Standing Stones

When the first settlers arrived in Scotland over 10,000 years ago, they began to erect incredible monuments, some of which can still be seen today. Stone circles can be found across Scotland and are places full of atmosphere, mystery and legend. They were likely to be places of ceremony, worship, burial grounds and social gathering places.

  1. Calanais Standing Stones Isle of Lewis

    The Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis

    Nicknamed the "Stonehenge of the North", these iconic standing stones on the Isle of Lewis are believed to be 3,000 - 5,000 years old and actually predate Stonehenge. In the 17th century, the people of Lewis called the stones "na fir bhrèige", or "the false men". No one is quite sure why the stones were erected, but it's thought to be an astronomical observatory or ritual site. 

    The fictional Brave and Outlander standing stones are based on this stone circle, so you're sure to be swept away by the history, atmosphere and romance of this ancient site.

  2. Machrie Moor Standing Stones Isle of Arran

    Machrie Moor Standing Stones

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    These standing stones in Arran are part of a dramatic moorland rich in archeological history, including stone circles, burial cairns and more. The stones may have once been used for observing astronomical activities, with the prehistoric standing stones dating to back to between 3,500 and 1,500 BC.

    The circles are aligned with the head of Machrie Glen where a midsummer sunrise could be seen, so they are connected with religious and ceremonial activities. One of the circles is known as "Fingal's Cauldron Seat", after the mythical giant, Fionn Mac Cumhail. See if you can spot a hole in one of the stones, where he was said to tie his dog Bran.

  3. Ring of Brodgar Orkney

    The Ring of Brodgar, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site

    Prehistoric stone circles in Scotland don't get much more impressive than the Ring of Brodgar. It comprises 27 stones, although it's thought to have originally been made up of around 60! The site is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site and one of several significant Orkney stone circle sites, which also include the Stones of Stenness. The Ring of Brodgar sits between the lochs of Stenness and Harray and are examples of the most northerly stone circles in the UK. 

    Wander amongst the ancient stones and soak up the rich history of the site, from its Neolithic origins to the Norse influence of the Vikings. 

  4. Clava Cairns Inverness

    Clava Cairns

    Clava Cairns are a well-preserved Bronze Age cemetery complex of ring cairns, kerb cairns and standing stones in a beautiful woodland setting. Located just outside of Inverness, they are free to visit and open all year round. 

    Built to house the dead over 4,000 years ago, these stone circles and associated cairns have been a sacred place ever since and this type of site can only be found in the Moray Firth and Inverness regions of Scotland. 

  5. Kilmartin Glen Oban

    Kilmartin Glen

    © Airborne Lens / Liam Anderstrem

    The area around Kilmartin Glen on the west coast spans 5,000 years of history, complete with cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts and castles - one of the important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. There are more than 350 ancient monuments near the village to discover, including the remains of the fortress of the Scots at Dunadd, a royal centre of Dal Riata, which are located to the south of the glen, on the edge of the Moine Mhòr, or "Great Moss".

    Visit the Kilmartin Museum to delve deeper into the history of the stones and surrounding area, as well as the nearby parish church which has a collection of medieval grave slabs. 

  6. Standing Stones of Stenness Orkney

    Standing Stones of Stenness

    Travel back in time over 5,000 years and visit the four remaining stones in Stenness, thought to be the earliest henge monument in the British Isles. The ancient ceremonial site is less than a mile away from the Ring of Brodgar, in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. The epic site has inspired myths and legends throughout history, including Norse rituals and traditions. 

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