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Sacred geography – Picts – Stone circles 01



Type of Spiritual Experience


The View over Atlantic – John Michell
AII over the ancient world, as Sir Norman Lockyer demonstrated, the second stage in the erection of a temple after its site had been chosen was to secure the correct orientation by stretching a line along its axis towards the point where the sun, moon or a particular star crossed the horizon on a certain day.

Ardlair (Circle) Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire

A description of the experience

Broomend of Crichie

Stone circles were sacred geography sites.  They were usually part of a site that represented the Cosmic egg, with its 4 Elements [Earth, Water, Air, Fire], the 7 symbolic Planets [Mars, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter] and the 12 Signs of the Zodiac.  The henges generally represented either the Planets or the Signs of the Zodiac, so they might normally have 12 or 7 stones.   Where a far greater number are present they may then represent additional constellations.

In addition to being symbols of the Intelligences, they were also normally the focus of considerable numbers of telluric currents making them into ‘blind springs’, and thus important places for spiritual experience.  As the telluric currents are dependent on the alignments of the actual constellations stars, galaxies, sun, moon, planets and so on, the stone circles were usually aligned and marked to indicate when they were ‘potent’.

One of the classic Guides to stone circles in the UK is that by Aubrey Burl  - The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland, and Brittany.   Burl lists

  • 43 stone circles in Dumfries and Galloway:
  • 15 in Dumfriesshire;
  • 19 in Kirkcudbrightshire; and
  • 9 in Wigtonshire.
Strichen House Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland records 20 stone circles in North Ayrshire, all on Arran.  There are two stone circles on Orkney, both on the Mainland – the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland records a possible third at Stoneyhill, also on the Mainland.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland records 16 stone circles in the Scottish Borders. Of these, three are marked as 'possible'. Aubrey Burl's gazetteer lists the same number:

  • 2 in Berwickshire;
  • 2 in Peebleshire;
  • 10 in Roxburghshire; and
  • 2 in Selkirkshire.

Aubrey Burl's gazetteer lists seven sites in Shetland, but notes that all are dubious. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland records three stone circles.

More detailed information on all the stone circles and their location can be found by going to the Megalithic stone portal site   Examples of the stone circles in each region are as follows:

Aberdeen City

  • Tyrebagger stone circle


  • Cullerlie stone circle near Echt,.
  • Easter Aquhorthies recumbent stone circle, near Inverurie,.
  • Kirkton of Bourtie recumbent stone circle,:.
  • Hill of Fiddes recumbent stone circle,:
  • Inschfield recumbent stone circle,:.
  • Loanhead of Daviot recumbent stone circle,.
  • Loudon Wood recumbent stone circle,:.
  • Midmar Kirk recumbent stone circle,:.
  • Old Keig stone circle,:.
  • New Craig recumbent stone circle,:.
  • The Nine Stanes,:.
  • Potterton recumbent stone circle,:.
  • South Ley Lodge recumbent stone circle,:.
  • St Brandan's Stanes,:.
  • Strichen stone circle,:.
  • Stonehead recumbent stone circle,:.
  • Sunhoney,:.
  • Tillyfourie recumbent stone circle,:
  • Tomnaverie recumbent stone circle,.


  • Balkemback stone circle, Tealing:
  • Colmeallie stone circle, .

Argyll and Bute

  • Cultoon stone circle, Islay:
  • Ettrick Bay stone circle, Bute:
  • Lochbuie stone circle, Mull:
  • Temple Wood stone circles.

Perth and Kinross

  • Croft Moraig – four miles southwest of Aberfeldy,.


  • Killin – at the western end of Loch Tay .


  • Callanish I Lewis.
  • Callanish II Lewis, a smaller stone circle.
  • Callanish III Lewis, a smaller stone circle.
  • Callanish IV Lewis, a smaller stone circle.
  • Callanish VIII Lewis, a smaller stone semicircle.

North Uist

  • Pobull Fhinn North Uist

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items

Activities and commonsteps