Avebury, Wiltshire, England

Avebury Stones , Neolithic, Wiltshire, standing stones

We had no intention of visiting Avebury during our fairly recent trip down to the south west of England, but when we saw a roadsign which indicated we were staying just seven miles from Avebury we obvioulsy had to go there. You don’t have to pay to get into the fields but if you are parking a car then you pay for parking, I think it was £7, however – if you are a member of the National Trust or Scottish National Trust parking is free. Below is a photo of Jack beside one of the standing stones so you can see how enormous some are.

Avebury, standing Stones,Wiltshire+ J

We’ve been to visit a fair few standing stones but none as massive as these ones.  They’re also very rough  and don’t seem to have been worn down by the weather. I was also struck by the difference in the situations in the landscape. In Orkney you can stand in one of the neolithic stone sites and see two others in the distance, but in Avebury it seems that they wanted things to be hidden. Massive ditches have been dug out around the fields, it looks like that might have been done to keep people in those fields, escape wouldn’t have been easy, probably impossible. You don’t really get the idea of how deep this ditch/rampart is from the photo below.

Avebury Rampart , standing stones, Neolithic, Wiltshire

Avebury Rampart ,Neolithic, Wiltshire

For me that added to an atmosphere of unease and danger. This could of course be my imagination running rampant!

But I must admit that when I saw a few women leaning against the stones with both hands – for ages, emulating Claire  from Outlander, obviously hoping for a similar experience, I found it really funny.

Avebury, standing Stones , Neolithic, Wiltshire


Avebury, standing Stones, Neolithic, Wiltshire

Otherwise, Avebury is a lovely wee village with a few shops, pub and church.

Avebury, Thatched Cottage

And some very quaint houses.

Avebury,Thatched Cottage 3


Avebury house



Aberlemno Pictish Stones, Angus, Scotland

When we were up in Aberdeenshire a few weeks ago we took the time to visit some of the standing stones in the area. Actually we drove into rural Angus from Aberdeenshire. The information board below is in Aberlemno. There is one large stone in the churchyard and some others on the edge of a nearby road.

Info Board Churchyard Cross

Aberlemno, Board Pictish stones

As you can see one side of the stone is Christian. The stones date from around the 800s AD,

Churchyard Cross, Aberlemno, Aberdeenshire, Pictish cross

but the other side of it has been carved with men and horses, more usual Pictish symbols.

Aberlemno Churchyard Cross

The stone below is the back of the one underneath it, the Roadside Cross.

Aberlemno Stone  reverse, Aberdeenshire, Pictish stone, standing stone

Aberlemno Stone, standing stone, Pictish, Aberdeenshire

Aberlemno Stones, The Roadside Cross Information Board

There is a very faint design on the stone below but it has not fared so well as the others. I find it amazing that the rough weather of the north-east of Scotland hasn’t eroded them all completely though. Many of the headstones in the churchyard that are just a few hundred years old aren’t in the best of condition.

Aberlemno Stone, Pictish, standing stone, Aberdeenshire

Aberlemno Stone , the Crescent Stone, standing stone, Aberdeenshire

Aberlemno Stone , standing stone, Pictish, Aberdeenshire

Information Board, the Serpent Stone, Aberlemno

Aquhorthies Stone Circle

When we were up in Aberdeenshire a few weeks ago we perused the map and I noticed that there were standing stones marked on it, very close to where we were based. I can’t resist standing stones or stone circles – so off we went to find the Aquhorthies Stone Circle.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle info board

Aquhorthies Stone Circle isn’t right by the roadside as many are, but there’s a small car park close by and from there we walked the 400 metres or so to the field with the stones. They’re quite impressive, not on the same scale as the ones in Orkney but still very good.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle

It’s thought that these stones were an aid to farming, with the moon being a guide to the ancient farmers, telling them when it was a good time to plant their seeds. However, I think that’s just one of many theories over the years. I’m fairly sure that the Victorians would have looked at that massive recumbent stone and said – aha, that’s obviously a sacrificial altar stone.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

As you can see from the tractor in thhe background this region is still a farming area.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, neolithic monument

Whenever I visit standing stones I can’t resist patting them, but as yet I’ve never had anythig close to an Outlander moment, although some of them definitely do seem to hum and buzz, and they’re all incredibly atmospheric.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle, standing stones, Aberdeenshire, neolithic monumnent, Scotland

And – no I haven’t a clue how Aquhorthies should be pronounced!

Torhouse Stone Circle, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

I don’t think I had even realised that there were standing stones in south west Scotland, which was daft of me because there must have been quite a lot of travelling to and fro between that part of Scotland and Ireland, even way back in the times when such stone monuments were being built.

So I was surprised to see stones in a field right next to the road we were driving along. It was the Torhouse Stone Circle, a bronze age monument. We stopped to have a closer look, and the sheep that we had disturbed in the field scattered and pushed themselves back into the neighbouring field.
Torrhouse stone circle
On the other side of the road there are just three stones and some broken bits standing in a field. The stones are nowhere near as large as the ones in Orkney, but they’re still atmospheric and intriguing and these ones have the added attraction that you’ll probably have them all to yourself when you visit them, unlike those in more touristy areas. I like the lollipop shaped tree in the distance.

Torrhouse  stone circle + lollipop tree

Balbirnie Stone Circle, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Stones board

After visiting so many Neolithic standing stones and cairns when we were in Orkney I thought it was about time I did another short blogpost about the local ones near me in Fife, the Balbirnie Stone Circle.

Balbirnie Stones

I did blog about them donkey’s years ago and of course they don’t change although they now have a new and legible information board. There was evidence of 16 cremation burials as well as a flint knife, a jet button and beads and a complete food container when the area was excavated.

Balbirnie Stones

The powers that be decided to move this stone circle when a nearby road was being upgraded – which is truly sacrilegious, but at least they re-arranged them as they had been originally. They are now 125 metres to the south-east of their original location.

Balbirnie Standing Stones 3

There’s a burn nearby and I presume that that is why people settled in this area over 2,000 years BC. I must admit that I like to think of families living and working here all those years ago.

Balbirnie Stone Circle, Fife

standing stones

The photo above is of the standing stones at Balbirnie, it’s a Neolithic site, dating from around 3,000 BC. I’ve only seen these stones once before, and that must have been about 30 years ago, I remember at the time that I was really disappointed to read that they had been relocated by Historic Scotland, apparently they were in the way of a road which needed to be widened.

standing stones

It seems a very strange thing to do, surely stone circles were carefully positioned for a good reason, we don’t know what it was but to me it’s crazy to move them. It takes all the romance away somehow.

standing stones

As you can see, houses have been built very close to the stones. I must admit that it gives me a bit of a kick to think that there were people farming 5,000 years ago in the area we now live in. I doubt if they were very much different from us.

You can read more about the Balbirnie Stone Circle here.

Duddo Stone Circle, Northumberland

I had never heard of Duddo until Margaret@BooksPlease blogged about it recently, do have a look at her very interesting post, her photos are better than mine too, here. I’m still getting used to the new camera, well that’s my excuse anyway!
Thanks Margaret, we would never have found the Duddo Stone Circle on our own, it’s fairly off the beaten track.

Duddo information board

Lorraine was asking how long it took for us to get to York from Scotland and I have to say that I’m not exactly sure, somewhere between 3 and 4 hours I think, because we stopped off at Duddo on the way there. The sign on the gate which you go through to get to Duddo says that it’s about an hour long walk there and back – and it was for us anyway. It’s an easy walk if you’re fairly fit, along the edges of fields of crops which had recently germinated, and we had a lovely day for it.

Duddo from a distance 1

Although Duddo is in Northumberland and so is now definitely part of England, I think of it as historically Scottish as it’s north of Hadrian’s Wall. It was obviously a very important place for Neolithic/Bronze Age inhabitants. The whole thing is a bit of a mystery but they do know that it dates from about 2,000 BC. Cremated human remains were found in the centre of the stone circle, it might have been a place of worship and burial or for sacrifices, or both.

Duddo from distance 3
It’s an impressive spot today, just imagine what it must have been like all those years ago.

Duddo standing stone 1

It’s thought that these massive grooves have been worn into the stone by the weather over the centuries, they look spookily like they’re man-made though.

aOne of the Duddo standing stonesstone 3

This one is actually the smallest stone but it’s still about 5 feet in height, as you can see there are lovely hills in the background. We were lucky in that there were no other sight-seers there and we had the place all to ourselves, which made it all the more magical for me. I count myself as being a fairly hard and cynical person but I definitely felt that there was a special atmosphere at the stone circle and I walked around them touching them all.

Can’t you feel it? I said to Jack. That’s the Viking in you. They’re just stones – he replied.

That’s the scientist in you! – I said. Honestly there’s nae romance in that man of mine.

Duddo landscape

I think Duddo would be quite bleak in grey weather but it was very pleasant on a blue sky day. There was quite a lot of fighter jet activity, some of it too high up to see but you could certainly hear them and a couple of jets did pass over us, very low. It’s a very rural and sparsely populated part of Britain at Duddo, which makes it a good training airspace for them I suppose. It does seem a bit weird though when all that state of the art metal, costing millions of pounds flies over a Bronze Age structure.