The Tomnaverie Stone Circle, near Tarland, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
It took us about an hour to drive to this remarkable site from Aberdeen, and while still freezing, we fortunately got a beautiful, clear day. The site was completely deserted of other tourists, free to visit, and had unrestricted access to the monument -allowing you to walk around, and observe the stone circle up close.
The Tomnaverie Stone Circle dates from the Neolithic period, about 2500 BC. Although stone circles are relatively common in the British Isles, Recumbent stone circles, such as Tomnaverie, are unique to north-east Scotland. There are approximately 100 examples of this type of stone circle known, and they are characterised by having a large stone on its side, with two upright stones flanking it (see photo 3).
It is not entirely known why such recumbent stone circles were built. Tomnaverie was built on the edge of cultivated land, and away from the settlements of the living. It has been suggested that their purpose was to frame sacred landscape features (for example, Tomnaverie provides stunning views of Lochnagar), or might have been associated with the dead. Another line of thought is that they were closely related to agriculture, and used for astronomical observation: enabling the local farmers to track the changing seasons. For example, at Tomnaverie, the Moon would have been framed by the large 3-stone formation at midsummer.
Much later, at around 1000 BC, the site was reused for cremation burials. In more recent history, the monument came close to complete destruction: nearly being destroyed by quarrying prior to the 1920s. Thankfully, intervention took place, and from this point the circle was taken into state care, and preserved for us to still view today. It stands as a testament to the Neolithic community who lived on this landscape, and provides us with a physical connection to these people we know so little about. It is a strange thing to be standing on the hill of the monument and looking out to the surrounding mountainous landscape, sharing the view of the prehistoric creators of Tomnaverie, only over 4000 years apart.
Photos taken by myself. AncientArt in Europe 2014/15.