Work to excavate Pictish Stone near Doune to get underway

Excavation work on a Pictish stone of potential ‘international significance’, discovered buried in a cemetery near Doune, will begin within the next fortnight.

An aerial view, looking down on a group of archaeologists as they work around a stone with clear Pictish markings in a graveyard setting.
The Pictish stone at Old Kilmadock is believed to date from between the 6th and 8th Century.

People across the Stirling area have joined forces with keen historians from around the world to fund the retrieval of the stone, which is believed to date from between the 6th and 8th Century, with a view to its ultimate restoration.

Community-led Rescuers of Old Kilmadock (ROOK) discovered the Pictish artefact in Old Kilmadock Cemetery in 2019 and have since been assisted by Stirling Council archaeologist Dr Murray Cook, who will help with lifting the stone over two days later this month.

After its initial discovery, the stone was quickly re-buried on site for safety purposes, but a campaign has so far raised £10,000 to fund its retrieval and storage for a further two years, allowing for an in-depth examination of the script and engravings that appear on both sides of the delicate stone.


Murray Cook said: “The ROOK team found the stone by accident and it soon became clear it could be something of international significance, with engravings of animals in the Pictish tradition and what appear to be examples of Ogham script, a form of Irish writing that’s rarely found in Scotland.

“The stone is very, very delicate and was re-buried to retain its structural integrity before we undertake a more detailed examination. We’re excited to get the next stage of this discovery under way later this month.”

Two people, a man and a women, stand smiling at the camera in the sun. They are each holding shovels to the ground in an ancient graveyard setting.
Moira Buchanan, chair of ROOK, and Stirling Council archaeologist Dr Murray Cook are thrilled by their latest finding.

It’s believed the stone dates from around the period of the Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685, when the Picts expelled the invading Northumbrians from the south and paved the way for the creation of Alba and, ultimately, Scotland.

Most Ogham scripts on previous stones in Scotland have been discovered further north than Stirling, including Argyll, Shetland and Orkney, although examples have also been found in Galloway.

If the engravings on the stone at Doune is proved to be Ogham script, it would be the first such discovery of its type in the Forth Valley and would almost certainly mean there was a monastic settlement at the site of Kilmadock around 1,300 years ago.

ROOK are currently looking at all funding options for a full restoration and stabilisation project, with a view to ultimately putting the stone on public display.


ROOK chair Moira Buchanan said: “We are delighted and very excited to have reached this milestone in the retrieval for stabilisation and conservation of this unique stone.

“Now we need to begin a major fundraising initiative to pay for the restoration and the eventual return of the stone to its rightful place in the beautiful and peaceful setting of Old Kilmadock.”

Stirling Council leader, Cllr Chris Kane, said: “As we begin Stirling’s 900th anniversary as a burgh, this is a reminder that the important contribution our area has made to Scottish history stretches back even further in time.

“The work undertaken by the Rescuers of Old Kilmadock, assisted by Murray, is testament to the passion in local communities such as Doune to tell the stories of our fascinating past.”

For further details on the project and how you can help, check out the ‘ROOK – Rescuers of Old Kilmadock’ page on Facebook.