the heather’s fully grown). If you’ve got a petroglyphic nose, you’ll find it!
Archaeology & History
A simple faded cup-marked stone, roughly 2½ feet by 2 feet across, can be found about 65 feet southeast of the James Stone and 40 yards west of the Benty Gate prehistoric enclosure. Sadly when we visited the place a few days ago, the sky was grey and the conditions for good photos were poor.
At least five cup-marks have been etched onto the stone, with the main element being a row a three cups in a straight line from the centre of the stone to its SE edge. The central cup-mark has been carved where a natural crack in the rock, running from the edge of the stone, terminates. There also seemed to be a carved faded line running along the bottom edge of the stone—but it was unclear and another visit is needed in better light to see if there’s more on the stone.
From the Askwith Moor Road parking spot, head across the road and take the directions to the Woman Stone carving about 510 yards (467m) across the moors to the west. From here, look straight down the slope and head towards the largest boulder at the bottom, 20-30 yards away. About 10-20 yards to the right of this, zigzag about in the vegetation until you find the small stone amidst the bracken. You’ll find it!
Archaeology & History
This small stone, whose natural contours and cracks have been utilised in the design of the petroglyph, may once have been part of a prehistoric tomb, perhaps rolled or thrown downhill from the nearby Askwith Moor Cairnfield. I say this due to the size and portability of the stone, i.e., it’s small and barely earthfast, giving an increased likelihood that its present position was not its original one. But we might never know…
It’s almost archetypal in design, being a primary cup-and-ring, with what appears to be a faint inner ring etched marginally within the larger notable incomplete circle, just an inch beyond the inner central cup. From this same cup runs a carved line, out to the near edge of the small stone. Single cup-marks occur on the edges of the rock, as can be seen in the photos: three, possibly four of them. One of the cups, where the stone narrows to a rounded point, may also have had a partial ring around it. When we found this stone a few weeks ago, the day was grey and overcast and the light was poor, so our photos do not highlight the carving too well.
(Note: the OS grid-reference for this stone is an approximation: pretty damn close, but not close enough. If someone ventures here and can get the exact grid-ref, we’d be most grateful.)
From the Askwith Moor Road parking spot, head west to the Askwith Moor cairnfield. Keep walking west, going downhill past the main cluster of rocks. If you begin zigzagging amidst the heather hereby, you’ll eventually come across this relatively small stone which, even when the heather is deep, thankfully rises to the surface. The Wester Cairnfield 1 carving is close by.
Archaeology & History
Although I presumed that Graeme Chappell and I found this petroglyph when we surveyed the area in the 1990s, I cannot find an early account of it in my files, so must presume that when James Elkington, James Turner and I came across it a few weeks ago, it was the first view of the stone in many a century… It’s another simple carving, only of interest to the mad rock art hunters out there.
When we first found it, it seemed to me (with the sunlight effects on the stone) that two cup-marks had been etched here; but as Mr Elkington pointed out, from the angle he was looking at the stone, there were another two. He was right. But it’s nothing special to look at, sadly, and is probably only of interest to the real hardcore petroglyph nutters amongst you. (please note that the grid-ref for this carving needs revising and may be 50 yards either side of the one given)
From the Askwith Moor Lane parking site, take the directions to the Askwith Moor Cairnfield. Walk westwards for about 100 yards down the gradual slope, towards the boggy land below, but before reaching the reeds, still in the moorland heather, there are a scatter of rocks. Just keep zigzagging about until you find it. It’s a reasonably large stone.
Archaeology & History
This is one of several simple cup-marked stones found down the slopes about 100 yards west of the Askwith Moor Cairnfield. When James Elkington, James Turner and I re-surveyed this area again recently, I wondered whether it was a newbie or had already been located when Graeme Chappell and I did our tedious surveying of this region in the 1990s—and it turned out that we did! The carving is nothing special to look at, even if you’re a petroglyph zealot. Comprising of a distinct single cup-mark on the top nose of the rock, another is visible on the vertical south face, and another possible is on its eastern face.
When we look at the early maps of this area, we find that to the north and south of this stone once existed ‘Shooting Houses’. As we can see on the attached map, the position of one of the shooting targets is very close to the location of this stone and so we must conclude that the cups on the vertical face were done by gunshot and are not prehistoric. However, the distinct cup on top of the stone retains its prehistoric link.
ON the A59 Harrogate to Skipton road, right on top where it crosses the barren moors, get to the parking spot right near where the road levels out at the highest point. Walk up the footpath from here onto the moors (south) for about 200 yards till you notice a small black pool ahead of you. From here, walk left (east) offpath and into the heather, roughly along the ridge for about another 150-200 yards. Zigzag about and keep looking. You’re damn close!
Archaeology & History
Not far from the Gill Head stone and walling, another previously unrecorded cup-marked rock was discovered on the afternoon of Saturday, May 3, 2014, by Danny Tiernan and his famous teddy bear! The stone seems to have been previously well-covered, but was made visible thanks to the annual heather-burning on this part of the moor. He came across it during an exploratory Northern Antiquarian wander to examine a cluster of other neolithic remains hidden on this moor. The carving consists of a series of plain cup-markings, between eight and twelve in number, running along the middle of the rock and outwards nearer to the edges. The cups are between 1-2 inches across and a half-inch deep at the most. The design was first highlighted on Danny’s walking blog, Teddy Tour Teas — and is gonna be difficult to find once the heather’s grown back.
Takes a bitta finding unless you’ve got a GPS system, or someone like me to show you where it is! The best way’s probably via the Askwith Moor Road car park, up the road 160 yards till you hit the straight line cut into the moor on your right, where the landscape’s been damaged.* Walk along this for less than 100 yards, then walk right, through the heather and onto the singular tree roughly 200 yards away. From here, walk 75 yards (strides) north from the tree. You’re damn close!
Archaeology & History
About 20 feet from a line of ancient walling in an area pretty rich in prehistoric sites, is this medium-sized stone with a lovely cup-and-ring design. The carving was first recorded by fellow antiquarian, Eric Cowling (1937), in his short survey of other carved stones in the area. He called this ‘carving no.7’ and described it, thus:
“In the central area of Snowden Carr is a barrow group, which occupies a slight ridge running from the edge of the bog to the east, almost to the moor road on the west. The ridge is almost devoid of vegetation except at the higher end. Here, on a heather-covered boulder, is marking no.7. The cups are smaller than usual, and only one ring completely surrounds a cup. The lines linking the cups are only lightly incised, and the whole marking has a delicate appearance.”
I first visited this stone in the 1980s with fellow rock art student and author, Graeme Chappell, and for some reason it has always impressed me (I recall Graeme laughing whilst I made joyous noises and stroked the rock, reverentially!). Cowling’s description of the stone as ‘delicate’ is appealing, as the stone and its design has a nurturing aspect to it, female in nature. (forgive me — but many of these stones tend to capture me in such ways!) The stone was described more clinically in Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) more recent survey as follows:
“Fairly large, flat, smooth grit rock with crack. Up to seventeen possible cups, one with complete ring, one with partial ring, one with possible ring; connecting groove.”
Doesn’t quite capture the feel of the place, which I’m sure they’d admit. The next time I’m up here, I’ll get some better photos of the carving.
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
Cowling, E.T., ‘A Classification of West Yorkshire Cup and Ring Stones,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 1940.
Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of Mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.
Cowling, E.T. & Hartley, C.A., ‘Cup and Ring Markings to the North of Otley,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 33, 1937.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Huge thanks to one of my fine ladies, Inmaculada Ibanez-Sanchez, for the drawing! Cheers Inma!
* A pipeline was laid across the moor here, and subsequent work (I presume by the same company) was done again in early 2011, cutting through and damaging several prehistoric monuments and destroying at least one prehistoric cairn. An archaeological survey of the region should have been done before any work proceeded here, but I’m unaware of any such excavations, or archaeological reports preceding or concurrent to the ecological and historical damage performed.