Allt a’ Choire Chireinich, Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65096 39442  —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

The stone, uncovered

The stone, uncovered

Take the A827 road between Killin and Kenmore and park-up at the entrance to Tombreck. Cross the road and walk up the track that goes up Ben Lawers.  As it zigzags uphill, watch out for you being level with the top of the copse of trees several hundred yards west, where a straight long overgrown line of walling runs all the way to the top of the copse. Go along here, and just as you reach the trees, walk uphill for about 50 yards.  You’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

Whether you’re into prehistoric carvings or not, this is impressive!  It’s one of several with a very similar multiple-ring design to be found along the southern mountain slopes of Ben Lawers.  Rediscovered on May 13, 2015, several of us were in search of a known cup-and-ring stone just 260 yards (238m) to the northwest in this Allt a’ Choire Chireinich cluster, but one stone amongst many called my nose to have a closer sniff—and as you can see, the results were damn good!

Looking from above

Looking from above

Etched onto a large flat rock perhaps 5-6000 years ago, probably over at least two different seasons, the primary design here is of two sets of multiple-rings: in both cases, seven concentric ones emerging from, or surrounding a central cup-marking (more than an inch across and half-an-inch deep). The largest cup-and-seven-rings is the one near the centre of the stone; with the outer smaller example literally being half the size of the one in the middle.  Curious…  At first glance, neither of the concentric rings seem complete – and so it turned out when it was enhanced by rain and sun.

First photo of the double-rings

First photo of the double-rings

The large central cup-and-seven-rings has two additional cup-marks within it: one on the outer fifth ring to the southeast, and the other in the outer sixth ring to the west.  This western cup-mark is also crossed by a carved line that runs from the first ring outwards to the west and to the edge of the rock, crossing another cup-mark along the way.  This particular carved line might be the same one that integrates itself into the first ring, and then re-emerges on is northeastern side, to continue out of the multiple-rings themselves and curve over to the eastern side of the rock.  Running roughly north-south through the middle of this larger seven-ring element, a line scarred by Nature is visible which has been pecked by humans on its northern end, only slightly, and running into the covering soil eventually, with no additional features apparent.  Another possible carved line seems in evidence running from the centre to the southeastern edge – but this is by no means certain.

The carving, looking north

The carving, looking north

This large central seven-ringed symbol has been greatly eroded, mainly on its southern sides, where the rings are incomplete, as illustrated in the photos.  Yet when the light is right, we can see almost a complete concentric system, with perhaps only the second ring from the centre being incomplete on its eastern side.  On the southern sides, the visibility factor is equally troublesome unless lighting conditions are damn good.  The northernmost curves, from west to east, are the deepest and clearest of what remains, due to that section of the stone being covered in soil when it was first discovered, lessening the erosion.

Smallest 7-ring section, with cups

Smallest 7-ring section, with cups

Multiple-ring complex & cups

Multiple-ring complex & cups

…Moving onto the second, smaller concentric set of seven rings: this is literally half the size of its counterpart in the middle of the stone.  A peculiarity in itself.  We could do with measuring the two more precisely and see what we might find!  As with its central counterpart, the lower-half of the seven rings has faded considerably due to weathering; and there is the possibility that this section was never fully completed.  It also seems apparent that the very edge of the rock has been broken off at some time, and a section of the carving went with it—probably into the ancient walling below or the derelict village shielings on the mountains slopes above.

Above this smaller seven-ring section are three archetypal cup-marks close to the very edge of the rock, one above each other in an arc.  Of these, the cup that is closest to the seven-rings possesses the faint remains of at least two other partial rings above it, elements of which may actually extend and move into the concentric rings themselves—but this is difficult to say with any certainty.  However, if this is the case, we can surmise that this small cup-and-two-rings was carved before its larger tree-ring-looking companion.

Below the smaller seven-ringer is the possibility of a wide cup-and-two-rings: very faint and incomplete.  This only seems visible in certain conditions and I’m not 100% convinced of its veracity as yet.

Curious 'eye'-like symbol

Curious ‘eye’-like symbol

'Eye' to the bottom-left

‘Eye’ to the bottom-left

We also found several other singular cup marks inscribed on the rock, all of them beneath the two concentrics, moving closer to the edge of the rock.  But a more curious puzzle is an eye-like symbol, or geological feature, on the more eastern side of the stone.  It gives the impression of being worked very slightly by humans, but as I’m not a geologist, I’ve gotta say that until it is looked at by someone more competent than me, I aint gonna commit myself to its precise nature.  What seems to be a carved line to the left (west) of this geological ‘eye’ may have possible interference patterns pecked towards it.  Tis hard to say with any certainty.

So – what is this complex double-seven-ringer?!  What does it represent?  Sadly we have no ethnological or folklore narratives that can be attributed to the stone since The Clearances occurred.  We only have the very similar concentric six- and seven-ringed petroglyphs further down the mountainside to draw comparisons with.  We could guess that the position of the stone halfway up Ben Lawers, giving us a superb view of the mountains all around Loch Tay might have some relevance to the carving; but this area was probably forested when these carvings were etched—which throws that one out of the window!  We could speculate that the two multiple rings represent the Moon and Sun, with the smaller one being the Moon. They could represent a mythic map of Ben Lawers itself, with the central cup being its peak and outer rings coming down the levels of the mountain.  Mountains are renowned in many old cultures as, literally, cosmic centres, from whence gods and supernal deities emerge and reside; and mountains in some parts of the world have been represented by cup-and-ring designs, so we may have a correlate here at Ben Lawers.  O.G.S. Crawford (1957) and Julian Cope (1998) would be bedfellows together in their view of it being their Eye Goddess.  But it’s all just guesswork.  We do know that people were living up here and were carving other petroglyphs along this ridge, some of which occur inside ancient settlements; but the traditions of the people who lived here were finally destroyed by the English in the 19th century, and so any real hope of hearing any old myths, or possible rites that our peasant ancestors with their animistic worldview possessed, has died with them.

Tis a fascinating carving nonetheless—and one worthy of seeking out amongst the many others all along this beautiful mountainside…

References:

  1. Bernbaum, Edwin, Sacred Mountains of the World, Sierra Club: San Francisco 1990.
  2. Cope, Julian, The Modern Antiquarian, Thorsons 1998.
  3. Crawford, O.G.S., The Eye Goddess, Phoenix House: London 1957.
  4. Eliade, Mircea & Sullivan, Lawrence E., “Center of the World,” in Encyclopedia of Religion – volume 3 (edited by M. Eliade), MacMillan: Farmington Hills 1987.
  5. Evans-Wentz, W.Y., Cuchuma and Sacred Mountains, Ohio University Press 1980.
  6. Gillies, William A., In Famed Breadalbane, Munro Press: Perth 1938.
  7. Michell, John, At the Centre of the World, Thames & Hudson: London 1994.
  8. Yellowlees, Sonia, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Scotland Magazine: Edinburgh 2004.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Paul Hornby for the use of his photos in this site profile; to Lisa Samson, for her landscape detective work at the site; and to Fraser Harrick, for getting us there again.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (03), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65249 39579  –  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Allt a' Choire Chireinich 03 Stone

Allt a’ Choire Chireinich 03 Stone

Take the same directions to reach the large rounded Allt a’ Choire Chireinich 02 carving.  Walk 65 yards (60m) northwest diagonally uphill to another large rounded stone of similar size.  That’s the one!

Archaeology & History

A large cup-marked boulder, not previously recognised, was rediscovered on the afternoon of May 15, 2015.  The great majority of the rock surface is covered in aged lichens, but at least three well-defined cup-markings were noted on the upper rounded surface of the stone: one near the middle of the stone; one near the centre-north; and another towards the top northwest section of the stone.  The cups are more than an inch in diameter and eighth-of-an-inch deep.  Others may be in evidence beneath the vegetation.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Allt a’ Choire Chireinich (02), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 65219 39526

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 291477

Getting Here

Allt a' Choire Chireinich 2 stone

Allt a’ Choire Chireinich 2 stone

Along the A827 road between Killin and Kenmore, park-up at the Tombreck entrance and cross the road, taking the long track which eventually zigzags up the slope of Ben Lawers.  Keep your eyes on the copse of trees a few hundred yards east that runs up the slopes and when you are level with the top of it, walk along the line of walling that heads to it.  Go past the top of the trees and the first big boulder you reach is the fella in question.

Archaeology & History

Adjacent to an ancient trackway that runs across the slopes of the mountain, this large glacial boulder sits proudly on the slopes calling out for attention — and attention it certainly received countless centuries ago, when local people (perhaps) decided to cut at least nine cup-markings onto the top of the rock.

Lichen-encrusted cups

Lichen-encrusted cups

Lichen-encrusted cups

Lichen-encrusted cups

The surface today is encrusted with olde lichens of colourful hues, beneath which may be other cups or rings; but as I’m a great lover of such forgotten medicinal primers, I wasn’t about to scratch beneath their bodies to find out.  The carving is worth looking at when you’re exploring the other, more impressive carvings in this Allt a’ Choire Chireinich cluster.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Tombreck (08), Kenmore, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 64795 38648

Getting Here

Tombreck 8 stone, on its mound

Tombreck 8 stone, on its mound

Along the A827 road between Killin and Kenmore, park at the entrance to the Tombreck track and cross the road, walking up the track heading up Ben Lawers.  Pass the sheep pens, through the gate and keep going for a few hundred yards until you hit the old straight line of walling which runs off east into the pine trees a few hundred yards away. Walk along here, keeping to the south side, for less than 100 yards, watching out for a small stone on a small rise on a small hillock – and make sure your eyes are in good condition!

Archaeology & History

The stone in question

The stone in question

This is a seemingly unrecorded cup-marked stone, with very faint petroglyphic evidences remaining on the surface.  Set within the wider surrounds of more recent enclosure walling is this small slightly raised female stone, roughly three feet in diameter, which has at least five cup-markings on its surface, mainly near the middle of the stone.  The rock itself is next to the western edge of a raised man-made feature, reminiscent of a collapsed denuded cairn or hut circle, which itself has not been archaeologically assessed.

Close-up of faint cups

Close-up of faint cups

Close-up of faint cups

Close-up of faint cups

It is possible that this carving is the same one mentioned briefly in Currie’s (2009) notes at NN 64736 38647, 62 (57m) yards to the east, but the grid reference he cited differs from the one we found yesterday.  We’ll double-check it again when we’re out here this weekend.  There are many other carvings all along the lower ridges of Ben Lawers, some complex, some simple like this one.

References:

  1. Currie, George, “Cup-and-Ring Marked Rocks,” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, volume 10, 2009.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Paul Hornby for the use of his photos in this site profile; and to Lisa Samson, for her landscape detective work at the site.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Glenshervie Burn, Glen Almond, Perthshire

Cairn Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NN 82614 32996

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25565
  2. River Almond

Getting Here

The ruins of Glenshervie Circle

The ruins of Glenshervie Circle

Take the dirt-track, off-road, up to the start of Glen Almond, for more than 4 miles — past the curious Conichan Ring, and past the standing stone of Clach an Tiompan, until you see the large modern walled circle in the field on your left.  Go into that field and you’ll notice a ruined pile and small standing stones 56 yards (51m) WSW.  Y’ can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

Sitting upon a flat grassland plateau close to the confluence of the Glenshervie Burn with the River Almond, the visitor here will notice an overgrown ovoid mass of old worn stones in the form of a prehistoric cairn, with two upright standing stones on the western edges of the pile.  This is the remains of what the megalithic magus Aubrey Burl (1988) called the Glenshervie “four poster” stone circle.

Glenshervie stones, looking N

Glenshervie stones, looking N

Glenshervie stones, looking W

Glenshervie stones, looking W

Structurally similar to the neighbouring four-poster of Clach an Tiompan 470 yards (427m) to the ESE, and less damaged than the remaining megaliths of Auchnafree 568 yards (520m) to the northwest, this megalithic ruin was first mentioned in passing by Audrey Henshall (1956) in her survey of the giant Clach an Tiompan tomb and its adjacent ring.  She told that,

“In meadowland beside the Almond, a small circle of standing stones, hitherto unrecorded, protrude through the water-worn material of a low cairn.  This is a similar type of monument to the ruined site at Clach na Tiompan.”

Close-up of cairn & stones

Close-up of cairn & stones

Glenshervie ruins, looking S

Glenshervie ruins, looking S

Indeed it is!  Sadly however, it remains unexcavated — so we know not what its precise nature and function may have been.  When Burl included the site in his 1988 survey, he could add nothing more than I can; but curiously described the two standing stones here as being only “about 1 ft (30cm) high.”  They’re between two and three feet tall respectively, and the remaining cairn is between 5 and 6 yards in diameter, with the central rubble rising between 1 and 2 feet above the natural ground level.

The landscape at the point where this circle was built enables you to look up and down the glens of Almond and Shervie in three different directions.  Whether or not this was deliberate, we cannot know for sure.  But the setting on the whole, in the middle of where the glen widens out and hold this and the nearby monuments, is a beautiful setting indeed…

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  2. Henshall, Audrey & Stewart, M.E.C., “Excavations at Clach na Tiompan, Wester Glen Almond, Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 88, 1955.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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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 Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Well of the Mosses, Glen Almond, Perthshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 82865 33096

Getting Here

Spring of the Mosses

Spring of the Mosses

Take the dirt-track up Glen Almond for 3½ miles until you reach the standing stone of Clach an Tiompan.  The giant long cairn of the same name is just above the track on the other side.  Walk past this and start walking uphill, diagonally, until a few hundred yards up, a ridge levels out with some unrecorded habitation sites upon it.  The clear waters of this spring are on the eastern edge of this ridge.

Archaeology & History

A little-known spring of water found on the slopes immediately above the giant Clach an Tiompan long cairn.  Beautifully clear water emerges from beneath a large rock that rests by an ancient pathway running across the mountain-slope, used by the local people who lived here before the genocide of The Clearances.  When we visited the place recently, the waters were low, but still running, and the mosses which reach along the length of the burn were almost iridescent in the evening sunlight.

The living glows of moss & water

The living glows of moss & water

Looking upstream to its source

Looking upstream to its source

Upon drinking here, there was that subtle sweetness to the waters, typical of many moss-clad sites, indicating it to have that typical medicinal virtue as a place to renew or revitalise your low-sugar energies after you’ve finished your meditation and rest, gazing within the enchanting mountains in which you are being held.  It’s a truly wonderful little site!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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