The Journal of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Leave a comment

Ayres Rock, Northern Territory, Australia

Ayres Rock, Australia

Ayres Rock, Australia

Latitude: 25.344683. Longitude: 130.037370. Ayres Rock is a ‘world famous’ natural rock formation (which includes Kata Tjuta) in the Australian outback – the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia, some 208 miles (in a straight line) south of Alice Springs, by road it is more like 280 miles! This sacred sandstone rock is located close to State Route highway 4 (Lesseter Highway) but more often called Uluru Road, a few miles south-east of Yulara.

The Aboriginal people of Australia regard Ayres rock, also called Uluru, as a sacred place. There are many deep springs and watering holes (billabongs) located on and around the rock that are known to have sacred healing qualities, and there are caves with rock-art. Ayres Rock Campground and Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre at Yulara are in a rocky area to the north, spread out over several miles, just east of State Route 4 in The Kata Tjuta National Park. Ayres Rock is now a World Heritage Site. The 19th century explorer Sir William Gosse named the great rock after Sir Henry Ayres, premier of South Australia.

At an elevation of 2,830 feet, 860 metres above sea level, a height of 1,142 feet (348 metres) and a length of 3.6 km (2.2 miles) Ayres Rock monolith is a massive natural rock formation that can be seen a very long way away, sixty miles or more due to the terrain of the Northern Territory. It is ‘said’ to be upto 450 million years old, with a circumference of 9.4km (over 5 miles) and estimated to be 6kms below ground level.

The make-up of the rock, geologically speaking, is very interesting in that it is made of reddish ‘arkose’ sandstone, although seperately Kata (the Olgas) is a conglomerate mix of small stones and boulders fused together with mud etc. Uluru is distinctly reddish at certain times of the day due to the high iron, red oxide content of the rock, but at other times it is grey. The rock also has a rich feldspar content whic adds to the rock’s distinctly reddish hue, although the colours change at different times of the day. Over millions of years there has been much erosion due to weathering and it is ‘this’ that has caused the strange formations of gulleys, ridges and furrows that we see today. The rock is virtually bare with no vegitation whatsoever.

Uluru (Helicopter View) Photo Copyright: Wikipedia

Uluru (Helicopter View) Photo Copyright: Wikipedia

There are many deep honeycomb hollows and, also a number of deep caves in Ayres Rock which have been made over millions of years, especially near the base where some contain fantastic rock paintings made by the ancestors of today’s Aboriginal people, namely the Yankunytjatjara (carpet-snake people) and the Pitjantjatjara (hair-wallaby people) who lived in what was at that time called the ‘Dreamtime’ (Tjukurpa); their paintings depicting scenes from life. These pictographs and paintings are “…..Mute testimony to primitive man’s reverence to Ayres Rock, these archaeological relics add to the majestic beauty of the colossus of the Australian outback” according to the ‘Book of Natural Wonders,’ 1980. And there are, apparently, many sacred springs that seep out from deep in the rock’s surface; these are sacred springs to which the powers of healing have been attributed, and around the great rock there are watering holes (billabongs) for the thirsty – man or beast – for this place is a very hot, unrelenting desert. Water being a matter of ‘life and death.’

The book ‘Strange Worlds Amazing Places,’ 1994, informs us that: ….“As the sun spreads its dawn rays across the sky, Uluru begin to lighten. Shifting from black to deep mauve, the giant monolith gradually becomes more distinct. When the first rays of the sun strike, the stone burtsts into a riot of reds and pinks that chase each other across the surface with startling speed. Shadows flee the hollows until the whole rock is bathed in desert daylight. The colour changes continue throughout the day, and by evening have run the spectrum from golden and pinky reds through ruby to crimson red and purples.”


Book of Natural Wonders, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc, New York & Montreal, 1980.

Strange Worlds Amazing Places, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London W1, 1994.


The Megalithic Portal:


1 Comment

Drumtroddan Carved Rocks, Port William, Dumfries And Galloway, Scotland

Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Marked Rocks (Photo credit: Roger W. Haworth - Geograph)

Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Marked Rocks. Photo credit: Roger W. Haworth (Geograph)

Os grid reference: NX3626 4474. Some 2 miles to the north-east of Port William, Dumfries and Galloway, are three outcrops of rocks known as Drumtroddan Carved Rocks, that are said to have been carved in the Bronze-Age. These prehistoric carvings are located 200 metres south of Drumtroddan farm to the east of the B7085. White Loch of Myrton is just to the south; one of the carved rocks is located in a wooden area close by. And a further 400 metres south-east of Drumtrodden rock carvings there’s an alignment of three prehistoric stones, one of which lies on the ground. The town of Whithorn is 6 miles east on the B7021 and Glenluce is 12 miles west on the A747.

There are said to be between 80-90 well-defined cup-and-ring carvings spread out on the three natural rock faces, the majority being tiny or small, well-prounounced cups with medium and larger concentric rings, with some linear lines (grooves) linking one to another; and there are spiral deigns and other curious (unknown) symbols. The cups have either two, three, five or six rings. Although simple in their design, these carvings are very ingenious. But some might see the carvings as graffiti, or scriblings, though they were, in fact, very carefully and accurately carved at the time – some 4,000 years ago. They remind us, perhaps, of when a stone is dropped into a pool of still water and then we get the ripple effect with circles getting bigger as they move outwards. Another rock with cups-and-rings can be seen 1.4km to the east at Gr NX3776 4438.

The authors Janet and Colin Bord in their book Mysterious Britain,1984, look to the author John Foster Forbes writing in 1939 with regard to Drumtroddan. He believed that “There is an affinity between these cups and the nature of the stars. A star is a generator and transmitter of Cosmic Energy in spiral form. These cups could be used as micro-cosmic examples of spiral-staral energies.”

400 metres to the east (Gr NX3645 4429) an alignment of three stones (fenced off), two are up-right but one, the central stone, has  fallen down. These stones were probably placed here at an earlier date than the rock carvings, but no doubt they are in some way connected. The two standing stones are around 10 foot high and there is a space of 40 feet between each stone. It is thought that a fourth stone stood on the alignment which is orientated NE to SW. The south-west stone now leans at an angle out of true vertical.


Photo copyright: Roger W. Haworth (Geograph). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Bord, Janet & Colin., Mysterious Britain, Paladin (Granada Publishing Ltd), London W1, 1984.

Ancient Monuments – Scotland – Illustrated Guide, Vol VI, H.M.S.O, Edinburgh, 1959.

Leave a comment

Hope Churchyard Cross, Derbyshire

Churchyard Cross, Hope, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Geograph)

Churchyard Cross, Hope, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Geograph)

Os grid reference: SK1721 8347. At the south-east side of the Derbyshire village of Hope stands the 14th century church of St Peter and the Hope Churchyard Cross, a late 9th century Saxon cross-shaft. There is also a medieval cross in the churchyard. The church is located on Station road at the east side of the village close by Pinder Road and, just a short distance to the east the river Noe flows into Peakshole Water. And 1 mile further east in The Hope Valley at Brough the scant earthworks of a Roman fort can be seen. The village of Castleton is 2 miles west on the A6187, Bamford is 3 miles to the north-east, and Buxton is 6 miles to the south-west on the A6 road.

This 6 foot 6 inch sandstone cross-slab stands at the south-side of the church and is now set into a more modern square base. Said to date from the time of King Alfred, it was found in two pieces after being hidden-away in the wall of a nearby school-house until 1858, having lain there for safety since the Civil War. It is richly carved albeit a little weather-worn. All four sides have carvings in seperate panels, the best side being the east which has three panels; at the top there is knotwork, while in the middle two figures are holding up a large staff (or a cross), the lower panel having two interlaced rings surrounded by foliage. The west face is also exellent. Again there are three panels, the top shows a figure holding the cross above his shoulders, the central segmental-headed panel has two saints embracing, while the bottom one has three double concentric rings with double cords crossing ‘diagonally’ and interlinking over the rings. The north face has just two panels with snakes biting each other (top) and the bottom having four-cord plait design with interlacing; there is interlacing composed of figure of eight knots on the south face. Sadly the cross-head is long gone. Close to this is The Eccles Cross, dating from the Middle Ages.

Near the north door there is a medieval calvary on five octagonal steps with a pillar sundial on top of an eight-sided base. This base has a square-shaped hole which could have accommodated an earlier, Saxon cross, although the whole thing is more akin to a market or wayside cross? Inside the church there are two nicely carved medieval grave-slabs (in the chancel) with crosses and various symbols of outdoor life, namely hunting horns and arrows suggesting that these belonged to two officials of the Royal Forest of the Peak. These grave-slabs were made in the 13th century and came from the building prior to the present church. On the north wall there are a number of “ugly” gargoyles, reflecting our pagan past, two of which may be the horned god of the Celts, Cernunos. According to the author David Clarke in his book ‘Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, 1991, St Peters “is the oldest recorded Christian place of worship in the northern Peak District, and in Saxon times it was the focus of one of the largest parishes in England, stretching from the Derwent woodlands in the north to Buxton, Tideswell and the Padley gorge.”

About a mile to the east at Brough, near Bradwell, in the Hope Valley are the earthworks of the Roman fort of ANAVIO. But there is little to see now apart from some low, grassy banks. Two Roman roads ran from the fort, one going to Buxton, the other to Melandra Castle near Glossop and Templeborough, near Rotherham.



Photo:  © Copyright Ashley Dace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Sharpe, Neville. T., Crosses Of The Peak District, Landmark Publishing Limited, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 2002.

Clarke, David., Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, Jarrold Publishing, Norwich, 1991.

Bunting, Richard., Anglo-Saxon and Viking Derbyshire, J. H. Hall & Sons Limited, Derby, 1993.


The Devil’s Den, Marlborough, Wiltshire

The Devil's Den, Wiltshire (Dixon-Scott)

The Devil’s Den, Wiltshire (Dixon-Scott)

Os grid reference: SU1521 6965. In a field on Fyfield Down 1 mile east of Marlborough, Wiltshire, stands the prehistoric burial chamber known as The Devil’s Den or Clatford Bottom Stone, a Neolithic monument from 5,000 years ago that is also known as a Dolmen (stone table). To reach the site head north on the footpath from the A4 (Bath Road) opposite Clatford village and near the “private” entrance to Manton House Estate, then after about 950 metres via west to the monument on Fyfield Hill which is in a little valley. They own much of the land on this side of the road, so keep to the footpath if possible. The town of Marlborough is 1 mile east on the A4, while Avebury is 2 miles to the west. Nearby, to the east stands an ancient mound which has given its name to the town of Marlborough. You may well come across some crop circles in the fields around The Devil’s Den! Don’t be surprised!

The Devil's Den, Wiltshire (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Devil’s Den, Wiltshire (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Devil’s Den burial chamber stands upon a low mound that was originally part of a long barrow – which is still visible near the south-east edge of the field in the form of a recumbant “outlier” stone; the barrow would have been 230 feet in length. So what we see here today is almost certainly a reconstruction from the early 1920s – the stones having fallen down. The large capstone now only stands on two supporting stones, the other upright lies recumbant, though there might have been another two or three stones here long ago. Originally this burial chamber would have been covered over by an earthen mound but, over time this has been either ploughed away, or eroded away by the weather. Recent evidence ‘suggests’ it might never have had an earthen covering? The large, chunky capstone is said to weigh 17 tons or more and to have at least two cup markings on it. And there is a legend concerning these cup-marks. A number of well-respected antiquarians have visited the site including the great William Stukeley in the early 1740s; he called this ancient monument a kist-vaen (cist).

According to local tradition “if water is poured into the hollows on the capstone, a demon will come along in the night and drink it.” But there are many legends and myths associated with the devil around these ancient sites, most of them should be taken with a pinch of salt over the left shoulder! It might be that the devil was considered the only one who could build such a monument, but we know different. In the grounds of Marlborough College (SU1836 6867) at the north-east side of the town - a stepped grassy mound is thought to be where Merlin the Magician lies buried, but infact, it is Maerl’s Mound and the town’s name is derived from this. One or two places in Wales migh also claim to have Merlin buried in their neck of the woods! It was probably, originally, a prehistoric burial mound or barrow pre-dating Merlin which in the Middle Ages had a small castle built over it. Though Maerl or Maerla could well be ‘one and the same’ as Merlin?


Romantic Britain, ed. by Tom Stephenson, Odhams Press Limited, Long Acre, London WC2, 1939.

AA Illustrated Guide To Britain, Drive Publications (Reprint), London WC1, 1982.

The Northern Antiquarian:’s_Den,marlborough,wiltshire/photos/the-devils-den-1901_47674/



Roman Bath, Westminster, London, WC2

Roman Bath, The Strand, London. (D. Mcleish)

Roman Bath, The Strand, London. (D. Mcleish)

Os grid reference TQ3085 8087. In the stone-vaulted cellar of number 5 Strand Lane off The Strand, Westminster, in a narrow alley-way close to King’s College, and next to Surrey Street, London WC2, can be found a very well-preserved Roman Bath, dating from the 2nd century AD, that is now regarded as a notable and historical reminder from the Roman city of Londinium (London), but now a curiosity of hidden-London. The bath is still in use and has been in one way or another since the late 16th or early 17th century, having been lost for hundreds of years after the Romans departed at the beginning of the 5th century AD. It seems the bath had belonged to a grand Roman villa which had stood on this site in the early days of the Roman occupation, probably the 2nd century AD, and which had stood on a raised area of land outside the city walls, overlooking the river Thames. The site is near to Charing Cross underground station and Covent Garden. The Victoria Embankment is just a short walk to the south.

The Roman Bath on the south side of the Strand is in a well-preserved condition considering its age; and is under 5 feet (1.5 metres) below street level, measuring 16 feet in length by over 6 feet in width and nearly 5 feet deep. The plunge bath as it is often called is still fed by a spring of cold water from St Clement’s Well just as it was in Roman times and, also more recently in the 17th century. Its stonework consists of bricks that are 10 inches long by 3 inches wide, all solidly packed together and water-tight. The stonework surrounding the Roman bath is very grand and it certainly looks ‘Roman’ but is it? However, the ugly iron grate-covers at the sides do not do it any justice, though they serve their modern-day purpose as inspection covers!

Roman Baths, The Strand, London (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Roman Baths, The Strand, London (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

In 1612 King James I had the Roman bath fully restored from whence it had been the property of the Earls of Essex in the late 16th century; he then continued to patronise it – as did many other royals including Anne of Denmark, his wife, and a number of royal courtiers. Then in the 18th century it was frequented by London’s wealthy and famous. In 1784 John Pinkerton the Scottish antiquarian described it as “a fine antique bath in the cellar of a house in Norfolk street in the Strand.” Norfolk Street no longer exists in name. At this time it belonged to the Earl of Arundel whose house and gardens were adjacent to the bath. In 1792 the antiquarian William Weddle Mp died suddenly after taking a plunge in the Roman bath. The famous author Charles Dickens visited the bath and then wrote about it in his book ‘David Copperfield’ recalling, perhaps, that master Copperfield had “many a cold plunge in the said bath.” The bath fell in to disuse in the late Victorian period but in the early part of the 20th century it was again restored to what we see today.

The bath is open to the general public one day a week (by appointment) and is today maintained by The City of Westminster on behalf of the National Trust. Roman artefacts have been discovered close by including: a sarcophagus and numerous items of pottery and coins, all dating from the Roman period. In September 2011 another Roman bath was found by railway workers on the south-side of the Thames at the corner of London Bridge street. A few historians have argued that the bath only dates from the 17th century, being built as a water feature or spa-bath by the Earl of Arundel, but this is now generally considered not to be the case – and so the thinking is that the bath is indeed Roman.



Romantic Britain, edt. by Tom Stephenson, Odhams Press Limited, London, WC2, 1939.


Ysbyty Cynfyn Stone Circle, Powys, Wales

St John's Church, Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo credit: Geograph)

St John’s Church, Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo credit: Geograph)

Os grid reference: SN7520 7910. The little hamlet of Ysbyty Cynfyn is located in The Valley of Afon Rheidol (river Rheidol) between Devil’s Bridge and Ponterwyd in the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr, in the shadow of the great Rheidol and Plynlimon Ranges, western Powys. Its 19th century church and churchyard stand inside a prehistoric stone circle; the actual churchyard itself is partly circular which strongly suggests this is, and has been, a sacred site for thousands of years, and is often referred to by historians and antiquarians alike as Ysbyty Cynfyn Stone Circle. In the middle ages a monastic hospice run by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem stood on the site of the present-day church, which is dedicated to St John the Baptist, though there isn’t much to see of that today – but hence we still have the place-name “Ysbyty” meaning ‘hospittum’ (hospice). The hospice cared for pilgrims making their way to St David’s. This must undoubtedly be seen as a something of a compromise between the Christian Church and the pagan world of standing stones, temples, ritual and magic – something the church had wanted to banish, but here the two ‘quietly’ came together and so, we have a church within an actual pagan stone circle, even if there’s not a great deal to see, only five stones remaining, today. Or could it be that the stones were just too big to move so the churchyard wall was built around them! Aberystwyth is 12 miles to the west on the A44 and Devil’s Bridge is 2 miles south on the A4120 road.

Churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo Credit Penny Mayes, Geograph)

Churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn, Powys.  (Photo Credit: Geograph)

Ysbyty Cynfyn church is located about 80 metres west of the A4120 road, beside Temple farm. Today only five stones remain of the former circle set on a low earthen bank that is said to date from the Bronze-Age, around 1,500 BC; however the remaining stones seem to blend in well with the churchyard wall, indeed two thin slab-stones now act as gateposts at the eastern entrance and, there is at least one recorded account that says there is a faint ‘Christianised’ carving on one of these? A large lump of quartz-stone on the top of the wall next to the gateposts looks interesting! The other two stones, also at the eastern-side, are very big in many ways both in height and girth, but whether they are in their originals positions is open to question? Two large, quite bulky standing stones fit ‘nicely’ into the wall surrounding the churchyard, while a third one stands at the back of the church (north-side) adjoining the wall and gravestones and is 3.4 metres (11 feet) high and about half as much in width; this particular stone would seem to be in its original position. Almost without a doubt there were other standing stones here long-ago, forming a proper circle, the site of what may have been, perhaps, a pagan temple used by druids for the purposes of ritual and magic. There are apparently a few ‘lost’ recumbant stones in the nearby fields – maybe these came from the stone circle?

In the little church of St John there’s a curious carved wooden font (1850) and on the wall a brass plaque in memory of local men who fell in the 2nd world war. The church dates from 1827. Over by the carpark there is a round-shaped well with a ‘warning notice’ saying: “this water is not for drinking.” Could this well have been used by the knights of St John and did it once have healing properties? To the north of the church upon the Rheidol, opposite Bryn Bras, are the remains of an old lead mine that was called Temple Mine and, 1 mile to the west close to Parson’s Bridge, at Dolgamfa, a Bronze-Age cairn circle can be seen.


Gregory, Donald., Country Churchyards In Wales, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Capel Garmon, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1991. 

Gregory, Donald., Wales Before 1066 – A Guide, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, 1992.

Houlder, Christopher., Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber & Faber, London, 1978.

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1987.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Photo Credit:© Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

St James’ Church, Avebury, Wiltshire

Os grid reference: SU0991 6990. In the village of Avebury close to the manor house and just 100 metres west of the famous stone circle, stands St James’ Church, a building that is of Anglo-Saxons origins. Located on Church Walk, just north of High Street, in the centre of this charming village but, outside of the pagan stone circle. Christianity came late to Avebury - due, perhaps, to the allure of the 3 pagan stone circles standing within a sizable circular enclosure, covering 24 acres, 1,400 feet across, and nearly 1 mile in circumference which virtually surrounds the village, its grassy bank being upto 5 metres high and the ditch about 25 metres wide. The stone circles date from the late Neolithic between 2,900 to 2,500 BC. When Christianity did finally arrive here in about 1000 AD the people were ‘still very slow’ in adapting from their heathen ways to something much more profound, fulfilling and everlasting. The church houses a beautiful medieval tub font which is carved with a superb dragon, a depiction of paganism (the Devil) being stamped on and a new religion, Christianity, being heralded in. There is also a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon cross and a number of other ‘quite delightful’ architectural things to see inside the church. Avebury is 6 miles east of Marlborough on the A4 (Bath Road) and 8 miles from the town of Chippenham in the west, again on the A4 road. Stonehenge is 17 miles south, close to the A303 road, near Amesbury.

St James parish church is largely Norman although there are some earlier, Saxon features, in particular the two round-headed windows in the Saxon nave wall, while the three rather odd-looking circular, porthole windows at a higher level, are late Anglo-Saxon or perhaps early Norman? There’s also a very interesting squint hole. The church was probably added to in the 12th century. Also, there is a partly restored 15th century rood loft, but sadly the rood itself was destroyed during the atrocities of the Reformation. At the north-west corner embedded in the wall part of an Anglo-Saxon cross-shaft with carvings. The tower with its stair-turret is 15th century Perpendicular. At the south-side a superb Norman doorway which, according to the author Simon Jenkins in his delightful book ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’, 2000, “offers a lovely composition of foliated capitals and a zigzag arch beneath an empty saint’s plinth.” But the best antiquity here is undoubtedly the 12th century tub font with its beautiful early Norman carvings. Restoration to St James’ was carried out in the 19th century.

The font dates from the early 12th century and is exquisitly carved with a Christian figure that appears to be ‘stamping out paganism’ and heralding in the new religion with “one” eternal God. A bishop or ecclesiastic wearing a “short skirt” is depicted with his crozier in one of the intersecting arches stamping on a winged serpent (dragon) with a long never-ending curling tail which, at the same time is biting his foot or cloak; this is an obvious reference to the battle between the established ‘serpent-power’ worship of the pre-Christian temple at Avebury, and the new Christianity, according to Janet & Colin Bord in their book Mysterious Britain, 1984. Quite clearly it can be seen as ‘the Devil’ getting his final come-uppance and Christianity securing its position as the true and everlasting faith. There is a second serpent with a long curling tail. The font is also adorned around the bottom with columns that have bands or cords shooting out from their tops to form the intersecting ‘domed’ arches.


Janet & Colin Bord, Mysterious Britain, Paladin (Granada Publishing Ltd)., London, 1984.

Jones, Lawrence E. & Tricker, Roy., County Guide To English Churches, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 1992.

Darvil, Timothy., Ancient Britain, AA Publishing Division, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Anderton, Bill., Guide To Ancient Britain, W. Foulsham & Co Ltd., London, 1991.

Ashe, Geoffrey., Mythology Of The British Isles, Methuen, London, 1993.

Click on for images of the church

Click on for images of the church

Gavrinis Tumulus, Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany, France

Entrance to Gavrinus Cairn (Photo Copyright: Wikipedia)

Entrance to Gavrinus Cairn (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 47, 571835 Longitude -2,898588. In the Gulf of Morbihan 1 mile south of Larmor-Baden in the Bretagne-Morbihan region of Brittany is Gavrinus Island (Ile de Gavrinis) with, what is considered, a world-famous prehistoric burial mound called Gavrinis Tumulus. The burial chamber at the south-side of the island is ‘variously’ referred to as a tumulis or cairn, dating back to the Neolithic 5,000 to 6,000 years. It is said by those historians that are proficient in this type of ancient monument to be the best preserved passage-grave in Brittany, and maybe Europe, if not the world, though there are other “equally good” burial mounds in Europe, one in particular being Newgrange in Southern Ireland. Gavrinis means Isle of Goats. To reach the island of Gavrinis you need to get a boat from the embarking point in the port of Larmor-Baden, but it’s only a short trip of 10 minutes! The town of Vannes is some 12 miles to the north-east on the D136 and D101 roads.

Gavrinis Decorated Stones (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Gavrinis Decorated Stones (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The great mound of Gavrinis measures 23 feet in height (7 metres) and is 328 feet in circumference (100 metres). The diameter of the mound is between 50 and 60 metres (164 feet to 196 feet). It was built around 3,500 BC and was made of earth and large stones that are piled on to the top of the burial mound. Deep inside the mound a gallery (passage) 43 feet long is covered over by stones - with 50 slabs, 23 of these are supporting slabs on top of which there are 9 capstones or tables, leading to a square-shaped burial chamber. The stone supports are richly adorned with beautiful carvings, including pattern-work, symbolism, animals and what could be a human figure – also zigzag decoration, lozenge shapes, abstract circles, axes, arcs, and snake-lines. Undoutedly, this was a funery tomb for some high-ranking person, maybe a chieftain or a king; the ceiling above is made of a large (single) stone-slab measuring 12 feet (4 metres) long by 9 feet (3 metres) wide and weighing upto 17 tons, which rests upon 8 more stone supports standing in a rectangle. The entrance (portal) is built with large slabs, two at the sides and one at the top, while the sides (faces) of the mound are stepped or tiered with thousands of large lumps of stone, not to disimilar perhaps to the pyramids at Giza in Egypt! There are some ‘spectacular’ panoramic views to be had from the tumulus of Gavrinis of the Gulf of Morbihan and the surrounding areas for many miles around, in every direction!

Gavrinis was discovered back in 1832 and excavations began in 1835. In more recent years, the 1960s through to the 1980s there have been further excavations and, in recent years (2011) the decorated stone slabs from inside the chamber have been ‘thoroughly’ researched. A few miles to the south is the tiny island of Er Lanic and two stone circles (together) in the form of a figure-eight – half of the circle now being submerged in the sea. To the north of Gavrinis Island, near Auray, stands the burial chamber or tumulus of Er Grah and, near that close to Locmariquer is Les Table des Marchand. The renowned archaeologist and writer, Aubrey Burl, visited Gavrinis and ‘seems’ to have been “very enthusiastic” about what he had seen of the cairn. Burl was later to describe this and other ancient monuments in his book ‘Megalithic Brittany,’ 1988. Burl said of Gavrinis “It is for its art that Gavrinis is famous.”


Michelin Tourist Guide ‘Brittany’, Michelin Tyres Plc, London, 1983.

Insight Guides ‘Brittany’, Ed: Brian Bell, (First Edition) APA Publications (HK) Limited, 1994.

Burl, Aubrey., Megaliths of Brittany, Thames & Hudson, London, 1985.

Ballygowan Rocks, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

Ballygowan Cup-and Rings (Photo Credit: Wikimedia*)

Ballygowan Cup-and Rings (Photo Credit: Wikimedia*)

Os grid reference: NR8162 9778. In Kilmartin Glen, Strathclyde region, Argyll and Bute, near to the village of Slockavullin there is a fenced-off area with an outcrop of rocks called Ballygowan Rocks, which are covered in prehistoric rock-art, dating back thousands of years to the Bronze-Age. The site is located beside a path and close to woodland about half a mile north of Tayness Cottage, Ballygowan, half a mile south-west of Slockavullin village and, to the north-west of the B8025 and A816 roads and Kilmartin burn. Ballygowan is a solitary little hamlet with no more than a few cottages. Kilmartin is one-and-a-half miles to the north-east and the town of Lochgilphead 10 miles south on the A816. This area is particularly rich in prehistoric rock-art, so you don’t have to go far before you come across rocks covered in cup-and-ring markings. It is well-worth the long trek, in the end at any rate!

The Ballygowan cup-and-ring markings are carved onto the flat face of an outcrop measuring 2.5 metres. There are said to be at least 70 small, medium and large cup-and-rings here, some having radial grooves that link up with the cups, while other enlarged cups seeming to go into the natural cracks in the rock, and many having slightly deeper rounded centres than their counterparts. One cup-marking in particular resembles a horseshoe with several rings that stop at a ‘junction’ and then go outwards from the cup itself, while larger cups (some oval-shaped) go off into the naturaly-formed cracks in the rock’s surface; also there are ‘radial’ grooves or gulleys which link-up with other cups-and-rings. This type of rock-art is said to date from the Bronze-Age, around 2,500 BC.

But why were these strange cup-markings and other patterns designed like this, and for what reason were they carved? Were they used for aligning the stars and constellations, or perhaps the setting of the moon. Maybe they were to ‘align’ features on the horizon, such as hills, mountains and valleys? Maybe we will never know for certain, we can only guess. But they must have mean’t something to our ancient ancestors as they wouldn’t have spent so much time carving these strange shapes.

There are other cup-marked rocks in Kilmartin Glen at Achnabreck, Cairnbaan, Kilmichael Glassary and, further to the north at Buluachraig, all well-worth visiting.


Darvil, Timothy., Glovebox Guide – Ancient Britain, The Publishing Division Of The Automobile Association (AA), Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Canmore Site No: NR89NW 99 & ID 76384

*Photo Credit:

The Megalithic Portal:

Castleberg Hillfort, Addingham, West Yorkshire

Castleberg Hillfort (Photo Credit) Geolocations David Spencer.

Castleberg Hillfort (Photo Credit: Geolocations David Spencer)

Os grid reference: SE0912 4943. Just half a mile to the north-east of Addingham at Nesfield, West Yorkshire, is Castleberg Hillfort, said to date from the Iron Age although the site has never been properly excavated by archaeologists and therefore it could be earlier, maybe late Bronze Age, which would then make it an enclosure or settlement, and quite probably the Roman legions came this way on their way to the fort at Ilkley (Olenacum or Olicana?) and maybe ‘made camp’ here on the hill at some point; the name Castleberg is distinctly a Roman one. The hillfort stands at the top of a naturally-formed hill that has a Limestone scar at its southern side. Much of the western side of the site is covered in woodland which stretches down to the river Wharfe, while a little further to the south, opposite Low Mill village, and hidden in trees beside the river lies the famous Castleberg scar, which is actually a Limestone crag. The town of Ilkley is 3 miles to the east on the A65 and Bolton Abbey is 9 miles north-west along Bolton Road and then the A59.

The shape of the hillfort is quite odd, really, mainly because it follows the contours and curve of the hill. It measures, roughly, 140 metres in width, 130 metres lengthwise and 130 metres in diameter; the earthworks being more visible at the eastern side and at the western and north-western sides where earthworks run off from the fort itself; the south-side of the hillfort follows the natural curve of the hill above the river Wharfe. A few well-known Victorian antiquarians and historians have visited this site and more or less they all agree with each other with regard to Castleberg, though there is still much uncertainty about its true age - the Stone Age through to the more recent, Roman period? There have been a couple of finds dating from the Bronze-Age, but nothing particularly substantial. This man-made defensive hillfort would have provided its occupants with a panoramic view of the surrounding area for miles around and would ‘certainly’ have given them prior warning of any signs of hostility advancing up the Wharfe valley.

On Addingham Low Moor just east of the village, near Woofa Bank, there are several more ancient sites including: tumuli, enclosures and round dikes, making this a very rich area of prehistory, while to the south-east there is Ilkley Moor with many, many more ancient antiquities. St Peter’s Church at Addingham (SE0851 4969) is said to have been built on a pagan site though the present building is 15th century; it houses a a very nice carved section of an Anglo-Saxon cross, dating from the 10th century.


The Northern Antiquarian

Photo Credit,

Bell, Richard., Village Walks in West Yorkshire, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 1998.

St Gregory’s Well, Clooncree, Co. Galway, Southern Ireland

Holy Well (Photo credit: Fr John Musther.

Holy Well (Photo credit: Fr John Musther)*

Irish grid ref: L6537 5807. Close to the eastern shoreline of Lough Ballynakill (Loch Bhaile na Cille) at Doonen, near Clooncree, in Connemara, Co.Galway, is St Gregory’s Well, a pre-Christian healing spring that is dedicated to St Gregory (Ceannanach), a follower of St Patrick, who died about 500 AD. The well is a roughly half a mile to south-east of a ruined 15th century chapel (on Cartron road) which is also named for this saint. The chapel stands at the top end of the large graveyard, now almost submerged in foliage and in a rather sorry state of repair; originally it would have been a fairly large, ornate building. Close to the ruined chapel there is a small, carved pillar-stone with an incised cross. St Ceannanach (Cononagh) was a native of Iararna at the south-eastern side of the Aran Islands and is said to be buried at Inishmaan where Tempull Canannagh was founded by him in the 5th century AD. According to legend, the saint was martyred for his faith on the eastern shoreline of Lough Ballynakill where a stone, said to have blood stains on it, used to stand at the place where the saint died. The little village of Cartron (Moyard) is 1 mile to the north-west of Clooncree on the Tooreen road, while Cleggan is 2 miles to the west on the coast. Ballynakill means ‘The Lake of Church Town.’

There isn’t a great deal to see of the ancient well close to the Doonen road, to the east of the lough, just an opening down amongst some rocks but, almost certainly in the past it would have been regarded as a place of pilgrimage and the water no doubt having healing properties due to the very fact that an early Christian saint was murdered here, indeed, according to the well-told legend St Ceannanach the son of an Irish king was set upon by a pagan chieftain from Bundowlish who was ‘greatly’ annoyed at the holy man’s fervent desire to spread the Christian message in his territory; where the saint was beheaded there was a stone which forever afterwards was stained with blood. However in recent times the bloodstone, as it was called, has been lost although local children used to try and find it! Legend also says that: after being martyred the saint picked up his severed head, washed it in the well, and then miraculously re-attached it to his body. The well is 2 feet wide and surrounding it a stone-wall some 4 feet high, while the well enclosure is 12 feet in diameter; its spring issues from deep between some rocks and, when it is flowing properly it forms a little stream or rivulet. In days gone by pilgrims performed the Stations of the Cross round the well on sundays, but more especially on the saint’s feast-day 10th March.

Cross-Slab (Photo credit: Fr

Cross-Slab (Photo credit: Fr John Musther)*

St Ceannanach’s 15th century church at Cartron (Irish grid reference: L6479 5828) is now in a very ruinous state, with only two gables left and fragmentary walls in between, nature having almost taken over with trees and bushes growing where the congregation once sat. However in this state it looks quite romantic and even evocative. There were churches on this site before the present one, one of which was said to have been built by the saint himself, or maybe by his followers? The church was 60 feet in length and 20 feet in width, its wall being 8 feet high; the east gable is 15th century, while the west gable retains its twin-light windows and a circular feature above. Close to the ruins (12 metres north-east) there is an early Christian pillar-stone with a thin incised cross, dating perhaps from the 6th century? But the centre of Ceannanach’s missionary work was on the Aran Islands, especially at Inishmaan where he founded an oratory called Tempull Cannanagh (Cononagh), which is now a ruin and, at Iararna (south-east point) of the Aran Islands, his gravestone can still seen. He is probably to be identified with ‘Gregory the Fairheaded,’ while ‘Gregory Sound’ beyond Cleggan is ‘thought’ to be named after him – alluding to another, or the same legend concerning the saint’s martyrdom.


Previte, Anthony., A Guide to Connemara’s Early Christian Sites, Old Chapel Press, 2008.

*Photo Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


Ring Stones Hill, Catlow, Nelson, Lancashire

Ring Stones Hill Farm, near Catlow.

Ring Stones Hill Farm, near Catlow.

Os grid reference: SD8933 3670. On the tops above Nelson, Lancashire, to the east and about halfway between Delves Lane and the hamlet of Catlow there is a farm called Ring Stones Hill, where up until about 1856 there stood a large stone circle, or maybe a cairn circle, but sadly there is no trace of this ancient monument today – the stones having been robbed-away to build walls and some perhaps incorporated into the out buildings of the farm. Nothing much has been recorded about this prehistoric stone circle, only the name survives. However there may be stones belonging to this ‘now lost’ Bronze-Age monument in nearby walls, and one or two having being put in to use as gateposts! Ring Stones Hill Farm, whose barn is built over the stone circle, is situated roughly between Delves lane and Crawshaw lane to the south-west of Knave Hill. There is nothing to see, only fields, although on closer inspection there is a scattering of stones buried in the ground in a sort of circular fashion in the field just to the east, close to Pathole beck. Catlow is about half a mile from here along Crawshaw Lane, Walton Spire (Walton’s Monument) which is partly a Dark Age monolith, dating perhaps from the 10th century, stands just to the north, while the town of Nelson is 1 mile to the west.

Recumbant Stone, near Ring Stones Hill.

Recumbant Stone, near Ring Stones Hill.

In the book ‘Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way,’ 1990, local authors John Dixon and Bob Mann give an interesting insight into Ring Stones Hill saying: “Nestled above Pathole Beck is the whitewashed farmstead of Ringstones Hill, a 17th century building displaying many fine mullioned windows. Up to around 1850 a large circle of stones stood next to the house, sadly the circle was dismantled when the present barn was built with only the name to give memory to the former monoliths.” A large stone on the ground below the wall-still which gives access to the field from Delves lane is of interest. Could this be one of the stones that formed the stone circle? Maybe. Just to the right of this path on the shoulder of the hill there is a very faint earthwork of what is possibly an ancient burial mound. Authors John Dixon and Bob Mann mention this in their book ‘Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way’. They go on to say: “What could be a burial mound is sited in a field above the farm at SD 89263693. This is in the form of a small mound, 3m. in diameter.”

Site of burial mound near Ringstones Hill Farm.

Site of burial mound near Ringstones Hill Farm.

The origins of the name Catlow are somewhat confused. Cat could be an Old British word ‘catu’ meaning ‘war’ or ‘battle’, and similarly the Celtic word ‘catt’ also meams ‘battle’, whereas ‘low’ is usually taken to mean mound or henge; so here we have ‘battle at or near the henge’. And ‘cat’ might also refer to ‘feral cats,’ oddly enough! Over the years there have been a number of archaeological finds in and around Catlow Quarries and also in the vicinity of the ancient hamlet. In 1854 two decorated cremation urns were dug up by quarry workmen and, in 1845 a Bronze-Age tanged spear or dagger was excavated in Catlow, and in 1954 a third cremation urn was discovered to the south of the quarries; these were of the Pennine type that are called ‘collared’ urns, dating from the middle to late Bronze-Age. There have also been a few finds of Roman coins in this area and also at Castercliffe, about 1 mile north of Catlow.


Dixon, John & Mann, Bob., Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

The Northern Antiquarian:

Men-an-Tol, Madron, Cornwall

Men-an-Tol, Cornwall, by J.T.Blight, 1874. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Men-an-Tol, Cornwall, by J.T.Blight, 1864. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Os grid reference: SW4264 3494. On the moors about halfway between Morvah and Madron, in Cornwall, stands the late Neolithic monument known as Men-an-Tol (the holed stone), with three standing stones and one now lying down, dating back to between 2,000-3,000 BC the late Neolithic to early Bronze-Age. This alignment of stones lies on a moorland footpath which branches off a track just to the west of the site. Here there is an alignment of three standing stones, the central stone (the Crick Stone) has a very large hole, while the fourth stone is recumbant; there may have been others here when the site was much bigger – quite a bit of the monument having been robbed-away over the centuries, prior to which it may have formed a circle of stones. Nearby, there are other prehistoric sites of interest. Madron village is 3 miles to the south-east, the town of Penzance is 3 miles to the south, and St Just is 4 miles to the south-west.

The three standing stones are all roughly 1.0 to 1.2 metres (3 foot 5 inches to 4 feet) high, the large ‘perforated’ hole in the central, round-shaped stone being 0.5 metres (1 foot 6 inches) in diameter (though Borlase, in 1749, says it is 1 foot 2 inches), and each stone is about the same distance apart (8-9 feet); the western-most stone was moved to its present position in the early 19th century and aligned with the others – along with the recumbant stone there are five or maybe six other outliers buried in the ground close-by, which make-up this circular ancient site, covering upto 18 metres (59 feet). To the south-east there are the faint earthworks of a cairn, its low mound just visible. Over the last two hundred years or so antiquarians have often ‘pondered,’ and been ‘rather puzzled’ as to whether these standing stones once formed a much larger stone circle and, some go even further, in thinking there was once a burial chamber or mound here, though today there are no signs of either of these, very sadly.

Men-an-Tol in 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Men-an-Tol in 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The holed-stone was obviously used for fertility rituals and, maybe even magic, and the pointed stones next to it being ‘phallic in shape’; this being borne-out through the folklore and customs of the locality and its people in ‘days gone by’. The well-known authors Janet and Colin Board in their book ‘Mysterious Britain’, 1984, say that: Many of these stones are supposed to be helpful in curing certain illnesses, and children were once passed through the Men-an-Tol when they were suffering from rickets. Stones with holes big enough to crawl through, and with similar beliefs attached to them, can be found all over the world. There may once have been some benefits to be gained from such customs, …….certain stones can hold powerful currents passing through the earth, could not the hole serve as a focus for this power, which would pass into the body of, and give renewed vitality to, anyone climbing through the hole?” Young people would come to the holed-stone in order to consult the stone (oracle) with regard to their future love life, and two pins would be placed like a ‘cross’ on top of the stone and then they would, hopefully, move in a certain way. “This was interpreted in answer to a question put to the stone,” according to Bill Anderton in his book ‘Guide To Ancient Britain,’ 1991. Young children with tuberculosis, rickets and spinal problems were passed through the holed-stone three times, while a ‘childless’ women would have to crawl through the hole nine times to receive a cure. After that, hopefully they were cured!

There are several other important prehistoric monuments close by, the closest to Men-an-Tol being Men Scryfa Standing Stone half a mile to the north, and The Nine Maidens Stone Circle, 1 mile to the north-east. And 2 miles south stand West Lanyon Quoit and the more famous Lanyon Quoit.


Bord, Janet & Colin., Mysterious Britain, Paladin Books (Granada Publishing Ltd)., London, 1984.

Anderton, Bill., Guide To Ancient Britain, Foulsham & Co. Ltd., London, 1991.

Darvil, Timothy., Ancient Britain (Glovebox Guide), The Automobile Association (The Publishing Division), Basingstoke, 1988.


The Bowder Stone, Rosthwaite, Cumbria

The Bowder Stone, Cumbria

The Bowder Stone, Cumbria

Os grid reference: NY2540 1641. In the valley of the river Derwent, in Borrowdale, just north of Rosthwaite in a woodland clearing on the opposite side of the road from the river, stands a huge glacial boulder shaped like a human head that is one of several Cumbrian curiosities and, which has locally been called The Bowder Stone or Balder’s Stone, after the son of the Norse god, Odin (Woden). This ice-borne rock was carried down the valley by a glacier many thousands of years ago and deposited having been trapped and then dislodged between the two side-slopes of the river valley. Today, the massive rock has become a tourist attraction and a photographer’s delight! And many antiquarian writers have travelled here to see the stone and maybe “try”and measure its height and girth, and to be amazed at this wonderous geological curiosity. The village of Rosthwaite is 1 mile south on the B5289 road and Grange is roughly one and half miles north-west, while the town of Keswick is 5 miles in the same direction from here.

The Bowder Stone (Geograph)

The Bowder Stone (Geograph)

The Bowder Stone is 36 feet high (10.9 metres), 62 feet long (18.8 metres) and 90 feet (27.4 metres) in circumference though ‘a few’ might, perhaps, argue with these approximate measurements! It is said to weigh somewhere between 1,970 to 2,000 tons, give or take a few! Geologically speaking the huge rock was brought to its present position by a ‘retreating glacier’ moving south from Scotland during one of a number of Ice Ages 12,00-15,000 years ago; this being a well-known fact because the rock is not from the local area, which is largerly volcanic in its geological make-up. It is a free-standing erratic in that it does not touch the surrounding rocks, but simply balances and pivots deep in the ground beneath it. The rock is shaped like a human head, or several heads with faces – you can easily see a nose, eyes and mouth on at least three different parts of the stone if you look closely at it, indeed you might see more than three! A step-ladder allows access to the top of the stone where a good panoramic view can be had of the Derwent Valley and Upper Borrowdale; the various marks and holes in the stone have been made by climbers. There are other glacial erratic rocks close by, but none of them quite as big as The Bowder Stone.

The Ward Lock Red Guide (Lake District) 1975 sums up the rock quite nicely: “A mile from Grange Bridge and immediately beyond a large slate quarry is the famous Bowder Stone, a remarkable rock of prodigous bulk, which lies like a ship upon its keel.” And author Maxwell Fraser in his book ‘Companion Into Lakeland’, 1939, says: “The chief tourist site of Borrowdale is the curious geological feature, the Bowder Stone, a poised block of stone 36 feet high which is reckoned to weigh 1,970 tons.” In the great Arthur Mee’s book ‘Lakeland Counties’ we are told about one ancient curiosity of Borrowdale, Castle Crag, a nearby Iron-Age hillfort, and then the author goes on to say: “Another is the curious Bowder Stone, an immense boulder of about 2,000 tons……, which after rolling down the fell-side, has remained balanced on an edge so narrow that through a hole in it two people can shake hands”. According to tradition, two people holding hands through the opening at the bottom of the rock and then making a wish, shall have that wish come true.


Fraser, Maxwell., Companion Into Lakeland (Second Edition), Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1939. 

Mee, Arthur., Lake Counties, (Seventh Impression), Hodder And Stoughton Ltd., London, 1961.

‘Lake District’  Ward Lock Red Guide, (edt by Reginald J.W. Hammond), Ward Lock Limited, London, 1975.

The Illustrated Road Map Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association (AA), London, 1962.

Geograph  © Copyright Graham Hogg and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


St Maughold’s Well, Maughold, Isle of Man

Click Photo  Os grid reference: SC4961 9193. On the top of the headland overlooking the Irish Sea beside a footpath, 350 metres to the north-east of St Maughold’s churchyard, is the place of medieval pilgrimage called St Maughold’s Well or Chibbyr Vaghal, a pre-Christian spring that was adopted by a 5th century Celtic saint called Macaille, Maccald or Maughold, who was an Irish prince. To reach the well head east along the track to the lighthouse, but after 100 metres via off along the footpath in a northerly direction; keep on this path for 320 metres towards the headland (north side) and, on reaching a gate take the footpath in a south-easterly direction for a short distance to the well which, flows into an oblong pool beneath some rocks that jut out forming the surround at one side of the well, on the gorse-covered Maughold Headland overlooking the Irish Sea. The town of Ramsey is 2 miles north-west on the A2 road and Laxey village is roughly 6 miles south, also on the A2 road.

The sacred healing spring flows into a little pool beneath ancient rocks and, although it is said to be ‘a never failing-spring’, it does sometimes seem to stop flowing at certain times. This source of water issuing from deep in the ground once served a Celtic monastery, founded in the 5th century by the Irish saint, Maughold, who had come here in the footsteps of two of St Patrick’s disciples St Conindrus and St Romulus, to live on the headland after apparently trying to deceive St Patrick by placing a live man in a shroud, then asking St Patrick to come and revive him with a miracle, but the ‘evil deed’ did not work on the great Irish saint and so Maccald, a well-known outlaw and robber, became a Christian and was sent, as a penence, to live out his humble life as a hermit on the remote and rather windswept headland of the island. Legend says the well was formed (sprang forth) where his horse came ashore after it carried the saint over the sea from Ireland! There is a long flat stone beside the well which is shaped like a ‘chair’ and in more recent times it was indeed called St Maughold’s Chair, but whether this is the original stone chair is another matter because it was recorded recently that the stone had disappeared from the side of the well.

In the book ‘More Rambling In The Isle of Man’ the author Peter J.Hulme, 1993, informs us, interestingly, “That the spring may have been the work of men since among the unique collection of Christian monuments (housed at St Maughold’s church in the village) of the period is one reading “Bramhui led off water to this place.” So although the spring was already there, could it be that the monastic community here somehow managed to divert the spring – Bramhui perhaps being the monk whose idea it was?

The water used to have healing qualities according to the authors Janet & Colin Bord in their brilliant book ‘Sacred Waters’, 1986. They go on to say that: “women wishing for offspring would drink the water of St Maughold’s Well and sit on the saint’s chair close by”, and the well had its full virtue “only when visited on the first Sunday of harvest, and then only during the hour the books were open at church (ie when the priest was saying Mass)”. They also say: “Its water was believed to cure many ailments, including sore eyes and infertility. Barren women would sit in the ‘saint’s chair’ nearby and drink a glass of the well water. Pilgrims would drop a pin, bead or button into the well before leaving”.

And the author William Bennet in his work ‘Sketches of the Isle of Man,’ 1829, says of the well: “most celebrated in modern times for its medicinal virtues is the spring which issues from the rocks of the bold promotory called Maughold Head, and which is dedicated to the saint of the same name, who, it appears, had come upon the well and endowed it with certain healing virtues. On this account is is yet resorted to, as was the pool of Siloam of old, by every invalid who believes in its efficary. On the first Sunday in August, the natives, according to ancient custom, still make a pilgrimage to drinks its waters; and it is held to be of the greatest importance to certain females to enjoy the beverage when seated in a place called the Saint’s Chair, which the saint, for the accommodation of succeeding generations obligingly placed immediately contagious persons”.

St Maughold became bishop of the island, succeeding St Conindri and St Romulus. He died in 488 or 498 AD. He was also, apparently, a missionary in Scotland and Wales – indeed in Wales he goes under the name St Mawgan - if that’s correct then it would appear that the penence afforded to him by St Patrick did not come to complete fruition!


Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1986.

Hulme, Peter. J., More Rambling In The Isle Of Man, The Manx Experience, Douglas, Isle of Man, 1993.

Bennet, William., Sketches of the Isle of Man, London, 1829, p.65.

The Ancient And Histotric Monuments of the Isle of Man, The Manx Museum And National Trust, (Fourth (Revised) Edition, Dublin, 1973.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers