East Aquhorthies Stone Circle
East Aquhorthies Stone Circle

Perhaps the perfect recumbent stone circle, East Aquhorthies is set on a terrace above farm fields, just outside Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. Recumbent stone circles are concentrated in the Grampian region. They are characterised by a large stone, laid on its side, at the southwestern side of the circle. This recumbent stone, perhaps dating to as early as 3000 BCE, is flanked by two large upright stones.

Such stone circles may have been used for lunar observation, but it seems quite possible they also served a religious purpose. The name 'East Aquhorthies' may come from Gaelic words meaning 'field of prayer', suggesting that the people of the area carried on a habit of ritual observance here. For a long time the site was known as 'Easter Aquhorthies' but 'East' is more commonly used today.

The recumbent stone
The recumbent stone

The large flanking stones stand 2.25 metres high, and the stones diminish in size away from the recumbent stone, so that the stone opposite the recumbent is the smallest, at 1.7 metres high. There are 11 upright stones on a low earthen bank.

Behind the recumbent stone are two smaller stones at right angles. It is possible that recumbent circles represent earlier chambered tombs, and the right angled stones behind the recumbent stone are meant to symbolise the entrance to the burial chamber.

One of the interesting features at Aquhorthies is that the stones are of different materials; the circle stones are of porphyry, a delicate pink colour. One exception to this is the stone next to the east flanking stone, which is of red jasper. The flanking stones are of grey granite, while the large recumbent stone is of red granite brought from Bennachie.

Why the different materials? We can only speculate, but whatever the particular properties of the different stones, they must have been chosen for a reason.

There may have been a circle cairn within the circle at one time, but no evidence of this now exists.

The one peculiar aspect of the circle is that it is raised on a low bank, bounded by a dry stone wall. This bank was added at some unknown date and was not part of the original circle. The information sign erected by the local council makes the intriguing claim that 'the circle has been shown to have acoustic properties', but no details as are given as to what those properties might be!

Visiting East Aquhorthies

There is a small parking area at the base of the hill, and a short walk of about 400 yards uphill to the site. The going is pretty easy and should take no more than about 5 minutes.

The rear of the recumbent stone, showing prop stones
Behind the recumbent stone,
showing prop stones
Earthworks surround the circle
A low earthwork and wall
surrounds the circle