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

Fieldnotes by Corbie

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Boagstown (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Two short stones on a roadside bank (south). The eastern stone is gradually being engulfed by gorse. Both stones support ironmongery, presumably in order to support a gate. Why put this in the TMA? Just a feeling. I don't think the metalwork is contemporary with stones and they don't have any notch marks for a timber gate of the sort they used before hinges etc. Besides, they are so low lying I can't believe that they would have made an effective gate. So why are they there?

However, given my experience at Lower Boxton what do I know? Check it out if you are in the area. Park as directed for Lower Boxton

As an aside I reckon the word Boxton is derived from Boagstown, probably named after some Anglo-Saxon character who descended upon these shores between the 6th and 10th centuries.

Glen Ellrig (Standing Stones)

A bright, if breezy day on the Slamannan Plateaux with clouds scudding east, their dark bellies hinting that the weather could change any minute. It didn't and good old Sol hung in there. A fine day to seek out a couple of stones clustered in this area (according to my old OS 1:25,000 Pathfinder map).

Didn't take long to find. Odd setting I thought. Strange 'rashie' field but the circle of trees surrounding the stone had a charming air. Beech and Elm, although the wee Elms seem to be on their way out. The stone was of sandstone and I fancy I can see hints of the wavelets left in the sand during the Carboniferous. Stone and trees sat within a raised platform, having me think that there was a cairn associated with the stone.

The land about still didn't feel aright and I explored further as the map had referred to 'stones'. New pond for shooting and some of the old shelterbelts seem to have disappeared. Some ruined building and a collapsing dyke. Maybe the stone is built into the dyke. Still no sign. A buzzard screeches above as a cloud passes across the sun, making me shiver. Lots of grasshoppers, meadow browns, dragonflies and a jangling of Goldfinches bring me and the sun back. I returned to the other stone and said goodbye, generally feeling good about the spot.

Went on to visit Boagstown and South Bankhead but not before the "Danger!. Deep Water" (or words to that effect) sign. I reckon there has been a bit of opencast mining here. Could explain the disappearnce of one of the stones.

On getting home I decided to view Canmore before logging into the TMA. Ahh how to steal a soul's thunder..............

...........Stone 'A', situated in a small paddock on rising ground, is 0.4m by 0.2m and 1.0m high, with its main axis E-W.

Stone 'B', on top of a small rounded hillock within a circular plantation ring, measures 0.5m by 0.15m and 1.4m high.

Surveyed at 1:2500.
Visited by OS (AC) 24 April 1959

Both stones show little evidence of weathering and are probably not prehistoric.
RCAHMS 1963, visited 1954

The more northerly of the two stones recorded by the OS (1959) could not be located at the date of survey, due to the disturbance of the ground in the course of opencast mining operations, but the more southerly of the two is preserved on the top of hillock at NS 8853 7385 and matches the description of the OS (1959), having an enclosing bank around it. A local informant described the stone as a marker for a dog burial, which would confirm the view of the previous authority (RCAHMS 1963) that the stones are not antiquities in view of the limited signs of weathering on the surface of the stones, a view with which the current author would concur.
Visited by RCAHMS (PJD) 27 July 1992.........

...........Ho Hum. Guess I just saved some other numpty making the journey. Glad I found out the hard way all the same and did manage to read the Earth aright.

If anyone does fancy visiting, I reckon it may be best to park at NS882738, the former entrance to the opencast, as long as you don't block access completely. Mind out for the fly-tipping and burnt out cars. This is bandit country.

Gormyre (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The first point to note is that not all of these stones may necessarily be of prehistoric origin. There is however some evidence to suggest that at least one or two of them may be neolithic and/or may be linked with Cairnpapple.

There are four refuge stones found in the Bathgate Hills, a fifth if the 'font' stone at Torphichen Preceptory is included. There is a possibility that there is a sixth stone. All are said to be situated a mile from Torphichen Preceptory (WLDC, 198?) as measured from the 'font' stone found within the cemetery (Hendrie, 1986). Whether that is a Scot's mile or standard, I don't know. What I do know is that based on the grid references they range from 1-3 km from Torphichen Preceptory.

Torphichen Preceptory was a station of the Knights of St John Hospitallers of Jerusalem, established in 1124. There is no connection with the Knights Templar who were based at Kirkliston just west of Edinburgh.

In the TMA, nickbrand states:

'Sanctuary Stones' were at one time common in Scotland, mainly around large religious sites. Once a miscreant had entered within the bounds marked by these stones, he was considered 'safe' and could not be touched by civil law. It was then up to the religious experts to decide if he should be cast out! These stones were often of megalithic origin, re-used and 'christianised' by the incision of religious symbols.


T. Ratcliffe Barnett (1943) discussing the Knights of St John and the Torphichen Preceptory, alludes to a stone:

"in a field below below Craigmailing Hill, beyond the ruins of the little farm called Haddies Walls".

A map of 1891 (National Library of Scotland, cited in WLDC, 1991) shows Haddies Walls to be located exactly as described. T. Ratcliffe Barnett (1943) is obviously identifying the 'Gormyre' stone (as referred to in the TMA) lying directly west of Haddies Walls and identified on the modern 1:50,000 OS map (sheet 65) in gothic text as a 'Refuge Stone' (NS981730).

Interestingly, T. Ratcliffe Barnett (1943) implies that this is not one of the refuge stones as it lies well within the mile radius of Torphichen. The other refuge stones at Craigmailing (Refuge Stone), Couston and Westfield also loosely correspond with the points of the compass. The Gormyre stone seems slightly awry in this respect, the northern stone possibly the Lochcote Stone identified by T. Ratcliffe Barnett.

Is this a stone of a different origin from the other refuge stones?


A second stone is found at Craigmailing (NS997720) referred to in the TMA as the 'Refuge Stone' (just to confuse matters). The description of the stone in the TMA is accurate and the cross that is emblazoned upon it clearly links it with the Knights of St John of Torphichen.

Nickbrand goes on to describe a further stone nearby. I have to date been unaware of this stone and it does not appear to have been previously documented. There is however, another stone associated with the site, a glacial erratic located to the east of Craigmailing hill. It bears an inscription in memory of a covenanting minister and is often called the "preaching stone". Despite some wear and tear, it reads as follows:

"Jan[uar]y 14th 1738. Here was pre[ache]d [th]e 1st Ser[mo]n by [th]e most worthy Mr Hunter, from [th]e 37th Chap[ter] of Ezek[iel], and [th]e 26th verse".

(WLDC, 198?)

The 1891 map (National Library of Scotland, cited in WLDC, 1991) also identifies a stone cross at Lower Craigmailing. T. Ratcliffe Barnett (1943) does not comment upon this feature but does refer to a kirk foundation stone, found within the walls of Lower Craigmailing farm dated 1742. Hendrie (1986) seems incorrect in thinking that the stone cross is the memorial to this kirk.

A farm on the north-east slope of Craigmailing is known as 'Wairdlaw', a woodland nearby is known as 'The Weirds' and the gully that was to provide a natural amphitheatre for the presbyterian preaching of the covenanters is bounded by a crag known, rather ironically, as the 'Witches Craig'. Is it possible that this gully was to host covens of a very different nature from the christian martyrs? I know of no associated tales connecting the site with witchcraft but it could be related to the 'waird/weird' nomenclature from nearby. Aside from the obvious connotations, weird is derived from 'wyrd', the Norse for fate. The witches could be the Maid, Mother and Hag associated with both Norse and Celtic myth.

Since the Iron Age and into the modern period Craigmailing can be seen to have a consistent record of association with worship of one sort or another. Each historical period has a religious link with the site; norse, medieval and covenanter. Such consistency strongly suggests that traditions may go further into the past if for no other reason than the topography of the site. As already stated there is a natural amphitheatre.


NS941723 by the papermill in Westfield. T. Ratcliffe Barnett (1943) places the stone within the woodland shelterbelt that separates the surrounding farmland from the papermill. I sought this stone in the mid-nineties without success. T. Ratcliffe Burnett claims to have found this stone (1925). It is possible this stone was engulfed by trenches dug during World War II (WLDC, 198?). Why anyone would want to dig defensive trenches at this location is beyond me? The woodland is still there, could the stone be?


NS958706 in the middle of an arable field south of Couston Castle (ruin). I sought this stone in the mid-nineties without success and nor was it there in the 1980's (WLDC, 198?). There is a suggestion that the Couston site was lost through the clearance of stones from the farmland. T. Ratcliffe Burnett (1943) claims to have found this stone (1925) and it is featured on the 1891 map (National Library of Scotland, cited in WLDC, 1991).


This stone may have originally come from Cairnpapple (Hendrie, 1986). The excavations of Cairnpapple in 1947 uncovered at least 5 stones with varying numbers of cup marks in association with the first Bronze Age cairn (HMSO, 1985).

Did the Knights of St John or someone else bring the "font" stone down from the hill to the Preceptory that sits beneath it? A chapel was founded by the pictish missionary St Ninian in the 4th century (Hendrie, 1986).


With regard to the refuge stones associated with Torphichen, T. Ratcliffe Barnett (1943) mysteriously alludes to a stone as follows:

"another in a little wood-enclosed field on the side of the avenue to Lochcote House".

The precise location is unknown. Whether this stone remains at this location is also unknown. The grid reference supplied therefore relates to the location of the house.

There are no other accounts of this stone elsewhere. It could be that this is the northern refuge stone and that the Gormyre stone is actually something else.


Hendrie, William F. (1986) Discovering West Lothian, John Donald Publishers Ltd., Edinburgh

HMSO (1986) Cairnpapple, Edinburgh

Ratcliffe Barnett T. (1943) Border By-Ways & Lothian Lore, John Grant Booksellers Ltd, Edinburgh

West Lothian District Council (1991), The Farmsteadings of the Bathgate Hills, Planning Dept, County Buildings, Linlithgow

West Lothian District Council (198?) The Bathgate Hills, Robert MacLehose & Co. Ltd. Scotland

Kipps (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

Described as a druidic temple on old maps, later as a cromlech (1891). It does not appear on present day O.S. maps.

Originally consisting of three stones supporting a larger fourth that was apparently broken before 1698. In its original form it is compared with the Chun Quoit in Cornwall.

Ratcliffe Barnett T in 1943 states that the cromlech was set within a stone circle. Unfortunately, he does not state his source and there is certainly no indication of a stone circle today.

This site is pretty neglected and a bit overgrown with rank grasses. It is also seems a wee bit lost in terms of location although I can't explain why. It may be that the surrounding landscape may have been cleared of woodland and more open at the time of building or maybe it is the absence of other ancient features nearby.

Source: West Lothian District Council (198?) The Bathgate Hills, Robert MacLehose & Co. Ltd. Scotland

Source Ratcliffe Barnett T. (1943) Border By-Ways & Lothian Lore, John Grant Booksellers Ltd, Edinburgh
Have a root down deep into the heart of the Hills of the Boars Wood. Don't get to spend as much time in the Mama's embrace as I would like to these days but when I do, she still blows me away. I love the stillness and the Merlin vibe that sweeps over me as I gaze across the Central Belt. The rocks, the ice, the forests, the beasts and the people, all bound by that whirling golden ratio. Wow. At its best, usually the laverock and the whaups for company, a fresh breeze and the sun tickling my face. This bog loupin', ridge walkin' man don't want to stop.

My TMA Content: