Dunino Den

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 54100 10880, map


KY16 8LU

Also known as:

  • Dunino Cross
  • Dunino Burn
  • Dunino Den
  • Bell Crag
  • Bell Craig


This site is to the west of Dunino Parish Church and has a number of features considered to be the focus of pre-Christian worship, and is of interest to modern pagan worshippers. It consists of a promontory to the east of Dunino Burn known as Bell Craig. The two crags which make up this site are known as Pulpit Rock and Altar Rock. The Den itself is reached via stone steps. There is a carved Celtic cross in the wall which probably is not of any great age.

Description (exterior)

This site consists of two crags with pot holes in them, which may be either natural, manmade or a combination of the two.

The Altar Rock has the larger of the two potholes, and a 'footprint'. This has given rise to a theory that the rock was used in Kingmaking ceremonies similar to those alleged to have taken place at Dunadd for the kings of Dalriada in the seventh and eighth centuries. Alternatively D. and L. MacGilp suggest that the footprint is associated with Culdee ideals of anchorism and "the search for the place of one's resurrection".

D. and L. MacGilp also suggest that the smaller Pulpit Rock was used to plant a wooden cross carried by Culdee monks, although there is no material evidence for this.

A wheelheaded cross is inscribed into the wall of the Den, which is visible next to the stone stairs, the date of which is unknown. It is described in RCHAMS Canmore database.   The top is obscured by moss but the shaft and nimbus are clearly visible.   However, it seems unlikely that the inscription has any great antiquity because although the style of the cross suggests that it is at least one thousand years old, it is unlikely that the soft sandstone in which it is inscribed would have allowed for such good survival over this length of time.

It is also possible that the cross has been re-inscribed and marks the site of an earlier inscription, though this cannot be proven. There are other inscriptions in the rock which have been made more recently, including some 'Celtic' knotwork.    It seems likely that these are relatively recent examples of individuals visiting a site which they regard as sacred and wishing to leave a mark which would commemorate their visit.

Description (interior)

People / Organisations:



  • Carved Stone: Build/construction
    The date of construction is impossible to determine, as the potholes borne in these rocks may be natural, manmade or artificially enlarged.

Archive References:

Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 34474
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4670

Bibliographic References:

Dunino: Place of WorshipMacGlip, D & L2005p. 13