The extraordinary early prehistoric rock art at Ormaig comprises a cluster of cup-and-ring marked rock outcrops set within a forest clearing. There are two principal sets of rock carvings.

Ormaig neolithic art

The lower of the two major exposures is a gently sloping rock sheet, on which the decoration is divided into two sections; the eastern half was only revealed in 1974 and the carvings are unusually fresh, with individual peckmarks clearly visible. There is some 19th-century graffiti and a mass of carvings including three "rosettes" (known locally as the telephone dials).

A short distance to the north is a steeply sloping finger of much-weathered bare rock. It is profusely decorated with designs, which include closely spaced cups, rings and channels.

To the west and north of these main groups are four smaller outcrops bearing a variety of cupmarks and cups with single rings, some with gutters (a gutter is a pecked channel running from the central cup across the surrounding rings).

Cupmarks

Cupmarks are simple round depressions carved on stone surfaces, probably created by using a pecking technique. They date from both the Neolithic and the Bronze Age periods (c. 4,400 BC – 1,000 BC). They are usually found on prominent natural boulders and rock outcrops, but are also occasionally found on standing stones, on the stones of stone circles and on stones incorporated into burial chambers and cists.

Cupmarks can form impressive works containing complex arrangements of cups with multiple rings and grooves, often with connecting gutters, although they are more often found as small clusters on a suitable boulder or outcrop. Such rocks have been explained as territorial markers, sacrificial altars or religious symbols.

As a cultural tradition of rock art, cupmarks would appear to have a long and complex history, with similarities among the regional styles all along the Atlantic seaboard. Such rock art is relatively common in Scotland and has also been found in Northern England, Ireland, Brittany and Spain. Many possible interpretations have been put forward, from maps and markers in the landscape, to use in rites of passage and ancestor worship.

Visiting Ormaig

The exact location of Ormaig is grid reference NM 822 027.

There is access to the forest through the Historic Scotland car park at Carnasserie Castle.

All sites managed by Forestry Commission Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.

Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.

Our website uses cookies.

By continuing, we assume your permission to deploy cookies, as detailed in our Privacy and Cookies policies.