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

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Eildon Hills

The Eildons are one of the supposed resting places of King Arthur and his Knights- a hidden cave or vault deep in the hills are where they sleep. Another tale relates to the hills as a gateway to the realm of the Faerie. Thomas the Rhymer, a 13th Century poet, is supposed to have been resting at the foot of these hills and met the Faerie Queen who took him into the heart of them;
'He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years were gane and past
True Thomas on earth was never seen.'

The Witches' Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

This site is where the last witch in Scotland was burnt according to local legend. The nearby village of Spott was notorious for its witches in the 17th and early 18th centuries and this stone is placed near the spot where Marion Lillie, the Ringwoodie Witch, was burnt about 1698.

St. Triduana's Wellhouse (Sacred Well)

Legend has it that St. Triduana was one of a group of holy nuns who accompanied St. Regulas to Scotland from Constantinople as early as 337 AD. They brought with them relics of St. Andrew. Her beauty, and especially her exquisite eyes attracted the attention of the Pictish King Nectan. Triduana wasn’t keen on the attention and asked Nectan what is was about her that he loved. On being told it was her eyes she gouged them out and presented them to Nectan on a thorn. Nice!

Cheese Well (Sacred Well)

Tradition has it that travellers crossing the Minch Moor should leave pieces of food (cheese prefered!) for the little people to ensure a safe passage across the moor (which can be a bloody cold and bleak place at times so get yer sandwiches out for the wee folk!!)

The Maiden Stone (Natural Rock Feature)

Legend has it that squeezing through the Maiden Stone will bring not only good luck, but also increase fertility. The charm is even greater should you do this naked!

The Long Man's Grave

It was thought that the actual stone was a 'druidical stone' which had toppled over.
Legend has it that the stone marks the final resting place of a suicide or murder victim. It has also been suggested that this is the grave of Macbeth.

St. Catherine's Well (Sacred Well)

Legend has it that St. Catherine of Alexandria let fall a drop of oil that she was carrying to Queen Margaret from Mount Carmel or Mount Sinai and a spring welled up. As well as treating eczema it was alleged that this well was used for treating leprosy, but this may be based only on the fact that the neighbourhood within which the well is situated- Liberton- may have derived from the name ‘Leper-Town’.

Wells O' Wearie (Sacred Well)

'…Jonet Boyman of Canongate, Edinburgh, accused in 1572 of witchcraft and diabolic incantation, the first Scottish trial for which a detailed indictment has so far been found. Indeed, it is one of the richest accounts hitherto uncovered for both fairy belief and charming, suggesting an intriguing tradition which associated, in some way, the fairies with the legendary King Arthur. At an 'elrich well' on the south side of Arthur's Seat, Jonet uttered incantations and invocations of the 'evill spreits quhome she callit upon for to come to show and declair' what would happen to a sick man named Allan Anderson, her patient. She allegedly first conjured 'ane grit blast' like a whirlwind, and thereafter appeared the shape of a man who stood on the other side of the well, and interesting hint of liminality. She charged this conjured presence, in the name of the father, the son, King Arthur and Queen Elspeth, to cure Anderson. She then received elaborate instructions about washing the ill man's shirt, which were communicated to Allan's wife. That night the patient's house shook in the midst of a huge, and incomprehensible ruckus involving winds, horses and hammering, apparently because the man's wife did not follow the instructions to the letter. On the following night the house was plagued by a mighty din again, caused, this time, by a great company of women.'
From 'Scottish Fairy Belief' by Lizanne Henderson and Edward J. Cowan (2001) 127-128.

St. David's Well (Sacred Well)

Legend has it that in September 1128, King David was hunting in the Royal Park and he was attacked by a stag that had been lying beside a spring. This was no ordinary stag though as it had a cross attached to it's antlers. Although injured the King managed to garb the cross whereupon the animal vanished towards the spring.

St. Anthony's Well (Sacred Well)

'Even in Edinburgh, little bands of the faithful may be seen making their way through the King's Park to Arthur's Seat, and, as in the eighteenth century,
ON May-Day, in a fairy ring,
We've seen them round St. Anton's spring,
Frae grass the caller dew-drops wring,
To weet their een,
And water clear as crystal spring,
To synd them clean.'
From 'The Silver Bough Volume Two' by F.Marian McNeill (1959) Page 65.

Arthur's Seat

'Edinburgh
Beltane Rites
(First Day of May)
Arthur's Seat, a hill of over 800 feet, behind the Palace of Holyroodhouse, is one of the traditional sites on which our pre-Christian forebears were accustomed to light their Beltane fires at sunrise on the first day of May, to hail the coming of summer and to encourage by mimetic magic the renewal of the food supply.
"For the growth of vegetation, not only sunshine, but moisture is necessary: hence not only fire, but water had its place in the Beltane ritual. To the Druids, the most sacred of all water forms was dew, and to the dew of Beltane morning they attributed special virtue, gathering it before dawn in stone hollowed out for that purpose. May dew, in a word, was the 'holy water' of the Druids. Those on whom it was sprinkled were assured of health and happiness and, tradition has it, where young women were concerned, of beauty as well, throughout the ensuing year."
To this day, all over Scotland numbers of young girls rise before dawn on the first of May and go out to the meadow or hillside to bathe their faces in the dew. Arthur's Seat is a favourite meeting place, and nearby is St. Anthony's Well, to which many used to resort to "wish-a-wish" on this auspicious day. This picturesque survival of the old pagan rites, together with the Christian service on the summit of the hill, draws hundreds of people to the site. As dawn approaches, numbers of young girls dally on the slopes of Arthur's Seat, laughing and chattering as they perform the immemorial rite, and are regarded with amused tolerance by the majority of the arrivals as they climb to the summit to join in the Sunrise Service.'
From 'The Silver Bough Volume Four' by F. Marian McNeill (1968) 78-79.

'In Edinburgh the observance of May Day was never entirely abandoned. Long after the Reformation, sick people were brought to Arthur's Seat before dawn to bask in the beneficent rays of the 'new sun', while others went on pilgrimage to the healing-well of Our Lady of Loretto, at Musselburgh. In the early nineteenth century, says Chambers, the area gates of the Edinburgh houses would open about 4 a.m. and the servant lasses would emerge in their best attire. They were joined by the prentice lads, and together with other enthusiasts, young and old, flocked through the King's Park to Arthur's Seat, where a maypole was erected. The proceedings began at daybreak, when the bakers and other craftsmen began to dance round the maypole to the music of pipes, tabours and fifes. At six o' clock the gentry began to put in an appearance, and soon afterwards the servant lasses left to prepare breakfast. By eight o' clock the fun was all over.'
From' The Silver Bough Volume Two' by F. Marian McNeill (1959) Page 81.

Schiehallion (Sacred Hill)

'There is a famous cave at the foot of Schiehallion where, tradition has it, fairies loved to dwell. There, it is said mortals from time to time dwelt among them, and interesting stories are told of the strange ways in which they were rescued from their power. Behind Schiehallion, again, on Creag Chionneachan, is one of the spots where the old Fingalian warriors were supposed to lie on their elbows awaiting the third blast of the horn that is to raise them to life again.
From ' A Higland Parish or the History of Fortingall' by Alexander Stewart 1928.

'…Schiehallion (3,547 feet)- i.e. the hill of the Daoine Shi or the Fairies' Hill. If all the tales one hears related by old natives of Rannoch could be fully relied on, Schiehallion in days of yore used to be a favourite resort of the fairy folks, and more especially once a year, when all the various tribes throughout Glenlyon, Rannoch, Strathtummel, etc. congregated. Here they used to assemble in large numbers and hold their annual convocation, presided over by the beautiful and accomplished Queen Mab, gorgeously arrayed in her favourite green silk robes, with her abundant crop of beautiful golden-yellow hair waving in long ringlets over her shoulder down to her waist. It is said that there are a long series of mysterious caves, extending from one side of the mountain to the other.'
From 'Rambles in Breadalbane' by Malcolm Ferguson 1891.

Newtyle Two Poster (Standing Stones)

'Two miles east of Dunkeld are the Standing Stones of Newtyle, commonly called the Druid Stones, near the "Doo's Nest", a projecting crag on the road to Caputh. These stones were probably monuments before the Druidic period, but the Druids or Pictish Priests generally annexed such monuments, and the name clings through the ages. The Newtyle Stones are possibly remains of a Circle; it is conjectured that, as a spur of Newtyle Hill rises sharply behind, the remainder of the Circle might have been where the road now runs, and had been destroyed during its construction. They are of common quartzose schist differing in height. The largest is over 6 feet at the north corner and 3 feet at the east. A fence divides them from the road; unfortunately, owing to the growth of ferns, bushes and trees, there is a danger that they may soon be lost to sight. Dr Marshall in his "Historic Scenes of Perthshire" alludes to these two upright stones at the Doo's Nest, but says they are supposed to mark the graves of two Danish warriors returning from the invasion of Dunkeld. Antiquarian research, however, as reported in the Society's Proceedings, places them among pre-historic monuments.'
From 'Dunkeld- An Ancient City' by Elizabeth Stwart (1926).

Roslin Glen (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

The whole glen around here is filled with legend and peopled with ghosts and spirits. Rosslyn Chapel is a mysterious and fascinating place. It has been argued that this is not a Christian site at all, but a temple to Freemasonary. The vaults under the chapel are thought to contain the Holy Grail, fragments of the cross that Christ was apparently crucified on, the ark of the Covenant, the remains of a UFO and scrolls which could throw the whole of Christianity into turmoil (if it isn't already). The chapel contains carvings of Green Men, American plants (which pre-date the Columbus crossing) and eight dragons at the base of the very famous Apprentice Pillar. These are thought to be eight dragons of Neifelheim which were said to lie at the base of Yggdrasil. Balls of light have been seen moving around the area of the chapel and the ghost of a monk has been seen on many occasions both inside and outside the chapel. Roslin Castle has a ghost dog which haunts and howls here, along with a White Lady. The drawbridge to the castle itself has also been the site of an apparition of a black knight on a black horse which gallops off the drawbridge- legend has it that the hoof prints of the horse can be seen on the vertical rocks upon which the drawbridge has been built- not that we looked- far too steep a drop! We did, however have a strange experience here…another time methinks.

The Bore Stane (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The plaque reads;
'In which the Royal Standard was last pitched for the muster of the Scottish army on the Borough Muir before the Battle of Flodden, 1513. It long lay in the adjoining field, was then built into the wall near this spot and finally placed here by Sir John Stuart Forbes of Pitsligo, 1852.
Highest and midmost was desiret,
The Royal Banner floating wide,
The staff a pine tree strong and straight,
Pitch'd deeply in a massive stone,
Which still in memory is shown,
Yet bent beneath the Standards weight
Marmion.'

Clach na Carraig (Standing Stone / Menhir)

This standing stone is said to mark the grave of Diarmid, a mythical hero who was associated with Finn MacCool.

Maeshowe (Chambered Tomb)

Legend has it that Maes Howe is protected by a being called Hogboy.

The Dwarfie Stane (Chambered Tomb)

This was known as 'Dvergasteinn' by the Viking raiders who settled on Hoy- the home of dwarfs.
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