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Cairnton, stone circle 480m north east of

A Scheduled Monument in Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.4905 / 57°29'25"N

Longitude: -2.6926 / 2°41'33"W

OS Eastings: 358578

OS Northings: 844686

OS Grid: NJ585446

Mapcode National: GBR M8QX.TDX

Mapcode Global: WH7LF.MZ0L

Entry Name: Cairnton, stone circle 480m NE of

Scheduled Date: 17 August 1925

Last Amended: 31 May 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: stone circle or ring

Location: Forgue

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument is the remains of a recumbent stone circle constructed and in use during the Bronze Age (2500BC to 800BC). It is visible as a large recumbent stone – a stone set on its side rather than upright - and a single flanking standing stone. The remaining stones of the circle have been removed and would have lain to the north, forming a circle likely measuring between 15m and 25m in diameter. The monument is located on a slight terrace on the southeast facing slope of Brown Hill, at about 170m above sea level.

The recumbent and flanker are positioned on the original southern arc of the stone circle. The recumbent faces south and measures 2.85m in length by 1.55m in height with the 2.25m high flanker to the west. The rear of the recumbent has been damaged by blasting in the past and field-gathered stones have been piled around the recumbent and flanker and into the interior of the former stone circle.

The scheduled area is circular in plan, measuring 40m in diameter, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above ground elements of the post and wire fence.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural sigificance of this site has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is the upstanding and buried remains of a recumbent stone circle, a form of monument found only in northeast Scotland. The surviving elements comprise a massive recumbent stone and large flanking stone. Although the remaining stones of the circle have been removed the monument continues to have significant archaeological potential. Excavations at similar sites elsewhere demonstrate that there is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits. These include the buried remains of stone holes, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, within, beneath and around the upstanding elements and within the projected area of the stone circle.

The archaeological deposits have the potential to provide the full layout and structure of the stone circle, information about the precise date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the structure of Bronze Age society. Any artefacts and ecofacts would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

Dating evidence indicates that recumbent stone circles were built and used during the Bronze Age. They were used for ritual and burial and often re-used at a later date. Excavations of similar sites elsewhere have revealed evidence for complex development sequences. The monument at Cairnton is likely to have been built and used over a long period of time. Scientific study of the structure of the monument compared with other recumbent stone circles has the potential to enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site. It would increase our understanding of recumbent stone circles in general and variation within this regional group.

Contextual Characteristics

This monument is part of a well-defined regional-group of monuments found in northeast Scotland, of which fewer than 100 are known. The group combines a number of similar elements. They have a large recumbent stone set horizontally between two tall pillars or flankers on the southern quarter to form a recumbent setting. In addition there are further, graded upright stones forming a circle and a low internal cairn. Cairnton is important as a component of this regional group and a further four recumbent stone circles lie within 6km, including Yonder Bognie (scheduled monument reference SM56; Canmore ID 18335), Frendraught (Canmore ID 18370), Rothiemay Castle (scheduled monument reference SM344, Canmore ID 17820) and Bellman's Wood (scheduled monument reference, Canmore ID 18427). The monument at Cairnton therefore has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of the Bronze Age landscape and the placing of such sites in the landscape, as well as prehistoric society and community.

More widely, recumbent stone circles share several physical characteristics with other forms of stone circles and cairns, in particular ring cairns and Clava cairns. Shared structural features include an outer stone circle with stones graded by size to highlight a particular direction. They also include a cairn, a platform, internal divisions or spreads of material radiating from the centre of the monument and the artefactual remains of various activities.

The recumbent forms are unique in the  use of a horizontally-lain stone within the southern arc of the circle. Various theories have suggested that this feature may have been 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. At Cairnton the position of the recumbent stone reflects the common orientation of recumbent stone circles. Its location in the landscape is also reflective of the wide ranging views generally found on recumbent stone circles. The monument has open views across the valley to the southeast and south and it also forms a prominent feature in the landscape when viewed from these directions. This monument, therefore, has the potential to enhance our understanding of the development of Bronze Age monumentality and burial, the nature of belief systems, ceremonial and ritual, as well as the place of such monuments within contemporary society. It has the potential to enhance our understanding of important connections between regions during the Bronze Age.

Associative Characteristics

The form of the monument and orientation are thought to reflect the dominant beliefs and ritual traditions of the Bronze Age communities which built and used the monument.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance as a recumbent stone circle, a regionally distinctive class of Bronze Age monument found only in the northeast of Scotland. It has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the design, construction and use of ceremonial monuments during prehistory. This monument can significantly add to our understanding of the nature of ritual and ceremonial practices and their significance in Bronze Age society and economy in northeast Scotland. It also can significantly expand our understanding of the nature of Bronze Age belief systems, as well as society and economy. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of ceremony and ritual in the Bronze Age. It would also reduce our understanding of the placing of ceremonial monuments within the landscape and the development of regionally distinctive expressions of monumentality during prehistory


Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 17855 (accessed on 14/01/2017).

Local Authority SMR Reference NJ54SE0001 (accessed on 14/01/2017).

Burl, A. (2000) The stone circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, New Haven and London, p419.

Coles, F R. (1903) Report on the stone circles of North-Eastern Scotland, chiefly in Auchterless and Forgue, with measured plans and drawings, obtained under the Gunning Fellowship', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 37, 1902-3, p131-2.

Welfare, A. (2011) Great Crowns of Stone: The Recumbent Stone Circles of Scotland. Edinburgh.


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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