Ancient Stones
A Guide to Standing Stones & Stone Circles in the South of Scotland.


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Reading The Landscape

When we visit a standing stone or stone circle, we tend only to look at the stone or stones themselves, marvelling at their majesty and mystery. We might appreciate the setting to some degree but we tend not to consider what the purpose of the stones was originally, in the long forgotten past.

Each and every stone circle or standing stone was put there for a reason. And with the amount of effort involved even to erect a couple of large standing stones, that reason had to be important. In many cases we can only speculate what that original purpose was and many theories have been put forward from astrological alignments to burial markers. It is unlikely, unless we somehow manage to invent time-travel, that we will ever know for certain why these stones are there. However, there are clues and they can be seen at almost every stone circle or standing stone.

We can find possible clues to the secret of these stones from the surrounding landscape. When you are visiting an ancient site, pay attention to what exists in the area, look for clues in the actual lie of the land that might suggest possible reasons for the stones existence.

There are many such clues, some obvious such as a crossing point over a nearby river or stones that mark an important alignment of moon or sunrise. Other are less obvious such as the faint traces of a lost burial mound nearby.

Some suggestions:

  • Look for crossing point over nearby rivers e.g. fords.
  • Are there any associated prehistoric sites e.g. Iron Age hill forts.
  • Is the site elevated? Was is meant to be seen from below?
  • Any ancient track ways or modern roads nearby?
  • Is the site located along an old boundary line?
  • Look for other ancient sites nearby e.g. pre-reformation churches.
  • Look at the map for possible ley-lines.
  • Is there anything missing from the site? Other stones, perhaps.
  • Is there any folklore associated with the site of local area?
  • Look at local place names which can also suggest meanings.
  • Look for ancient footpaths or fairy trails.
  • Have any unusual sightings been recorded e.g. strange lights.

Looking for these types of clues is not an exact science and you need to use your imagination to see into the past, to see what might have been, what perhaps might still be. And donít be put of with outlandish suggestions. Some of the greatest discoveries in modern science were often rejected until many years later. Remember, you donít have to justify your theory to anyone but yourself, although sensible suggestions will be more readily accepted.

When reading the ancient landscape, it can be useful to gain some height above the site, if this is possible. A pair of binoculars or telescope might also come in useful for scanning the surrounding area. Keep a notebook and record what you find and if it relates to any of the sites listed on Ancient Stones, please do drop me a line or two. It can also be interesting to examine the surrounding fields, walls, old quarries, ditches and hollows as these are where many ancient stones tend to end up as a result of filed clearance due to agriculture.

So, the next time you visit and ancient site, spend some time just looking at the surrounding landscape, both close to the stones and even as far out as the horizon. There is more to these mysterious stones than at first appears.

013 Nine Stone Rig Stone Circle

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