This must be the best example of a stone circle in Caithness, the stones are not high, the largest being about 5 feet, but there are a lot of them left to see – which is a miracle as stories were circulating about stones being torn up to be used as hardcore for a local road! It is unbelievable what people will ruin – this has been standing for hundreds of years!
Near Loch Stemster in Caithness is an unusual horseshoe-shaped arrangement of small standing stones. The tallest is only 2 m (6 ft 6 in) high. Some stones may have been taller, but weathering has caused them to crack and split. Only 36 stones remain in the setting, although there may have been about 54 originally.
At most stone circles the flat faces of the stones follow the line of the setting, but at Achavanich the flat faces are ‘side on’. The stone slabs appear to be set into a low mound of earth and stone, possibly the result of levelling the central area. Purpose and date of this setting are unknown, but they are usually assumed to belong to the Bronze Age.
Anyway – fortunately there are plenty of stones left. They are fairly easy to get to as there is parking right beside them (opposite the passing place), although to go in you either have to step over the fence or go back to the gate and walk over – it is much quicker to step over the fence but it is quite high.
This is a fine example in Caithness at Achavanich, ‘field of the holy man’, by Loch Stemster five miles from Lybster Bay and only six north of the immense ‘Breton’ oval of Achnagoul. The setting has a characteristic Breton ‘high-and-low’ trait, with taller stones on its eastern side. Astronomically, it is aligned NNW towards the most northerly setting of the winter moon. Like other horseshoes, it was composed of local material.”
This area is a haven for birds and you can expect to see a variety of species, depending upon the time of year. The loch is visited by ducks and waders and the occasional osprey and in spring and summer, there are many moorland species to look out for while you are enjoying your ride.
Fig: Stone Circle and Loch Stemster
How to get there:
Half way across the Causewaymire is the turning to Lybster, follow this road a short way to the car parking area. Loch Stemster standing stones at Achavanich near Latheron, Wick Caithness. 36 standing stones. Map ref: ND 188418
The road is signed to Lybster and there is a prominent, two- storey white house on the left hand side just beyond the junction. Drive up the road for about ½ a mile. You will pass the entrance to the track and Loch Stemster on your left hand side and then come to the lay-by where you park, also on your left hand side. The lay by is next to the Achavanich stone circle and some of the upright standing stones can be seen immediately on the other side of the wire fence, close to the road.
Stone Circle at Loch Stemster
Phone the keeper, John Anderson on 01593 741230 to let him know that you would like to ride.
Access Officer, David Barclay: 01955 605858
Find out more by visiting www.outdooraccess-scotland.com or phoning your local Scottish Natural Heritage office.
Fig: Stone Circle Map
Stone Circle at Loch Stemster
36 standing stones Achavanich near Latheron, Wick