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The Great U of Stemster

Standing Stones

<b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by theloniousImage © thelonious
Also known as:
  • Achavanich
  • Achkinloch

Nearest Town:Wick (20km NE)
OS Ref (GB):   ND188417 / Sheets: 11, 12
Latitude:58° 21' 23.05" N
Longitude:   3° 23' 15.86" W


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News

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Achavanich Circle damaged by lay-by


John O'Groat Journal

A BUNGLING roads boss unwittingly ordered the destruction of part of a 4000-year-old ancient monument near Lybster... continues...
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
28th March 2003ce
Edited 30th June 2004ce

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<b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by thelonious <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by tumulus <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by tumulus <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Moth <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Moth <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Moth <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Moth <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Moth <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Moth <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Moth <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Jane <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Jane <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Jane <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by greywether <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by greywether <b>The Great U of Stemster</b>Posted by Bill

Fieldnotes

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03/08/2016 - After a visit to Broubster, a similar stone setting, a few days earlier we thought a pop in to say hello to the Great U was needed. I love this site. Lots of stones, interesting shape and just a brilliant middle of nowhere feel to the place. One that's always worth another look. Not sure I've been at this time of year before. Loved the wild flowers and grasses growing around and over the stones. Colours of yellow and green against the grey of the stones looked so nice in the sunshine. A must see site. thelonious Posted by thelonious
8th August 2016ce

Visited 24.7.14

Directions:
Sign posted. Approximately 1 mile off the A9. Parking space next to stones.


Visiting the Great U involved a fairly long detour off our planned route but this was a site I was very keen to visit. I wasn’t disappointed.

The stones are surrounded by miles of bleak moorland with hills in the distance.
There are three information boards.
This is an excellent site and has a feeling of remoteness about it.

The stones are quite large and the grass around them not too overgrown.
It is odd how the stones are ‘side on’ instead of the normal ‘front facing’ – there must have been a reason why they set the stones up this way?

If you happen to be heading up the east coast of Scotland try to make time to visit the Great U. It is a most interesting place.
Posted by CARL
15th August 2014ce

Whereas the site has always been within a fenced area, overgrown and neglected and with a landowner who didn't want people to enter the site I am happy to report that it is now a delight to visit.

The grass has been cut back, and the fences have been repositioned. There is now no fence between the site and the layby/parking place. If you want to visit the immediately adjacent chambered tomb, though, be prepared to climb a (nice, new, shiny) fence and risk the wrath of the land owner.
Posted by Lianachan
1st June 2007ce

Enroute back from John O'Groats, Moth suggested we call in here despite the HIDEOUS weather and the fact it was getting late. I was persuaded that it was a good idea largely because it is next to the road, and actually only about 2ks from the main A9.

I was expecting a horseshoe, or a squashed circle in some way, open at one end, but what greeted me was most unexpected.

Imagine two parallel lines of stones with a semicircle connecting them at one end, the other end left open and you have it! 'Great U' is a very accurate description of this site.

The rhythm of the stones is surprisingly complete and regular. Oddly, the playing card shaped stones stand narrow side on to the centre rather than broad side. I have never seen this before. Oh and it's HUGE!

My God, if you could get here in good weather, it would be unbelievable! As it was, we got cold, wet and windchilled within seconds. Moth climbed up to a nearby cairn to try to get a 'long shot', but could see nothing the mizzle was so thick.

This place KICKS ASS!
Jane Posted by Jane
29th June 2004ce
Edited 30th June 2004ce

These stones are very close to the road from Achavanich to Lybster and ¼ mile S. of Loch Stemster.
The stones set out in an incomplete oval measure 225 ft. long by about 100ft wide. About 40 stones set upright averaging 5 feet in height and made of Caithness flagstone look as if they may have formed a complete oval but there is no evidence for this. Probably about one third of the original stones are missing. Set about 8 feet apart the broadest sides are towards each other. A cist is to be found at the most northern stone. The monument is probably Bronze Age.
Posted by Bill
23rd January 2002ce
Edited 30th June 2004ce

Folklore

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ND 1567 3035
Near Ballachly Farm, about 5 miles distant, is the Ballachly Burial Grounds, where part of the adjoining land is known as Croit Trolla, or the Croft of Trolla. Trolla is another version of the name Trollhaena, the norse name for Triduana.

Some authors think the Orkneyinga Saga is talking of Croit Trolla as the resting place of Triduana's bones in the story of King Harold's blindness being cured (instead of the more well known, but far flung resting place at Restalrig).

In medieval times it was common for a single bone to have a home as a holy relic with healing powers away from the main grave site. Or for the story of such to spring up, in the case of made up saints, who were used over and over to obsfucate similar pagan customs in a variety of areas.

Triduana was one of the saints removed from the saints lists in the sixties because of the lack of evidence she actually existed as the christian nun of the stories.

http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/search_item/index.php?service=RCAHMS&id=8134 has more on Croit Trolla, as found in RCAHMS
Posted by Branwen
28th December 2009ce
Edited 28th December 2009ce

Links

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Caithness Field Club Bulletin


Link to Caithness Field Club Bulletin from 2004

Achavanich - A Re-assessment by Leslie J Myatt
thelonious Posted by thelonious
5th October 2011ce