This is Ossian’s stone – in Sma’ Glen in the Scottish Highlands. On this day the Glen was dark, claustrophobic and slightly menacing, as the dark clouds rolled into the valley, and the thousand foot almost vertical cliffs on each side had their heads in the mist. You couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere for the setting of this tale.
Ossian’s stone is an 8 ft. high bolder on the valley floor – many tales surround this huge stone. It is believe that the young men of this Glen, in earlier times, used to lift huge stones onto the top of the bolder – in a right of passage, so a boy could prove his strength as a man – or maybe a Clan Chief.
In effect, Ossian’s Stone is part of a prehistoric ring cairn, and the stone was moved slightly and remains of the cairn were destroyed by the English General Wade in 1759, as part of a military road building exercise which would allow the English army in to subdue the ‘natives’. A small funeral pyre was discovered under the stone, comprising of small fragments of bone and some ashes.
The Highlanders believed that if a body was left above ground either by accident or malice, then all steps should be taken immediately to perform the necessary reburial rites – otherwise storms would come and destroy their corn and huts. The highlanders, upon hearing of the bones being discovered, immediately took them and buried them on top of the mountain. No one knows where.
There is evidence of the original road which can be seen in places. One of the legends associated with Ossian’s Stone (and there are many), concerns the time the hated General Wade was building the road with a small group of engineers. They came to the stone and Wade was about to give the order to blow it up with dynamite, as it was in the way. Just then, they heard a frightful noise, and looking up they saw hundreds of Highanders in full war regalia, who hurtled at full speed down the mountain towards the terrified Wade and his men.
The clan chief walked up to General Wade, looked him straight in the eye and said “Ye arenae gonnae smash ‘at staine, ur ye.” (“you aren’t going to smash that stone, are you?”). Needless to say, the stone wasn’t smashed and the road went round it.
Ossian purports to be a translation of an epic cycle of Scottish poems from the early dark ages. Ossian, a blind bard, sings of the life and battles of Fingal, a Scotch warrior. There are many legends associated with Ossian, and you can read more about him here.
This Glen is hauntingly beautiful, and if you are in Scotland it is well worth a visit. A more detailed description of Ossian’s Stone, and instructions on how to get there is included here.
And to get some idea of how magical and dramatic this place is, I encourage you to view the photos large 🙂