Chapel of Garioch, The Maiden Stone

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Historic Scotland describes this as a “a sculptural delight.” Elsewhere it is described as one of most spectacular pieces of Pictish sculpture, with every surface carved in a series of complex designs and symbols. This had to be on the todo list.

The stone is signed off the A96 on an unclassified road to Chapel of Garioch, a few miles north west of Inverurie. The stone is at the side of the road by a layby and just a few paces from its original site. There is an information sign with drawings by the cross.

A cross slab stone dating from the 9thC, originally all four sides were covered with carvings.

The front of the stone with the cross is now badly eroded and it is difficult to make out much detail of the cross and the figure carved above it. Only the bottom circular pattern is obvious.

The reverse with Pictish symbols is better preserved. At the top there are four animals. Below is a notched triangle with Z-rod through it. Some sources reckon this is a representation of a chariot. Below is a Pictish beast with a long snout which could possibly have been a dolphin. At the bottom is a beautiful carving of a mirror and two sided comb.

The sides were originally carved but again detail has eroded badly.

At the top of the stone is a well defined notch. According to the local legend, a daughter of the Laird of Balquhain unwisely bet a stranger that she could bake a bannoch faster than he could build a road to the top of Bennachie. The prize would be the maiden's hand. The stranger was the Devil and finished the road and claimed the maiden. She ran from the Devil and just as he touched her shoulder, she was turned to stone, leaving a notch where she had been caught.

We were a bit disappointed by the stone. The carving was badly eroded and didn’t live up to the hype. This is only worth visiting if you are a Pictish stone nut, or are in the area.

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