Cairn: OS Grid Reference – NS 7373 8922
Also Known as:
Going west out of Stirling or St Ninians, you need to take the minor road/s that cross the M9 and head past the wooded hills, past Graystale and Wallstale. A mile or so on, keep right when you hit the small road junction past Shielbrae. A mile past here, where the edges of the road disappears into the moors and the forest grows to your right, park up where the small parking spot takes you down the track into the trees on the right-side. Walk down here for a coupla hundred yards and keep yer eyes peeled for the rounded fairy-mound on the heaths about 30 yards above you.
Archaeology & History
When we visited this place a few weeks ago, the Dark was almost upon us when we arrived and the clouds were low with a deathly silent mist breathing from the trees and reaching up to meet the low clouds not far above. It was a curious feeling, borne from the darkening landscape, feeling almost as if the dead were around us—which I suppose they were, in this prehistoric tomb at least. At the clap of our hands, a great echo rang loudly from the misty silence and the land in which it lived. Twas almost hypnotic in its lull…..
This site isn’t always gonna have this feel to it of course. If we’d have visited it on a nice clean blue-sky day, no such feelings would have greeted us—and the tomb would, perhaps, have been little more than an uninteresting-looking mound, overgrown with heather and grasses. But Nature breathes and casts such entrancements to our central nervous system every now and then—and such states are as worthy of sincere attention as any intellect preys to insist otherwise…. and I should know!
The King’s Yett cairn has yet to be excavated, but it has all the hallmarks of a traditional Bronze Age signature in its structure. When the Royal Commission lads came here in 1954, after a report describing the mound, their brief account of it (1963:1) later told, simply:
“A cairn is situated on open moorland, a quarter of a mile W of King’s Yett, at an elevation of 950ft OD. It consists of a grass-covered, stony mound which measures about 30ft in diameter and stands to a height of 4ft 6in. A rectangular boulder which lies in the S arc of the base of the cairn, and which appears to be in situ, may have formed part of a peristalith.” (i.e., an encircling ring of stones, PB)
This singular fallen stone is now covered in vegetation and there is little evidence of any stone circle around the tomb. But immediately west, 70 yards WNW on the other side of the forestry track, rises an even larger circular mound, deeply covered in heather and consisting of earth and stones beneath the surface. It looks for all the world like another giant cairn (up to 6ft high and measuring about 26 yards (23.9m) E-W, by 27.5 yards (25.2m) N-S) upon which new trees have recently been planted. It might not be, of course—but we’re gonna look at this again when She gives us more daylight and clearer skies…..just in case…
Locally there are various tales of the Sma’ Folk or little people, fallaciously ascribed by romantic intellectuals as ethereal spirits, but which were and are known to have been tribal people in these uplands; and although such stories excel in this area, we have nothing specific relating to the rounded mound of King’s Yett – yet!
- Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
- 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