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

The Great U of Stemster

Standing Stones


Visited 3rd July 2021

High up the northern fastness of Scotland, nearly as far north as you can get on the British mainland, the windswept bleakness and sense of isolation makes a visit to a site up here take on an extra poignancy.

So close to the main A9, and the town of Thurso, Achavanich is an easy place to visit if you’re in these parts. On our regular trips up to Orkney the sight of the small brown signpost signalling the turn off the main road, often enticing us to stop and visit if we had time to kill before the ferry, became as it were a touchstone, an indication that we were almost ‘home’.

Today the weather is mild, and blue skies emerge through scudding clouds. A walk round the stones, looking down towards the loch of Stemster, and the stones feel like nowhere else. The side on alignment of the orthostats is puzzling and must have some purpose behind it, but the stones aren’t telling and the place remains as enigmatic as ever.

It’s nice to see how over the years the site has become better kempt, my first time here over 20 years ago, involved clambering over a fence, and trying to make out the stones amongst the overgrown spiky grasses which thronged the site. Now a smart but small layby, along with some unobtrusive information boards make visitors feel welcome. There is even a gate now to access the chambered cairn which sits nearby overlooking the site.

We spend some time with the stones, a couple of campervans turning up and providing a few more visitors, and things just feel a bit otherworldly here. It’s soon time to make our way off to get the ferry, and Achavanich has provided a fine reminder of some of the megalithic riches that can be found in Caithness.
Ravenfeather Posted by Ravenfeather
12th July 2021ce

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