I'd started off planning a visit to the circles around Old Bourtreebush but a wrong turn at Portlethen sent me heading forever westward along narrow lanes through the soft Aberdeenshire countryside. I revised my plan and decided to head towards the River Dee and the town of Banchory. After half an hour of being completely lost, not a completely new sensation, I found myself besides the river and heading the right way.
On the road to Esslie I passed a house called Standingstones, I parked up and took a look around but found nothing.
My next stop was at Esslie the Lesser. There were a few cows in the field so I decided content myself with the view from the verge. The stones of Esslie the Greater were just along the road and I could see that the field was clear so I headed off down the lane.
At Esslie the Greater the field gate was just tied with some band so entry wasn't a problem. The site is a fairly jumbled affair but the main components of the circle and ring cairn are present. The setting, in common with many other RSCs, is one of rich, rolling Aberdeenshire farmland and higher hills in the distance. Esslie the Lesser is visible from the circle across the shallow valley. It led me to wondering why create three circles, the two Esslies and Nine Stanes, within such a small geographical area? No answers came to mind apart from the fact that the locals must have really loved their stones to expend so much effort into building these beautiful rings.
All in all this is a lovely accessible site; it's a little damp underfoot but well worth a visit.
Great circle (actually on oval) in a field at the edge of a wood, skirted by two minor roads, and reasonably far from any houses so it's quiet. Ring cairn in the middle. The fields here are like a stone circle construction site, with enormous boulders all over the place outside the circle, which is presumably why there are so many circles in this area.
I can't help wondering whether there used to be even more circles around here - nearby fields have odd boulders standing in ones and twos; the area might benefit from a proper resistivity survey.
Found a modern stone pyramid in the centre of the ring cairn, so I presume people believe it has 'powers' (although it just looked out of place/ruining the feeling of the circle to me.)
Just around the corner from Nine Stanes (1/2 mile) this circle is a little decrepit but still well worth it. In keeping with sites in this area, the view is everything, and looking to the NE you may be able to make out Esslie the Lesser.
One of the three monuments, which is on rising ground close to the farm of West Mulloch, I found in such a dilapidated condition as to render an accurate survey impossible ; but from it I saw another about half a mile further in an oat-field upon lower ground. While I was engaged in measuring it the rumbling sound of thunder beyond the distant hills warned me to be expeditious, and as the storm-clouds rolled over the mountain tops with great rapidity, and rain began to descend, I thought it prudent to quit the exposed open country and seek shelter in a cart-shed of Esslie Farm. For several hours, Louder and louder than mortal gunpowder The heavenly artillery kept crashing and roaring, The lightning kept flashing, the rain too kept pouring,
but long before the storm ceased I was compelled to commence my return journey to Banchory Station, which I reached footsore and drenched to the skin. This was the most severe thunderstorm of the season, and many fatal casualties occurred in Scotland on this day.
The long stone filling up the space between two erect stones of the outer ring, exists both in the West Mulloch and Esslie monuments.
The Rev. W. C. LUKIS, F.S.A.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES OF LONDON.
NOVEMBER 29, 1883, TO JULY 2, 1885-
SECOND SERIES, VOL. X.
PRINTED BY NICHOLS AND SONS, FOR
THE SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES,