When I first started dragging Mark around the country in search of stones, one of the first places we visited was Rudston Monolith; a site that took my breath away with the huge phallic stone stood alongside the wee church. Here at Midmar I again felt that thrill of seeing the ancient with the relatively new, side by side and seemingly in some kind of harmony. The grave stones are a little too close but this didn't seem too intrusive to me. I just marvel at the fact that any of this site remains.
I found Midmar to be a bit of an odd place. The circle is smaller than I expected. I didn't hang around here too long. All in all I found the whole experience here a little un-nerving.
The mortuary in the hospital where I used to work was painted in exactly the same shade of blue as the Kirk.
My 4th visit and I can't believe I never noticed the graffitti on the recumbent! (Seems I'm not alone)
I can't make out much, looks like 1864, some initials and....? Its right on the top, near the right flanker (from inside the circle). Anyone who can decipher it better, let me know.
Also in the woods near the northern Balblair stone I found a suspiciously long stone lying in the grass, just to the south of the menhir. Could be a gatepost, and after a day in the field you do start to see megaliths everywhere, but it raised my suspicions.
I do like this site, and I guess we should be grateful that it still remains-especially after visiting Kinellar Kirkyard earlier in the day.
It always makes me smile to see an ancient monument survive in context like this: a churchyard. Ha! Neatly tended lawns and regimented lines of graves and in the middle of it all… a stone circle! What pleasure! The flankers look as if they are triumphal raised arms as if the christians never existed.
Some of the modern graves are a bit too close to the circle for my liking, but it is easy to block them out of your mind and concentrate on those big pink stones.
Midmar is where my Mother Anne was buried in 1991 and the gravestone was added a couple of years later. My mother had a deep connedction with stone circles and during my childhood we were taken to scores of sites all over Scotland. When she died my father thought of Midmar and had remembered visiting it with her. The sculpture, based on the Indian/Celtic/Universal Tree of Life was commisioned by a local artist and took a long time to get and "feel" right (you can't rush the creative process). My mum was born in India to Anglo Indian parents and was a very spiritual person and believe it or not a Christian. I remember though before she died she wrote and told me she was reading a book on Celtic Spirituality "just what I need" she said "no guilt , just a clear, pure, message". I hope that here stone at Midmar gives joy to the visitors there- she would have approved i am sure. By the way, I am thrilled that this site exists, Julian and had the chance to read through some of your book which is excellent.
Like Rudston Monolith in Yorkshire, this circle is actually *in* a churchyard (Christian assimilation of older religions can be so hilariously obvious sometimes). The Gordon District Council have, as at East Aquhorthies, signposted the place and done a decent info board. The board suggests that the stones have been moved (probably during the building of the church at the end of the 18th century), as the stone opposite the recumbent isn't the smallest and (it says) the recumbent and eastern flanker are out of line with the circle as it stands. Unlike East Aquhorthies, the recumbent stone faces downhill.
The Modern Antiquarian mentions the western outlier stone in the field opposite the churchyard gates, but there's also another stone two and half metres high north-north-west of the circle. A pinkish stone like those at Sunhoney, it stands among the strip of trees along the right hand side of the lane as you carry on up the hill past the church, on the crest of the hill about 60 metres from the churchyard. It's leaning at 30 degrees in boggy ground, so who knows how long it'll stand. I'm told it's the last of an alignment of stones that once stood here.
Back in the churchyard, to the north of the stones is the outrageously pagan gravestone of one Anne Rochford - a stone slab fronted by a beautiful stylised tree made of copper-gold wire, with great little details of metal spider, mouse and lizard. Just the woman's name and the years of her birth and death, not a Christian word or symbol in sight. Nice one Anne! Despite being right next to a church, the site does somehow retain a very pagan vibe, and I suspect we're not the only ones who think so - there were discreet decorative ribbons tied on several trees.
On a trail of superb sites (Sunhoney etc), this was a real mind-blower of a visit. Parking by the small church, I noticed a small stone in the field opposite, probably a rubbing post as it was small and pretty central, but this is Aberdeenshire... stones everywhere ! Anyway, on into the churchyard, and at first I wasn't sure if it was the right place. Then, I was literally knocked over by these beauties. They stand proud around a manicured lawn, looking like they have been rearranged by the Christians, which is a double edged sword - it's good that they didn't just remove them as most short-sighted christians would have, but it's a pity they couldn't get someone like Aubrey Burl to help them lay them out RIGHT ... i'm sure some were even upside-down. The recumbent and flankers are amazing, the recumbent enormous and dead flat, the flankers curve inwards like a huge pair of canine teeth from a long-dead animal. I was here for ages, just staring at them - they are just totally mesmerising. Even good little christians visiting the church seem to like them, which is a good sign for their future. And if this wasn't enough, there is a large thin stone in the wood next to the church, which anywhere else would be headline news but in Aberdeenshire just gets a passing mention.
During my visit to Midmar Kirk RSC I happened to enter the church. Two ladies were organising flowers for a funeral to be held the next day. To be polite I said hello and asked if they knew anything about the circle. Surprisingly I was told that two of the missing stones from the circle are to be found in the foundations of the kirk.
The tall and superb stone 100 meters north is called Balblair, which the ladies also said had once been part of a circle.