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Publication Account

Date 2004

Event ID 887145

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


A heavily robbed cairn surrounded by a ring of standing stones is situated in a small overgrown plantation enclosure immediately south of the drive that approaches Ballindalloch Home Farm from the road junction opposite Marionburgh. The cairn measures 14m in overall diameter and has been reduced to a bank of rubble about 4.5m in thickness and 0.6m in height, so much so that the open hollow 5m across at its centre is generally thought to represent an internal court or the chamber of a Clava passage grave (Henshall 1963, 391; Shepherd 1986a, 160). No inner kerbstones are visible and Audrey Henshall drew attention to only one possible outer kerbstone, apparently situated on the west of the cairn though it does not appear upon her plan of 1957 (1963, 391). There were probably eleven orthostats in the surrounding ring, set along the leading edge of a low concentric platform and measuring about 23m in overall diameter; of the eleven, five remain upright and four are fallen. Although the smallest is currently on the south-east and is only 0.7m high, the ring was probably graded in height, reducing from a tall stone 2.7m high on the south-west round to one only 1m high incorporated into the dyke on the north-east. Most of the damage here probably occurred before the end of the 18th century (Stat Acct, xiii, 1794, 42–3) and in 1869 the OS surveyors noted only ‘three stones standing and three or four lying on the ground half buried in the soil’ (Name Book, Banffshire, No. 17, p 51). Coles’ plan of 1906, however, shows all the stones that are visible today, though he struggled in the undergrowth to plot them (1907a, 151–4, fig 17). Coles sensed that the interior was very stony, but it was left to Henshall to adapt his plan to show the internal cairn. Her survey, and a description prepared in 1967 by Keith Blood of the OS, which concluded that it was most likely to be a ring-cairn, have been the main sources of subsequent commentaries. Thus, Burl has listed Marionburgh as a probable ring-cairn (1976a, 355, Ban 7; 2000, 424, Ban 8), but Barnatt has speculated that the absence of a massive internal kerb might suggest that it is the remains of a recumbent stone circle (1989, 264, no. 5:31). This is not a sound basis for such a suggestion and only serves to confuse the unwary. The present survey can only repeat its conclusions for the neighbouring circle at Lagmore East (NJ13NE 10): there is no evidence, either on the ground or in the antiquarian sources, that there was ever a recumbent setting here. In this case, however, the possibility remains that it is indeed a ring-cairn.

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