Recumbent Stone Circles

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Creative Commons License Text by Anne Burgess, March 2015 ; This work is dedicated to the Public Domain.
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.


Contents
Recumbent stone circles (RSCs) are unique to the farmlands of north-eastern Scotland. They are so called because in a south-western or south-eastern sector of the circle they include a long low stone, termed the recumbent, wedged in position so that its upper surface is horizontal. The recumbent stone is always carefully aligned and supported so that its surface is as level as possible. The recumbent is flanked by the two tallest stones of the circle. These three stones together are called a recumbent setting.

NJ7112 : Castle Fraser Recumbent Stone Circle (3) by Anne Burgess is one of the best examples of a recumbent setting.

The recumbents are usually aligned to the rising or setting points of the Moon and may have been used for lunar observation. Most of them are on relatively level ground on or near the top of a low hill or gentle rise.

The stones making up the rest of the circle are termed orthostats. They are usually graded in height, each one being lower than the previous one until the stone at the opposite end of the diameter from the recumbent, which is the shortest stone.

The stones frequently bear cup-marks or cup-and-ring marks, and most of the circles have or had central cairns.

Inside the circle there are usually two lower stones laid at right angles to the ends of the recumbent. It has been suggested, according to one information board, that the practice of placing the recumbent is related to the practice of blocking the entrance to chambered tombs, and that these two small stones are symbolic of such entrances. Another information board says that the purpose of the low stones is unknown.

The RSCs range in diameter from about 18 to 25 metres. and the average weight of the recumbent stones is about 24 tons.

Depending on which information board you read, they date from the late 3rd millennium BC, or from between 4000 and 5000 years ago, which of course amounts to much the same thing.

There are 72 circles, or remains or evidence of circles, currently classified as Recumbent Stone Circles, and 100 or so that were at one time or another thought to be RSCs, but are now not regarded as such. The list and names in this article are taken from the book Great Crowns of Stone by Adam Welfare (RCAHMS, 2011) available from Historic Environment Scotland LinkExternal link plus the addition of one circle (Nether Coullie) which was reclassified as a RSC in 2015.
Even more useful than the book was the associated Gazetteer, currently available only in electronic form at Archive LinkExternal link

Many of the circles have two or more names. In the list of contents, the RCAHMS name is in larger type and alternative names in smaller type, with a pointer to the corresponding RCAHMS name.

See also
Aberdeenshire Council LinkExternal link
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland LinkExternal link

If you are planning to visit just one RSC, I recommend Loanhead of DaviotExternal link. It is almost complete, though it has been restored, and all the main features of an RSC can be seen and are explained on the information boards. It is very easy to get to by car and there is parking almost next to it, or you can get to Daviot by bus and walk about half a mile. Historic Environment Scotland maintains it and keeps it from getting overgrown.

Easter AqhuhorthiesExternal link and TomnaverieExternal link are also well maintained hy Historic Environment Scotland and only a few hundred yards on good paths from their respective car parks.

My personal favourite is TyrebaggerExternal link, but it is one of the more awkward ones to get to. SunhoneyExternal linkis easier of access, and has an evocative name, but tends to be overgrown and in the shade of its surrounding trees. The rather fine circle at Cothiemuir WoodExternal link also suffers from being in the shade. For a dramatic approach, Aikey BraeExternal link is hard to beat and in my opinion ArdlairExternal link has the best view of the surrounding countryside.

Aikey Brae

Old Deer NJ9547
Also known as Parkhouse
NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle (4) by Anne Burgess NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle (1) by Anne Burgess NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle (2) by Anne Burgess NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle (3) by Anne Burgess NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle (5) by Anne Burgess NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle (6) by Anne Burgess NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle (7) by Anne Burgess NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Stone Circle by Bill Harrison NJ9547 : Aikey Brae by Bill Harrison NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Stone Circle by Derek Gray NJ9547 : Aikey Brae Stone Circle by Chris Lodge
LinkExternal link

Aquhorthies

Banchory-Devenick NO9096
NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (1) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (2) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (3) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (4) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (5) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (6) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (7) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (8) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (9) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (10) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (11) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (12) by Anne Burgess NO9096 : Aquhorthies Recumbent Stone Circle (13) by Anne Burgess
LinkExternal link

Ardlair

Kennethmont NJ5527
Also known as Holywell and as Kennethmont
NJ5527 : Ardlair Recumbent Stone Circle (2) by Anne Burgess NJ5527 : Ardlair Recumbent Stone Circle (7) by Anne Burgess NJ5527 : Ardlair Recumbent Stone Circle (6) by Anne Burgess NJ5527 : Ardlair Recumbent Stone Circle (5) by Anne Burgess NJ5527 : Ardlair Recumbent Stone Circle (4) by Anne Burgess NJ5527 : Ardlair Recumbent Stone Circle (1) by Anne Burgess NJ5527 : Ardlair Recumbent Stone Circle (3) by Anne Burgess NJ5527 : Ardlair Stone Circle by Ewen Rennie NJ5527 : Ardlair Stone Circle by pamela
LinkExternal link

Ardtannes

Inverurie NJ7520
NJ7520 : Site of Ardtannes Cottages Recumbent Stone Circle by Anne Burgess
LinkExternal link

Auchlee

Banchory-Devenick NO8996
NO8996 : Auchlee Recumbent Stone Circle (1) by Anne Burgess NO8996 : Auchlee Recumbent Stone Circle (2) by Anne Burgess NO8996 : Auchlee Recumbent Stone Circle (3) by Anne Burgess NO8996 : Auchlee Recumbent Stone Circle (4) by Anne Burgess NO8996 : Auchlee Recumbent Stone Circle (5) by Anne Burgess NO8996 : Auchlee Recumbent Stone Circle (6) by Anne BurgessNO8996 : Recumbent stone circle by Stuart Reid
LinkExternal link

Auchmachar

Old Deer NJ9450
NJ9450 : Remains Auchmachar Stone Circle by Ewen Rennie NJ9450 : Auchmachar Recumbent Stone Circle (1) by Anne Burgess NJ9450 : Auchmachar Recumbent Stone Circle (2) by Anne Burgess NJ9450 : Auchmachar Recumbent Stone Circle (3) by Anne Burgess NJ9450 : Auchmachar Recumbent Stone Circle (4) by Anne Burgess
LinkExternal link

Auchmaliddie

New Deer NJ8844
NJ8844 : Rocking Stones by Anne Burgess NJ8844 : Remains of Stone Circle at Auchmaliddie by Ken Fitlike NJ8844 : Auchmaliddie Recumbent Stone Circle (1) by Anne Burgess NJ8844 : Auchmaliddie Recumbent Stone Circle (2) by Anne Burgess NJ8844 : Auchmaliddie Recumbent Stone Circle (3) by Anne Burgess
LinkExternal link

KML

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