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Girdlestanes, stone circle

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale East and Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.2539 / 55°15'14"N

Longitude: -3.176 / 3°10'33"W

OS Eastings: 325348

OS Northings: 596154

OS Grid: NY253961

Mapcode National: GBR 678P.6F

Mapcode Global: WH6X3.56WM

Entry Name: Girdlestanes, stone circle

Scheduled Date: 1 April 1924

Last Amended: 29 October 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM634

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: stone circle or ring

Location: Eskdalemuir

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a stone circle, likely to date from the late neolithic to early Bronze Age. It lies on the E side of the White Esk at around 185m above sea level. The monument was last scheduled in 1962, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The stone circle is around 36.5m in diameter and consists of a partial ring of at least 21 stones of various shapes and sizes. Thirteen of these stones remain standing of which the tallest is around 1.65m high. The White Esk has eroded about a third of the circle, on its W arc, although the likelihood is that buried remains will survive to indicate more of the monument's full extent. A low bank up to 7m in width runs around the perimeter of the site, although it is unclear whether this is an original feature of the stone circle or a more recent addition.

The area to be scheduled is a cropped circle on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire fence that crosses the W half of the monument, to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument comprises the upstanding remains of a stone circle, a prehistoric ritual or funerary monument comprising a circular or elliptical setting of boulders or monoliths. This type of monument was constructed and used from the late neolithic to the early Bronze Age and the diameter and number of stones in each circle can both vary significantly. This particular example is of slightly larger than average size in comparison to other examples.

Stone circles are often part of larger complexes of ritual monuments that can include henges, timber circles and ring cairns. The circles themselves often have associated features such as outlying standing stones, central stones, stone avenues or rows, central cairns and burial cists, skeletal material and grave goods such as pottery, food vessels and stone objects. Although no evidence for related features is visible at this site, the potential for buried remains both within and around the circle is high. Geophysical survey supports this; it has revealed the presence of a number of pits within the interior of the circle, along with additional pits in the line of the circle and a potential bank around 1m wide located around 8m north of the circle itself. There is also the potential for buried land surfaces and other environmental remains to survive beneath the monument, and this could give us important information on the environment at the time the monument was constructed and the economy and society of the people who built and used it.

The monument contains a high potential to reveal valuable information about prehistoric ritual sites and the economic and social situation in which they were constructed, used and abandoned.

Contextual characteristics

Around 330 stone circles survive across Scotland. Of these, distinct groupings are located in SW Scotland, Arran, the Western Isles, NE Scotland and Perthshire. This example is one of only eight known examples in this part of SW Scotland, which contrasts with the high volume of settlement remains from the later prehistoric period also found here.

Characteristically, stone circles in this region are sited close to water courses. The monument has reasonably long views both north and south along Eskdale, and is located in a landscape rich in prehistoric remains. A second stone circle, the Loupin' Stanes, is also located on the E side of the White Esk, around 600m north-east of this example. A wide range of other prehistoric remains are found in the immediate vicinity, with no fewer than nine settlements, a fort and a variety of findspots of flint tools and artefacts within a 2km distance of this site. Only 3.5km to the SSW is the Iron Age enclosure at Over Rig, which archaeologists have identified as an extremely rare and unusual ritual monument.

Stone circles are believed to appear in the late neolithic as an architectural development of earlier henges and timber circles, giving a more prominent and permanent definition in the landscape to these ritual monuments. Research has revealed that such sites probably filled a variety of roles, including ritual, ceremonial, funerary and possibly further social 'gathering' roles. The layout of such sites can also relate to certain celestial features and events, with the architecture of some circles apparently carefully aligned to these. This site therefore also has the potential to further our understanding of the ritual significance the builders of such monuments attached to the celestial sphere.

In SW Scotland, research has also shown that monuments and artefact assemblages in the region show strong links with contemporary sites and culture found in Ireland. This site may therefore contain important information, which could inform our knowledge of the economic and social links between the two islands at this time.

Associative characteristics

The site is marked on the OS 1st Edition mapping as 'The Girdle Stanes, Druidical Circle (Remains of)'. The site also forms part of the recently established 'Eskdale Prehistoric Trail', which takes in a number of the impressive sites in the area.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric ritual and funerary sites. Specifically, this well-preserved monument has the potential to inform our knowledge of stone circles, which are found across Scotland and that are one of the most well-known yet enigmatic monument types of the prehistoric period. Buried deposits and artefacts from this site have the potential tell us about the construction, use and eventual abandonment of the monument as well as the wider social, economic and cultural situation at the time. Buried environmental remains could inform us about local land use and the environment when the monument was constructed. Spatial analysis of such sites will allow us to understand the distribution of ritual sites and their relationship with contemporary domestic and secular sites, as well as related ritual sites such as the nearby Loupin' Stanes. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand ritual and funerary sites and ceremonies in Eskdale and by extension across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NY29NE 13 - Cote, 'Girdle Stanes': Stone Circle. The Dumfries and Galloway SMR designation is MDG7563.


RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, Edinburgh: The Stationery Office.

Christison, D 1897,'"The Girdlestanes" and a neighbouring stone circle, in the Parish of Eskdalemuir', Dumfriesshire, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 31, 281-9.

Eskdale Internet, Eskdale Prehistoric Trail [Last updated 27 May 2007]

GeoQuest Associates 1993, Trial geophysical survey of four sites in Dumfriesshire, unpublished survey report, GeoQuest Associates Archaeological Survey Division.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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