When I first got Copes big orange book it opened my eyes to a larger and deeper world, I could have said with absolute confidence that there's no more than a dozen stone circles in Britain. Ignorant beyond belief.
After seeing the first few in his book that were closest to me I knew that i'd have to go to each and every one, no matter how far away they were. Then of course came Burl, and all those cairns and standing stones we can see on the map, enough there to last a life time of stone hunting, but the big orange book comes first, apart from some Aberdeenshire sites and far away island sites these are my last Scottish mainland sites. So together with the Falls of Acharn, Monzie inspired this trip. For this little circle, with stones missing ive driven two hundred and fifty miles, or there about.
Just north east of Crieff (Obi wan kenobi's birth place) on the A85 in Gilmerton turn north onto the A822 and then almost immediately left again onto a minor road, again almost immediately look left for a big gate house leading to Monzie castle. Parking was obtained down the road from the gatehouse on a grass verge. Bikes out and one minute later we are at the stone circle.
The stones are hidden in long grass at this time of year (July) but after rolling around on the floor like you were on fire they all become tickety boo, that is, we can see them.
The circle is like a small Moel ty Uchaf, made of largish boulders, a few are missing it's true but it doesn't detract from the site much at all. One of the stones looks like a recumbent, that is, its a long stone, but its upper surface is nicely cup marked.
Which brings us to the star pupil here, the heavily carved outlying stone, it's almost flush with the ground, and we had to clear the long grasses away before we could see it properly. The rock art didn't show up very well at first, but luckily for once I came prepared, two bottles of water later and we could see what we were looking at, cups, rings, dumbbells all showing up neatly, it made a very pretty picture.
Also worthy of note is the nearness of a standing stone just a couple of hundred yards away down the track towards the castle, it would be criminal not to take a look.
Monzie's been on 'the list' for a while now.... but always seemed to be a little too far off tour routes to be worth the deviation. Not for just 'a couple of circle stones and some cup marks'. Well, that's all the photos I'd ever seen appeared to show. Should've known better. True, the camera never lies, but it doesn't necessarily always tell the whole truth, either. Indeed not.
However this year Monzie happens to sit more or less across my path. Hell, why not? Worth a quick look. Needless to say the 'quick look' all too soon becomes an all morning and early afternoon hang. The weather is suitably memorable, if bizzare, with a sharp, freezing wind requiring the traveller to donne jacket, only for the sun to periodically peer from beyond a fast moving, broken cloud base to boil him alive. Why, I love Scotland, me.
I find the approach a little off putting, through one of those awful 'mock castle' gatehouses once so favoured by the self proclaimed, higher echelons of society. Follow the Monzie Castle drive for a short duration and... there it is, the 'circle virtually engulfed by nettles and some of the most verdant grass around, to the right. No wonder the cows across the way munch away contentedly and don't give a monkey's about the approach of the visitor.
Much to my surprise, the circumferance of the ring is not that far away from being chock full of orthostats. Ha! Clearly the vegetation is adept at camouflaging the true extent of this fine little monument from the lens of the lazy photographer and some gardening is therefore required. Just to sit down, in fact. There is much more to Monzie than a fine little 'circle, however, the most enigmatic feature of the site being a large, recumbent slab a little beyond the SW arc, this bearing numerous cup and ring marks. A much needed session of 'de-forestation' later, the rock art is more or less visible... and one wonders how long the coins placed within the cup marks have been in situ? Furthermore, the orthostat at the SE corner of the 'circle also bears rock art...... unfathomable, haunting, timeless.
Yeah, this is some place, it really is, the art adding immeasurably to the vibe here. Just to complete the picture, there's also a large standing stone visible further along the drive, perhaps too distant to be classed an 'outlier'? Maybe... guess that depends whether it acts as a sighting point for any astronomical event, or not. Dunno. Whatever, don't be a muppet like I was. Come to Monzie as soon as you get the chance.
Variously described as a stone circle, cairn circle, kerb cairn and kerb circle, this circle consists of ten stones, although legend has it that it's impossible to count all of them. A short distance to the south-west is a large prostrate outlier, profusely decorated with cup-marks, cup-and-ring-markings and a dumbell. This stone was found to be connected to the circle by a causeway (3.4m long by 1.0m wide) of stone cobbles.
The south-east stone in the circle also features cup-marks, cup-and-ring-markings and dumbells. There is a gap in the circle at the south-east which suggests there may have been as many as 15 stones originally. At the west-south-west, the three largest stones are arranged close together.
Excavation in 1938 revealed much about the centre of the circle. Evidence of extensive burning by a hazelwood fire was found, and in an upper layer possible Early Iron Age pottery was uncovered. Further down, sited "eccentrically" near the centre of the circle, was a crude cist containing the cremated remains of an adult and a six year old child and fragments of quartz. Quartz was also found scattered around the stones.
The best time of year to visit would probably be autumn or winter, as the area around the circle is left thick with nettles and weeds during the summer months.
Stands just inside the gate of Monzie castle near Crieff.
A nice wee site with plenty to interest the hardend Megarak. The eastern stone on the cairn has some nice rock art on the top as does the earthfast slab just outside the cairn, More cups and rings than you could shake a stick at!
Directions - Head W from Perth on the A85 towards Crieff. Before reaching Crieff is the village of Gilmerton. Turn right here onto the A822 (sign-posted Dunkeld & Aberfeldy) and head up the hill. Shortly after leaving Gilmerton is a road to the left to Monzie and the Glenturret Distillery / Famous Grouse Experience. Take this road, and after a short distance you will see the (unmissable!) gatehouse for Monzie Castle on your left. Park sensibly here, and ask at the gatehouse for permission to walk to the circle. The circle is approximately 200m down the track, set just back from the track on your right.