EDDERTON’S STONE CIRCLE
The recent clearance of bushes and scrub near the Distillery and the Clach Biorach Standing Stone has once again revealed Edderton’s Stone Circle.
Its reappearance has led to a quest for more information, much of which has come from a booklet that Edderton Primary School produced in November 2000. The following extract, which was written by Douglas Scott of Tain, featured in that booklet.
“Within the village of Edderton there are the remains of a 3,500 year-old stone circle from which the setting sun and moon were observed throughout the year by our ancestors. These remains consist of an arc of five stones that is surrounded by a large ditch. Near the centre of the circle can be seen an open burial cist, which, when excavated in 1866, revealed a food vessel with some burnt bone and charcoal.
“About 80 metres to the southwest of the circle is a large standing stone called Clach Biorach (The Pointed Stone). This Class I stone dates from about 500AD and is carved with two Pictish symbols – a salmon with a double disc and a Z-rod.
“Two stones from the circle line up with Clach Biorach to indicate a hill on the distant horizon. This hill is where the sun sets on what were known in the later Celtic period as the festivals of Bride on February 4th and Samhain (pronounced Sav’-im) on November 5th.
“At one time there was another large standing stone, which stood to the northwest of the circle, near the farm of Dounie, and when viewed from Clach Biorach this stone indicated a notch on the horizon where the sun set at the summer solstice. This event can still be seen from the circle on June 21st every year.
“Using the flat side of Clach Biorach it is possible to sight an area of the Struie ridge where the moon sets during its most northerly position every 19 years in what is called the minor standstill. This occurred in 1996”.
It is hoped that an information board will be placed near the Stone Circle and Standing Stone in the not too distant future – Ed.
Pictish Sites around Edderton
(1) The Clach Biorach (Sharp Stone) is a three-metre standing stone located a quarter of a mile (0.40 km) northwest of the village of Edderton. It dates to the Bronze Age, but two Pictish-style symbols were later engraved on the north side, making it a Class I Pictish symbol stone. The symbols are a double-disc with a z-rod, and a salmon above it.
Clach Biorach, Edderton
(2) Edderton Stone is a Class II Pictish standing stone in the Churchyard of Edderton’s Old Church. It is a cross-slab of red sandstone showing a cross with a horseman below it. Despite its location, there is no reason to believe this was a burial piece. Another cross can be seen on the other side of the stone. The Picts is a term given to a confederation of tribes that existed in the north and east of Scotland from before the invasion of Britain by the Romans, up until the tenth century. The name is thought to have originated from the ancient Greek, ‘picti’, which means the ‘painted people’. The little that is known about the culture and history of the Picts has been preserved in symbol stones.
Source: Ambaile – Highland History and Culture – Highland Council
Edderton Stone – West Side
Edderton Stone – East Side
Before and up to 8000 BC Old Stone Age (Palaeolithic Era)
8000 BC – 4000 BC Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic Era)
4000 BC – 2500 BC New Stone Age (Neolithic Era)
2500 BC – 700 BC Bronze Age
800 BC – 100 AD Iron Age
79 AD Romans attack Caledonia (as Scotland was then called)
122 AD Hadrian’s Wall constructed (mainly of stone)
139 AD Antoine Wall constructed (ditches and embankments between the Clyde and the Forth)
297 AD Romans refer to an eccentric northern people, who they called Picts
500 AD Migrants (Scots) from Ireland begin to settle in western parts of Scotland
794 AD Vikings raid and settle parts of Scotland and England
900 AD Picts no longer a dominant culture, as they are absorbed into a more united Scotland (Alba)
Other Ancient Sites around Edderton
Carrieblair Stone Circle – situated around Ordnance Survey Grid Reference NH 709 851
This stone circle consisted originally of ten stones of which five remain. Its diameter is 36ft, the whole interior at 6ins below the present surface is closely paved with round stones, and immediately under these, in the centre, was found a short cist with double cover containing fragments of a highly ornamental urn food vessel, pieces of burnt bone and bits of charcoal.
The remains of the stone circle lie in an area of cleared woodland. The circle has a probable diameter of some 13m. Five stones, all on the north-western side, remain, no stones being visible in the south-eastern side of the circle. The largest stone, on the north-eastern perimeter, is 1.3m high and 2.8m in circumference. The other roundish boulders have an average height of 0.6m except for one, only 0.2m high. In the centre of the circle is a rectangular cavity in the bottom of which are two thin slab stones set on edge but only 0.4m apart. These stones, and possible remains of a cist, are possibly all that is left of a robbed cairn.
The circle of stones was used to view the sun and moon by alignment with the nearby standing stone – Clach Biorach. This all took place some 3500 years ago and is a reminder of the Battle of Carrieblair, a clash between Picts and Vikings. The leader of the opposing army is said to be buried under the standing stone, or due to the length of time that the stone has been there, perhaps buried at the foot of the stone.
From around 3700 BC to 2500 BC stone circles began to appear in coastal and lowland areas towards the north of the United Kingdom during the Middle Stone Age (Middle Neolithic) . By 1500 BC stone circle construction had all but ceased.
Cists (slab-built boxes) were used for individual burials along with personal belongings from around 2000 BC, and this practice included both inhumation and cremation.
Surveys of the stone circle and cost were conducted in 1931, 1963 and 1977.
Sources: www.stravaiging.com, www.canmore.org.uk, Historic Scotland and Wikipedia
Edderton Hill Cairn – situated at Ordnance Survey Grid Reference NH 734 834
Edderton Hill Cairn
This is a long cairn that is aligned almost east to west and measures 61 metres in length and 14 metres in width across the straight east end, narrowing to 7 metres near the centre and about 10 metres at the western end. Although the cairn material has been subject to robbing and other disturbance over the years, there is no sign of a chamber. About two-thirds of the way along its length from the east is a 2 metre gap in the debris, which may be original but is more likely to be modern, possibly where a track has cut through it.
A chambered cairn is a burial monument, usually constructed during the New Stone Age (Neolithic Era – 4000 BC to 2500 BC), consisting of a sizeable (usually stone) chamber around and over which a cairn of stones was constructed.
Typically, the chamber is larger than a cist, and will contain a larger number of interments of excarnated bones, burials or cremations. Most were situated near a settlement, and served as that community’s “graveyard”.
Among the Picts in eastern, northern and western Scotland, from the 4th to 8th centuries AD, some graves were covered by low round or square earthen mounds or stone cairns, usually in small groups. They are rarely visible now except from the air, but wind erosion of sand dunes may expose them. There appear to have been wide regional differences in burial traditions throughout prehistory, and some discoveries are unique.
Surveys of the Edderton’s Hill Cairn were undertaken in 1971 and 1978.
Sources: www.canmore.org.uk, Historic Scotland and Wikipedia
Dounie Hill Fort
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference: NH 685 868
An Iron Age Fort that was constructed between 800 BC and 600 AD.
There is very little that can be seen of this fort, though the footpath leading from the car park to the west of Edderton alongside the A836 makes it easy to reach and provides an enjoyable ramble, even though the path is quite steep in places.
Details of the fort and its history can be found elsewhere on this website – under What to See and then Dounie Hill Fort and Dounie Hill Map.