Firbhreige, North Uist, Outer Hebrides

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NF 770 702

Also known as:

  • Toroghas

Getting Here

This is nice n’ far north indeed – north-west Uist in fact!  Hit the A865 road northwest to the village of Ceann a’ Bhaigh.  By the little church at the little crossroad, take the track on your right which leads you into the hills.  Go all the way to the end of this track and walk straight north for a couple of hundred yards, as if you’re heading up the hill, Toroghas, in front of you.

Thom's drawing of the Firbhreige Stones and possible 1990

Thom's drawing of the Firbhreige Stones and possible alignments, 1990

Archaeology & History

Here are two small standing stones, each not much more than three-feet tall, about 40 yards apart.  Alexander Thom (1984) looked for astronomical alignments here, but found very little, merely commenting:  “From here a number of sites are visible, but the (easternmost) stone might be said to indicate Craig Hasten or Deaskeir Islet.”  In his own analysis of the site, Clive Ruggles (UI23 – 1984) also found such astronomy lacking here.

Folklore

In Thom, Thom & Burl’s (1990) description of these two small stones, Aubrey Burl mentioned how “their name is similar to the stones on Skye called ‘Na Fir Bhreige’, or ‘the false men’. This has been variously interpreted as meaning men who were turned to stone for being unfaithful to their wives or, alternatively, to stones that from a distance resembled men.”  Which is apparently the tale here. (see Grinsell 1976)

Comparative religious studies clearly indicate that legends of petrified beings are representative of the spirits of the ancestors residing in the said stones or other artifact.  If there’s any validity to this ingredient, it would imply that some prehistoric burials can be found nearby — though my archaeo-records show nothing (but that doesn’t mean they’re not there).  If there anyone goes wandering hereabouts in the near future, see if you can find any tombs in the locale.

References:

Beveridge, Erskine, North Uist: Archaeology and Topography, William Brown: Edinburgh 1911.
Ruggle, C.L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, A., Stone Rows and Standing Stones, vol.1, BAR: Oxford 1990.

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Hartwith Moor, Summerbridge, North Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 21233 62737

Also Known as:

  1. Standing Stone Hill

Hartwith Moor stone

Getting Here

A half-mile south of the superb Brimham Rocks complex, take the straight road south until you hit the second farmhouse (and accompanying caravans).  Go up the public footpath past Highfield Farm and just check with the landowner’s permission to wander his land if you want to see the stone.  They’re OK about it if you ask.  The lady there is very amiable and will tell you what’s what, giving directions right to it, telling us it was off the footpath in the middle of one of his fields.

Archaeology & History

Archaeology texts are, once more, silent about this stone (and other monuments in the region), making you wonder just what the hell some of them are paid for!  The stone appears to have given its name to the land upon which it stands which, as the locals tell, “has always been known as standing stone hill.”  And no wonder — it’s a bloody decent standing stone!  On its northern face we find well-eroded lines running down the stone, similar to the weathering found on the Devil’s Arrows a few miles to the east.

Standing Stone Hill stone

Looking south

Although just over 6-feet tall, this is a solid bulky old fella.  But the spot he presently occupies isn’t his original standing place.  He was found knocked over and lying on the ground in the middle of the 20th century, slightly out of position.  But he was thankfully stood back upright by the local land-owners sometime in the 1960s, where he’s been stood ever since.  It must have been one helluva job!  And making it more difficult was the intriguing geological nature of the Earth right beneath this field.  As the lady who now own the land told us,

“When the fields were tilled we found that all of them were easy to turn over, except the one with the stone in it!  There’s virtually no soil of any depth to write home about,” she said.  “It stands on only a few inches of soil and then you hit solid rock right underneath it.  All the other fields are OK – but this one’s the odd one out.”

And before the fields were farmed, just over a hundred years ago, all this land was covered in moorland heather.  Then the land was enclosed, the Earth’s heathland stripped out of existence and turned over to agriculture.  But thankfully the standing stone was left here.  It makes you wonder what else was destroyed when the moorlands were industrialised…

The stone does get a brief mention in Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, where they mention there being “three possible cups in (a) line on one side” of the standing stone, but these are little more than Nature’s handiwork and nowt else.  There are a couple of other cup-and-rings nearby which are the real thing – but the ‘cups’ on this stone aint man-made.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Fairy Stone, Cottingley, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0980 3789

Also Known as:

  1. Black Hills Carving 01
  2. Cottingley Woods Carving 01

Getting Here

To get here, start from Bingley centre, go through Myrtle Park, across the river bridge and turn right at the dirt-track. Walk on & go over the old bridge/ford of Harden Beck, keeping with the track until the next set of buildings and be aware of a footpath left here. Take this and cross the golf-course, bearing SE until you reach the edge of Cottingley Woods. Take the distinct footpath into the trees & walk up the vivid moss-coloured path until you reach the level at the top where the woods become more deciduous. Here, turn left for 100 yards into the bit of woodland which has been fenced-off and walk about. You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Cottingley Woods Fairy Stone

This is a truly superb cup-and-ring stone which anyone into the subject must take a look at!  It was first found by the old forester here, Ronald Bennett, in 1966 — ten years before Keith Boughey (2005) mistakenly reported it to have been found “by Valerie Parkinson…in 1976.”  Everything about it’s excellent — but I think the setting in woodland is what really brings it out.

The first published account and photograph of this superb carved stone seems to have been in Joe Cooper’s (1982) precursory essay on the Cottingley Fairies in an article he wrote for The Unexplained magazine in the 1980s.  A few years later I included the stone in a short article on local folklore, then again much later in The Old Stones of Elmet (2001).  It was curiously omitted from Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey, as were the other carvings that are found very close by.  Not sure why…  But of the small cluster here (I’ll add the others later), this carving stands out as the best of the bunch by far!  Its name has nothing to do with the Cottingley Fairy folk down town: it simply originates from my own teenage thoughts and the true ambience of the setting. Check it out!

Joe Cooper’s 1982 photo

Fairy Stone carving

The rock is typical millstone grit and its carved upper surface measures roughly 3 yards east-west and 2 yards north-south, sloping gently into the ground.  As the photo shows, this is an elaborate design seemingly centred around two large and another smaller circular form, each enclosing a number of internal cups, ring and lines.  The next time we’re over there, we’ll try get some clearly images and make a detailed drawing of the old fella!  In the event that you visit here, check out the other three carvings close to this primary design — and try work out which one of the three was carved by the scouts in more modern times!  Another simple cup-marked stone was recently found in the undergrowth a short distant east of this group.

Sketch of the design in 1981

Recently the carving was given attention with what’s known as photogrammetry software: this enables a more complete image of the 3-dimensional nature of objects scrutinized.  In the resulting photos (which I’m unable to reproduce here due to copyright restrictions), a previously unseen long carved line was detected that runs across the middle of the larger of the two enclosing rings.  Hopefully in the coming months, those with the software (can’t remember whether it’s English Heritage or Pennine Prospects who won’t allow it) might allow us to reproduce one or two of their images to enable the rest of the world to see what their images have uncovered.  After all, considering that we peasants brought this carving to their attention, you’d at least hope they could repay the finds.  Some of these larger organizations, despite what they may say, simply don’t swing both ways!

Folklore

In an early edition of my old Fortean archaeology rag of the 1980s, I narrated the tale of one Anne Freeman, who was walking through the woods here.  When she reached the top of the woods, near some stones she heard a loud chattering and allegedly saw two tiny figures barely one-foot tall wearing red outfits and green hats in “medieval peasant dress”.  Andy Roberts (1992) later repeated the tale and illustrated the carving in his Yorkshire folklore work.

In the 1960s, the old ranger Ronnie Bennett (no relative of mine) who first found these carvings, also reported that he saw little people here: “not one, but three,” as he said.  Not fairies with wings, but more gnome-like.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Of Cups and Rings and Things, unpublished: Shipley 1981.
  2. Bennett, Paul, ‘Tales of Yorkshire Faeries,’ in Earth 9, 1988.
  3. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  4. Boughey, Keith, “A Group of Four Cup-and-Ring-Marked Rocks at Black Hills, Cottingley Woods,” in Prehistory Research Section Bulletin, no.42, 2005.
  5. Cooper, Joe, ‘Cottingley: At Last the Truth,’ in The Unexplained 117, 1982
  6. Roberts, Andy, Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire, Jarrold 1992.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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Ellers Wood (614), Washburn Valley, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Carving:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1895 5099

Ellers Wood carving 614 (after Boughey & Vickerman)

Ellers Wood carving 614 (after Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Ellers Wood is at the very northern edge of the beautiful parish of Askwith and has a very particular ambience of its own. The small cluster of at least 5 cup-and-ring stones in this lovely little woodland gives you the impression that they stood out on their own, living here representing the genius loci of this luscious watery vale, all-but-hidden from all but the lucky few.  It’s very likely that there are still more carvings hidden away nearby.

The best way to check them out is simply to walk down past the haunted Dobpark Lodge, where it turns into a footpath and where it crosses the lovely old packhorse bridge at the valley bottom, walk a few hundred yards up the river-side (at the bottom of the fields) until you reach Ellers Wood. Once there, look around.  This one’s on the west side of the main stream, close by where it meets up with another small burn coming down from the western wooded slopes.

 

Archaeology & History

First drawing of the carving, c.1994

First drawing of the carving, c.1994

In the same region as the Ellers Wood 618 and other carvings and very close to the river, somehow this heavily cup-marked stone evaded the prying eyes of such notaries as Cowling, Stuart Feather and Sidney Jackson – all of whom ventured to look at the other carved stones in Ellers Wood.  But with good fortune, Graeme Chappell and I re-discovered this fine-looking carved rock specimen and gave it back the attention it truly deserves!

The main feature here is the clustering of cups into sections, as the drawing indicates.  It is listed as “stone 614” in Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey.

References:

  1. Boughey, K.J.S. & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Exeter 2003.
  2. Cowling, E.T., ‘A Classification of West Yorkshire Cup and Ring Stones,’ in Yorks. Arch. Journal 1940.
  3. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  4. Cowling, E.T. & Hartley, C.A., ‘Cup and Ring Markings to the North of Otley,’ in Yorks. Arch. Journal 33, 1937.
  5. Grainge, William, The History and Topography of the Forest of Knareborough, J.R. Smith: London 1871.
  6. Grainge, William, History and Topography of the Townships of Little Timble, Great Timble and the Hamlet of Snowden, William Walker: Otley 1895.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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Ellers Wood (619), Washburn Valley, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Carving:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1902 5102

Also Known as:

  • Airship Carving
  • Carving no.619 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Old photo of CR-619

Follow the same directions for the Ellers Wood 614 and 618 carvings, as it’s nearby. The best way to check them out is simply to walk down past the haunted Dobpark Lodge, where it turns into a footpath and then when you reach the lovely old packhorse bridge at the valley bottom, walk upstream for 3-400 yards until you reach the next small wooded region.  Once there, look around…..

Archaeology & History

Ellers Wood is at the very northern edge of the beautiful parish of Askwith and has a very particular ambience of its own. The small cluster of at least 5 cup-and-ring stones in this lovely little woodland gives you the impression that they stood out on their own, living here respresenting the genius loci of this luscious watery vale, all-but-hidden from all but the lucky few.

Cowling's 1937 sketch

1991 sketch of CR-619

Beautifully preserved, this carving was first described in an article by Cowling & Hartley (1937), then included in Cowling’s Rombald’s Way (1946).  As with the other cup-and-rings close by, the characteristic grouping of certain cups is here focused into three sections by enclosing rings.  This was something I used to call ‘central design’ features, which occur in different locales with their own individual geographical patterns/structures.  These central designs are non-numeric in function, though have a tendency to cluster in patterns of 2, 3 and 4.  (I need to write a decent essay on this to outline what I’m on about with greater clarity!)

References:

Boughey, K.J.S. & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Exeter 2003
Cowling, E.T., ‘A Classification of West Yorkshire Cup and Ring Stones,’ in Yorks. Arch. Journal 1940
Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946
Cowling, E.T. & Hartley, C.A., ‘Cup and Ring Markings to the North of Otley,’ in Yorks. Arch. Journal 33, 1937
Grainge, William, The History and Topography of the Forest of Knareborough, J.R. Smith: London 1871
Grainge, William, History and Topography of the Townships of Little Timble, Great Timble and the Hamlet of Snowden, William Walker: Otley 1895.

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Ellers Wood (618), Washburn Valley, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Carving:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1901 5101

Getting Here

Sketch of CR-618, c.1990

Follow the same directions to reach the other Ellers Woods carvings, staying on the western-side of the river close to where it meets with Snowden Beck, just north of the footpath. Check it out in winter and early Spring — any later in the year and it might be a little overgrown.

Archaeology & History

A truly lovely, lichen enriched carved rock in a lovely little part of the Fewston valley.  The place has a distinct genius loci that’s very different from its carved rock companions on the moorland hills a short distance away.  As I’ve said elsewhere: the surroundings of trees and richer fertile growth is something we must remember to ascribe to these carvings when we encounter them, as the landscape in places such as Ellers Wood is much closer to the scattered forested landscape that profused when first these stones were inscribed.

Section of CR-618

First described by Cowling & Hartley in 1937, it was later included in Cowling’s (1946) more extensive prehistoric survey of mid-Wharfedale.  There may be as many as 38 cup-markings cut onto the rock here, along with several lines and grooves.  A meditative dreaming site indeed…

References:

Boughey, K.J.S. & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Exeter 2003
Cowling, E.T., ‘A Classification of West Yorkshire Cup and Ring Stones,’ in Yorks. Arch. Journal 1940
Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946
Cowling, E.T. & Hartley, C.A., ‘Cup and Ring Markings to the North of Otley,’ in Yorks. Arch. Journal 33, 1937
Grainge, William, The History and Topography of the Forest of Knareborough, J.R. Smith: London 1871
Grainge, William, History and Topography of the Townships of Little Timble, Great Timble and the Hamlet of Snowden, William Walker: Otley 1895

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Eilean Musdile, Lismore, Argyll

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference NM 779 351

Archaeology & History

Once to be seen on the highest point of the island, this impressive 9-foot tall standing stone is thought to have been removed during construction of the old lighthouse around 1833.  First described by a traveller here in 1784, it was mentioned just once again during survey work in 1829. The monolith appears to have recorded the midwinter sunset.

References:

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 2: Lorn, HMSO: Edinburgh 1975.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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East Adderbury Cursus, Banbury, Oxfordshire

Cursus: OS Grid Reference – SP 473 372

Also known as:

  1. Bodicote Cursus

Found a few miles south of Banbury and running in a southeast to northwest alignment, Paul Devereux wrote that,

“the crop marks of this cursus fragment were first photographed by James Pickering in 1972…between the villages of East Adderbury and Bodicote…close to the River Cherwell.  The southeast end is square; the other terminus is unknown.”

References:

  1. Pennick, Nigel, & Devereux, Paul, Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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Dun Mac Sniachan, Benderloch, Argyll

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – NM 9032 3822

Also Known as:

  • Dun mac Uisneachan
  • Dun Uisnach
  • Beregonium

Early plan of the Fort, 1885

Early plan of the Fort, 1885

Archaeology & History

This is a fine-looking monument amidst a fine piece of landscape!  The site was constructed over various centuries, beginning in the Iron Age, with the earliest parts being the traces of walling on the outer edges.  This first section of the fort “measures about 245m in length by a maximum of 50m in width internally,” and much of it can still be traced all along the full length and breath of the geological ridge upon which it sits.  However, the timber-laced walls that stood all round the edges have, obviously, all but disintegrated.  This earlier part of the fort, wrote Richard Feacham (1977),

“was superceded by a small subrectangular, now vitrified fort, about 170 feet long by 60 feet wide, and by a circular and probably vitrified dun measuring about 60 feet in diameter.”

View of the Dun (Smith 1885)

Looking out from the dun

There was ample water supply for the people who may have lived on this ridged fortress, as there is still a fresh water spring on the southeast edge of the hill.  And it seems pretty obvious that this fort was occupied for some considerable time into the Common Era, as material remains found amidst excavation work here at the end of the 19th century, “including metalwork of Roman date…suggests an occupation in the early first millenium AD.” (Harding 1997)

Folklore

The folklore and legends of this site (aswell as the surrounding district) are considerable, and for now I must refrain from writing all there is (it’d take me ages!). Needless to say, R. Angus Smith’s (1885) fine old history and folklore work  is the source of much material.  Smith told us that,

“There are many stories about it.  It has been called the beginning of the kingdom of Scotland, the palace of a long race of kings; also the Halls of Selma, in which Fingal lived; the stately capital of of a Queen Hynde, having towers and halls and much civilization, with a christianity before Ireland; whilst it has also been considered to be that which the native name implies, simply the fort of the sons of Uisnach, who came from Ireland, and whose names are found all over the district, and who in the legend are reported to have come to a wild part of Alban.”

References:

Feacham, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
Harding, D.W., “Forts, Duns, Brochs and Crannogs,” in The Archaeology of Argyll (edited by Graham Ritchie[Edinburgh University Press 1997]).
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Argyll- volume 2, HMSO: 1974.
Smith, R. Angus, Loch Etive and the Sons of Uisnach, Alexander Gardner: London & Paisley 1885.

Links:

  1. PSAS: Dun mac Sniachan & other Local Antiquities

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Dun Gallain, Colonsay, Argyll

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – NR 348 931

Getting Here

Bittova trek this one.  Once on Colonsay, head out onto the B8086 road west of Scalasaig until you, past Machrins, and onto the gold course. Take the footpath across it (south), until you hit the little airstrip where you need to veer right (west) right onto the spur of the coast about 800 yards away.  Your damn close!

Archaeology & History

This site occupies a prominent position.  Its summit is surrounded by a line of oval walling enclosing an area of about 90 square yards.  There are also remains of of outer walling to the eastern and southern sides.  The ‘cairn’ on the highest spot in the middle of the hillfort is a modern construction.

Folklore

The great Scottish folklorist A.A. MacGregor (1947) narrated the tale behind this denuded fort on the western edge of the island. According to the islanders who told him the tale, they alleged it Norwegian in origin, though the fortress is much older than that. MacGregor told that, “in this fort there once lived an elderly and voluptuous tyrant named Grey Somerled, who is said to have been related to the first of the Lords of the Isles.

“Grey Somerled came to Colonsay, they say, in the capacity of factor. But he neglected his duties, imposed penalties and hardships on the innocent and defenceless tenants, and generally made himself so disagreeable that at last it was decided to take revenge upon him, previous warnings having been no deterrent.

“Like Rory Mor of Dunvegan, who slept best when he was within hearing of his ‘nurse’, the waterfall, Grey Somerled was wont to be lulled to sleep by the grinding noise of a quern placed near his head. When he retired for the night, one of the servants had to turn the quern-stone by his pillow, and keep on turning it, lest he woke.

“It was recognised that any attempt to surprise Grey Somerled during daylight was foredoomed to failure. So, a plot was laid to circumvent him during the night-time. His enemies entered into a conspiracy with one of the servants that she should allow them to invade Dun Gallain after he had fallen asleep. When they arrived, one of their number relieved the woman at the quern, and proceeded to turn the stone without intermission. But he was not too skillful at the turning; and his harsh and irregular grinding soon woke the sleeper. Ere Gey Somerled had had time to consider the matter of resistance, his foes were upon him. They carried him away from Dun Gallain; and tradition in the islands of Argyll has it that, in great privation, he spent the remainder of his days in a bee-hive house of stone, situated on the farmlands of Machrins.

“One night – so the story concludes – a huge boulder from the roof of the bee-hive fell in, killing its unhappy inmate. So as to identify the spot where this tragedy happened, the islanders raised on it the cairn now indicated on the Ordnance Survey Map as Carn Shomhairle Liath – that is to say, Grey Somerled’s Cairn.”

Interestingly, there is a long-cist burial at Machrins (plus small settlement) a few hundred yards east of the fort, and excavations here found them to date from the Viking period; though the Scottish Royal Commission thought that although the “small finds associated with the burial suggest that it is Viking, the plan-form of the houses is perhaps more likely to indicate a native tradition.”

References:

MacGregor, Alasdair Alpin, The Peat-Fire Flame, Ettrick Press: Edinburgh 1947.
Royal Commission of Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Argyll – volume 5, HMSO: Edinburgh 1984.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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