West Lothian Archaeology Group


Torphichen Community and Heritage Website

West Lothian Archaeology Index

Undiscovered Scotland

Aerial Photo

Torphichen KAP

Torphichen Preceptory and Kirk (Cairnpapple top left).

The slack behind the Preceptory leads to the former site of Cathlaw Cottage and a 'ruin' (1860 OS map) and Cairnpapple Hill. To the right of the slack is the Cuningar.

 Castlethorn to the left of the slack is scheduled with Gormyre Hill just a little further left.

 The national archaeological and historic importance of these areas is substantial.

Jim Knowles 1st December 2010   PAP

Jim Knowles  18th March 2011
Jim Knowles  18th March 2011
Jim Knowles  18th March 2011
Jim Knowles  18th March 2011


The Kirk

Viewed from the south west.


Photos by Jim Knowles
Wallhouse Mansion DooCot


Local knowledge tells of a roundel in the field. Closer inspection shows a low bank from which the trees are growing. This suggests an early enclosure either for animals or a house.

Wallhouse Mansion   near IR KAP
Enclosure  near IR KAP
Pole aerial photos taken  11 February 2010 
An overhead composite PAP image looking into a stone built monk's cell (2) hidden deep in the woods of Torphichen. This could be associated with the Knights of St John or from a much earlier period in St Ninian's history.
An overhead PAP image (blue channel).

Note the slight curve on the left, possibly forming a second cell or adjacent room.

Near infra-red PAP.
Jim Knowles

Refuge Stones

Refuge Stones on Canmore

It is often cited that there were four refuge/sanctuary stones located one Scots mile, north, south, east and west of the Preceptory.  Some questions worth considering are:
When are the stones first cited in documents?
When would these stones have been put in place?
Are they located on the access routes to the Preceptory for any known time period?
Were there only four stones located at one mile?
In-situ, would any inscription have only faced away from the Preceptory to greet travellers?
Why are the identified stones non-uniform?
Is there any stone locally with a true Maltese cross on it?


This is the central 'Sanctuary stone' in the Torphichen Kirkyard. The east and west 'sanctuary stones' still stand in their original positions. It is my thoughts that the prehistoric type stones are of much earlier origin than the medieval Preceptory, possibly being related to the boundary of the hillforts in the local area. This is the top of the central 'Sanctuary stone' in the Torphichen Kirkyard. Note it has a central hole or well and has been incised with a cross. This could have been to ritualise the pagan alter stone. It is suggested that the stone was brought down from Cairnpapple but could have come from any of the prehistoric areas within the local region.

The rear of the Witch Craigs 'refuge stone' showing the Cross of Lorraine. This stone was removed from its original location which was probably from the fields just up from Haddies Walls in the valley below.  

near infra-red

The Gormyre 'refuge stone'. Just visible is the outline of part of a cross. Originally described as a Maltese Cross, now in its poor state of preservation, it could be interpreted as various other forms of cross (Potent, or Lorraine). (Until Jim took this photo it was thought that 'there is now no trace of the cross' )   near infra-red

Local knowledge suggests that this large stone boulder at the edge of a wood was one of the northern boundary 'refuge stones' in the area. This would have stood in the centre of the field to the rear of Craigend House near Lochote. There are no obvious markings on the stone and it appears to have been badly damaged when relocated.

near infra-red

The northern 'refuge stone'. This is located in the Parish boundary wall just to to the north from the fallen standing stone. The front face and rear of the stone is incised with a simple cross.

near infra-red

This is a shot from the east of the Westfield 'refuge stone'. This image is taken from the blue channel with the contrast enhanced to bring out any features. The stone was lost for a good number of years, due to it being removed from its original location and dumped. Luckily the stone was recovered and the fragmentary remains were cemented back together. The stone was finally re-instated back near its original standing place. The stone has pretty much flat sides with no obvious signs of carving on its faces.

This is an image of the southern 'refuge stone' of Torphichen. The original stone once stood in the field behind Couston castle. The stone was removed to the side of the field, where it remained for a number of years. It eventually found its way onto the pathway leading to the quarry works with a number of other stones. After examining the other stones, some are of obvious origin, with no obvious markings. This was the only stone that also had a broken base and possible working on its visible face. It is possible that this stone once had a cross carved into its face. I could not examine the rear due to its weight.

Jim Knowles  Jim Knowles