Blimey. This is one hell of a long cairn, is it not? In fact, in a country chock-a-block with long cairns - albeit somewhat lacking in the vicinity - these Mutiny Stones form the longest long cairn I've seen this side of the incomparable Auchenlaich.
To stand at the head (or tail) of this truly monumental construction, despite the robbing of material to erect adjoining sheep folds and, shamefully, terminally moronic grouse butts, is to gawp in open mouthed wonder at the sheer human effort it must have taken to make the Neolithic vision a reality. I have no words. No, really, I don't... and if it wasn't for the conditions, I'd take off my hat to these people in recognition of what they achieved upon this desolate moor. A wobbly salute must suffice instead......
The standard route to the Mutiny Stones would appear to be along the Killpallet track to the north; however, nursing a somewhat 'tender' ankle (the result of too much cairn climbing, I guess) I decide to approach from the south. Hey, it looks shorter on the map, so it does. A very minor road leaves the Longformacus road and penetrates the fastness of the hills as far as Byrecleugh Farm, following the course of Dye Water. I ask permission to park here - permission readily granted by the very tall farmer - and set about making a complete hash of my map reading, descending from the track to investigate what appears to be a long cairn to my left. In my defence, it is a long cairn, but of the 'field clearance variety' only.
In retrospect, follow the road past Byrecleugh Farm to several more assorted dwellings, where you will be faced with a triple junction of tracks. Take the centre of these, climbing away to your right. A wide valley opens up to your left, with the aforementioned 'clearance cairn' visible on the far bank of the river. Ignore this - but not the view - and take the next, somewhat obscure right, following the left hand bank of a stream, a tall, spindly cairn visible upon Pyatshaw Ridge above to your right. The long cairn will soon come into view and is unmistakeable.
Set upon the south eastern slopes of Byrecleugh Ridge, the monument is surrounded by water courses - perhaps significantly so - with Dye Water to the south, Byrecleugh Burn to the east/north and Brock's Cleugh to the west. Here, silence is total in the absence, today, of any 'mighty' shotgun wielding hunters. Nobut's post has the technical stuff; suffice to say those who like their monuments to be somewhat 'remote' will love it here. Plonk yourself down upon the surprisingly wide head of the monument and simply enjoy one of the longest of Scotland's long cairns....
The Mutiny Stones date from the third millennium BC and are identified as a long cairn, aligned NE-SW. They are situated about 4 miles NW of Longformacus in a very remote spot. Believed to be a burial mound, but, in fact, evidence of burials has never been found, so perhaps they have a wider, different significance. To get there, take the B6355 from Gifford, then branch off onto a narrow windy road which heads in the direction of Duns. From the narrow road, avoiding the numerous sheep along the way (the road is unfenced), you are looking for an unmetalled track that goes south to a place called Killpallet. It is a little confusing because there is an official footpath marked to the left of the track you want. Ignore that, head on the right hand track to Killpallet, park your bike at the furthest point, then stride out south across the moor. It is not suitable to ride your bike across the moor. The heather and vegetation is quite thick, but also there are grouse and other ground-nesting birds. The Mutiny Stones are at the place indicated in the OS map ref . There are a couple of small cairns that you pass on the way.
The Mutiny Stones are 85m long and between 7 and a half and 23m wide. This long cairn used to be bigger but some of the stones have been pilfered for various uses, including constructing the sheep pens that you can also see in my pictures.
On the hill behind Byre cleugh is a very curious and remarkably-shaped cairn called the Deil's Mitten, which, according to tradition, marks the burial place of a Pictish King.
This monument is deserving of more careful investigation. In the old Statistical report of the parish of Longformaeus, it is described by the Rev. Selby Orde, as "a heap of stones 80 yards long, 25 broad, and 6 high, collected probably by some army, to perpetuate a victory or other remarkable event," Vol. I., 71. In the new Statistical report, the Rev. Henry Riddell observes "that a large heap of stone at Byrecleugh, 240 feet long, 76 broad, and 18 high, appears to attest a similar conflict. The stones have been carried to their present place from a crag half a mile distant. They have received the name of meeting stones, but there is no authentic account of the occasion that led to their accumulation." Vol. II., 94. In Towler's map of Berwickshire, 1826, they are called the meeting stones.
From volume 6 of the History of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club (1869).
The earliest reference to the monument is on a 1771 map where it is refered to as "Mitten full of Stones". A local legend tells how the devil was carrying stones in his mitten to Dunbar to build a dam across the Tweed to Kelso, when the mitten burst and the stones fell on the moor. There is also a tale of gold wrapped in a hide of an ox and buried beneath the cairn.
The cairn was excavated by Lady John Scott in 1871 who "failed to find anything of interest" and then in 1924 by James Hewat Craw.
Hewat Craw uncovered a number of walls and areas of disturbance which led him to the conclusion that the long cairn may have contained "enclosed chambers of one sort or another and which have as yet yeilded only relics of the stone phase of culture"
All information from
The Mutiny Stones, Berwickshire
By James Hewat Craw F.S.A. Scot
Proceeding of the Society of Scottish Antiquities 1925