Archive for ‘Stone Circles’

January 4, 2015

The Eagle Stone, the Brahan Seer, Nutwood and the Earl of Cromartie



This Pictish stone currently sits on a brae at Strathpeffer in Ross and Cromarty. Allegedly this brae is called Nutwood Lane which sounds horribly twee straight out the pages of Enid Blyton so we’ll draw a suitably lacy curtain over that dubious name.

eagle stone again

 The area’s rich Pictish heritage includes many symbol stones  including this one with carvings of an eagle and a horse shoe arc. It is also known as Clach an Tiopain, Gaelic for the stone of the echo, from its hollow ring when struck – a bit like listening to the wit and wisdom of Gordon Brown.

The stone is a greyish blue gneiss and stands 32ins tall by around 24ins broad and 10ins thick. The shape of the stone was presumably selected by the carver but it has not been dressed into a particular shape. It is an example of a carved fallen stone, a feature of early Pictish art, dating from the 5th or 6th centuries, or perhaps it was a rush job. Why it was carved with a horse shoe and eagle is anyone’s guess. Some say it commemorated a battle and others that it signified a marriage – a lucky horseshoe is still associated with weddings and the eagle is the symbol of the Munros – but this is all conjecture.


The stone was carved at least 1500 years ago and originally stood where Fodderty cemetery is, between Dingwall and Strathpeffer, and was used to mark the burial place of the local Munro clan killed in a battle with the MacDonalds in 1411. The Munros won and the Eagle stone was an appropriate monument to mark where their clansmen fell in battle.



As the information notice by the Eagle stone explains a century later the Brahan Seer (Coinneach Odhar), Scotland’s equivalent of Nostradamus, fortetold of a great flood across the strath if the Eagle Stone fell three times – when it had fallen twice it was thought advisable to move it higher up the strath from Fodderty to its present position and set it in concrete, just in case.

The predictions of the Brahan Seer are, of course, cobblers and instances of old Brahany hitting the nail on the head are only the ravings of delusional simple folk. The Brahan Seer was dispatched in a horrible manner that involved a barrel of boiling tar at Chanory Point at Rosemarkie. Didn’t see that coming did poor old Coinneach.

And I don’t know if the Brahan Seer predicted the coming of a development of houses close to where the stone now stands that will necessitate the felling of mature trees as well as part of the distinctive beech hedging that lines the entrance to Strathpeffer.



As far as I know he didn’t mention the Earl of Cromartie and his housing ambitions but maybe he did. Seems like a lot of upheaval for 15 houses but then we know what happens when a few houses get permission – before anyone knows it there’s another 15, then no reason why another 15 shouldn’t be built too. I hope that cement around the Eagle Stone is solid because if one of those diggers gets too close there’s no knowing what might happen.


As for the beech hedge it may yet be saved, well not saved exactly because it will be dead when howked out, but local planners, we love them all don’t we folks?, have sought to reassure people that a ‘robust replanting plan’ for a replacement hedge is, well – planned. Robust? Can’t argue with robust.

Good luck to the future of the Eagle stone in its present location. I have a feeling it’s going to need it. Hey, the Brahan Seer thing is catching.

April 1, 2013

Howe of Alford Wee Stone Circle:startling new discovery

Vale of Alford stone circle

A recently excavated stone circle of nine varied orthostats uncovered during scrub clearance throws into question what we know about Neolithic stone crowns.

There is no recumbent stone included in this circle but one of the taller orthostats has the look of a flanker.


Were such miniature rings created as blueprints from which to work on larger constructions or did they initiate young men in the building of full-size circles?

Could it be that Neolithic people participated in competitions along the lines of Highland Games or It’s a Knock-out or Strongest Man contests?

Given the variety of stones it might be that miniature circles were able to show how different rock colours and textures worked in groupings.

It is possible they were built to amuse the children while adults conducted their ceremonies undisturbed in adjoining full-scale circles.

vale of alford circle

Were Neolithic people believers in pixies and fairies? Could these little circles have been built for the little people to engage in their own rituals? Indeed were they built by the little people and then copied by Neolithic people?

It is likely few other such circles will come to light as they are too easily missed in deep undergrowth and presumably others have been broken up by generations of Scots for garden rockeries.

We shall never know exactly the function of Neolithic rings which dot the landscape of Aberdeenshire but the discovery of the Howe of Alford Wee Stone Circle might help throw light on some of the mysteries surrounding this historical phenomenon. 


May 28, 2012

Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle

Loanhead of Daviot bronze age recumbent stone circle lies a few miles from Inverurie and is a true circle.

I’m very fond of this circle having come upon it early one misty morning with its stones looming up in the sun-infused vapour giving it an other-worldly appearance.

I’ve been back several times, including December in 2011 when these photographs were taken.

Clearly this circle from has been reconstructed. It is well kept with its cleared kerb cairn in the interior which contained pottery fragments and human remains.

Recumbent stone circles are a feature of the area close to Aberdeen, especially around Insch/Bennachie/Alford.

There is much speculation about the uses recumbent circles were put to but over the thousands of years of their existence it is fairly certain that people used them differently over time for ceremonies, cremations and interments.

Ten stones form this large circle of around 20 metres and each stone stands in its own cairn.

The recumbent is actually broken in two and faces SSW.

Remnants of Neolithic pottery were discovered here and cremated human remains.

One of the standing stones has been cupmarked.

Daviot stones feature shaped bases into beak shapes to give better seating in the earth.

The second rung alongside the recumbent circle is thought to have been the site of later cremations.

April 19, 2012

Rothiemay Stone Circle:Star Charts and Atlantis

Rothiemay Stone Circle

The recumbent stone circle at Rothiemay in Banffshire is easily accessible thanks to a very accommodating farmer. And it is signposted.

This grey igneous circle is incomplete however, having been disturbed in the early 19th century forty years before the introduction of preservation orders through the Ancient Monuments Act (1882) and the whole saved from complete destruction by the landowner. Thankfully the recumbent is still there along with four uprights.

It has been proposed that originally there were two concentric circles: outer and inner. The circle, as is, points to an asymmetrical shape with the recumbent’s position creating this irregularity.

This Rothiemay circle is one of the most important in the northeast for its cup marks; they are numerous – in excess of 100, some ringed – on the recumbent and especially grouped at the point of the rising or setting major standstill moon and the are some of the largest found. The clustered cup marks on this recumbent have been linked to star patterns. Other cup marks are documented on the stone to the east of the recumbent.

The recumbent measures 4 metres long by almost 2 metres high and faces the SW to capture the southern full moon at the major standstill.

The recumbent weighs around 20 tons.

The orthostats are around 2m proud of the ground.

The circle looks larger than many others I’ve seen: around 33 metres. This may be due to it being a concentric circle like Auchquhorthies.

Some believe that recumbent stones were worked to mirror or frame, by its flankers, the hills lying off on the horizon. Rothiemay’s recumbent is thought to be one such example looking as it does towards Hillhead of Avochie (‘v’ is not usually pronounced in Scotland in place names derived from the Gaelic [pronounced Gaallic as opposed to Irish Gaylic]).

There is a tenuous link with Rothiemay recumbent stone circle and John Foster Forbes who had been born at Rothiemay Castle and who propounded some strange ideas. Far from being Bronze Age constructions he imagined they dated to around 8000 BC when priests migrated to these islands from the lost city of Atlantis.

Preoccupation with the occult was strong in the 1930s. Some Nazis used occultism to try to prove the existence of a superior Nordic race originating from the North Pole. Forbes was influenced by psychometrics and his eccentric  explanations about stone circles come through association with the psychic Iris Campbell. This once military intelligence officer, Forbes also linked ancient sites such as stone circles to the return of extraterrestrials and was prominent in the upsurge of interest in UFOs in Britain after WWII.

April 13, 2012

Yonder Bognie and Cairnton Recumbent Stone Circle remains

Yonder Bognie stone circle

The wonderfully named Yonder Bognie stone circle is one of many in Aberdeenshire’s rich seam of Bronze age remains.

A recumbent circle of originally 9 whinstones, possibly surrounding a burial or cremation cairn (an urn and bones were recovered here). The area and circle have fallen victim to indifferent farmers in the past although the present one is apparently happy to allow visitors to the stones.

The western flanker remains standing beside the recumbent but the taller east one has fallen.

Of the rest of the circle, some orthostats are in place while others have moved or are missing. It appears to have been oval-shaped rather than round – 22 metres X 18 metres. Most stone circles were graded in height and this is true here with the tallest stones set on the south east and the smallest to
the north northwest.

The recumbent is around 3.5 metres long and 1.5 metres tall.
Unusually the recumbent is facing the southeast, on a gentle slope but said to be aligned to the major southern rising moon.

Cairnton Stone Circle

In the vicinity of Yonder Bognie, and Foggy Loan (Aberchirder) lie the remnants of the Cairnton circle.

The whinstone recumbent and west flanker are all that remain of this stone circle. The recumbent is nearly 3 metres long and 1.6 metres tall and the flanker is over 2 metres tall. The recumbent has been badly damaged by attempts to blow it apart.
Around are scattered field stones.

The circle was positioned on a south-eastern slope with wonderful views across Strathbogie.

Missing stones may still be in the vicinity although others have been re-used e.g. in the walls of a steading building and a cupmarked stone was apparently buried by a farmer. Why? It’s been reported he got fed up driving around it! Tough work driving a tractor.

April 13, 2012

Auld Kirk o’ Tough’s vanished recumbent stone circle

There are remnants of a recumbent stone circle at the old kirk o’ Tough on Red Hill near Alford in Aberdeenshire.

This recumbent stone circle was, as you would expect, south-facing, and very large – estimated at 23 metres (75 feet) in diameter and surrounding a ring-cairn.

Unfortunately little remains of the circle, it having been destroyed many years ago, possibly when land was being improved and farm grazing extended although this hardly describes this particular site. There might have been a desire to rid the area of pre-Christian symbols. Whatever the reason for demolishing circles the stone was often used, as in this case to reinforce a dyke and on one occasion for a doorstep and possibly as land roller.

One upright stone survives and this it is said to serve as a rubbing stone for cattle. It stands at 1.25 metres high.

There are records of the recumbent and its flankers and seven of eight uprights still standing around 1875.

A ringed cupmark along with other unringed is said to have been seen on a stone near this upright.

Unfortunately the recumbent has gone completely.

April 10, 2012

The Ringing Stone at Cairnie

The remains of this circle took a little bit of finding although once detected it’s hard to see why. However when I first thought I’d spotted it my companion dismissed it as a sheep on the brow of the hill. I wouldn’t like to meet that sheep on a dark night.

The hill is in fact an artificial mound and set within a field.

Little of the recumbent circle remains but some disturbed stones lie around the area.

The recumbent is magnificent and is still in its place set up on group of small boulders and faces SSW. Was it raised at some point?

The Ringing Stone it is also known as the Iron Stone .

The Ringing Stone gets its name from the ringing sound given off when it is tapped.

The muckle recumbent measures in excess of 10 feet long so comes in at well beyond even the most magnificent of sheep.

The far fallen stone is whinstone measuring around 6 ft X almost 3ft.

The two prone orthostats are around 8ft X 2ft 69

Over the centuries since the period of stone circles people have demolished them and reused their stones. This appears to have happened here with the ring’s missing orthostats. The recumbent’s survival might be due to it being left as a rubbing stone for farm beasts.

There is also evidence that stones have been drilled into with the intention of splitting them. Some of the large debris stones are similarly drilled in the field below.

April 1, 2012

Cothiemuir Recumbent Stone Circle


The remains of the magnificent recumbent stone circle at Cothiemuir lie within the natural burial site close to Keig in Aberdeenshire. The circle itself is said to have been the site of funeral pyres and surrounds a low ring cairn.

The granite stones on the east side are smooth and rounded and rougher to the west.

Stones here have been shaped at their bases, like keels, to settle them into the earth.

The cup marks on the western extremity of the magnificent recumbent at Cothiemuir are said to be a fine example of them pointing to the position of the major standstill moon rises and sets.

The spectacular basalt recumbent is pale grey and its flankers are contrasting in pink although this is not clear in photographs because of the heavy covering of lichen on the stones.

This grey and pink arrangement recurs in the circle where the eastern orthostats are grey and the western ones, pink. The kerbstones were also alternating pink and grey.

As with all recumbent circles this one was built to have an open view to the south which allows tracking of the movements of the moon.

The huge 14 foot,20 ton recumbent is well-known for marks known as the Devil’s hoofprints on the recumbent.

The recumbent’s flankers are over 9 feet high.

Is the centre of the circle lies a capstone marking, actually or symbolically, an opening of a passage grave – or it may have been positioned there later. We don’t know.

April 1, 2012

South Fornet Recumbent Stone Circle

South Fornet

Continuing the exploration of Aberdeenshire’s many stone circles and recumbent circles in particular took us to South Fornet, close to Castle Fraser.

It’s not particularly easy to find some of the remaining recumbent stone circles which once abounded in the northeast of Scotland. Several have been raided over time for their stone, perhaps for building or land rollers. Some have been cleared during the great land reclamations of the agricultural revolution.

This remaining stones from this circle were not obvious from the road and required walking along the edge of a field. It’s not an easy way in as the ground is very uneven and the way is difficult. Then there are fences to be crossed.

It is interesting how some farmers, clearly proud to be working land which includes these wonderful monuments, encourage visitors to access their stone circles while others make life difficult for anyone wishing to access them.

The stones stand well above 6 feet high. There is a lot of similarity in the shape of these grey whinstone flankers: pointing in towards the missing recumbent. Veins of white quartz can be seen running through the flankers.

South Fornet is set in beautiful open countryside and only the two flankers remain upright. The gap where the recumbent would have been has been in-filled with field rubble.

Two stones, apparently from the circle lie where they fell or were abandoned on removal.

Cup marks are visible cut into the stones, not necessarily from the time the circle was erected.

At some point in its history, the name A Bruce has been carved into one of the stones.

January 13, 2012

Sunhoney Recumbent Stone Circle

A beautifully sunny 13th January 2012 found us walking up by Sunhoney Farm near Echt in Aberdeenshire and on along a field to a wooded area where the 4-5000 year old stone circle sits.The situation is not as high up as some but still on a raised area where the rising moon could be watched very easily.

Immediately apparent is the sheer size of the circle, around 25m diameter.

Largely complete, Sunhoney recumbent stone circle is made up of 9 uprights, several very tall of pink granite and gneiss, as well as the grey granite recumbent stone which is very long and lying on its back rather than raised. It is flanked by two tall majestic stones. In front of the recumbent and right flanker lies a large stone which might have once been part of the recumbent which has broken off over time.

The recumbent is decorated by many cup marks – possibly around 30-along its upper surface. There has been a suggestion that they chart the stars. Whatever they meant to the people who carved them from the hard stone we will never know.

If the recumbent was used to catch the ascending moon then the dip in the hills to the south is just that point where a rising moon would first emerge into view.















Cremated bones have been recovered from the cairn within the circle.



Music on video is from Dieter Weberpals called Just Another Mood