Dunino church is ancient and has been an ancient place of worship. In the long past days of old Celtic faith, a stone circle marked forgotten rites. It was, as have been many Celtic customs, incorporated into the church. But there are more traces of the past to be found here and more intriguing ones at that.
Is this stone a testimony of those days? It sits quietly in the graveyard of Dunino church, new age worshippers have made it into a wishing stone and scattered money, some reckless person of the past had used it as a sundial.
“The stone upon which the sundial stands is believed to have been carved around AD 800, which makes it one of the oldest stones in Scottish Christianity.” (Ann Lindsay: Hidden Scotland, Birlinn, 2010)
Dunino is a hamlet in Fife, about five miles outside St. Andrews. Many come to visit but it is not the old cemetery, not the stone with the sundial or any of the other headstones. They come for what lies in the woods a few hundred yards downhill.
Worshippers have left many tokens among the trees next to Dunino burn, a place of pagan worship, a power point of a forgotten religion, where amongst the rocky cliffs bloody rituals have taken place. Walking down from the churchyard, you will reach a promontory, where a pool of water was an essential part of ancient rituals. Here the Druidical priest cleaned his naked feet before he sacrificed humans to now unknown Gods. The blood would have been collected; the bodies thrown into the burn below. The setting is pectacular, line a dramatic theater for a cruel show. The crags are called Pulpit Rock and Altar Rock and you can almost hear the chanting of the people witnessing the sacrifices.
The path leading back towards the church is steep and after the dark rocky gorge feels like a path towards the light.
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The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for my blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Find treasure all over Scotland with my latest book. I am Nellie Merthe Erkenbach, journalist and author.The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.
My main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.
This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share my passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.