Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Tom nan Clach, cup & ring marked rock 560m ENE of Hazelbank

A Scheduled Monument in Cowal, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.1955 / 56°11'43"N

Longitude: -5.0641 / 5°3'50"W

OS Eastings: 209989

OS Northings: 704546

OS Grid: NN099045

Mapcode National: GBR 00.FNB7

Mapcode Global: WH1JW.5JRT

Entry Name: Tom nan Clach, cup & ring marked rock 560m ENE of Hazelbank

Scheduled Date: 14 August 1974

Last Amended: 14 January 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3426

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cupmarks or cup-and-ring marks and similar rock art

Location: Strachur

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Cowal

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises prehistoric rock art carved on an area of outcropping bedrock. The art includes two cups each with two rings, eight cups with one ring, and over 20 other cups. The rock art was created probably in the early prehistoric period, between about 3500 BC and 1800 BC. The monument lies at 110m above sea level on relatively flat ground part way up steep W-facing slopes that rise above the E shore of Loch Fyne, which is 450m to the NW. The rock outcrop now lies in a forestry plantation, but there were probably long views across the loch to the N and SW from this site when the art was carved. The monument was first scheduled in 1974, but the documentation does not meet modern standards and the scheduled area was incorrectly located: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

When visited in 2012, the exposed area of rock measured about 4m N-S by 3m transversely, but additional carvings may exist on parts of the rock that remain below ground level. Most of the carvings are quite deep but rather weathered, which suggests additional rings may once have been present. The largest visible cup and ring motif has a diameter of 0.28m, with the cup being about 50mm deep. There is also a long groove that may be a man-made feature. The carvings occur in a row, aligned approximately NE-SW, running roughly parallel to the rock strata.

The area to be scheduled is a circle 20m in diameter, centred on the middle of the rock outcrop, to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument displays a relatively large number of carved cup and ring motifs and is a good example of the typical prehistoric rock art of western Scotland. Some of the carvings are closely spaced and potentially overlapping, indicating that the carvings may have accumulated over a period of time and may exhibit a development sequence. The carvings remain relatively deep and are easy to observe and appreciate. The ground around the rock outcrop has the potential to contain additional buried carvings or other archaeological evidence for contemporary activity in the immediate vicinity. The carvings themselves would have had meaning for the people who created them and there is potential to study their ornament, symbolism, carving techniques, and how they were used. Researchers have suggested that the art represents a series of messages, spread between monuments, with meanings dependent on their position in the landscape and relative complexity.

Contextual characteristics

The monument represents an important piece of prehistoric rock art that can be compared with other panels in mid Argyll. It has the potential to add to our understanding of the landscape context and ultimately the meaning of rock art in the area. This outcrop lies opposite a group of chambered cairns sited around Achnagoul, 4km to the WNW on the far side of Loch Fyne. Two of these chambered cairns lie at around 110m above sea level, in a comparable landscape zone to the rock art. Chambered cairns often incorporate stone slabs that themselves bear cup and ring marks, and these potentially intervisible monuments may have been created with reference to one another.

Associative characteristics

The carvings enhance the natural landscape of which they are part, and are particularly attractive when viewed in low evening sunlight. Theories about their function include suggestions of ritual or spiritual meaning.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of early prehistoric rock art. The monument enhances and augments the other rock art in the district and improves our understanding of this class of monument. It also has a spatial relationship with a group of chambered cairns and can contribute to wider understanding of how the prehistoric landscape was used by early settlers. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand early prehistoric activity in mid Argyll.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1988. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments Vol 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, prehistoric and early historic monuments, p 99, no 118. Edinburgh.

Morris, R W B 1977, The prehistoric rock art of Argyll. Poole.

Morris, R W B 1969, 'The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures in Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties, part II', PSAS, Vol 100, 1967-8, pp.47-78.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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