Clachan Aoraidh, Balquhidder, Perthshire

Stone Circle (ruins):  OS Grid Reference – NN 5389 2076

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24151
  2. Worshipping Stones

Getting Here

Clachan Aoraidh, looking W

Along the A84 road betweeen Callander and Lochearnhead, take the small road west when you reach Balquhidder Station, towards Balquhidder village.  Go along here for 1½ miles (2.5km) as if you’re gonna visit the Puidrac Stone; but 200 yards past this, go through the gate on the south-side of the road into the boggy field for about 150 yards towards the River Balvag.  You’re looking for several stones, as in the photos.  You’ll find ’em. (you may get soaked though!)

Archaeology & History

The stones, looking NW

After many thousands of years, this innocuous-looking group of small stones found in the very boggy field immediately west of the Puidrac Stone looks nothing like it once did. Some modern academics would have you think there was nothing here of prehistoric interest, but oral tradition and earlier writings tell otherwise. Although not shown on the early OS-maps, it was first described in James Gow’s (1887) articulation on the antiquities of the area, in which he told:

“A short distance east from the present (Balquhidder) parish church, in the haugh below the manse, there are seven stones remaining of a circle which appears to have been about 30 feet in diameter; only one stone is in its original upright position, but there are fragments of others lying about; as usual, they are known as “Clachan-Aoraidh,” or worshipping stones, and are not likely to be disturbed during the lease of the present tenant.”

Looking E, with Puidrac Stone just visible left of telegraph post

A few years later when Thomas Ross (1919) visited the area with a Prof Cooper and others, they reported the single standing stone still in position and the anglicized name of the Worshipping Stones was still in evidence amongst locals.

Arc of fallen stones by the trees

Nowadays the site is in ruin.  Two of the stones stand out when the rushes aren’t too high, with one earthfast and its companion prostrate; but as you can see in the photo (right), there remains a sunken arc of two other stones laid down, running away from the larger ones, with a fifth overgrown and nearly covered by vegetation and the young trees.  In all probability, tradition is probably right here: this is the remains of a stone circle.

Folklore

The field in which these denuded megalithic remains are found, was, wrote Thomas Ross (1919),

“the site of a long-popular market called ‘Feill Aonghais’, i.e., St Angus’ Fair.  It was held, according to Mr Campbell, in May; according to Mr Gow, on “the Saint’s Day, the 6th of April.”  It was quite the custom…to hold a fair after divine service on the Patronal Feast. The folks came to “kirk and market” on the same day, and mixed good fellowship and manly sport with their worship and their business.”

If you were to hold a fair there nowadays, likelihood is it would get flooded!  Christian myths tell of a “St. Angus” taking over whatever the heathen traditions were in this domain, more than a thousand years back.

References:

  1. Gow, James M., “Notes in Balquhidder: Saint Angus, Curing Wells, Cup-Marked Stones, etc”, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 21, 1887.
  2. Ross, Thomas, “Saint Angus’ Stone, Balquhidder,” in Transactions of the Scottish Ecclesiological Society, volume 6 – part 1, 1919.

© 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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