It was cooler today and even felt like we might be in for a shower… I was hoping that after yesterday's brain-fry we might set a slower pace for my over-stoned head.
I was really looking forward to seeing this one as the sheer blocky bulk of the heavily cupmarked recumbent really appealed to me in papery TMA. But I didn't dare enter the field though as there was a herd of cattle present complete with bull. Moth dared, but he runs faster than me. So I sat on the non-prehistoric stone gatepost to observe. Its flankers are gone but there are still four beautiful evenly placed stones of the circle still standing.
As I sat observing, the farmer drove up and stopped. "Just looking at your stone circle" I said. "That's fine" he said, "but I don't think anyone really owns a stone circle, do they. It's just on my land."
The lane takes you right up to Thorax Farm and we could see from the map that the stone circle lies was just on the other side. We rang the farmhouse bell to ask permission, but there was no reply, so we parked sensibly and left a note in the window saying we had come to see the stone circle and set off through the farmyard complete with peacocks, llamas and horses.
As we walked up to the circle we could see people already in it, one of who was the farmer, a woman called Sandra.
The circle itself is lovely with a very small diameter and six good sized stones standing in a bank of rubbly cairn material. One stone is heavily cupped marked to the east.
She told us she was very proud of having her own stone circle and had taken the advice of Historic Scotland's inspector and had got help to clear out the rubble dumped there over the years to reveal the original cairn platform.
Sandra's attitude to her ownership of her stone circle was in complete contrast to the farmer we had met less than an hour before at Rothiemay
She has a holiday let, called Antiquity Cottage
which looked like a delightful retreat: The standing stone in front of the cottage is not prehistoric. It makes the resting place of her favourite old horse, Jim.
A whopping single standing stone in a tiny churchyard is all that is left of what was perhaps once a stone circle. This is one of those crazy stones that you don't realise how tall it is until you stand right next to it and it towers above you!
We asked at the farm, rather than at the cottage with nasty plastic swans in the garden. A friendly young man of dangerously fat proportions who was tinkering with a tractor in the yard told us it was OK to go in and have a look. He seemed quite pleased to have a visitor.
The circle is pretty trashed and looked shabby because for some reason it has recently been fenced off, so it hadn't been grazed and was full of nasty weeds.
Moth really loved this, but I was really quite indifferent.
As we parked it started to rain a few drops. But I was looking forward to this. The approach to it is marvellous, too. The overgrown track takes you up a hill, through a deep dark pine wood which softened the rain to mist and muffled our footfalls on the carpet of needles, then throws you out in the circle!
Wow! Wow! Damn the rain for coming now, for I would have liked to paint here, but at least I've seen it. The best bit is that thrillingly, the recumbent is a giant penis!
The rain was falling steadily. Dampened spirits? Not a chance. Cock on!
You can never predict how a site will make you feel. Memsie cairn is really quite simple to describe – a pile of stones. It has no entrance, no chamber to crawl into, no redeeming features other than it's a huge pile of grey stones. But I loved it! Simple pleasures, eh.I wanted to see the sea. Oh and have an ice cream. We went to Fraserburgh. Apparently it has the highest rate of heroin abuse in the UK, or somesuch depressing statistic. The sun was out by now, but even with the benefit of sunshine and ice cream, I could see how shooting up a fix might make Fraserburgh better.
Foiled again, Moth! Moth has been trying to get here for years but has been consistently beaten back by cattle. Today, within sniffing distance there it was – this time we were held back by barley. There was no way we dared wade through that verdant crop against the tramlines. Very disappointed.
You can drive all the way down the track to it, so is really good for those less able (or too goddamn lazy like me) to walk. The sun was shining and hot again, the bees buzzed in the thistles, a woodpecker joined us and we sat and marvelled at this perfect little circle, lovingly restored on its perfect flying saucer mound to welcome visitors. I sat and sketched. A perfect end to the day!
Next morning, as we were leaving Aberdeenshire, en route to Ullapool we stopped in to take a look at Stonehead which I was unfeasibly keen to see.
We hadn't seen many of the Dunideer sites as mostly they're pretty knocked about, but I had to see Stonehead, rearing up next to Dunideer hill. I wasn't disappointed. This is a monster with a looming voice. The stones and the hill seem to be engaged in a quiet, whispered conversation.