The group assembled as previously arranged on a dreich, misty morning at Tigh-na-Ruaich Nursery in Ballinluig at 10:00 am. Andy, Irene, Scotty, Debs and Nick met up with Ian, a new recruit from Perth. We entered the nursery and spoke to the owner and his dogs (a spaniel and an Heinz 57) and he was happy to show us the small 5-stone circle in the nursery grounds. Some funerary urns had been excavated there in the past, and it's nice to see a site where the guardian takes a degree of pride in the stones. He told us an amusing story of a daftie who hugged the stones, waving crystals over them and shouting that she could feel the power. There is a large electrical power line standing very, very close to the site....
Then we all piled into a couple of the cars and went to see Andy's igloos (top picture). These are up a small road running east from Ballinluig, then south. We found the spot and entered the field. The sheep were not in a happy condition, and there were three dead ones lying around that we could see. Put a bit of a dampener on this one, though there are definitely tumuli here. I have reported the findings mentioned to the SSPCA, who promised to send an inspector to the site the following day.
Spirits a little chastened, we moved on to view the stone at Kindallachan. This stands in a field close to the A9 and was pretty overgrown. We had damp feet already and stomped the weeds flat round about so we could have a close look at it (see above). No significant markings, though a white lichen growth resembled a lady's head... This prompted a wide-ranging discussion, mainly on nonsensical lines, with Petersen's seals taking a particularly hard pounding. Arf! Arf! We had spotted a large stone in the garden of a house close by, and wondered if perhaps it had been 'borrowed'. Moving into a natural semicircular amphitheatre next to this house, we could see four upright stones. We cast about but could find no more, though the area is definitely flat and looks as though it was part of a circle. Speaking to the owner of the house with the rock in the garden (dug up when laying the foundations of the house and placed in the garden as a feature), he told us his neighbour also thought this had been a circle, and that the stones were placed precisely 14 paces apart. We'll maybe go back and do a bit more work on this one, as there's a good feeling we may have found a previously unmarked circle. The Kindallachan stone may be the outlier, the 'circle' sits in a natural bowl, and lies by the confluence of two burns, in spate the day we visited. Much cheered by this, and the fact that the mist was now lifting and the sun shining through, we decided to head for Logierait and the church there.
Car parking can be awkward here but we found space... There is a charming, if badly damaged, cross slab in the kirkyard, and we had a look at this. The reverse shows a horse and rider above a serpent circling a rod. The upper part is badly damaged but it is exquisitely carved. A look at the 3 mortsafes (devices to foil body-snatchers) and a troll round the yard for Irene's usual clay pipe additions, a bit of musing about Masonic/Templar gravestones, and it was time for the serious business of the day - lunch! Following two days of incessant downpour, the sun was now beating down and the intended alfresco repast was a success. Wild boar pate and oatcakes, (lettuce for the veggies), a variety of sandwiches/rolls/snacks, followed by Irene's patented Banoffee Pudding! Andy was ecstatic, she'd made three just for him. The rest of us shared the fourth. Ian proved to be no novice by producing an impressive sized pudding spoon, and soon there was little left to fight over.
It was decided to head straight to Dull next, as there is an embarrassment of riches nearby. This tiny village contains a Templar Chapel (not open to the public) built on the site of a Culdee settlement - which probably replaced an earlier sacred site. There is a one-armed cross (not decorated) just down from the church. We roamed the graveyard, musing on the occasional strange carvings on some of the headstones. There are two ancient cross-slabs by the current main door of the kirk, and evidence of a walled-up earlier entrance in the east gable. An interesting place.
Then into the field next door, where the map confidently announced there was a cup-marked rock... Trouble is, there are hundreds of rocks... See above photo for details... Eventually we found it, a row of cup-marks oriented NE to SW, decreasing in size along the axis to the SW. Time for more theories (see below), and to put one to the test. Moving down, across the road into a field, where the map says 'Stone Circle', we found an elegant four-poster. The NE stone was covered in cup-marks - 19, 20 or 21, according to various counts (fifth photo, many hands make inaccurate count...). Out with the compass - and directly in line - the cup-marked rock in the field, and then the Chapel! Spooky eh?
To the south of this site, on the map, is marked the remains of a stone circle. We duly trooped across, to find one stone standing resplendent in a field of cows. OK, back to the cars. A long hike later, marred only by Ian's attempt to gather nettles for his tea, we were back in the village and off to Balhomais, to the east of Dull. Here there is a tumulus with the remains of what may be a circle dotted around the north and western sides of it. The sun was lowering, and it was time to head for home. One last detour on the way. In the gloaming, we stopped at Balnaguard to look at a standing stone in the fields down by the Tay. Rather startled by a resplendently orange ram (see below) in a field on the way down, we ruminated on crypto-zoology. The stone's field was also full of sheep, so we amused ourselves by a reiteration of Paterson's theory (with a bit of imagination this stone has a mouth and an eye), and then back to the cars. The skies were lowering, and the first drops of rain falling. Time for home and tea!
All in all, an excellent day out, a large selection of varied sites visited and one (at least partial) success. Next one - November - venue - the Dug and Custard. Sites to be decided, watch this space...