3. Standing Stone Circles.

Southern Scotland suffered intensive glaciation during the ice ages resulting in the distinctive closed end side valleys of the Tweed, Ettrick and Teviot rivers.  These valleys were called hopes - such as Gameshope, Tweedhopefoot, Carterhope etc in Tweedsmuir Parish.  The formation of the hopes also resulted in very large boulders being left lying around.   Some of these in due course were shaped and used for standing stones and for the lining of burial cists.  Others were were broken up for building material for houses, walls, etc.   However those in the more remote areas have survived and have acquired names.   Many stones were used as land boundary markers, way markers for pilgrim's routes.   Some of these stones subsequently became parish boundary markers.  For more about the Pilgrims Way see page 11 Pilgrim's Ways & the Expansion of Christianity.


Tweedsmuir Standing Stones and associated Cairn.  

Shown on older maps as a Druidical Temple is the present remaining Standing Stone and two other smaller stones that are all straddling the road to the Fruid reservoir.    It would appear that the Standing Stone was part of a circle that was subsequently devasted by agriculture improvement -  see below.  The circle could possibly have been part of the standing stone culture that started in Orkney c3500 and moved south.(1).  The circle could be dated to c2000BC - see section below concerning the small stone circles in cremation cemeteries that are dated to near 2000BC.   The circle and asssociated cairn being repurposed by the Druids much later c400-500AD.   Merlin after his sojourn on Hartfell must have passed the stone circle on his journey north(14).  

 Circa 1850 the track was realigned and the name of the site changed to the Giant's Stone and in recent times to Standing Stone and it is now known as Standing Stones Remains of.  However the largest Standing Stone, image above - is still known as the Giant's Stone.  The name seems hardly appropriate as the stone is only about three feet high! However, the name is associated with the old story of a giant who was killed by an arrow from an archer positioned at this stone.  More about this is in the 2.Early Peoples page Giants Grave section.  Armstrong in his companion to his map of 1775 (7) stated "Tweedsmuir Kirk is situated on a small mount, called the Quarter know, supposed to have been a place for the worship of the Druids, as are also a few erect stones, in a circular form above the bridge, which I have called, in the map, a Druidical Temple; but with how much truth, I cannot determine."    

The change of name from Druidical Temple to Giant's Stone, Remains of Druidical Temple, ie from a circle to a monolith was registered in the O.S. Name Book for Peeblesshire, Tweedsmuir, year 1849 (2).  The signaturies to this document were J Brown - Schoolmaster, T. McGrath - Bield and the Rev A Todd.  The reason for this I am sure was to assist with the clearing of the way for the realignment of the track to the edge of the field in preparation for Agriculture Improvement.   This improvement would involve adding burnt lime to the soil, drainage and enclosing fields with dykes/fences.  At this time the building known as Dykehead close by to the stones was described (2) "row of cottages one storey high and slated with garden attached.   Occupied by working men on the property of Sir Graham Montgomery, Bart."   The Montgomery family owned in Tweedsmuir Parish apart from Dykehead also had Tweedsmuir, Linnfoots. Nether and Upper Menzion.  In the 1841 Census there are two families in Dykehead, one family of four and one of nine.  The heads of both families were listed as Agricultural Labourers.

George Chalmers writing in 1810 in his Caledonia: or an Account, Historical and Topographical of North Britain(10) stated that "Near Tweedsmuir Church, there is the remains of a druid oratory, consisting of several large stones, which are placed upright in a circular form.   The tradition of the country  states, that the small eminence which is called the Quarter Knowe, and on which stands Tweedsmuir Church, was anciently a place of druid worship."  Chalmers gives Armstrong as the reference.

In the second Statistical Account for Scotland of 1834 (3) the Rev. George Burns D.D. writing in the Tweedsmuir section noted the following "On the opposite side of the Tweed, and close by the road leading from the church to Menzion House, there are the remains of a Druidical temple or Pictish court of justice.   Only one stone is left of a number similar in appearance and size which stood together, and which have been removed for the purpose of dike-building, etc.   It is called the Standing-stone, and is five feet above the surface of the earth"  This is a real nugget of information as firstly, it confirms that there were several large stones of five feet ie there was a substantial standing stone circle and, secondly that the stones were removed for dyke-building ie for enclosing fields as part of agriculture improvement.  At this time it would appear that the concept of a previous Druidical Culture was wide spread in Scotland.  For instance the Statistical Account of 1798 for the parish of Kilmorack(15) in Invernessshire mentioned "In different parts of the parish are to be seen many Druidical cairns or temples, and the ruins of small forts on the summit of hills."

The need for agriculture improvement in Tweedsmuir was indicated in Armstrong's Companion to his map of 1775 (7) where he stated "though there is but a small proportion of it cultivated, yet there are many parts of it might be improved to advantage; and not withstanding these arable wastes, so averse are store-masters to improvement, that numbers of their sheep perish for want of food and shelter.   Tweedsmuir is particularly adapted for the increase of sheep, not less than 1000 score having their existence in it; and were ignorance and predjudice extirpated from the minds of tenantry, they would suffer less from the severity of the seasons."

From examination of the various maps it would appear that the actual number of stones forming the circle would appear to have been six.   The clinching evidence is from Wm. Balackadders 1821 survey of the Tweedsmuir and Meggat estates.(13). The image at the head of this page indicates what the circle possibly looked like. 

The following two maps show the change in alignment of the track and change of name of the stone monument from Druidical Temple (Armstrong 1775) to Stone Circle (Remains of) (OS map of 1925).

                Armstrong Map of 1775 above

                     OS Map of 1925 below.      



The Royal Commission (4) reports for the Tweedsmuir Stones, Menzion stones and others follow below.

Standing Stones 04.jpg   From the survey of 1956 by the RCAHMS it is clear that the RCAHMS considered the associated cairn which was recorded as 44 ft in diamer and 2ft high, as more important than the Standing Stone - in fact the RCAHMS headed the survey as Cairn and Standing Stones.  The importance of a cairn was also highlighted in the Statistical Account for the parish of Kilmorack(15), mentioned above, where the cairn is mentioned before temple.  The 1956 survey indicates that the Standing Stone at that date was over five feet high.  I had assumed that the difference in height of the stone was due to the stone sinking.  in 1999 the Local Community Council thought that raising the stone to its original height would be a good "Millenium" project.   I sought the views of Historic Scotland who came to view the site and they came to the conclusion that the stone had not sunk and that the problem was that the road and surrounding ground had been raised about two feet.  I concurred with their findings and I suspect that the road was raised when it was upgraded from a track to take the traffic for the construction of the Fruid-Menzion-Talla reservoir aquaduct tunnel project and for the construction of the Fruid Reservoir.  To facilitate the raising of the road through marshy ground I believe that the stones from the nearby Tweedsmuir Cairn - section 2.j. on page 2 Early Peoples - were used for the foundation of the road.     The work for these projects commenced in 1949 and completed in 1968.  Historic Scotland's view is that the stone is safer to be left undisturbed.      The Cairn mentioned above which is an important part of the historic site has been further erroded and some imagination is now required to visualise how it was.   To add to the problems the area between the Cairn and the Standing Stones has a secondary planting of rowan trees filling the area.

It is recorded that at the highest point of the circle a slightly raised area when ploughed showed that a section had been floored with selected stones of similar size all fitted together.(11)

Other Stone Circles in Cremation Cemeteries.

Nether Dod.

Recorded by the RCAHMS(4).  Although these stones, of which there are only three remaining at Nether Dod, are only approximately two feet high they along with other standing stones must have had significant spiritual influence in the second millennium BC.    The diamter of 40 feet of the surrounding bank is similar in size to the cairns mentioned above and elsewhere - is 40 a mystic number?

 There are other Enclosed Cremation Cemeteries at Weirdlaw (109 - excavated by RCAHMS) and (114), Ewelaw Rig - 2 sites (110), Nether Rigs - 3 sites. (111).  Part of the bronze age landscape around Tweedsmuir.


1) Oliver, Neil, BBC programme Britain's Ancient Capital; Secrets of Orkney. 3 episodes broadcast Junuary 2017.

2)  Ordnance Survey, Book of Names, Vol 44 for Peeblesshire, Tweedsmuir, 1849, p30 and p33.

3) Burns, George, Rev. DD; Second Statistical Account for Scotland, Tweedsmuir, 1943. p63.


4) Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). Inventory for Peeblesshire, HMSO, 1967.  Vol 1, Cairn and Standing Stones,item 63, pp58-59. Also Canmore ID 48527. For Nether Dod item 108, p64. Cremation Cemeteries pp64-66.

5) Brown, C and Taylor, M; Compilers, Parishes of Upper Tweeed Millennium Memories 2000,Local Printing, Peebles, 2000.  p56 and p20.

6) Anderson, M, L; A History of Scottish Forestry - 2 Vols, Edinburgh, 1967. Vol 1 p105. 

7) Not in Use.

8) Armstrong, Mostyn, John; A Companion to the map of the County of Peebles, W. Creech, Edinburgh, 1775.  p103-104, p108.

9) Crockett, W.S. Rev; The Scott Country, A & C Black, London, Sixth Edition 1930. p110.

10) Chalmers, George; Caledonia: or an Account, Historical and Topographical, of North Britain, from the most Ancient to the Present Times, Cadell, London, 1810. Vol 2 P905.

11) Railton, Margaret, Compiler; Andrew Lorimer's Life and Times in the Upper Tweed Valley, Tuckwell Press. Phantassie, 2001. p59.

12)  Not in Use.

13) Historic Environment Scotland; Plan of the Estates of Tweedsmuir and Meggat - surveyed by Wm Blackadder 1821.

14) Crichton, Robin; On the Trail of Merlin in a Dark Age, Edinburgh Film Production, 2017.  pp40-48 & pp108-110.

15)  Fraser, John, Rev; The Statistical Account for the Parish of Kilmorack, County of Inverness, 1798.  Vol XIX p409.


More pictures in the Tweedsmuir Standing Stones Picture Gallery

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