Abbey Craig, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – NS 8094 9566

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 47113
  2. Wallace Monument Fort

Getting Here

Abbey Craig on 1866 map

Most folk visiting here are coming from Stirling city.  There are various buses to get here, which head out over Stirling Bridge along Causewayhead Road (the A9) for half-a-mile where, at the roundabout and the William Wallace pub, go straight across up the minor road, zigzagging back on itself, until you reach the signs for the Wallace Monument.  Follow the well-defined footpath and, once on top of the hill, walk round the back of the mightily impressive tower.

Archaeology & History

Located right where the impressive Wallace Monument proudly stands, this prehistoric precursor to Sir William Wallace’s memory was where Scotland’s legendary hero and his men cast a clear and easy view over Bannockburn, where the halfwit english came for a fight—and deservedly lost!   The structures that used to be inside the now denuded hillfort would, no doubt, have been used by Wallace’s men; but much of those prehistoric remains have now been destroyed.  The visible remains of the fort can be seen round the back of the Wallace Monument: elongated rises of overgrown walling that run almost all the way round, getting slightly higher as you approach the more northern edges, like a semi-circular enclosure.

Royal Commission plan
Abbey Craig – and the great Wallace Monument

The site was described very briefly in William Nimmo’s (1880) early survey of the area, where he told that in 1784, “eleven brazen spears were found on the Abbey Craig, by a Mr Harley”, which he thought came from the time when the earlier ‘castle’ stood here.  He was probably right.  Many years later, the prehistoric remains were included in the county survey of archaeological sites by the Royal Commission lads (1963), who told that, near the north end of the summit of Abbey Craig,

“there is a fort which has been damaged by the construction within it of the Wallace Monument.  All that remains is a substantial turf-covered bank, cresentic on plan and 260ft in length, the ends of which lie close to the brink of the precipice that forms the west face of the hill.  The bank stands to a maximum height of 5ft above the level of the interior and presumably represents a ruined timber-laced wall, since numerous pieces of vitrified stone have been found on the slopes immediately below it.

The entrance to the fort presumably lay between one end of the bank and the lip of the precipice, but both the areas concerned have been disturbed by the construction of the modern approaches.  The interior of the fort measures about 175ft from north to south, by about 125ft transversely and the interior is featureless.”

The fort was probably built sometime in the early Iron Age; so the next time you visit this fine spot, check the remains out round the back of the tower—and remember that our ancestors were living up here 2500 years ago!

References:

  1. Aitchison, N.B., “Abbey Craig Rampart’, in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, 1981.
  2. Feacham, Richard W., Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  3. Hogg, A.H.A., British Hill-Forts: An Index, BAR: Oxford 1979.
  4. Nimmo, William, The History of Stirlingshire – volume 1 (3rd edition), T.D. Morison: London 1880.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling –  volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.138744, -3.917531 Abbey Craig hillfort

Wallace’s Stone, Dunblane, Stirlingshire

Standing Stones / Stone Row:  OS Grid Reference – NN 83259 02293

Also Known as:

  1. Lairhill Stones

Getting Here

Follow the same directions as to reach the cup-marked Sheriffmuir Carving, which is just a coupla hundred yards away to the southwest.  On a clear day you can see this standing stone from the pub by the roadside, a few hundred yards away!

Archaeology & History

Wallace Stone (photo credit – James Elkington)

This is alleged to be just one standing stone in a straight line of five once-upright monoliths.  Starting at the southwestern end of this row we have the 7ft-long cup-marked Sheriffmuir Carved stone — which certainly looks as if it stood upright in the not-too-distant past — and as we move up the line we pass another that’s been split in half.  Another earthfast-looking rock is the next contender, before we reach our famous Wallace Stone, standing upright and proud on this moorland ridge.  It’s about 6ft tall and 3ft across at its widest and certainly acts as a marker for the line of stones that allegedly stood upright here.  And if we walk just a bit further up we have another big stone laid on the ground which is alleged to be a part of the same alignment.

The split stone (photo credit – James Elkington)

If it is an authentic megalithic row, it’s not included in either the Thoms’ (1990) two-volume work on the subject, nor Aubrey Burl’s (1996) compendium a few years later.  And though the alignment looks good, I’ve found ones just like this in the Pennines where we have just one upright left and then a line of other seemingly prostrate stones running dead straight either side of the singular upright (and have kept mi gob shut about ’em for sensible reasons), so I’m not too sure what to think.

But, alignment aside, the Wallace Stone itself is a damn good standing stone and well worth checking out.  It’s highly probable that other prehistoric remains still lurk, undiscovered, amidst these heaths…like the lost stone circle to be found nearby…

Folklore

A slight variation on a theme about this spot:  in both accounts the stone was named after the legendary Scottish independence fighter, Sir William Wallace.  The folklore tells that he and his fighting clans gathered here in 1297 preceeding the Battle of Stirling Bridge; whilst the variation tells that the stone here was actually erected around that time to commemorate the event.  This tale was first narrated by a local story-teller called Blind Harry and was found by local historian A.F. Hutchinson (1893) to be a case of mistaken identity!

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish: The Prehistoric Stone Rows and Avenues of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Heggie, Douglas C., Megalithic science: ancient mathematics and astronomy in north-west Europe, Thames & Hudson: London 1981.
  3. Hutchinson, A.F., “The Standing Stones and other Rude Monuments of Stirling District,” in Transactions of the Stirling Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 1893.
  4. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.
  5. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, B.A.R.: Oxford 1990.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks as always to James Elkington for use of his photos in this site profile – prints of which are available from the man himself!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.198872, -3.883135 Wallace\'s Stone

Sheriffmuir Carving, Dunblane, Stirlingshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 83074 02143

Getting Here

From Dunblane, head up the Glen Road for nearly a mile, turning left up the Sheriffmuir Road and all the wya on till you reach the pub near the T-junction another couple of miles on.  OK – get thru the gate and onto the moor, roughly in a straight line with the pub behind you for about 400 yards.  You’re damn close! (if you find the nice standing stone known as the Wallace Stone, walk  250 yards southwest from here).

Archaeology & History

Almost nothing has been written of this cup-marked stone, found at the southern end of what’s alleged to be an authentic megalithic stone row alignment, running northeast to southwest — although this alignment isn’t included in either Aubrey Burl’s (1993) or Alexander Thom’s (1990) textbooks dealing with such matters.

Cup-marks highlighted in ice!
Cup-marked rock with the Wallace Stone in the distance

When we came here last winter in temperatures of around -6°C (one helluva good day!), curiously only this and the other stones along this “stone row” were actually uncovered on the moorland.  Quite bizarre to be honest!  Many of the other rocks scattering this small moorland edge were covered in several feet of snow.  We were lucky I s’ppose…though I’ve gotta get back up here again shortly and see the site in summertime (midges up mi crotch, cleggs-a-biting – oh such joy!) cos I can’t believe this is the only cup-marked stone hereby.

The rock itself is more than seven-feet long and has at least twenty archetypal cups carved into its slightly-slanting face — although when we visited the stone, several of these were difficult to see and, as the images show, even more difficult to photograph (of the 20 I took of this stone alone, only one was of any value in highlight the cups) .  The stone gave the impression that it may have stood upright in the not-too-distant past — which would of course give the notion of this as part of megalithic avenue a considerably more potent status.

Some dood alleged that this potential stone row, with this cup-marked stone at its southwestern end, marked an astronomical alignment — but for the life of me I can’t remember who it was! (it’s my age creeping up on me at last!)

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish: The Prehistoric Stone Rows and Avenues of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Heggie, Douglas C., Megalithic science: ancient mathematics and astronomy in north-west Europe, Thames & Hudson: London 1981.
  3. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, B.A.R.: Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.197609, -3.886011 Sheriffmuir carving