Northern Scotland

The Hill O’ Many Stanes, Mid Clyth

The stone alignments in Caithness and Sutherland form a discrete group consisting mainly of multiple rows largely composed of small and medium sized stones. One single and two double rows also exist, but most of the alignments include substantial numbers of rows often in a fan shape. These rows are distinctive and the only other similar examples being found in North Wales where a pair at Hafod y Dre and Hafod y Garreg stand in close proximity.  The very different form of these rows strongly suggests that they would have had a very different purpose to the single row type and why the only other two are to be found on a Welsh hillside is yet another mystery associated with this enigmatic class of monument. The best preserved example of this unusual form of alignment is found at the remarkable Hill O’ Many Stanes, Mid Clyth where 22 separate and nearly parallel rows have been identified.

It is worth noting that none of the stone alignments in this region are composed of large slabs. This is important because large slabs were readily available. The row builders clearly chose not to use this material, instead relying exclusively on relatively small slabs for their work. This implies that they did not feel the need to make dramatic architectural statements. Instead the rows were clearly designed to form a series of special inter-linked locations from which to visually relate and perhaps interact with their surroundings and were not designed to impose on the landscape itself.  It is almost certain that the rituals at the alignments would have  involved movement.

Fieldwork has confirmed that the rows in this region also have clearly definable visual links with the sea, landmarks and broadly contemporary archaeology sites.  The visual links element of the alignments seems to be the one element that the rows throughout Great Britain share and implies that this was their raison d’etre.

Map showing the location of Northern Scotland

 

Interactive map showing the distribution of stone rows in Northern Scotland. 

Northern Scotland stone alignments at a glimpse

Northern Scotland stone row plans

Simplified plans of the stone rows in Northern Scotland. Click on image to open a higher resolution version.

Looking a bit deeper

The major characteristics of the alignments in this region can be expressed by a series of pie graphs looking at alignment types, number and size of stones together with lengths. This information provides an overview of their main characteristics and permits comparisons with the country as a whole.

Northern Scotland stone rows in charts

Pie charts showing the proportions of different types of stone row in Northern Scotland and Great Britain. Click on image to see a higher resolution version.

The majority of the stone alignment are of the multiple row type. This is the only region in Great Britain where this is the case. The pie chart probably understates the multiple row situation as the triple row at Learable Hill (Row 1) may have originally contained more rows and the double row at Groat’s Loch, North and triple row at Dirlot, South are of less certain validity than the others. The double row at Torrish Burn however demonstrates that even where most of the rows are of a single type, exceptions do occur and we should be careful of dismissing rows simply because they do not conform to the regional stereotype.

The considerable difference in the type of alignment found in Northern Scotland can be appreciated at a glance by comparing the pie chart above with the one for the whole of Great Britain.

In Great Britain as a whole, multiple stone rows are relatively uncommon, whilst the common type (single rows) are extremely rare in Northern Scotland. These differences are of a magnitude to indicate significance and imply some sort of cultural or perhaps functional difference. It is however worth noting that preliminary analysis seems to indicate that many of the rows in Northern Scotland share the same types of visual links with their surroundings, possess reveals and a significant proportion are directly associated with cairns. Furthermore, whilst extremely rare elsewhere multiple rows have been identified on Dartmoor, Exmoor, North Wales and the Western Isles implying some sort of flexibility in the character of the monuments being built.

Pie charts showing the proportions of different lengths of Northern Scottish and British stone rows. Click on image to see a higher resolution version.

The lengths have been recorded to reflect the length of the longest row within each alignment. These figures therefore do not include individual measurements for each row within each alignment. The pie graph illustrates that there is considerable variety in length with no single category being overwhelmingly dominant. It is however interesting to note that both very short and very long rows are uncommon with a single example of each being recorded. Most rows are between 10 and 100m long. Comparison with the same data for Great Britain again emphasises the differences between this region and the country as a whole. These pie charts serve to confirm the very different character of the rows in Northern Scotland to those elsewhere.

Pie charts showing the proportions of different numbers of stones recorded at Northern Scottish and British stone rows. Click on image to see a higher resolution version.

The stone alignments in this region generally include large numbers of stones. Nearly half of the rows contain more than 50 stones. In reality the number of stones is likely to have been significantly greater because many will survive below the surface and others will have been removed in the past. The position in the rest of Great Britain is unsurprisingly very different, where nearly half of the rows include 6 or less stones and only 17% consist of 50 or more stones.

Pie charts showing the proportions of different stone sizes recorded at Northern Scottish and British stone rows. Click on image to see a higher resolution version.

The great majority of the Northern Scottish rows consist of small and medium sized stones and a significant proportion consist only of small stones. None of the alignments consist of only large stones or small and large stones. The only row with large stones is Groat’s Loch, South and again graphically illustrates that rare exceptions to the accepted regional characteristics are a feature of this monument class and should never be used alone to dismiss a prehistoric interpretation. Anomalies in form are a characteristic and whilst we cannot hope to understand why this happens, it clearly does.    Compared with the rest of the country the stone size is among the less anomalous characteristics. In Great Britain as a whole, a significant proportion of the stone row are composed of small and medium stones and whilst the figure is certainly much greater in Northern Scotland, at least the differences are not as substantial.

 

Radar graphs showing the orientation of Northern Scottish and British stone rows.

There is a clear propensity for the rows in this region to be orientated north to south.

Northern Scottish stone rows in numbers
No. of alignments 30
Number of single alignments 1
Number of double alignments 2
Number of triple alignments 2
Number of multiple alignments 22
Number of combination alignments 0
Maximum length 117m
Minimum length 8m
Average length 35m
Longest alignment Battle Moss, Loch of Yarrows
Shortest alignment Learable Row 3
Total number of recorded stones 1509
Average number of stones in each alignment 52
Median number of stones in each alignment 43
Alignments including small stones 29
Alignments including medium stones 25
Alignments including large stones 2
Average orientation 74°
Average altitude 109m
Highest alignment Loch Rimsdale(200m)
Lowest alignment Dail Na Drochaide (29m)
Cairn at the top of alignment 12
Cairn at the bottom of alignment 1
Scheduled alignments 13
Regional Summary

Thirty stone alignments are currently known in Northern Scotland. Most are multiple alignments, consisting mainly of more than 50 small and medium sized stones extending over a distance between 30m and 49.9m. There is however considerable variation in form with many of the rows not sharing all of these characteristics.

Individual Rows

A summary of information for the individual stone alignments can be viewed by clicking on the site names below.  Whilst it is believed that the existing information is accurate, mistakes inevitably occur and should you spot any your help in improving this resource would be much appreciated. Your help will of course be fully acknowledged. Please use the contact button to get in touch.

Battle Moss, Loch of Yarrows

A fan-shaped multiple stone row possibly measuring up to 117m long, including at least 160 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 8 separate lines and situated on a very gentle north facing slope with restricted sea views to the north east. Excavation has revealed that the stones were placed in carefully prepared sockets, were probably erected over a period and many had fallen in antiquity. No dating evidence was recovered. The row is orientated north to south, points north at a nearby cairn and stands in an area with other standing stones and chambered cairns.

 

 


Borgie Bridge

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 18m long, including at least 17 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 5 separate lines and situated on a gentle south facing slope with restricted views towards Cnoc Graggie. The row is orientated north east to south west, points at a mound which may represent a cairn and stands in an area with prehistoric houses.

 

 

 

 

 


Borlum

A probable fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 22.5m long, including at least 52 small-sized stones arranged in at least 8 separate lines and situated on a south facing slope within a saddle with restricted sea views to the north. The row which was destroyed around 1994 was orientated north west to south east pointed towards a possible nearby cairn and stood in an area containing a number of prehistoric settlements.

 

 

 


Broughwhin

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 33.5m long, including at least 7 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 4 separate lines and situated on a wide south facing terrace overlooking the sea. The row is orientated north east to south west and there is a cairn with cist at the upper north eastern end of the row.  The row forms part of a cluster including at least 9 stone rows near Loch Watenan and has definable visual links with the sea, nearby cairns, chambered cairns and stone rows.

 


Broughwhin Loch

A possible fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 30m long, including six small and medium-sized stones leading from a cairn. Three of the stones appear to protrude from the cairn and the other three are in dense heather about 30m from the cairn. The row maybe orientated NNE to SSW.

 

 


Camster

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 27m long, including at least 72 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 6 separate lines and situated on a gentle south facing slope close to the Grey Cairns of Camster. The row is orientated north to south and has definable visual links with a nearby cairn and the nearby Grey Cairns of Camster. There are also a number of prehistoric houses in the vicinity.

 

 

 


Clash-an Dam

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 35m long, including at least 17 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 7 separate lines and situated on the southern side of a prominent knoll with restricted views of the sea. The row is orientated ENE to WSW and there is a probable cairn at the upper ENE end of the row.  The row forms part of a cluster including at least 9 stone rows near Loch Watenan and has definable visual links with the sea, nearby cairns, chambered cairns and stone rows.

 


Cnoc Molach

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 16.2m long, including at least 28 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 8 separate lines and situated on a gentle south west facing slope overlooking Loch Badanloch. The row is orientated NNE to SSW and stands in an area containing several prehistoric cairns, settlements and burnt mounds.

 

 

 

 


Creag Bhreac Mhor

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 30.5m long, including at least 56 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 13 separate lines and situated on the south eastern side of a pronounced knoll with restricted sea views to the north. The row is orientated ESE to WNW and points towards a pair of cairns. The row stands in an area with broadly contemporary stone rows, cairns, chambered cairns and a standing stone.

 

 

 


Dail Na Drochaide

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 31m long, including at least 37 small-sized stones arranged in at least 5 separate lines and situated on a gentle west facing slope within the valley of the River Naver. The row which was destroyed in 1982 was orientated north to south and stood in an area containing a number of prehistoric cairns, settlements and burnt mounds.

 

 

 

 


Dirlot, North

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 32.3m long, including at least 82 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 14 separate lines and situated on the eastern side of a pronounced knoll with restricted views to the west. The row is orientated ESE to WNW, points at a pair of cairns and stands in an area with another stone row and prehistoric settlement.

 

 

 


Dirlot, South

A group of six small stones close to a cairn may represent the site of a fan-shaped multiple stone row situated on a small but prominent knoll.  The possible row is orientated north east to south west and stands close to another stone row.

 

 

 

 

 


Druim Na Ceud

A probable fan-shaped multiple stone row known only from place-name evidence. Druim na Ceud means the Ridge of the Hundred and it is said that there were once 100 small grave stones on this hillside, purportedly raised after the 15th century battle of Ruaig Haunsaid. It is much more likely that they represented the site of a multiple stone row.

 

 

 

 


Garrywhin

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 59m long, including at least 49 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 8 separate lines situated on a south facing slope overlooking the Cairn O’Get. The row is orientated north east to south west and has definable visual links with the sea, nearby cairns, chambered cairns and stone rows. There is a cairn with cist at the upper north eastern end of the row.  The row forms part of a cluster including at least 9 stone rows near Loch Watenan.

 


Groat’s Loch, North (Broughwhin III)

A probable double stone row measuring 34m long, including at least 15 small-sized stones situated on a wide south facing terrace overlooking the sea. The row is orientated NNW to SSE and because of dense vegetation has not been seen for some time. Double rows are unusual in Northern Scotland.  The row forms part of a cluster including at least 9 stone rows near Loch Watenan and has definable visual links with the sea, nearby cairns, chambered cairns and stone rows.

 

 

 


Groat’s Loch, South

A single stone row measuring 22m long, including at least 4 medium and large-sized stones situated in a small confined valley on the lower slopes of Warehouse Hill. The row is orientated NNE to SSW.  Single rows are unusual in Northern Scotland.  The row forms part of a cluster including at least 9 stone rows near Loch Watenan and has definable visual links with the sea, nearby cairns, chambered cairns and stone rows.

 

 


Hill O’Many Stanes, Clyth

The classic fan-shaped multiple stone row measures 54m long, including at least 192 small, medium and large-sized stones arranged in at least 22 separate lines and situated on the southern side of a prominent knoll with restricted views of the sea and the surrounding landscape. The row is orientated north to south and is the best preserved and most accessible of the Northern Scottish multiple stone rows.

 


Kildonan, South West

A fan-shaped multiple stone row known only from a 1911 Royal Commission survey measured 18m long, included at least 77 small and medium-sized stones arranged in 15 separate lines. The row was damaged or destroyed when the public highway was widened sometime after 1960. Two cairns in the vicinity may be broadly contemporary funerary monuments or the result of clearance. The row was orientated NNW to SSE.

 

 


Kinbrace

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 12m long, including at least 80 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 10 separate lines situated on a south facing slope in the valley of the River Helmsdale. The row is orientated NNW to SSE and there is a probable cairn at the upper NNW end. The row stands in an area with a chambered cairn, other cairns and prehistoric houses.

 


Learable Hill 1

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 83m long, including at least 41 small and medium-sized stones arranged in 3 or possibly 4 separate lines situated at the eastern end of a gently sloping terrace overlooking the Strath of Kildonan. The row is orientated ENE to WSW and is associated with a number of small cairns which may be broadly contemporary. The row stands in an area with 3 other stone rows, a standing stone, stone circle and further cairns.

 

 


Learable Hill 2

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 54m long, including at least 43 small and medium-sized stones arranged in 9 separate lines situated at the eastern end of a terrace overlooking the Strath of Kildonan. The row is orientated east to west and is associated with a number of small cairns which may be broadly contemporary. The row stands in an area with 3 other stone rows, a standing stone, stone circle and further cairns.

 

 

 


Learable Hill 3

A probable fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 8m long, including at least 8 small and medium-sized stones arranged in 4 separate lines situated at the eastern end of a terrace overlooking the Strath of Kildonan. The row is orientated north to south, has been damaged since it was first recorded and is associated with a number of small cairns which may be broadly contemporary. The row stands in an area with 3 other stone rows, a standing stone, stone circle and further cairns.

 


Learable Hill 4

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 23m long, including at least 51 small and medium-sized stones arranged in 7 separate lines situated at the eastern end of a terrace overlooking the Strath of Kildonan. The row is orientated north west to south east and is associated with a number of small cairns which may be broadly contemporary. The row stands in an area with 3 other stone rows, a standing stone, stone circle and further cairns.

 

 

 

 


Loch Rimsdale

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 12.4m long, including at least 42 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 4 separate lines and situated on a south facing slope within a forest clearing. The row is orientated north to south and there is a probable cairn at the upper northern end. The row stands in an area containing a standing stone and prehistoric settlements.

 

 

 

 


Tormsdale

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 41m long, including at least 111 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 10 separate lines and situated on a gentle west facing slope close to the River Thurso. The row is orientated ESE to WNW and stands between a pair of later brochs.

 

 

 

 


Torrish Burn

A probable double stone row measuring 13.4m long, including at least 17 small and medium-sized stones situated on a scarp on a south east facing slope. The row is orientated east to west and seems to extend into a cairn which itself has been modified by the construction of a shelter or sheiling. Double rows are unusual in Northern Scotland and the association of this one with a historic structure introduces an element of uncertainty. There are a number of cairns and prehistoric houses in the vicinity.

 


Upper Dounreay

A probable fan-shaped multiple stone row known from the 1872 Ordnance Survey Name Book and an account by G. Gunn which describes 60 stones aligned north to south at this location. The row stood in an area where broadly contemporary cairns, a chambered cairn and standing stone still survive.

 

 

 

 


Watenan Farm

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 57m long, including at least 52 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 8 separate lines situated on a gentle south facing slope overlooking the Cairn O’Get. The row is orientated north east to south west, has definable visual links with the sea, nearby cairns, chambered cairns and stone rows and forms part of a cluster including at least 9 stone rows near Loch Watenan.

 


Watenan, East

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 40m long, including at least 8 small-sized stones arranged in at least 4 separate lines situated on a gentle south east facing slope. The row is orientated NNW to SSE, has restricted views of the sea and points at a nearby cairn situated at the upper end.  The row forms part of a cluster including at least 9 stone rows near Loch Watenan.

 

 

 

 


Watenan, West

A fan-shaped multiple stone row measuring 35m long, including at least 120 small and medium-sized stones arranged in at least 5 separate lines situated on a terrace on a south facing slope. There are a number of visual links including a spectacular one with the western Warehouse chambered cairn, the Whiteleen stone pair and Loch of Yarrows. The row is orientated NNW to SSE and has restricted views of the sea and chambered cairns in the area.  The row forms part of a cluster including at least 9 stone rows near Loch Watenan.

 

 


 

LAST UPDATED: 28th November 2018

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: