Birnam Hill Cup and Ring Marked Rocks
AKA Craig Ruenshin
Aed and I head off through the almost knee-deep heather and assorted vegetation leaving Kat and H-dog to head up to the top of Birnam Hill. The flies are almost unbearable up here and accompanied by the soaking humidity and rough terrain makes for a rather unpleasant journey. Along the way we disturb three very small roe deer. This ridge rises out from the gorse and heather. From the ridge we watch as tracks go sprinting through the gorse below us and suddenly a deer head appears barking obscenities at us before disappearing again- fantastic! According to the OS map there are three areas of cup and ring markings up here. I manage to find two- one is almost at the end of this ridge and comprises of about 11 cup markings with possibly two or three rings- it’s very hard to tell as this rock has weathered very badly. I’m trying to tread lightly on it where I have to as further boot erosion won’t help. I retrace my steps back along the ridge peering closely at all the rock surfaces. It is, however, not cup and ring markings I see first, but some dirty great big arrows scratched into the rock. Some complete idiot has seen fit to deface this ancient site to highlight to the fellow hard-of-thinking that there are a couple more cup and ring markings. I mean, for fucks sake, I was scared to walk on the ridge, but some arsehole has decided it’s okay to scratch arrows into the rock. I leave disgusted.
It might be best not to speak to anyone you meet up here.
A long time ago there was a servant lassie, who worked for the Minister at Little Dunkeld. She was a quiet lass, who had no mind for dances and such follies, and she liked fine to go for long walks on Birnam Hill.
After a time she told the Minister that she had met a grand gentleman there, who used to walk and talk with her, and he was courting her.
The Minister thought he'd better meet this man, so he was asked to the Manse. He looked very grand, and spoke very nicely, but when the Minister looked down at his feet - the blood ran cold in his veins, 'for he saw that he had cloven hoofs, and he knew that there was just one person that had that.' The girl couldn't seem to see them - she just saw a shiny pair of boots.
She wasn't to be put off, and eventually they were to be married. The Minister was not very happy but got her to agree to one condition - that if they were to be wed, he would do the ceremony himself.
On the big day the Fine Gentleman turned up in his carriage drawn by six black horses. Everyone was very impressed but the Minister could still see his cloven hoofs as plain as anything. Before the ceremony the Minister got a candle and lit it at both ends - "Now when this candle is burnt out I'll marry you, and not a minute before." The bride and groom were most put out, but everyone stood there waiting. When it had burnt down to a couple of inches, the Minister popped it into his mouth and swallowed it - "Now it'll never burn out and you'll never be married!" Upon this theatricality the stranger gave an enormous shriek, leapt out the window and disappeared into the ground. They say no grass will grow on that spot to this day.
The story was collected by K M Briggs from a Mary Crerer who lived in Dunkeld in 1926. It's printed in Briggs' 'Dictionary of British Folktales'.