A rich archaeological landscape
Machrie Moor is a landscape rich in prehistoric archaeology. The most fascinating monuments date to a time when the moor was a centre for ceremonial and burial activity. This period spans the Neolithic to the early Bronze Age (about 3500 to 1500 BC).
The most prominent features are the six stone circles themselves. But the moor is strewn with other precious remains, including standing stones, burial cairns and cists.
Most interesting of all are hut circles and field systems. The houses appear as low rings of turf-covered stone. Beneath the blanket of peat, archaeologists have recently discovered even older remains. These include two timber circles and plough marks made around 4,500 years ago.
Circles of stone
Six stone circles are visible on the stretch of moor immediately east of the now-derelict Moss Farm. They were erected quite late on in the sequence of early prehistoric activity here, in about 2000 BC.
The circles are memorable for their contrasts. Only one, that closest to Moss Farm, consists of two concentric rings. The first is an inner circle of eight round-topped granite blocks about 1.2m high. The second is an outer circle of 15 granite blocks of slightly smaller stature.
Some circles are formed of granite boulders – low, squat and grey. Others are built of tall, imposing, red sandstone pillars. In one circle the builders have alternated granite and limestone.
Undoubtedly the most striking is Circle 2. This is now represented by three tall, slender stones (the tallest is 5.5m high), but originally consisted of seven or eight uprights. One of its fallen stones now lies in two pieces, fashioned into millstones which never made it to their 18th-century mill.
Ceremony and ritual
These circles are thought to have been associated with the religious and ceremonial activities of the Neolithic and early Bronze Age farmers living on and around Machrie Moor. They may have been used to observe the heavens.
Later on, all the circles were used for burial purposes, probably for prominent members of the community. They included both cremation and inhumation. A fine food vessel was found in the central cist of Circle 2.
- The walk – a healthy walk from the roadside car park, passing a wide and fascinating range of prehistoric remains en route.
- The location – on a lonely moor, with just the birds for company, and fine views, up to snow-capped Goat Fell, and out to sea.
- The circle of three tall uprights – easily the most striking of the six, with stones taller than any at Calanais on Lewis.
Region – Glasgow, Clyde and Ayrshire
3m North of Blackwaterfoot on the West side of Arran, off the coastal route (formerly A841).
Grid reference -NR 910 324.