Standing in a semicircular recess in the garden wall of a suburban house on the south side of Edinburgh is the Caiy Stane, a red sandstone standing stone standing 9ft 3ins (2.75m) high and up to 5ft 9ins (1.55m) wide and 1ft 7ins (0.48m) thick.
The unexpected setting gives the stone considerable impact, and it is at first easy to forget that the Caiy Stane stood here for thousands of years before the development that now surrounds it was built. Indeed, if you assume that the stone has stood here for 5,000 years, which is a real possibility, it has been swallowed up by the growth of Edinburgh only within the last tiny fraction of the time it has occupied this spot. An engraving in a book about Scottish market crosses published in 1840 shows the stone standing in open countryside with the land dropping away in the background. Look at a map and it is still possible to see that the site would once have commanded extensive views to the west and north.
The Caiy Stane stands on the side of the aptly-named Caiystane View close to its junction with Oxgangs Road. It has been known by a number of names over the centuries, including the Cetstane, Cat Stane or the Kel Stane. Most authorities agree it was also the stone referred to in some old sources as the Camus Stone, though the author of the 1840 book referred to above suggested that the Camus Stone was actually a separate stone that stood nearby until being broken up for use in road construction.
The best guess is that the stone was erected here some time around 3000BC to mark a ritual or burial place. The rear face of the stone carries a line of six indentations known as cup marks which seem to date it to the Neolithic era. Various cairns and kist burials dating back to the Bronze Age, 1-2,000 years later, have been unearthed in the immediate area at various times, and they seem to indicate that the ritual nature of the site was maintained over a very long period.
More fanciful explanations of the presence of the Caiy Stane, mostly dating back to before the advent of modern archaeology, have included its use as the marker of the site of a battle involving Romans, Angles, Vikings or even Cromwellians. These seem fairly easy to dismiss.
The rear of the stone carries a carved inscription of the name "J. Forrest". This appears to have been added in the early 1800s by two young men with a hammer and chisel, who were apparently disturbed in their efforts to deface the stone before they could also carve "Camus-Stone" which they had already chalked out above the name. In 2002 other visitors sadly added their own marks to the rear of the stone in green and yellow paint.