The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


High Banks

Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art

<b>High Banks</b>Posted by stubobImage © stubob
Nearest Town:Kirkcudbright (4km WNW)
OS Ref (GB):   NX709489 / Sheets: 83, 84
Latitude:54° 49' 5.11" N
Longitude:   4° 0' 33.96" W

Added by fitzcoraldo

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The track from the main road is quite rough in places, and the fields you cross can be pretty boggy.

The model of the site on a plinth in front of it is difficult to reconcile with the actual site, possibly because some of the panel is overgrown?

Our visit was made more interesting by helicopter gunships doing live firing on the range nearby!
Posted by Ubik
27th October 2011ce

High Banks and Druids?

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.
Posted by AlistairLiv
6th July 2006ce


The road to the farm looks very rough - we weren't sure whether it was wise to go up - but glad we did because it was quite a way and there was an actual car park at the top!!

Well sign-posted, over two stiles through open farmland which this day was home to some very excitable young bullocks.

I was initially disappointed with this site, because maybe my hopes had been built up, but like Fitz and Stubob before, this was a "must do" and justifiably so. The panel was very overgrown....

Maybe cups are for growing offerings to the great god of moss.
pebblesfromheaven Posted by pebblesfromheaven
30th May 2005ce

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.
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
25th October 2003ce
Edited 25th October 2003ce


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Heritage Landscape Creativity

Druid Landscapes

Excellent blog on the history of this rock art.
moss Posted by moss
1st June 2015ce
Edited 2nd June 2015ce

Extreme Stonefeelers' World of Hard Rock & Standing Stones

Pics of the cup and ring maps plus frisky bullocks.
new abbey Posted by new abbey
10th April 2010ce
Edited 10th April 2010ce

Arte de rupestre de Galicia

An image of a panel at Pazos de Borbén (Pontevedra) displaying a similar theme to the highly unusual motifs at High Banks.
Hob Posted by Hob
18th June 2007ce
Edited 18th June 2007ce

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

Here are some nineteenth century journal articles about the carvings (online at Archway). They include lots of lovely illustrations.

Notices of Rock-Sculpturings of Cups and Circles in Kirkcudbrightshire. George Hamilton. v21 (1886-7)

Notice of additional groups of carvings of cups and circles on rock surfaces at High Banks, Kirkcudbrightshire. George Hamilton. v23 (1888-9).

A little on p81/2
Coles, Fred R. A Record of the Cup-and Ring-Markings in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.
vol 29 1894-5.

And this is about some cairns that were excavated not far away, 'Notice of the Excavation of two Cairns containing cists and Urns at Woodfield, on the Farm of Highbanks, Parish of Kirkcudbright. ' Another by George Hamilton, in v25 (1890-91).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th June 2007ce

High Banks on BRAC

rockartuk Posted by rockartuk
12th November 2005ce

Megalithic Walks

A really nice site which gives reliable directions to many sites.
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
25th October 2003ce