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Stone Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age)

Site Name Cairnfauld

Classification Stone Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age)

Canmore ID 36695

Site Number NO79SE 1

NGR NO 7535 9406

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Durris
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Kincardine And Deeside
  • Former County Kincardineshire

Archaeology Notes

NO79SE 1 7535 9406.

The remains of this stone circle are situated on the S shoulder of a ridge 120m NNE of Cairnfauld farmhouse. It measures at least 21.2m in diameter, but only three of the five stones now visible are in situ, two of them standing within the thickness of a consumption dyke on the E and S respectively, and the third on the SW; the fourth which originally stood on the W, is now prostrate immediately W of the SW stone, and the fifth, whose long axis lies across the circumference of the circle, may have been re-erected on the N about 1877. The tallest of the stones, about 1.8m high, is on the S, those on the SW and E meausuring 1.5m and 1.3m in height respectively. In the 19th century human bones were found near the centre of the circle. Although the interior of the circle was under plough at the date of visit, there is no trace of any cairn material, and no evidence of a recumbent setting.

Name Book 1864; R S Smith 1880; F R Coles 1900; A Thom, A S Thom and A Burl 1980; RCAHMS 1984, visited February 1984


Measured Survey (1 May 2003)

RCAHMS surveyed Cairnfauld stone circle on 1 May 2003 with plane table and alidade producing a plan and section of the site at a scale of 1:100. The plan and section were used as the basis for an illustration, produced in ink and finished in vector graphics software, that was published at a scale of 1:250 (Welfare 2011, 502).

Publication Account (2011)

This stone circle is situated at the southern edge of a field about 100m north-east of Cairnfauld. Measuring about 22m in diameter, the disposition of the five surviving stones suggests that it originally comprised nine evenly spaced orthostats. Of the five that remain: one (5) has been displaced since Coles surveyed the circle in 1899 (1900, 156, fig 14) and has been lying at the foot of the orthostat on the south-west (1) for at least the last 25 years; another (4) stands askew the circumference of the circle and was apparently re-erected about 1877 (Coles 1900, 156); and two (2–3) are incorporated into the consumption dyke that forms the south-east boundary of the field. When first recorded by the OS surveyors all five orthostats were standing, ‘each about 5 feet [1.5m] in height’ (Name Book, Kincardineshire, No. 7, p 39). The one exposed to its full height on the south-west (1) is indeed 1.5m high and the exposed portions of the two in the consumption dyke suggest that they are of a similar order, as is the displaced stone, which measures 1.75m in length; in contrast, the re-erected stone on the north (4) is only 1.2m high. Nine large slabs built into the foundation of the consumption dyke are possibly fragments of the missing orthostats. In response to Coles’ enquiries at the farm, Charles McHardy, the tenant, told him that trenching near the centre of the circle many years before had uncovered human bones. The suggestion that Cairnfauld is possibly a recumbent stone circle can be traced back to Burl, who contended that it was not only in the typical size range of such circles but also that its stones were probably graded from the highest on the south to the lowest on the north (Thom et al 1980, 214–15; Burl 1976a, 360, Knc 2; 1995, 137; 2000, 429, Knc 3); other researchers have taken a similar line (Ruggles 1984, 60; 1999, 188, no. 87; Barnatt 1989, 274, no. 6:18). While the diameter does indeed fall within the range of recumbent stone circles, it is more difficult to sustain the grading of the stones, not simply because two are encumbered with clearance in the consumption dyke, but because the small stone on the north (4), which is crucial to their case, has probably been re-erected. Furthermore, as Coles appreciated, what is known of the spacing of these neat pillar-like stones around the south-west quarter does not lend itself to a circle with a recumbent setting. More likely, this is a circle of evenly spaced orthostats of relatively uniform height.


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