STONE CIRCLES TRAIL
Stone circles can be found throughout Britain and Ireland, in various forms, and were erected between c.2700 – 2000 BC (the Bronze Age). Around 10% of the total number of stone circles recorded in Britain can be found in Aberdeenshire, and the region even boasts its own unique style of circle – the Recumbent Stone Circle.VisitAberdeenshire
Found almost exclusively in Aberdeenshire, more than 70 examples of Recumbent Stone Circles have been recorded in the region. The distinctive feature of the Recumbent Stone Circle is a massive stone, laid horizontally on its side in the Southwestern or Southern arc of the circle, flanked by the two tallest stones of the circle.
Recumbent Stone Circles are usually found on the crests of hills or terraces, with wide southerly views, although in some cases the landscapes in which they now sit would be unrecognisable to their creators.
The sites listed present 10 of the best examples of Aberdeenshire’s stone circles.
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“Aberdeen or New Aberdeen was established by the time of King David I (1124-1153). St Nicholas Kirk, or the Mither Kirk, is thought to originate from before 1157, and was one of the largest medieval burgh kirks in Scotland.
Alexander II established a Merchant Guild in 1222 which through successive enactments was created a powerful organisation whose influence was to shape the life and fabric of Aberdeen.
Aberdeen developed around Castle Hill, St Katherine’s Hill and Gallowgate Hill. Castlegate was a commercial area from an early period.Aberdeen Heritage Trust
Alexander I (1107-24) cited Aberdeen as one of 3 trading centres north of the Forth. By the end of the medieval period Aberdeen was one of the wealthiest burghs in Scotland.”
Part of a 1661 map showing St Nicholas Kirk (Mither Kirk or “Great Church”) (on left) and Castle Hill (on right).
A Mercat Cross is the Scots name for the market cross found frequently in Scottish cities, towns and villages where historically the right to hold a regular market or fair was granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. It therefore served a secular purpose as a symbol of authority, and was an indication of a burgh’s relative prosperity.
“The Mercat Cross was the traditional heart of the burgh.
At the cross new monarchs were proclaimed: a locked staircase led from ground level to the top where announcements were made. The symbolism in making the announcement from this spot was important to the Jacobites and on the 20th of September 1715, the Old Pretender was declared king at the Mercat Cross.
Designed and made from sandstone by John Montgomery in 1686 and built, excluding the cost of the materials, for a fee of £1200. The decorative hexagonal base features six arches with pillars at each corner, animal gargoyles and medallions. Ten of the twelve medallions illustrate Stewart monarchs; namely James I to James V, Mary Queen of Scots, James VI, Charles I and II and James VII, with the remaining two showing the Royal arms and the burgh’s arms.
Positioned above the parapet on a Corinthian capital is the white marble unicorn with a gilded horn. The shaft and unicorn are replacements from the mid 1990s; the originals are on display in the Tolbooth.”VisitAberdeenshire
“He [Agricola] sent his fleet ahead to plunder at various points and thus spread uncertainty and terror, and, with an army marching light, which he had reinforced with the bravest of the Britons and those whose loyalty had been proved during a long peace, reached the Graupian Mountain, which he found occupied by the enemy. The Britons were, in fact, undaunted by the loss of the previous battle, and welcomed the choice between revenge and enslavement. They had realised at last that common action was needed to meet the common danger, and had sent round embassies and drawn up treaties to rally the full force of all their states.”Tacitus, Agricola (XXIX)
According to Tacitus, the Battle of Mons Graupius was fought between a Roman army under the command of Gnaeus Julius Agricola and the Pictish tribes of the North-East of Scotland. It probably took place in AD 83 or 84 and was said to have resulted in a convincing victory for the Romans.
Although never colonised by the Romans, there were several campaigns in the North-East which resulted in the establishment of temporary marching camps, with, possibly, a sizeable military presence at the site called Devana, which is presumed to lie near to mouth of the River Dee.
The exact site of the Battle of Mons Graupius is unknown but one possibility is near Bennachie, 25 miles north west of Aberdeen.
Bennachie has several tops, including Oxen Craig, at 528 metres, and Mither Tap (518m) which has an Iron Age fort on its summit. Though not particularly high, compared to other peaks within Scotland, the mountain is very prominent, owing to its isolation and the relative flatness of the surrounding terrain, and dominates the skyline.
The Gordon Way, a waymarked hiking trail, runs for 12 miles through the Bennachie Forest. The route is one of series maintained by the Forestry Commission and Aberdeenshire Council.