Although I am local to High Banks (live in Castle Douglas 10 miles away) until I read 'Hornel : The Life and Work of E.A. Hornel: Bill Smith: Atelier Books: Edinburgh: 1997, I did not know thay had inspired a painting by Hornel called 'The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe' - now in the Kelvingrove museum in Glasgow.
Following is the story - for fuller version see my greengalloway blogsite for July 2006 (post inspired by listening to newly discovered early Pink Floyd tracks - Jan 1967 version of Interstellar Overdrive)...
Go back to about 1889. On an outcrop of rock above High Banks farm steading near Kirkcudbright a set of 'cup and ring' rock carvings were found. Local (and Glasgow) artist Edward Hornel went to see them and then visited an old man called Sinclair who knew where more of the markings could be found:
Sinclair took from a shelf a small china bowl in which was a small bluish stone. Holding this in his hand, in a few minutes he seemed to go off in a sort of trance, and then began to describe, like a wireless announcer today [i.e. 1939], a vision of a procession of priests with sacred instruments and cattle which somehow were connected with the cup-and ring markings... [from A.S. Hattrick: A Painter's Pilgrimage Through Fifty Years :1939: 60/61 in Bill Smith: Hornel: 1997: 59]
This inspired E.A. Hornel & George Henry to paint The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe - now in the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow. Note : Google image search on "Hornel Druids" brings up several images of painting.
Hornel lived (until his death in 1933) at Broughton House in Kirkcudbright. Here he built up a library of 25 000 local interest books (inc. a huge section on Burns). He also had a cast made of the High Banks cup and ring markings for the Stewartry Museum, also in Kirkcudbright - can still be seen there.
Stu and I were in total agreement when it came to selecting sites that we must get to on this trip.
High Banks was a must.
Sometimes you try not to anticipate a site because it may fail to live up to your expectations but this isn't the case with High Banks.
Drive all the way to High Banks Farm you can park and the footpath to the rocks is marked. As you climb the hill you can see the outcrop in front of you. There's a small quarry in the outcrop and a modern plaque has been placed on a plinth.
The carvings are breathtaking and increase in complexity as you move along the rock.
As well as the multitudes of cups and lovely rings there are pecked out channels that appears more broader than what you would expect. The large carving with the grouped cups and large central cup and rings uses the contour of the rock to increase it's visual and textural impact. It looks like a partially exposed fossil Ichthyosaur skull.
This is rock art taken to another level. This is a well designed motif which I would like to think was the work of one person, a dude/ette who got fed up with cups and rings and decided to produce something a bit more contemporary.
I bet all his mates took this piss out of him for it too!
This is one site that you should definitely see and feel.