Last year, Rick and I got married. It was a lovely weekend in the Lake District not dampened in the slightest by the inevitable (for the Lakes) rain. With Rowan now at school, we had to wait for the summer holidays for our honeymoon, but the end of August saw us heading north to visit Scotland in Miniature – the beautiful Isle of Arran.
We were determined to make the most of our stay, and had written a list of all the things we were going to try and see while we were there. Our first adventure was to Machrie Moor Stone Circles.
The atmospheric setting, with mountains on one side and the sea on the other is rich with archaeological sites. A quick look at an OS map will show there are stone circles, burial cairns and standing stones to be found, some dating back around 2000 years BC, though there has been human activity at this site for much longer. After leaving the car in the car park just off the A841 and putting some coins in the honesty box, we set off down a sheep poo strewn track. (Rowan took at bit of time getting used to the poo.
After about a third of a mile, we came to our first stone circle. We climbed over the stile, Rocky seemingly wondering how on earth he was going to get over, so we could get a closer look.
Inside, we found an information board which told us that this stone circle was actually a burial cairn. Rowan was really intrigued by the pictures and was completely unphased by the fact that someone from thousands of years ago may be buried under the grassy mound. Walking round the stones, we could see the flat top of Casteal na h-lolaire. (will have to look into the pronunciations I think)
After a good look around, we returned to the track and continued onwards, the path climbing slightly as Rowan walked Pebble.
Across to our right, we spotted another standing stone, again, accessed by climbing a stile, where Doctor Grant had to do his usual check for electric fences. Rick waited with the dogs as Rowan and I walked towards the solitary stone, the forest covered Tor Righ Beag standing in the background.
I love standing stones and stone circles. They are like a portal to the past. You know you are standing where our Neolithic ancestors once stood. I always wonder what their lives was like, and what part these special places played in them. I like to think that they are somehow magical sites, and I love the photo below. It looks look Rowan has mysteriously turned into a sprite, climbing try to reach the top of the standing stone.
We continued along the path and came to the next monument, made of two concentric circles – Fingal’s cauldron seat. According to legend, the giant Fingal cooked a meal here, tying his dog Bran and Scaolain, to a rock with a hole through it in the outer circle whilst he ate his dinner in the inner circle.
We passed through a gate to come to the next site. One impressive slab stood, its grooved top like fingers reaching up to the sky. Rowan was really interested in the letters carved into the rock and I find it amazing that this huge rock still stands, thousands of years after it was placed here. Around the site were some fallen stones, one making a perfect motorbike so Rowan.
The next circle we came to was probably the most impressive – three towering pillars, covered in lichens and surrounded by moorland and mountains. I’d love to go back and visit in the mist. There was also evidence of fallen stones – one of which had been made into a mill stone, but discarded for some reason.
We visited one more circle before retracing our footsteps back to the car, passing a huge mushroom on the way. Our first morning’s adventure on Arran had been brilliant (you can find a map here). Our visit inspired me to do some reading up about Machrie Moor Stone Circles once we got home. It really is a fascinating place and great for the imagination.