Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Berneray King-Stone

There are several inauguration stones in Scotland. The most famous is the Stone of Scone; stolen by Edward I in 1296, and placed under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey until it was returned to Scotland in 1996. Although there are many who believe the stone Edward took was a fake, and that the true stone is still hidden in the Hebrides.

The early rulers of Argyll and the Islands had their own inauguration stones, with a footprint carved in them where the King-To-Be would place his foot. Dunadd is the best known of these, and if you make the easy climb to the top of the hill you will find a footprint. But if you put your foot in it you will not be following in the footstep's of kings; for the true stone-footprint lies under the concrete replica that caps the hill, lifted in place by a helicopter.

I've only heard of two inauguration stones in the Hebrides, both of them associated with the Lords of the Isles. The best known was on an island in Loch Finlaggan (Islay); but you can not put your foot on it these days, as at some point in time it was destroyed. The other Lord of the Isles' stone is on Berneray (Sound of Harris). The Berneray stone is at Cladh Maolruibhe (the burial ground of St Mealrubha), which lies atop a hill called Beinn a'Chlaidh (see this RCAHMS link for more). The site is easy to find as it has a giant (8 foot tall) standing stone.

Berneray Standing Stone - Pabbay in the distance

The Berneray Stone
Cladh Maolruibhe is now a jumble of stones that may have once been a large cairn. In amongst them lies a large slab with the form of a footprint chiseled out on top (see this link for more). It is not much of a footprint, as it has flaked away over the centuries. My boot fit, sort of, and so I celebrated my inauguration with a can of beer before heading back down the slopes.
The Footprint Stone
A close fit

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