Witches Stone, Monzie, Crieff, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 87980 24321

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25448
  2. The Witches Stone & her crags to the rear

    The Witches Stone & her crags to the rear

    Kor Stone

Getting Here

Along the A822 road past Crieff and then Gilmerton, shortly past here is a small road to Monzie and the Glenturret Distillery or Famous Grouse Experience. Go on this road and after a just a coupla hundred yards you’ll see the large old gatehouse for Monzie Castle on the left. Ask at the gatehouse and they’ll point you to the stone—in the field about 300 yards past the Monzie stone circle, 200 yards past the gatehouse itself.  You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

The southern flat face of the Witches Stone

The southern flat face of the Witches Stone

This is a fascinating stone for a variety of reasons—not least of which it enabled us to identify an otherwise curious geological anomaly as an unerected standing stone some 16 miles SSW…but that’s a story for later!  The stone here leans at an angle in the field, as shown in the photo, but it still rises 5 feet tall and is a thick chunky fella, with one face very flat and smoothed indeed from top to bottom.  This side of the stone was obviously cut and dressed this way when first erected.  As Paul Hornby then noted, its western face is also quite flat and smoothed aswell, with the edge between the two sides almost squared at right-angles.  The eastern and southern sides of the stone are undressed, as the phrase goes.  These physical characteristics have just been found at a newly found pair of un-erected standing stones on the western edges of the Ochils, just below a newly found cairn circle.

Fred Coles 1911 drawing

Fred Coles 1911 drawing

Witches Stone, looking NE past Milquhanzie Hill fort

Witches Stone, looking NE past Milquhanzie Hill fort

There were several early descriptions of this stone, two of which talked about an avenue or road along which the stone seemed to stand within.  This ‘avenue’ was in fact the very edge of what is probably an earlier prehistoric enclosure—but you can’t really see this anymore unless you’re in the air (check Google Earth, which shows it reasonably well).

In J. Romilly Allen’s (1882) account, he mentions the stone only in passing, telling it to be “a single standing stone measuring 4 feet by 3 feet and 5 feet high (with) no markings on it.”  It was later described in Fred Coles’ (1911) survey of the region where he told:

“This monolith is the westerly of the two prehistoric sites grouped on the O.M. as Standing Stones. It stands a few yards to the south of the avenue, almost half a mile from the East Lodge. The Stone has a slight lean towards the north. Its southern side is remarkably broad and smooth, measuring 4 feet across the base on that side, in girth 13 feet 1 inch and in vertical height 4 feet 9 inches.”

Alignment to Monzie stone circle, just visible in field

Alignment to Monzie stone circle, just visible in field

In Alexander Thom’s edited magnum opus (1980) he found that this standing stone—800 feet northwest of the superb Monzie cup-and-ring stone and associated megalithic ring—marks the midsummer sunset from the stone circle. We noted on our visit here, that this alignment runs to the distant cairn on the far northwest horizon, many miles away.

Folklore

In Joyce Miller’s (2010) excellent work on Scottish heathenism, she told the folowing tale of this stone:

“The standing stone is said to mark the site of Kate McNiven or MacNieven’s, sometimes known as the witch of Monzie, execution. The story goes that she was put in a barrel and rolled down what is now known as Kate MacNieven’s Craig on the north side of the Knock of Crieff before being burnt.  Kate had been the nurse to the Grahams of Inchbrackie, and was accused of witchcraft, including turning herself into a bee.  Graham of Inchbrackie tried to save her but to no avail, but as she was about to die it is said that she spat a bead from her necklace into his hand. The bead – a blue sapphire – was turned into a ring and it was believed that the ring would keep the family and lands secure.  She did, however, curse the laird of Monzie, although whether this worked or not is not known. MacNiven or Nic Niven was also believed to be the name of the Queen of Fairies.  Indeed it is not clear whether Kate MacNiven was a real person or is a conflation of stories. There do not appear to be any contemporary records of her execution at or near Crieff, and dates for her unpleasant death are variously given as 1563, 1615 and 1715.”

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Notes on some Undescribed Stones with Cup Markings in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 16, 1882.
  2. Coles, F.R., “Report on stone circles in Perthshire principally Strathearn,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Holder, Geoff, The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire, History Press 2006.
  5. Marshall, William, Historic Scenes in Perthshire, Oliphant: Edinburgh 1881.
  6. Miller, Joyce, Magic and Witchcraft in Scotland, Goblinshead 2010.
  7. Thom, Alexander, “Megalithic Astronomy: Indications in Standing Stones,” in Vistas in Astronomy, volume 7, 1966.
  8. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, H.A.W., Megalithic Rings, BAR: Oxford 1980.
  9. Watson, David, A Simple Introduction to the Stone Circles and Standing Stones of Perthshire, 2006.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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About megalithix

Occultist, prehistorian and independent archaeological researcher, specializing in prehistoric rock art, Neolithic, Bronze Age & Iron Age sites, and the animistic cosmologies of pre-Christian & traditional cultures.
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7 Responses to Witches Stone, Monzie, Crieff, Perthshire

  1. Frazer Irwin says:

    You are doing a lot of work in Perthshire for which it is commendable however have you come across these folk – https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2013/10/05/one-sided-debate-claim-over-windfarm/ – who are battling to preserve Perthshire from the onslaught of industrial wind turbines.

  2. megalithix says:

    No I’ve not Frazer. And unless they’re people who don’t use cars or modern industrial systems, I’d not support them (I’ve come across doods with 2 or more 4-wheel drives who reckon they’re eco-friendly and then moan about windfarms – bloody hypocrites or what!?).

  3. kendocollinson says:

    Wind farms are so much better than nuclear, oil, coal and ultimately could do away for the need to Frack, who in their right mind would complain, “it’s the common good, stupid”

  4. Denis1950 says:

    Fascinating images and story, could she well have been a distant relative of Donald Trump?

  5. Hi there, love your work! Do you happen to have the page number of the quote above in Joyce Millers book? Many thanks!

  6. megalithix says:

    Aye – page 129. ;)

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