This standing stone or “menhir” sits approximately 6 miles south-west from St Ives. It is reached by a rough, stony track that leads north from a small pull-in on the Madron to Morvah road where there is room to park several cars. Its precise grid reference is SW 427353 and sits centrally in a field about 15 minutes walk from the Nine Maidens of Boskednan. Go past the stile on the right that leads to Men-an-Tol and you’ll see Men Scryfa to your left.
The name literally means “inscribed stone” in what has been described as a mixture of Latin and Celtic language. The inscription says, “Rialobrani Cunovali Fili” which translates roughly to “Royal Raven, Son of the Glorious Prince” and reputedly marks the spot where Ryalvran met his death. In Celtic legend, he was an ancient warrior king whose lands were taken by invaders who also occupied Lescudjack hillfort at Penzance which provided protection for the harbour there.
It is said that the defeated royals fled to Caer Bran (Raven Castle) where they formulated a plan to reclaim their land, but to no avail. A fierce battle took place at which Ryalvran was killed and buried at the stone which was supposedly the same height as he stood. Interestingly, scholars of King Arthur will recognise the name “Bran” (Vran); he was a Celtic war god and appears under a variety of names in the Arthurian stories.
The stone is about 6 feet tall although the light needs to be very clear these days to decipher the inscription. It dates to the Bronze Age and was only inscribed much later, possibly around 500AD to commemorate the fall of Ryalvran. Other legends and myths abound; one particularly tells of buried gold at the base of the stone and of a local man who dug up the base only to find nothing but blackened earth.
The stone does indeed sit in an exposed and open position. The gateway to the field was locked shut but there is a rocky stile adjacent to the gate that can be climbed. There is no official right of way to the stone but as the field contains only rough grass, then I wouldn’t imagine the landowner would mind too much.
The surrounding area is quite bleak with just the old engine house of the long-abandoned and somewhat curiously-named Ding Dong tin mine providing company on the hillside to the west of the stone. A truly enigmatic setting for a truly enigmatic stone…
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