As fine a monolith as you'll ever see, but the Watchstone sometimes gets overlooked amongst the excitement of visiting Stenness and Brodgar. There are clear blue skies over the Ness of Brodgar at the moment, but ominous clouds gather around on the horizon, and we drove through a snow shower on the way here from Kirkwall.
As I stand at the base of the stone in the bitter morning air, I just marvel at the immense menhir in front of me. I love this stone, it's usually one of the first places I come to when I get to Orkney, in a way the Watchstone is a touchstone for me, a signifier that I'm here, in my favourite place in the heart of Neolithic Orkney. We had a horrendously rough crossing over from Aberdeen last night, seasickness striking Ellen, but standing here, all of the ordeal of the journey up seems worthwhile.
Ellen and I parked the car up at Stenness and walked along the road to the stone, the path continuing along a newly constructed lochside route, which leads you on a lovely walk, onwards from the stone, past the site of the Ness of Brodgar excavations until you get to the Ring of Brodgar itself, a walk well worth taking, just make sure to say hello to the Watchstone on your way, as he keeps a silent watch out across this ancient landscape.
The Watchstone, like the Barnhouse and the Stones of Stenness is clearly visible from the Kirkwall-Stromness road. You cannot miss it.
I couldn't help but imagine an avenue of stones connecting Stenness and Brogar, though of course, there's no evidence for this at all.
At 19 feet high, the Watchstone was once one of a pair of standing stones which guarded the causeway leading to the Ring Of Brodgar.
Although it will never really be known what the purpose for the Watchstone ever really was. It has been speculated that it could have formed part of a ceremonial link between the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Brodgar ring.
1760 Pococke's drawing shows a second stone on the opposite side of the road a little further away from the roadside. This is longer than it is tall and resembles a recumbent [though I suppose it could be a very large natural boulder like the Savile Stone]. The 'companion' stone is actually a diamond shape which if to the same scale as the Watch Stone would come oot as some 14' high and wide ! As far as I can tell from Pococke's drawing it would have been about grid ref HY30671275.
Wilson 1842 "Close to either side of the southern end of the bridge... stands a great sentinel stone...
...as you approach [the Ring of Brodgar] you pass here and there a solitary stone or broken remnant, as if there had been... a connecting range or approach, all the way from the bridge to the great circle"
14 yards SSW a stone stump aligned NE/SW could possibly now gone could have been all that remained of the arc of a large circle now underwater. It was 4'9" wide, 5" thick and a little over 3' high. The top was level with the presentday ground surface.
A Web site belonging to Charles Tait who I'm assuming is a professional photographer. This page has a good photo of the Watchstone on it, and if you're in a mood for browsing there are a few other photos worth looking at on the same site.