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Stone Circle (Neol/bronze Age)

Site Name Innesmill

Classification Stone Circle (Neol/bronze Age)

Alternative Name(s) Standing Stones Of Urquhart; Devil's Stanes; The Nine Stanes

Canmore ID 16581

Site Number NJ26SE 7

NGR NJ 2895 6407

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Moray
  • Parish Urquhart
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Moray
  • Former County Morayshire

Archaeology Notes

NJ26SE 7 2895 6407

(NJ 2895 6407) Stone Circle (NR) (remains of)

OS 6" map, (1970)

Stone Circle, Innesmill: The remains of this stone circle stand at 30m OD, in the NW angle of cross roads. Known variously as the Devil's Stanes, the Nine Stones and the Standing Stones of Urquhart, today only five stones remain of what may have been an original twelve stones on the circumference of a circle 33.5m in diameter. (Another two fallen stones lie within the circle, apparently not in situ) They range in height from 1.0m to 1.9m, and appear to be graded towards the S-SSW. This, together with the 19th century reference by the minister of Urquhart to 'nine tall stones in a circle, two of them at the entrance to the altar' suggest that this may have been a recumbent stone circle from which the recumbent and its flankers have subsequently been removed. It is noteworthy that the westernmost stone has several small cupmarks on it a pillar which would have been close to the recumbent in that restricted area where cupmarks are to be found in recumbent stone circles.

Some time before 1870 the interior was dug over but no traces of graves or anything significant was found.

NSA 1845; J Morrison 1888; F R Coles 1906; I A G Shepherd and I B M Ralston 1979; A Thom, A S Thom and A Burl 1980.

This stone circle was as described above when seen in 1965 and 1972. The marks on the westernmost stone ('B' on plan) were recognised as cupmarks by OS (R D), though OS (R L) considered that they had been caused by weathering. None of the names given above (by Coles) were known locally. (However, it is scheduled as 'Standing Stones of Urquhart', stone circle.)

Visited by OS (R D) 26 January 1965 and (R L) 18 January 1972.


Publication Account (2011)

This stone circle stands on a local summit in a field about 470m east-north-east of Innesmill. It measures 33m in diameter and probably comprised at least twelve evenly spaced orthostats, of which only six remain. Five of these are upright and the sixth lies displaced beside another large boulder on the north-north-east, adjacent to the fence that cuts across the north half of the projected circumference. The four stones standing around the eastern arc (2–5) preserve the spacing of the orthostats, while that on the west-south-west (1) the diameter. The two tallest are on the south-east (2 and 3). Although these measure 1.7m and 1.45m in height respectively, their tops are almost at the same level, and the rest of the stones are apparently graded to reduce in height from this arc northwards. The hollows and channels previously noted as cupmarkings on stone 1 are the result of natural weathering. The interior, which is gently domed, probably once contained a more prominent mound (below), but there is no trace of any cairn material underfoot. In 1835 Rev James Maclean described Innesmill as ‘nine tall stones fixed in the earth, and placed in a circle, the entrance to which, fronting the east, has a stone on each side taller than the rest’ (NSA, xiii, Elginshire, 46). Unsurprisingly one of its local names was The Nine Stanes (Coles 1906a, 198), but if the estimate of the circle’s original complement at twelve is correct, this in itself implies that three of its stones had been robbed long before. Another three were to go by 1870–1, when the circle was surveyed for the 1st edition of the OS 25-inch map (Elginshire 1874, viii), though Rev James Morrison, writing in June 1871, described eight, two of which were fallen (1872, 256). A brief note in the Name Book claims that all six of the stones shown on the map were then upright (Elginshire, No. 22, p 38), but the sixth corresponds with the position of the two displaced stones lying within the circumference on the north-north-east. In 1905 Coles certainly found the circle in its present state and both his plan and a sketch show the two stones that currently lie on the north-north-east (1906a, 198–201). On enquiry he was told that one of the missing orthostats had been taken to build a new steading at Viewfield (NJ 2877 6462), probably before 1843, but following ‘uncanny signs and omens’ it was returned whence it had come, only to end up buried about 70m to 90m short of the circle, presumably somewhere to the north (Coles 1906a, 201 note). Curiously, his local informants, ‘all zealously interested in megalithic antiquities in this part of Urquhart’ (ibid), failed to tell him about the excavations that Morrison reported at the circle (1883, 44), or about some other standing stones about ‘half a mile north’. According to Morrison the latter were removed about 1840 to provide building materials for cattle sheds (1872, 256). Morrison is perhaps not the most reliable of witnesses and there is a sense that this second megalithic monument is a conflation with some other story, possibly involving the stone carried off to Viewfield. Nevertheless, this farm was the scene of a number of other antiquarian discoveries that were reported by Rev Henry Walker. Most of these can be correlated with sites recorded by the OS surveyors in 1870–1, but a barrow on the farm excavated by the Elgin Scientific Society has never been located, although subsequently some large stones covering a pit were found beneath it (Walker 1857, 532). According to Walker, however, ‘Another barrow in the same district of the parish was also opened with a like result; it was surrounded with several concentric circles of standing stones, but contained no remains.’ (1857, 532). This is most probably the Innesmill circle and may indicate that there was once a more prominent mound within the ring of orthostats, though there is no mention of anything that might be construed as a recumbent setting. The interpretation of the ring as a recumbent stone circle rests entirely with Coles, based on the grading of the orthostats and his misreading of Maclean’s New Statistical Account entry to say that two of the stones stood ‘at the entrance to the altar’ (Coles 1906a, 201). He later came to doubt that there had been a recumbent here (Coles 1910, 165), but Innesmill appears in most lists of possible and probable recumbent stone circles (Burl 1970, 79; 1976a, 361, Mry 6; 2000, 430, Mry 9; 2005a, 142–3; Barnatt 1989, 262, no. 5:26; Ruggles 1984, 58; 1999, 185, no. 1).

Geophysical Survey (15 November 2013 - 18 November 2013)

NJ 28838 64015 A geophysical survey using gradiometry was undertaken, 15–18 November 2013, for the Moray Archaeology For All Project. A total area of 17.66ha was surveyed at 0.25 x 0.5m intervals to the WSW of the Nine Stanes stone circle. The results identified two positive magnetic anomalies and two magnetically subtle linear features near the centre of the survey area which may have archaeological potential. Other small anomalies were recorded scattered across the survey area, but these are probably related to geology and recent agricultural activity.

Funder: Part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Moray Leader 2007-2013 Programme

Tessa Poller – University of Glasgow

(Source: DES)


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