The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

ruskus’s TMA Blog

Post to the TMA Blog

Return to the Land of the RSC - Day One.

I had not been to Aberdeenshire for many years now, having been twice in the distant past. Those trips had been whistlestop visits, where I had perhaps only had a chance to see a few of the obvious sites around the outskirts of Aberdeen.
A few months ago my wife said that she had an opportunity for a 5 day work trip to Aberdeen in December, and we agreed I would tag along. 5 days!….That’s a lot of potential for hunting down sites right there.
So I have been planning this trip for a while now; trying to work out how I could possible do justice to so many Recumbent Stone Circles, which over the years had become a bit of an obsession from afar. I don’t know why I have this strong attachment to the region – I live in Suffolk! Other than my best friend from childhood living in Aberdeen, and my wife’s irregular work jaunts there, I do have a link also in that my maternal grandfather’s family were from Peterhead. But it feels something beyond that; like I have been here before somehow.
Anyway; that’s the background, let’s get going with these stones…

Day One:

I had roughly sectioned off Aberdeenshire into 5 areas for the 5 days ahead; SouthWest Aberdeen (inc. Aboyne area), South of Dunnideer, North of Dunnideer, between Huntly and Turriff, & the north east (Fraserborough/Peterhead way). I had a target to cover as many RSCs as possible – maybe around the 50+ mark even! I realise now that was pretty ambitious.

Clune Hill — Images

<b>Clune Hill</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Clune Hill</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Clune Hill</b>Posted by ruskus

I thought I would start close to Aberdeen, with a few huddled together sites, to quickly get some successes under my belt. So I headed off in my hire car with the dry, frosty weather on my side, looking for CLUNE HILL (Clune Wood). After a few wrong turns around Durris forest. I found the car park and headed off up the path, remembering just how unfit I really am these days. After a short 15 walk uphill, I veered off left through the trees, before coming out into the circle’s peaceful clearing overlooking the valley. The rust-coloured bracken attempted to hide the fallen stones of the circle, but with enough still standing, the rough circle can be easily seen.
The warm glow from the low early morning sun really made the colours come alive here, and indeed at one point the glare played tricks as I turned to look back at the circle believing a figure was standing there, quickly to my relief realising it was one of the lifeless orthostats. But it would be wrong to call this RSC lifeless, it is full of character and feeling, and a perfect benchmark was set for the rest of the day.

Nine Stanes — Images

<b>Nine Stanes</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Nine Stanes</b>Posted by ruskus

Onwards to the NINE STANES, which are reached within seconds from the road. Quite a low, similar-sized set of stones, including a big boulder of a recumbent and its flankers (one fallen). Orange/brown pine needles covered any flat surface of stone, noticeably giving the recumbent and fallen flanker an eye-catching look. An open aspect, and vista looking across the circle to the south gives this wooded glade a wide, spacious, relaxed feel.

Esslie the Greater — Images

<b>Esslie the Greater</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Esslie the Greater</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Esslie the Greater</b>Posted by ruskus

Just around the corner from the Nine Stanes, are the Eslies. First up is ESSLIE THE GREATER. Sitting there, exposed to the elements, in the middle of its field, it looks a big ‘ol jumble of rubbly rocks and tufts of grass, raised on a platform. Approaching from the road, passing through the busted gate, over to the rough trapezoid-shaped platform, and up into the low-stoned circle.

Esslie the Lesser — Images

<b>Esslie the Lesser</b>Posted by ruskus

ESSLIE THE LESSER had to make due with just a flying visit, as I headed off to Glassel next. En route I was called by Drewbhoy. We had made contact just before my trip to Aberdeen, and Drew had kindly offered to be my guide on one of my days here, so we finalised plans for tomorrow, and I parked up near Glassel house, and headed into the woods. GLASSEL always looked as if it was going to be difficult, and it delivered on that front. The ‘track’ soon faded, but I reached a wall, which I knew would act as a guide onwards. Without any GPS,etc I was never likely to find it though. I reached the brook, and headed left and right, but could not find any clues (even without a print out of advice from the TMA’s previous entries). Everywhere I just saw tree stumps or the dark stone-like silhouettes of up-ended root balls of fallen trees, leading me further into nowhere. I even texted Drew in my frustration for any hints, but I made the decision to leave my search as I had wasted too much time. Of course, I’m sure I was yards from it at one point.

Image Wood — Images

<b>Image Wood</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Image Wood</b>Posted by ruskus

Next to Aboyne, and the easier woodland wander to reach IMAGE WOOD. Possibly Image Wood would make more of an impact on a different day, in a different season, but it left me a little underwhelmed. 5 little stumps huddling together in their cold, winter woodland setting, as the numerous dog walkers passed by.

Tomnaverie — Images

<b>Tomnaverie</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Tomnaverie</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Tomnaverie</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Tomnaverie</b>Posted by ruskus

Leaving Aboyne, I headed out towards Tarland and TOMNAVERIE.
Whilst driving up from Coull towards Tarland, I was suddenly taken aback by the sight of Tomnaverie perched high on a hilltop, looking like a golden crown in the sunlight. I hadn’t expected that to be my first view, and regret now that I didn’t stop for a picture from there.
There’s ample parking up the short track from the road, and only a few minutes’ walk up the hill to the stones. What an incredible site this is – lovely views of course, but just a delightful circle to keep the attention back onto itself. I was reminded of the far away Torhouskie for some reason. The restoration here feels just right, and definitely must have changed quite a bit from the previously almost wrecked location next to the quarry (what quarry?!).
Whilst looking across the recumbent I was amazed to find the line of hills matched the surface of the stone facing both ways! Soon after this my phone died whilst standing centre circle taking pictures (but on return to the car, it displayed as having plenty of power).

Midmar Kirk — Images

<b>Midmar Kirk</b>Posted by ruskus

As the light began to go, and the chill factor set in, I decided to return towards Aberdeen, taking in the double whammy of Midmar Kirk and Sunhoney. I had visited both of these over a decade ago, but felt is silly to ignore such beauties, by taking them for granted. MIDMAR KIRK always seems a cold, but quiet and obviously respectful place. I feel the ancient stones seem quite ‘natural’ being here in a way. They feel protected, and bring an even more peaceful stillness to the graveyard. They seem to renew the links from the past ancestors, to our more recent ones.

Sunhoney — Images

<b>Sunhoney</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Sunhoney</b>Posted by ruskus

The walk up to Sunhoney was very muddy (Mudhoney?), but I soon reached the well-kept pathway that leads up to the grove of trees and stones. SUNHONEY always feels such a special, contained space; shut off from our world. Despite the cold, it gave me a warmer feeling than on a previous long ago visit. The grass was lower this time, and the large circle was more visible. I’d forgotten just how long that recumbent is. From standing outside the circle, looking back across the recumbent and flankers, the nearby hill (Barmekin?) was glowing bright orange in the last of the afternoon sun, whilst everywhere else was shade. Sun honey indeed.

Cullerie — Images

<b>Cullerie</b>Posted by ruskus<b>Cullerie</b>Posted by ruskus

On the return journey back to Aberdeen, I passed so close to CULLERIE that I thought I’d just nip there, expecting that I would confirm my feelings about it relating to a previous visit here. But, I have to say that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought. The gorgeously clear afternoon gave the avenue of trees a grand feel, as if they were rich stage curtains pulled back to reveal the encore act for my day of stone hunting. The framing effect built as I walked towards this pretty little circle, which didn’t give me the artificial, centre-of-a-roundabout vibes I had expected. If it had a recumbent it wouldn’t seem all that different from Loanhead of Daviot really, in terms of reconstructed presentation. Bit of an undervalued site methinks.
Posted by ruskus
13th December 2018ce
Edited 21st December 2018ce

Comments (3)

What a grand day out. A good read and good photos too. Weather looks like it behaved as well. thelonious Posted by thelonious
13th December 2018ce
Yeah, I was really lucky with the weather all week. Frosted solid tracks of mud made for an easier path through lanes and tracks, as my footwear wasn't the best (how would I have packed big wellies for my flight up to Aberdeen?).
There's a few more days to upload too...
Posted by ruskus
13th December 2018ce
Reminds me so much of any one of the four separate day trips I've made to the Aberdeenshire circles over the past 10 years; it's so much fun driving through and around that landscape spotting and finding these magical places, the abundance of riches never fails to amaze. Looking forward to the further instalments.... ironstone Posted by ironstone
13th December 2018ce
You must be logged in to add a comment