Machrie Moor is nothing less than one of the megalithic marvels of Britain. Within the protective embrace of the surrounding hills the moorland harbours a wealth of fine stones, and the whole area is like some sort of pre-history park.
It almost resembles a showroom for the types of megalithic monument seen across the land. Walking over the moor I can almost hear the monologue of a Neolithic salesman;
“Ooh looking for the latest in contemporary design, well just step this way! Now here we have your traditional style stone ring, very popular nowadays, and room for conversion if you fancy an en -suite burial cairn, whilst just along here we have the more chunky boulder-style of circle with interior ring, very handy for resting your cauldron in if you’re of the giant persuasion. If sir is on a modest budget let me show you the four-poster, compact and suitable for all ritual needs, or if you really want to make an impression how about using some really tall stones…” the scope and type of monuments you will see here is unprecedented.
As with all moorlands things can get a little bleak in poor weather but today we are blessed with bright sunshine and the rain which has plagued us throughout a week in Dumfriesshire has blown itself away. There is still evidence of the recent wet weather though, as Carl mentioned in the previous fieldnotes one of the circles has temporarily turned into a marsh, although this only seemed to add to its magical atmosphere, the deep spiky green grass poking through the water providing ample perches for dragonflies, which continually buzzed around us during our visit.
The good weather has brought out the visitors and a steady stream of walkers cross the moor, the little car park at the start of the walk filled to capacity, but there’s plenty here for everyone, and some solitude to be found if you want it.
There’s not much more I can add to Carl’s excellent previous fieldnotes, funny to think he was here only the week before!
Soaking up the wonderful megalithic atmosphere of the moor, the blue sea shimmering behind us in the distance, time slips by quickly, and like a fine malt whisky Machrie Moor needs to be savoured and so we’ve elected to spend most of our day on Arran here, despite the wealth of other lovely megalithic sites in the area.
When I first visited here fifteen years ago I was totally blown away, it was the first really ‘premier league’ site I made a pilgrimage to after getting Mr Cope’s big orange book, and further opened my eyes to the prehistoric wonders that were out there. I still feel the same being here today as I did then, this really is somewhere very special indeed. Until next time Machrie Moor…
Am I really the first TMAer to visit Machrie Moor stone circles in a decade? It doesn't seem possible.
Where to start? - at the begining I suppose?
The weather was awful, alternating between light showers and heavy rain, with just the occasional dry patch designed to lure you into a false sense of security! The others stayed in the sign posted car park as I headed up the track to the many delights of Machrie Moor. 'I won't be long' - famous last words!
it takes about half an hour to walk from the car park to the stone circles - depending on how long to stop to look at the other sites along the way.
The first circle you come to is the double circle made up of large boulder-type stones. This is a real 'wow' moment when you first see it. Most of the stones remain and it is very impressive. It looked to me the circle was erected on a low stony mound?
The second circle you see is smaller and made up of four large boulder-type stones which are surrounded by ferns. Bit of gardening required here I think. This is a nice circle in its own right but totally dwarfed by its near neighbors.
The third circle is a mind-blower. It consists of 3 HUGE standing stones, approximately 4m high, and two very strange large flat round stones, like large flat mill stones. What are they about? I have never seen stones like this before at any prehistoric site I have ever visited - and I have been to a few. Are they prehistoric? If so, they must be unique? Very strange indeed. The 3 standing stones are incredible. It reminded me of being back on Orkney - they are that good. When complete this circle must have been awe inspiring.
The fourth circle consists of 12 stones. Alternating between large round boulder-type stones and smaller thin stones. A bit like the Laurel and Hardy of the prehistoric world. This was obviously deliberate and I can't remember visiting any other circle with this arrangement?
The fifth circle consists of 10 small stones. Half of the circle was standing in water - bog-type conditions. This was the only circle it was difficult to walk around due to the 'swamp' - although I gave it a go!
Lastly, circle number six. This circle consists of a couple of very tall standing stones and one monster-sized stone. It is exceptional in its height and beauty. Like most of the stones here it has grooves worn into it by countless rains and is covered with hairy lichen. Near it is several very large fallen prostrate stones. I can't even imagine how good this stone circle must have looked when first erected.
Despite the awful weather, this site blew me away. The setting of the distant hills, the number and quality of the sites here is incredible. This is in the A list of prehistoric sites. I would put it up there with Avebury, Kilmartin, Orkney and Callanish. It is that good. These notes are no doubt doing it a disservice.
Due to the weather and the fact I was conscious of the others waiting patiently n the car I was only able to give Machrie Moor the briefest of visits. It deserves so much more. A full day here would not be unreasonable. When I got back to the car it was pointed out I had been gone two hours! Machrie Moor is that type of place. Save your pennies, sell the family heir looms, do what it takes but catch the ferry to the lovely island of Arran and visit this special place. It really is something special.
Access for wheelchairs/buggies isn't all that bad (if you can avoid the presents left by the sheep) until you're nearly at the good bit. Then it's ruined by an awkward gate thing, which in our case involved some lifting over a wire topped fence. You don't half get a lot of old rocks for the effort though.
I was slightly saddened to see that a crude symbol had been hastily scratched into the lichen on one of the stones, it didn't look deep enough to have done much damage to the actual stone itself.
Couldn't figure out what was going on with the things that look like abandoned millstones. We spent a good couple of hours mooching about, but still felt like we needed twice that amount of time, there's just so much to see.
Ooohh, we got really wet!!! but then the sun came out and it was incredibly warm and sunny....and then it rained again!! Be prepared for these moors, the weather, like the landscape, changes constantly.
I am pleased we saw these amazing stones in the misty and wet atmosphere though - the setting seems just right for such extremes of nature. Maybe that's why our ancestors felt it necessary to provide such extreme monuments?
Too much to take in on one visit. we parked at the little gateway across the road from the signpost and made our way out across the moor. on the way we saw what seemed to be 2 out-lying stones, one on either side of the path and a partially destroyed cairn with a broken cist embedded in the earth on one side of the path. already excited by this I really couldn't take in the scale of it all once we hit the "big" stones.
The plan is to return next year now that I have had familiarised myself with it all a little - and pray for more sunshine!
there is just too much to get your heed about here. good fun to try though.
all that is said is true , this place was revered ,maybe to fault by those who farmed here.
very wet and lost in the concentrics. Rain sluices down , twas spooky, dark.
for what its worth, my favourite one is the smallish boulder circle, that has , 12 stones of six men & six ladies. perfect balance and and off centre alignement , just past the last tall circle ( with the three big feather reds. weather beds), tis on the right with a smaller flooded ( rain permitting) circle to the left.
according to the upright authority of the bill boards that sought to aggregate and categorise the unmeasurable... it was circle number 3 or 4 or was it 1 , 2 5,or 6. I canna remember.
I condemned the arbitrary linear classification then hopelessly failed to understand what it really all meant on its own terms,
Truth is we impose our own patterns on the invisible and in doing so find usable meaning.
Strange attractor , bamboozles dinsosaur on the isle of witches
I think Furry Dan and I must have just missed each other at Machrie Moor last September.
I was on honeymoon there, and visited on 17.09.01, a beautifully hot day. We had abandoned a visit to it a couple of days before in the rain, and I agree that you would need wellies to negotiate the boggy path if it has been raining recently.
It really is a special place, and it's worth hanging around so that you can have it to yourself for a while. The views of the surrounding mountains are fantastic. Even though it is near the road, you can't see it from the stones (or vice versa) and you feel quite cut off from modern life
I will try to scan in some photos that we took, we used up nearly a whole film so be warned! black and white pictures came out really well.
We travelled on the 324 bus from Blackwaterfoot, the driver knew exactly which spot to drop us at. It was then a 10 min walk across the fields to the stones. This is thus not an accessible spot for those with mobility problems, but worth the walk for those that don't have that restriction.
Afterwards we walked north along the main road for approximately 1 mile, and had tea and cakes at the Machrie Golf Course tea rooms - a church hall type place, rather than the posh club house we'd expected, they weren't bothered by our muddy boots. We then flagged down the bus back to Blackwaterfoot. Buses run approximately every 2 hours.
Just returned from a blisteringly hot(!), September visit to Arran. Our first visit to the moor was greeted with torrential rain, followed swiftly by bright sun. But a return visit rewarded us with bright sunshine, a cloudless sky, and suprisingly, an empty moor!
Take time here, there are so many monuments that your first visit will be one of confusion. Too many stones to take in, all connected by a handy track. Allow at least an afternoon, or even a day. Time seemed to just disappear.
The natural amphitheatre of the moor is spectacular, the sandstone of the main upright megaliths working beautifully and quite oddly (my first red sandstone experience) with the mountains. There are many other circles dotted about, all on their own would be fantastic monuments.But combined with a Stenness-esque centre-piece, it's all almost too much to take in.
So, I reckon, maybe make a preliminary visit, get your bearings, then return for a long, long visit, the rewards are surely great.....
(p.s. if it's raining take your wellies!)
An interesting group of stone circles may be seen in the Mauchrie Moor, near the farm of Tormore, in Arran. Tradition relates that Fionn-gal and his heroes were hunting the boar in the woods on the neighbouring glens, when a fleet of Norse galleys was seen approaching the shore. Scarcely had the marauders succeeded in effecting a landing in the Mauchrie Bay, when they were attacked by Fion-gal and his followers, and driven back to the ships. A few of the Vikings whose retreat had been cut off were chased over the Island, overtaken and slain near the old fort of Dunfiun - Fion-gal's fort. The Fingalian heroes who fell in the conflict were buried in the moor where they fought and died, and the huge stone columns, now half-concealed amid the tall heath, were raised in circles around their graves to the mournful song of the bards.*
From p50 of 'The Antiquities of Arran' by John McArthur (1861).
Since Hob's visit the bracken has been removed from around the remains of this cairn and it is easy to see on the right of the path leading to the stone circles. It is only a short detour. Access is via a wooden stile.
The standing stone is large, weathered (grooved) and covered in hairy lichen. There are also several other large stones remaining from this once (no doubt) impressive tomb.
Of the people 'oot and aboot' today I was the only one to come ans say 'hello' to this fine standing stone - which is a shame. It is well worth the very short walk to get to it. Another nice stone in this fantastic place.
This is the first site you come to when walking up the path from the car park towards the famous stone circles. It is an Historic Scotland site and as such has metal railings around it and an information board. It is a 15 minute walk from the car park - about the half way point to the stone circles.
There are several large kerb stones still in place and the large, low, grass covered stony mound is clear to see. The cairn is in a lovely setting with mountains in the distance. If this cairn was anywhere else it would get a lot more attention than it does here. The draw of the stone circles move people on far too quickly.
The stone is easily seen (on your right) when walking back from the circles towards the car park. There is no path to the stone and you have to jump over a low fence to get to it.
Although ignored by the other visitors today this is a fine stone with excellent sea views. Like most of the stones on Machrie Moor it is grooved by thousands of years of rain. The stone is approximately 1.5m high.
Hob will be pleased tp know that the wooden fence surrounding the memorial has already fallen to bits!
This stone is well worth checking out when visiting the more famous stone circles. It is only a short walk from the main track.
The path to the stone circles takes you past the remains of this chambered cairn. It is to the immediate right of the path. It is impossible to miss - although everyone else out today walked past it without giving it a second glance!
Although there are only two stones remaining they are large. The end stone is approximately 1m square whilst the side stone is about 1m x 2m long. They sit on a long low mound of grassed over stones, approximately 3m wide x 10m long.