NS4380 : Hill of Standing Stones

taken 11 years ago, near to Blairquhomrie, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Hill of Standing Stones
Hill of Standing Stones
The Hill of Standing Stones has an evocative name, but it is also one that may cause some puzzlement, since the hill has had this name for a long time, while the present cairn on the summit is clearly of no great antiquity (see the end-note for more recent developments).

There are no standing stones (in the usual sense) there now, nor were there any in the nineteenth century when the following entry was made in the OS Object Name Book: "Hill of Standing Stones a small eminence on the summit of which is a small pile of stones. There are no standing stones on it as the name would suggest nor is it believed that there ever was any".

One of the authorities cited by the OS Name Book for many of the old names on this muir was the "Plan of Dumbarton Muir With The Disputed Marches etc.", dating from the early nineteenth century. However, as early as 1609, this hill was described as having standing stones of some kind fixed on it (see below).

As recorded in the book "Changing Identities / Ancient Roots a history of West Dunbartonshire from earliest times" (2007; ed. Ian Brown), the name appears in its Scots form 'Hill of Standing Stanes' on the "Ordnance Survey 6-inch 1st edition (1864), but has been Englished to 'Hill of Standing Stones' on more recent Ordnance Survey maps."

The marker cairn on the summit is modern. It sits on an apparently older and much larger "cairn", but those partly-exposed rocks seem to be, instead, just outcrops of the underlying bedrock; see: NS4380 : Summit of the Hill of Standing Stones.

The prevailing opinion is that a nearby cist, formerly covered in a mound of stones and thus presenting a much more imposing monument, gave rise to the name of this hill; see: NS4380 : The Common Kist (the name "Common Kist" refers to its situation on the edge of Dumbarton's Common Moor).

However, it is worth pointing out something that I have not seen mentioned in this connection, namely, that a charter of 1609 makes a clear distinction between the "standand stanes" (standing stones) that were said to be "fixt" on this hill, and the nearby common kist. The charter, by James VI, specifies, among other things, the boundaries of Dumbarton's Common Moor. As stated in the relevant section of that charter, part of the boundary runs "therefrae westward to the Red brae, upon the lands and merches of the ferkins and merkins, and therefrae to the north-west part of the hill where the Standand Stanes are fixt; and therefrae westward to the auld monument of stone called the Common Kist" [Joseph Irving, "The History of Dumbartonshire", 2nd edition (1860), page 179].

[For the "Red Brae" and "merkins" mentioned here, see the 1:25000 OS map for NS4481; see also NS4482 : Merkins Farm.]

J.G.Smith's "Strathendrick and its Inhabitants From Early Times" (1896) gives a subtly different transcription of the charter, which, if correct, may shed some light on the nature of the "standing stones". The transcription is given in a chapter that was written, not by Smith himself, but by a Colonel Stirling of Gargunnock, though based partly on notes written by Smith. The transcription appears in the course of a discussion of Kilmaronock Parish, and is as follows: "... and therefrae to the Common Fuirds; and therefrae to the Lang Cairn; and therefrae westward to the Red Brae upon the heids and marches of Forkins and Merkins; and therefrae to the north west part of the hill where the auld marches callit Stannand Stanes are fixt; and therefrae westward to the auld monument of stane callit the Common Kist" [pages 275-276 of Smith's book].

The expression "the hill where the auld marches callit Stannand Stanes are fixt" suggests that the "standing stones" were boundary markers, rather than prehistoric monuments. If this is the case, then they may now be located within the summit cairn; as well as containing an old cattle stance marker (on which, see below), the cairn includes several stones that resemble old stone fence posts, and at least one of them bears a distinctive mark (a small cross): NS4380 : Boundary marker at Hill of Standing Stones.

I therefore prefer to believe that the "standing stones" that gave the hill its name were march stones (boundary markers), and that they may well now be in the summit cairn. However, this is all fairly speculative. A good starting point for any further research would be determining the actual text of this section of the charter, since the transcription that is given by historians varies significantly from one work to another.

The hill is called "Standingstoppe" on the Pont/Blaeu map of the Lennox (the map was published in 1654, but was based on surveys in the 1580s-90s).

It is also of interest in that its summit lies along the course of an old drove road; see NS4380 : Hill of Standing Stones - looking along old drove road. A stone marking the site of a cattle stance (a place where drovers and their herds might rest for the night) used to be located on the summit; in fact, that marker is still there, but it has been incorporated into the cairn. It can be seen end-on in this photo; it has a roughly square cross section, is left of centre in the cairn, and is about two-thirds of the way to the top; for a better view of that stone, see: NS4380 : Cattle stance marker (number one).

The drove road also appears to have served the local limestone-burning industry; see the third of the end-notes for further details.

As for the background of the photograph, Loch Lomond can be seen there, as well as some of the mountains that lie beyond; of these, Ben Lomond, visible left of centre, is particularly prominent; Ben Vorlich appears in the gap to its left. On the skyline near the right-hand edge of the image, the broad dark hill Gualann is visible, with distant Ben Venue and surrounding peaks behind it.
The Hill of Standing Stones
Some consider the hill to be named after a large cairn that formerly covered a nearby cist (see Link for details), but I believe that the name refers instead to march stones that stood here, and which are probably now to be found in the summit cairn. A planning application for a 10-turbine wind farm centred on the hill was rejected in October 2013. An old drove road Link passed over the hill; one of its cattle stance markers Link is still there.
Cattle stance marker 1
This marker indicated a stopping place on the course of an old drove road: Link
Marker 2 has been removed to a nearby farm, but marker 3 is located about 880 metres to the east: Link
Network of old limestone industry tracks :: NS4379
A very extensive network of ancient tracks on the moors in West Dunbartonshire links old quarries, ruined lime-kilns, and other sites connected with the local limestone-burning industry, which flourished in the 18th century. See Link for a Geograph article about the network, and LinkExternal link for an annotated satellite view of it.
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NS4380, 44 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Wednesday, 14 May, 2008   (more nearby)
Saturday, 4 October, 2008
Geographical Context
Place (from Tags)
Hill of Standing Stones 
Cairn   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4360 8045 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:59.4864N 4:30.5372W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4360 8045
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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Other Tags
Toponymy  Archaeology  Hilltop  Summit Cairn 

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