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

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Wiltshire — News

American recreates bronze age necklace from Wiltshire Museum pictures

A woman who lives more than 4,000 miles away from Wiltshire has recreated an ancient necklace from the county.

More info :

Stonehenge and its Environs — News

Stonehenge tunnel campaigners vow to keep fighting

Campaigners have vowed to continue their fight against a proposed road tunnel on the A303 near Stonehenge.

More info :

Stonehenge tunnel: Campaigners lose High Court challenge

Campaigners have lost a High Court challenge against renewed plans to build a road tunnel near Stonehenge.

Sadly more info :

Essex — News

'Exceptional' hoard of Bronze Age axe heads found in Essex

The "exceptional" condition of a hoard of 10 Bronze Age axes discovered by a detectorist has surprised an expert.

More info :

King Coil's Grave (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

Speaking of Coylton, on the Water Of Coyle, the Statistical Account Of Scotland (1798) says;

'There is a tradition, though it is believed, very ill-founded', that the village derives its name from a King Coilus who was killed in battle in the neighbourhood and buried in the church here. Fergus Loch, to the west of the church, 'is supposed by some to take its name from King Fergus, who defeated Coel King Of The Britons in the adjacent field'.

According to others, however, the battle was fought in the parish of Tarbolton, and they pointed to the slabs of stone covering a burial mound known as King Coil's Tomb in the grounds of Coilsfield House. The tomb is probably the cairn marked near Coilsfield Mains on modern maps.

The site was investigated in May 1837 by the minister of the parish, the Reverend David Ritchie, whose report went into the New Statistical Account 1845. The excavations unearthed a circular flagstone covering another, smaller stone which itself covered the mouth of an urn filled with white coloured burned bones. Other urns were found nearby, and though no coins, armour or other implements were discovered, Ritchie notes:

An old man remembers that his father, then a tenant on the Coilsfield estate, turned up pieces of ancient armour and fragments of bone when ploughing the 'Dead-Men's-Holm.'

Reverend David Ritchie 1845

Rubers Law (Hillfort) — Folklore

A poor man from Jedburgh was on his way to one of the sheep markets held at Hawick at the end of every year to sell off sheep for slaughter. As he was passing over the side of 'Rubislaw' nearest the Teviot he was suddenly alarmed by a frightful and unaccountable noise which seemed to come from a multitude of female voices. He could see nothing of the speakers but heard the howling and wailing mingled with shouts of mirth and merriment, and he made out the words,

'O there's a bairn born, there's naething to pit on't.'

The outcry was evidently occasioned by the birth of a fairy child, at which most of the fairy women rejoiced, while a few lamented the lack of anything to wrap the baby in.

Much astonished at finding himself in the midst of invisible beings in a wild moorland place, far from help should help be needed, the poor man, hearing the lament over and over again, stripped off his plaid and threw it on the ground. No sooner had he done so, than it was snatched up by an invisible hand, and the lamentations ceased, but the sounds of joy redoubled.

Guessing that he had pleased the invisible beings, the poor man lost no time in continuing on his way to Hawick market. There he bought a sheep which proved a remarkably bargain, and returned to Jedburgh. He never had cause to regret the loss of his plaid, for every day after that his wealth multiplied and he died a rich and prosperous man.

Folk-Lore And Legends: Scotland (1889)

Aquhorthies (Stone Circle) — Folklore

A special type of stone circle known as 'recumbent' is to be found in this part of the country (aka Aberdeenshire), distinguished by a massive block lying flat and flanked by two upright stones. A good example is found here, near Banchory-Devenick. It is said that a local man removed one of the stones to serve as a hearthstone, but was afterwards so disturbed by strange noises that he put it back where he found it. Similar stories are told of many stone circles, but a more unusual tale concerning Aquhorthies is given in an 1813 agricultural survey:

Close to the principle druidical circle there are two parks of extraordinary fertility, although much incumbered with large masses of stone interspersed through them. The ground of these parks has been long remarked for its productiveness; that in the time of the Picts, soil had been brought to these parks, all the way from Findon, a distance of two miles; and that this was done by ranging a line of men along the whole distance, who handed the earth from one to another

It was remarked in 1985 that the fields around the Aquhorthie circle still have some of the best soil in the area.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Law Hill (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

From Shien Hill I headed, west, retracing my easily found steps in the track or mudbath until I reached a track heading south. Follow this until some trees, then follow the fence heading west. A gentle climb to a small ridge gives a superb view of the hillfort plus a couple of hut circles.

I approached through the north entrance which is lined by two small dry stane dykes (the borders of the probable main entrance), cutting through several defences. 5 ramparts plus a cheveaux de frise protect the north, it being the most easiest climb. Entrances can also be found to east, west (very steep) and south. The southern entrance appears to have been quarried almost out of existence.

A 6m wide wall surrounds the hilltop, protecting the 154m by 90m site, the best remnants are on the north west.

A much easier climb than Evelick.

Visited 29/12/2023.

Arnbathie (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

The Arnbathie cairn is situated on the highest point of Law Hill, which is also the highest point of the hillfort. Some stonework remains on the North East and along with, perhaps, a very earthfast sunken kerb.

At just over 7.0m wide and 0.5m tall the cairn is grass covered, superb views as the winter's sun begins to fade.

Visited 29/12/2023.

Green Cairn (Hillfort) — Folklore

The large Iron Age ring fort of Green Castle, otherwise known as Queen's Castle or Finella's Castle, is said to have been the site of an early medieval fortress, seat of the maomor or 'great officer' of the Mearns. Here, it was said, Kenneth III was assassinated towards the end of the tenth century. The antiquarian Robert Chambers, writing in 1827, gives an account of the murder drawn from the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century chronicles:

Having excited the implacable hatred of a powerful lady, named Fenella, by killing her son in a rebellion, she put on a courteous face, and invited him to her castle, where she had prepared a singular engine, for the purpose of putting him to death. Under pretence of amusing him with the architectural elegance of her mansion, she conducted him to the upper apartment of a tall tower, where, in the midst of splendid drapery and curious sculptures, she had planted a statue of brass, holding a golden apple. This apple, she told him, was designed as a present for his majesty, and she courteously invited him to take it from the hand of the image. No sooner had the king done this, then some machinery was set in motion, which, acting upon an ambuscade of crossbows behind the arras, caused a number of arrows to traverse the apartment, by one of which killed the king.

Fenella left the castle before the murder was discovered by the king's attendants, who broke down the door and found their master weltering in his blood.

It was said that Fenella made for another castle of hers at a wild place on the coast called, Den-Fenella. Being pursued, she concealed herself amongst the branches of the trees, and as thick forest stretched all the way from one castle to the other, she was able to swing herself along for a distance of about ten miles, and pass over the very heads of her bewildered pursuers. Different accounts can be found of what happened to her after that: some say she was captured and burned, some that she was at last brought to bay near Lauriston Castle, where she chose death over captivity and threw herself from the crags onto the rocks beneath, while a third version holds that she escaped to Ireland.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Shien Hill (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Just north of Easthill Farm there is a track that heads east. Follow the track, sometimes mud bath, as it heads east and look for the tree covered hill to the north. Not all of the hill is tree covered, jump the fence and head north through the trees, the north side clear. Glorious views of snow covered mountains to the north. After weeks of rain and flood it's nice to see the sun.

The cairn is huge, being 34m wide and 6m high. Something is disturbed on top, a marker or walker's cairn. Some stones do poke through the grass / turf covered site. Canmore says it hasn't been disturbed, long may that continue to be the case.

Lovely place, very quiet.

Visited 29/12/2023.

Stone of Morphie (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

The Stone Of Morphie or Morphy is said to mark the grave of a Danish king, Camus, defeated in battle by Malcolm 2 (1005-1034). During a hurricane in the mid nineteenth century the stone fell down, and while it was being re-erected a skeleton was found beneath it, 'of large dimensions.'

J. C. Watt writing in 1914, surmises that the monolith once formed part of a circle, adducing the 'immense number' of stone circles and tombs found in the neighbourhood, and adds that 'some years ago' he sent a friend to photograph the stone, 'but it was doing some duty at the core of a corn stack at the farm of Stone o' Morphy'.

The stone is associated not only with the Danes but with the menacing Kelpie, said to have carried it. Archibald Watt notes in 1985 that 'you can still see his fingerprint on the stone where he grasped it', a motif more commonly associated with the Devil or a giant rather than the Kelpie, which usually appeared as a horse, although it could mainfest in human form. This Kelpie haunted the Ponage (or Poundage, or Pontage) Pool in the Esk, and was celebrated in a poem of 1826 by George Beattie

When ye hear the Kelpie howl,
Hie ye to the Pontage-pool;
There you'll see the Deil himsel'
Leadin' on the hounds o' Hell.

Here the Kelpie is described as a 'stalwart monster, huge in size';

Behind, a dragon's tail he wore,
Twa bullock's horns stack out before;
His legs were horn, wi joints o' steel,
His body like a crocodile.

'It is a well-authenticated fact' note Beattie, 'that, upon one occasion, when the Kelpie had appeared in the shape of a horse, he was laid hold of, and had a bridle, or halter, of a particular description, fastened on to his head. He was kept in thraldom for a considerable time, and drove the greater part of the stones for the building of the house of Morphie. Some sage person, acquainted with the particular disposition of the animal, or fiend, or whatever he maybe called, gave orders that at no time should the halter be removed, otherwise he would never more be seen.' A maid-servant, however, happened to go into the stable and took pity on the beast, taking off the bridle and giving it some food. The Kelpie then laughed and immediately went through the back of the stable, but leaving no mark whatever on the wall. As he went he proclaimed:

O sairs my back, and sair my banes,
Leadin' the Laird o' Morphie's stanes;
The Laird o' Morphie canna thrive
As lang's the Kelpie is alive.

The curse had its effect: no trace of Morphie Castle now survives.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Pole Hill (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Pole Hill can be seen from all surrounding areas, indeed it seemed to keep an eye on me most of the day. From Evelick Hillfort I walked past the Goddens cup marked rock. There is a fence to be contested with, in the end I cheated and rolled underneath.

At 20m wide and 3m high the site has superb all round views, but appears to be built in three sections. As per usual, a trig has been plonked on top. Some stonework can be seen but short grass mainly covers the

The cairn doesn't seem to have been damaged in any way, apart from the obvious, let's hope it stays that way.

A stunning site.

Visited 29/12/2023.

Evelick (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

From the cup marked rock at Goddens walk south east, you'll walk straight into the multiple defences of Evelick Hillfort. There are 5 ramparts, some several metres in height, to climb over before getting to the centre of the fort.

Elsewhere, defences are provided by natural features and a single rampart, steep climbs are in place to the east, south and west. There are entrances on the north, a causeway type feature and in the east.

Fantastic views looking south to the multiple forts south of the River Tay in Fife, to north the large cairn on Pole Hill, the next stop.

Visited 29/12/2023.

Cnoc Na H-uiseig (Chambered Cairn) — Folklore

When the site was excavated it looked like a small green hill, but stone slabs breaking through the surface betrayed the cairn beneath, and also that at some time it had been disturbed. Local knowledge of the man-made constructions inside such seemingly natural mounds probably inspired the tradition that fairies lived in the 'hollow hills' and might still be encountered by those who entered. Similar to Bruan.

Reverend George Sutherland (1937)

Bruan (Broch) — Folklore

In the parish of Latheron are the remains of a broch known as the fairy mound of Bruan. In 1937, the Reverend George Sutherland related that two men once passed the broch carrying a small keg of whisky for New Year celebrations. A door in the broch was open, and inside fairies were dancing to bagpipe music. One of the men wanted to join the dance and went in, but the other was more cautious and waited outside. A long time passed and the waiting man called to the other, who replied,

'I have not got a dance yet.'

After another while the man outside took his whisky and went on his way, expecting that his friend would be home by morning, but the next day he had still not returned, and the broch was closed, with no sign of a door, and no trace of the fairies. The man did not give up hope of his friend, however:

It was an old belief that in such a case the same scene would be enacted in the same place a year after, accordingly on the anniversary of that day he went to the Bruan Broch. It was open, the music and dancing were going on as before, and his friend was there. He put some iron article in the door to prevent the fairies from closing it, as they are powerless in the presence of iron or steel. He went to the open door and said to his friend, 'Are you not coming home now?' His friend replied, 'I have not got a dance yet.'

The man outside told his friend that he had been a year in the broch, and that it was surely time for him to come home now, but his friend did not believe that he had been more than an hour inside.

The man then made a rush at his friend, seized him, and dragged him out by sheer force, and they set out for home together. It was difficult for him to realise that his sojourn with the fairies was such a prolonged one, but the fact that his own child did not recognise him, together with other changes that had taken place, convinced him.

The man who wanted to dance was lucky to have a loyal friend - some who enter a fairy mound never come out again. This is one of many similar told throughout Britain of the supernatural lapse of time in fairyland.

Caithness has numerous antiquities traditionally said to be fairy dwellings, among them a horned cairn known as the Fairies' Mound, or Cnoc Na H-uiseig

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Cnoc Na H-uiseig (Chambered Cairn) — Links


Links to Bruan Broch Legend.

Clach Clais An Tuirc (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

Sir Donald MacKay (1591- 1649) led an eventful life. He was imprisoned for adultery and suspected of bigamy, led a regiment in the Thirty Years war (1618-48), and, having accused his lieutenant David Ramsey of treason, was challenged by him to single combat, though the duel was prevented by the intervention of Charles 1. In 1628 he was created first Lord Reay, and a contemporary said of him that in his own estates 'he tyrannizes as if there were no law or king to putt order to his insolencies.'

After his death he became remembered in folk legend as a magician, Donald Duibheal or Dubhuail MacKay, and many tales are told of his occult exploits, several of which are included by George Sutherland in his Folk-Lore Gleaning (1937). It was said that while serving as a soldier under Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1594 - 1632) he had met the Devil and had been invited by him to attend the famous Black School Of Padua. In return for his teaching, the Devil required that the last student to leave at the end of the session should be forfeit to him as payment. As they filed out, it happened to be MacKay who was the last one out of the door and the Devil tried to grab him, but the canny MacKay turned around and pointed to his shadow, saying,

De'il tak' the hindmost.'

The Devil accordingly seized hold of the shadow and before he realised he had been tricked, MacKay himself had got safe away. The story is a local version of an international tale known as

Escape From The Black School

in which a student of the Black Arts deceives his satanic master, a ploy also attributed to Michael Scot, the Wizard of Balwearie and Sir Robert Gordon of The Round Square (Aberdeenshire)

When MacKay returned to the Reay country, people soon noticed that he cast no shadow and therefore must be uncanny. The Devil meanwhile had pursued his prey all the way from Italy, and they had a fisticuff fight which ended with MacKay giving the Devil a beating and getting from him a swarm of little demons or fairies who did all his work, ploughing his land, harvesting and threshing his corn and so forth. This was all very well, but when he had run out of jobs for them they still clamoured for employment, and MacKay found himself trying to occupy his troublesome assistants.

One idea that occurred to him was to get his imps to drain the loch on the east side of Clash Breac, Broubister, where a pot of gold was said to be hidden. They set with a will, but when the Cailleach of Clach Breac saw what was happening she shouted to the workers

'In the name of God, what are you doing here?'

At once the imps vanished, unable to hear mention of the sacred name. In fury, MacKay picked up a spade and split the Cailleach's head with it.

The unfinished work is still to be seen in the form of a deep ravine extending for about two hundred feet in the direction of the loch, but not reaching it. On the north side of this ravine there is a standing stone with the top part of it cleft in twain. This is said to be the Cailleach with her cloven head now turned into stone.

Spoil from the canal dug by the imps was hung up to make the conspicuous steep sided hills of Creag Mhor and Creag Bheag ('big crag' and 'little crag') south-east of Reay. As to the 'loch on the east side of Clash Breac', this probably refers to an area east of Cnoc Na Claise Brice, not a loch but a bog, a fact that could have been cited as 'proof' that the imps had partly succeeded in their drainage works. The petrified Cailleach is Clach Clais An Tuirc, a standing stone south-east of Loanscorribest.

The Cailleach, as a guardian of deer and other wild animals, may have resented the imps' interference with the landscape. It is not explained, why she, a supernatural being, is able to speak the name of God when the imps cannot bear to hear it.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Hill O'Many Stanes (Multiple Stone Rows / Avenue) — Folklore

Unique in Britain to Caithness and Sutherland are multiple rows of small standing stones set out in parallel lines or fan shapes, thought to date from the early Bronze Age. They are found sometimes in the neighbourhood of cairns, that is, burial sites, and may have had a religious function, though in the 1970s Professor Alexander Thom argued that they were used to calculate the movements of the moon.

Whatever their original purpose, such rows are still a fantastic sight. The best preserved run down the slopes of a low hill at Mid Clyth known as the Hill O' Many Stanes. They are small flat stones wedged upright with their broad faces aligned in more than twenty rows, fanning out slightly towards the southern end. Today about 200 stones remain, but it is thought the pattern could have involved 600 or more.

A popular belief that gold was hidden beneath the stones may have led to the removal of stone, and others have been destroyed by agriculture or removed for building, but as in the case of stone circles, it was said to be dangerous to interfere with them. A farmer at Bruan is said to have removed one of the Mid Clyth stones to use as a lintel above the fireplace of a kiln. When the fire was lit, the stone burst into flames but remained mysteriously unconsumed. This made him so fearful that he hastily returned the stone to the place in the row that he had taken it from.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Durcha (Broch) — Folklore

Like other parts of the British Isles, but perhaps more especially the Highlands, Sutherland has its tales of the disparity between mortal and fairy time. Despite its title, Henry Bett's English Myths and Traditions (1952) includes a characteristic story set near the south-east end of Loch Shin, He writes that a man returning from Lairg sat down to rest on the Hill of Durcha, near an opening in the ground:

He heard sounds of merriment from below, and went in. He was not seen again, and another man who was in his company was accused of making away with him. He asked for a year and a day's grace, and solemnly promised he would vindicate himself by then. He watched the opening in the hillside, and finally saw his companion come out with a troop of fairies. All of them were dancing. The man who had been accused seized his friend and held him. The rescued man said peevishly, 'Why could you not let me finish the reel, Sandy?' He could not believe that he had been with the fairies for a twelvemonth until he had reached home, and seen his wife with a child in her arms a year old.

The man's holding on to his friend when he came out of the hill is not a throwaway detail it may seem: this was the traditional way to redeem someone from the fairies, used for instance by Sandy Harg of New Abbey (Dumfries & Galloway) to rescue his wife. Other stories of the supernatural lapse in time are set at Bruan Broch, Maiden Castle (Central & Perthshire), and at Tomnahurich (Southern Highlands).

The 'hill of Durcha' was clearly a fairy mound in which the fairies had their dwelling. Often these were ancient cairns, but which of the many prehistoric sites around Lairg this one may have been is open to question. As well as brochs, stone circles, hut circles, and odd mounds, the parish contains numerous cairns and chambered cairns, any one of which might qualify as a fairy dwelling.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Smoo Cave (Cave / Rock Shelter) — Folklore

Even after he had escaped from the Black School at Padua, as told at CREAG MHOR and CREAG BHEAG, Donald Duibheal MacKay was still pursued by his old master. One day MacKay went to explore the great Smoo Cave, a huge limestone cavern near the north coast, south-east of Durness - but the Devil got news of his intentions and was waiting for him there. Some say MacKay fled, leaving his horse's footmarks by the cave's entrance. In Otta Swire's 1963 account, however, MacKay had reached the second cavern when his dog, who had raced ahead of him into the third and innermost chamber, came back

'howling and hairless'

warning MacKay who he could expect to see if he went further. Just at this moment, dawn broke and the sound of cockcrow was heard. The Devil and the three witches who were there with him realised their time on earth was up, blew holes inn the roof, and escaped: this is said to be the origin of the holes through which the Smoo Burn runs into the caverns.

The unfortunate dog's expereience that of the piper's hound at CLACH-THOLL (Argyllshire & Islands), whose master set out to explore a subterranean passage and was never seen again. in many such stories the dogs alone escape but with all their hair singed off, a sure sign of a fiery diabolical encounter. It is interesting here the Devil, like the ghost of Hamlet's father is dismissed from the world by:

the bird of dawning,

the cock announcing the end of the night. Nor is this the only Shakespearean echo sounded: the 'three witches' accompanying the Devil are probably an addition with literary inspiration.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

The Dwarfie Stane (Chambered Tomb) — Folklore

Rock-cut chamber tombs are reasonably common in the Mediterranean, but the only one to be found in Scotland is to be found on Hoy. The massive sandstone block was carved out about 4,000 years ago, forming a space that has been said to look like a bedroom with a hole on top. The legend in the late sixteenth century was that a giant was imprisoned here by another and gnawed his way out through the roof, though when Martin Martin visited the site around a 100 years later he heard the tradition that a giant couple had found shelter there. His description was most domestic: one of the ends within this Stone there is a cut out Bed and Pillow, capable of two Persons to lie in: At the other opposite end, there is a void space cut out resembling a Bed, and above both of these there is a large Hole, which is suppos'd was a vent for Smoak.

Considered as a worked stone it is immense, and the obvious labour involved in cutting it must have suggested giant strength. As accommodation however, the Dwarfie Stane would hardly be comfortable for any but a very small giant and his wife, especially if she was pregnant as suggested by the hollowing of her side of the bed. John Brand, writing in 1703, doubts the tale that a giant couple 'had this stone for their Castle':

I would rather think, seeing it could not accomodate any of a Gigantick stature, that it might be for the use of some Dwarf, as the Name seems to import, or it being remote from any House might be the retired Cell of some Melancholick Hermite.

A number of travellers from at least the eighteenth century onward have added graffiti to the tomb, inside and out. One name is that of the well-known antiquary Hugh Miller, and another of 'a Persian gentleman', Guilemus Mounsey, who apparently slept a couple of nights in the stone in 1850, and have the Hoy locals a fright when he appeared from inside in his flowing eastern robes.

Sir Walter Scott probably visited in August 1814 and refers to the site in The Pirate (1821):

The lonely shepherd avoids the place, for at sunrise, high noon, or sunset, the mis-shapen form of the necromantic owner may sometimes still be sitting by the Dwarfie Stone.

The 'necromantic owner' is named as Trolld, 'a dwarf famous in the northern sagas'. By this Scott means a troll, an ogre-like being that figures prominently in Scandinavian legend, but which has mutated in Orkney and Shetland lore as a trow or trowie, much closer to a fairy.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Maeshowe (Chambered Tomb) — Folklore

Maes Howe or Maeshowe is among the finest chambered tombs in Europe, dating from around 2700 BCE. It was said to be inhabited by a creature known as a Hogboy, but human beings too left their mark on the site. When it was excavated in 1861, the archaeologists found they were not the first on the scene: Vikings had broken, about 700 years earlier, and left graffiti on the walls. The presence of the twelfth-century vandals is recorded in twenty-four runic inscriptions, two of which refer to 'Jorsalafara' - literally, 'Jerusalem-farers', or crusaders.

The sort of things prople write on walls hasn't changed all that much over the centuries.

Thorny bedded; Helgi writes it'

-perhaps the tomb, macabre though it might seem, was where the locals did their courting, or perhaps the men were thinking of happier times:

Ingigerd is the most beautiful of women',

says one inscription.

Also carved here is a picture of an animal usually interpreted as a dragon, and some of the writings relate to buried treasure.. the poem Beowulf tells of a hoard guarded by a dragon in a barrow containing a secret passage, and it has been suggested that on entering Maes Howe the Vikings drew the dragon and wrote the runes because they were vividly reminded of the episode. There may, however, have been some factual element: one of the inscriptions states that the treasure was concealed north-west of the barrow, and in 1858 a cache of Viking silver ornaments was found at Sandwick, some way north from Maes Howe.

Particularly interesting is an inscription in large, even runes, informing us that these were cut,

'with the axe which belonged to Gaukr Trandilsson in the South of Iceland'.

The carver does not add his name, but, Hermann Palsson of Edinburgh University has used centuries old Icelandic poetry to establish his identity:

he was Thorhallr Asgrimsson, named in the Orkneyinga Saga as captain of the ship that brought Earl Rognvaldr Kali back from the crusade to Orkney late in 1153, and great-great-great-grandson of Asgrimr Ellitha-Grimsson, named in Njals Saga as the slayer of Gaukt Trandilsson. The axe of the victim was kept as an heirloom by the killer's family for six generations, around 200 years, and was brought to Orkney by a direct descendant of Asgrimr.

The tracing of its history is an astounding example of archaeological and scholarly detective work.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

County Kerry — News

Remains of ‘lost’ bronze age tomb discovered in County Kerry in Ireland

Altóir na Gréine stood for approximately 4,000 years on Dingle peninsula before vanishing in 19th century.

More info :

Goddens (Cup Marked Stone) — Fieldnotes

I was allowed to park at Evelick Farm, next to Evelick Castle (scene of quite a few murders). From there I headed north west to the first gate, jumped it and headed west, climbing the fairly steep slopes of Pole Hill. Easier paths can be found at the summit of the minor road.

5 well worn cup marks are on the rock which is almost between the cairn on Pole Hill and the fort at Evelick. At certain angles they can be made out, and other angles they are barely visible. They are all about 0.65cm wide.

Visited 29/12/2023.

The Standing Stones of Stenness (Circle henge) — Folklore

Several eighteenth- and nineteenth- century sources describe ceremonies performed at the Ring Of Brodgar and the Stones Of Stenness. On the first day of the New Year, young people of the neighbourhood used to meet at the Kirk of Stenness, taking enough food with them to last four or five days. Pairs of lovers would then leave the rest of the party and go to the Stones Of Stenness, known as the Temple Of The Moon, where women would pray to Odin that he would enable them to perform the promises they made to the men; after that the couples would go to the Temple Of the Sun (the Ring Of Brodgar) where the men made similar prayers. They would then go the Stone of Odin, a standing stone with a round hole in it through which the couples would clasp hands and plight their troth,

'a pledge of love which to them was as sacred as a marriage vow'.

The Archaeologia Scotica (1792) records the case of a young man who had got a girl pregnant then deserted her:

The young man was then called before the session; the elders were particularly severe. Being asked by the minister the cause of so much rigour, they answered, you do not know what a bad man this is; he has broke the promise of Odin, they put him in mind of the Stone at Stenhouse with the round hole in it; and added, that it was customary, when promises were made, for the contracting parties to join hands through this hole, and the promises made were called the promises of Odin.

It was further said that a child passed through the hole when young would never shake with palsy in old age. When visiting the stone it was customary to leave an offering of bread, cheese, a piece of cloth, or a pebble.

The Ring Of Brodgar and Stones Of Stenness can still be seen, although many of the stones have fallen and are embedded in the ground. The Stone Of Odin, however, was removed in around 1814 by a farmer, not a native of Orkney, who was annoyed by the number of visitors coming to see it. He is said to have used the stone to build a cow-house, and although no supernatural punishment is reported to have followed, two unsuccessful attempts were made by aggrieved neighbours to set fire to his property.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To The Legends Of Scotland

Westwood & Kingshill

Blackfaulds Stone Circle — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Williamston (Cairn(s)) — Images

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Lynchat (Souterrain) — Folklore

The Cave Of Raitts, a little way off the main road near Lynchat, is a horseshoe-shaped and roofed with large slabs of stone, and is sometimes claimed to be an Old Pechts (Picts) House. The semi-subterranean low-roofed souterrains or earth-houses, probably once used for storage, are often popularly identified as having belonged to the Pechts or Picts, sometimes equated with fairies.

The structure may look low from the outside, but as its other name An Uaimh Mhor (The Great Cave) implies, it is actually quite ample, and another tradition more suitable to its size is that it was built by giants. According to Alexander MacBain, writing in 1922:

The women carried the excavated stuff in their aprons and threw it in the Spey, while the men brought the stones, large and small, on their shoulders from neighbouring hills. All was finished by morning, and the inhabitants knew not what had taken place.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill

Williamston (Cairn(s)) — Images

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Ardgilzean Cottage (Cairn(s)) — Images

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Kilspindie (Stone Circle) — Images

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Kilspindie (Stone Row / Alignment) — Images

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Still doing the music, following that team and getting lost in the hills! (Some Simple Minds, Glasvegas, Athlete, George Harrison, Empire Of The Sun, Riverside, Porcupine Tree, Nazareth, The Avalanches, Public Service Broadcasting on the headphones, good boots and sticks, away I go!)

Turriff, Aberdeenshire

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