Ancient Monuments

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Auchlee, stone circle 275m NNE of

A Scheduled Monument in North Kincardine, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.0644 / 57°3'51"N

Longitude: -2.1774 / 2°10'38"W

OS Eastings: 389341

OS Northings: 797056

OS Grid: NO893970

Mapcode National: GBR XM.D096

Mapcode Global: WH9R2.JPCP

Entry Name: Auchlee, stone circle 275m NNE of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12473

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)

Location: Banchory-Devenick

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: North Kincardine

Traditional County: Kincardineshire


The monument comprises the remains of a recumbent stone circle dating to the late neolithic or Early Bronze Age. It survives as an uneven grass-covered platform with exposed rubble sections and a number of large boulders and slabs lying flat on the ground. The monument lies in a field of pasture and is partly obscured by gorse bushes. It is located on the SE side of Hill of Auchlee at about 125m above sea level and it faces the North Sea coast, approximately 4km to the east.

The site is indicated by a raised area and, although recumbent stone circles can be built on artificial platforms, it is not clear if this one is a natural, glacial or archaeological feature. Within the platform are the remains of a cairn structure and stone circle. The stone circle encloses a space of at least 13m in diameter and a number of individual, fallen monoliths are visible around its circumference. One of these is positioned to the west of the circle, a flat slab measuring approximately 1.4m long by 0.5m wide and 1.2m high. The type of cairn this stone circle encloses is currently indistinguishable but it is thought to be a ring cairn, enclosing a central space. The presence of large stones at the edge of the cairn may indicate the remains of a deliberate kerb and it is likely that the cairn itself seals a range of buried deposits.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument represents the accumulated structural remains of what ultimately becomes a recumbent stone circle enclosing a number of components and acting as a focus for or containing various events and ceremonies.

In this monument, the enclosing stone circle (including a recumbent stone) and a ring cairn are the visible components that help to seal the buried elements of other possible features such as cremation burials, pottery, stone structures, the remains of significant burning events such as pyres, and environmental ecofacts. Such remains help us better understand how these monuments were designed, built and re-used. From the field examination of similar sites, archaeologists have suggested they have a complex development sequence and that the presence of later, superimposing stone circle (including a recumbent stone and its associated flankers) could signal a 'closing event' or change in use of the monument. The site survives to a marked degree and therefore has research potential in helping us understand both continuity and change in the construction and use of this monument for religious events. The essential character of this monument still survives - the recumbent stone and elements of the stone circle appear in situ and a number of other (fallen) monoliths indicate the remaining footprint of the stone circle. The cairn indicates another episode in the monument's life and retains structural integrity, despite later disturbance and a low, uneven appearance now.

Contextual characteristics

This is one of a relatively rare, geographically-confined and carefully positioned group of prehistoric religious monuments. Recumbent stone circles are a distinctive form of monument unique to NE Scotland: less than 100 are known and 36 of these are in Strathdon. We know that early prehistoric farmers increasingly exploited the valley and the number of these recumbent stone circles signals the spread of religious events along the valley from around the middle of the third millennium BC onwards.

While the distribution of these monuments is confined to NE Scotland they share several physical characteristics with other forms of stone circles and related cairns (such as the tight group of Clava cairns to the west and the wider distribution of stone circles across the remainder of Scotland). Although the origin of this monument type is unclear some researchers suggest that it is strongly linked to ring cairns and Clava cairns as an expression of local ritual tradition at monuments that may share similar structural elements: an outer stone circle (size-graded stones being deliberately positioned to accentuate a particular arc), a cairn, a platform, radial divisions or spreads and the artefactual remains of various activities. What makes the recumbent forms unique is their use of a horizontally-lain stone within the S arc of the circle. Researchers think this feature is connected to specific lunar or solar alignments and events, the framing of specific views to and from the monument, or the marking of an end (or closure) of a particular episode of use for the monument. The significance of individual examples such as Auchlee increases because researchers think they are often built, reused and adapted with common elements (such as cairns, stone circles and platforms) but in a different sequence or with variations in design and layout.

With the expanding settlement and landuse of Strathdon by communities in the late neolithic and early Bronze Age, Auchlee is one monument in a wider landscape, not just of connected recumbent stone circles but of associated ceremonial funerary monuments such as the more frequent standing stones, stone alignments and burial monuments. It belongs to a concentrated group of five recumbent stone circles and ring cairns (the other four are at Craighead, Aquorthies, Cairnwell and Old Bourtreebush) indicating a perhaps greater significance and concentration of activity here. The landscape position of these monuments is a key feature in determining where to build and, in the case of Auchlee, its position overlooks lands to the south (on the south side of Hill of Auchlee) and eastwards over the North Sea.

With the other recumbent stone circles that survive in this part of Scotland, Auchlee can contribute to our understanding of the reach and influence of recumbent stone circles and their significance in such a small geographic area.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric religious practice, the chronological development of religious monuments and wider changes in society between neolithic and Bronze-Age communities. The loss of this example would significantly impede our ability to understand variation in (and its meaning across) this important monument type and therefore the study of Scotland in prehistory.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NO89NE 14 and Aberdeenshire Council Sites and Monuments Record records the site as NO89NE 0028.


Rees T 1997, 'The excavation of Cairnwell ring-cairn, Portlethen, Abedeenshire', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 127, 255-79.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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