Stone Circle: OS Grid Reference – NJ 2895 6407
Also known as:
- B5/1 (Thom)
- Canmore ID 16581
- Deil’s Stanes
- Devil’s Stones
- Moray 6 (Burl)
- Nine Stanes
- Stones of Urquhart
Archaeology & History
Described in early local history journals, this stone circle of many names near the old crossroads atop of a small rise in the field, is composed of mainly small upright stones — though one of them stands nearly six feet tall — yet it has quite a large diameter of 110 feet (or 40.4 megalithic yards). Alexander Thom (1980) measured its circumference as being precisely 127 megalithic yards. It is thought to have originally consisted of twelve stones, but today only five remain; and in a landscape where ‘recumbent’ stone circles reign supreme, Aubrey Burl (in Thom, Thom & Burl 1980) thought the lay-out of the site was suggestive of just such a monument, saying:
“The apparent grading of the stones towards the S-SSW and 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.”
A singular TNA profile entry of the said cup-marked stone—whose existence was confirmed in John Barnatt’s (1989) survey—will be added in due course. The middle of the circle was dug sometime prior to 1870, but no human or other remains were found. It was highlighted on the earliest OS-map of the area in 1874.
Described by two local ministers as ‘Nine Stanes’ back in Victorian days, with at least one of the stones being recumbent, it was the great Fred Coles (1906) in one of his many articles on the megalithic remains of Scotland who narrated the following tale, told to him first-hand by a local man called Mr T. Geddie, after some of the standing stones from this circle were removed in the nineteenth century:
“One of the stones,” wrote Mr Geddie, “was to be taken away to be built into a new steading at Viewfield. Mr Brown thinks this was prior to the building of the Innesmill steading, which dates from 1843. No sooner had the Stone been deposited in the toon, however, than uncanny signs and omens began to manifest themselves, and it was resolved to get rid of it. While it was being taken back to its original position, the horse stuck or fell when taking a somewhat steep little brae, and the Stone was taken no further, but buried where it was. The spot it about 80 or 100 yards from the circle.”
Grinsell (1976) also tells the tale that if you visit the circle at midnight and walk round the circle three times, the devil can appear.
- Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain – volume 2, BAR: Oxford 1989.
- Burl, Aubrey, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, New Haven & London 1995.
- Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
- Coles, F.R., ‘Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in the North-East of Scotland, Chiefly in Banffshire’, in PSAS 40, 1906.
- Grinsell, Leslie V., Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, David & Charles: London 1976.
- Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Megalithic Rings, BAR 81: Oxford 1980.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian