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 Location: Mainland Orkneys, Scotland.  Grid Reference: 59� 0' 5" N 3� 13' 51" W.


      Ring of Brodgar: (Henge-Circle).


The largest stone circle in Scotland and one of the finest in Britain. The ambience of this circle is unique amongst stone circles.

Although only 27 stones remain, there were once sixty, and a henge. both Stennes and Maes Howe are visible from this Stone circle, as are the ever-present Hills of Hoy.

Part of the Orkneys complex of Megaliths.

(Orkneys Map)




   The Ring of Brodgar:


The circle currently has 27 standing stones still intact, but it is thought there were originally 60. The Brodgar henge is 110 metre (340 ft) in diameter, 10 metres (30 ft) wide and 3.4 metres (10 ft) deep. (100,000 estimated man hours). There are two entrance banks across the ditch into the ring, in the north-west and the south-east, which seem to marry with the direction of the summer-setting sun and the winter-rising sun.

On the farthest point from the road, to the north-east, is a latter flat-topped mound which provides a panoramic viewpoint of the whole ring. Prof. A. Thom believed that this mound was built to provide an accurate foresight for the rising moon, and he estimated from astronomical observations that the platform was probably built 1,000 yrs later than the henge. He also suggested that the spot was chosen because it provided four major foresights to observe movements of the moon � known as the major and minor standstills � which are important to the prediction of its cycles. In his view, the purpose of the outer bank of the henge was to provide an artificial horizon for viewing these events. (16).




Ring of Brodgar, Orkneys, Scotland.

The Ring of Brodgar was once known as the Temple of the Sun and the Stones of Stenness as the Temple of the Moon. Between the ring and an outer earth bank lies a ditch quarried from solid sandstone bedrock that was once no less than 3.6 m (12 ft) deep and 9 m (30 ft) wide. The volume of rock excavated from the ditch was about 4700 cubic meters (165.700 cubic feet). The bank, where it survives at all, is very low and has eroded or been carried away over the centuries. To the SE, 137 m (449 ft) away, lies the Comet Stone.


The ring is the biggest stone circle in Scotland, and is fully 103 metres in diameter. The circle was restored in 1906, and many of the fallen stones were re-erected at that time. There are now 27 stones of the ring upstanding, with about 13 stumps still also in position. The tallest stone of the ring is an impressive 4.5 metres tall. Originally, there would have been 60 stones in the circle, spaced at even distances apart. All the surviving stones are carefully set with their flat faces along the perimeter. The external bank and ditch which surrounds the circle is crossed by entrance causeways at the south-east and north-west.


One of the stones was struck by lightning and broken recently.

There are carvings on four of the stones. Going clockwise from the north-west entrance, the carvings are on stone-3 (runes, undeciphered), stone- (a cross), stone-8 (an anvil), and stone-9 (an ogham inscription). All of these are from a later period than the circle itself.


The engraved stone from Brodgar with 'Lozenges'. Photo 1925.


The Orkneys Complex.

The Ring of Brodgar is accessible across the ancient man-made causeway that leads from the Stones of Stenness and Maes Howe. Current archaeology of the causeway has revealed the presence of a complex (The Ness of Brodgar) designed to separate the Brodgar side of the causeway from the Stenness side. Its was designed with a vast 4m wide wall surrounding numerous complex stone buildings and large enough to run the width of the causeway, making it an essential part of the landscape.

stones of stennes, orkneys.

For a long time, Brodgar was looked upon as a solitary stone circle. This view has now expanded to other sites in the vicinity, and the whole region can now be seen as a single prehistoric sacred landscape.

(More about the Orkneys Complex)




Astronomy at Brodgar:

Prof. A. Thom proposed that the ring and surrounding mounds were used together to indicate foresights for observations of the moon at both the major and minor standstills. A simplified version of the lines suggested are in the diagram (right). This interpretation is ingenious, but if mounds were really used astronomically in such a way, this is the only site so far identified where this is true.

One of the suggested astronomical lines at the Ring of Brodgar is to the minor standstill southern moonset, indicated by the cliffs at Hellia on the island of Hoy. These cliffs are visible from the Brodgar ring on the south-western horizon.






Archaeological excavations have continued this summer (2008) within �The Heart of Neolithic Orkney� World Heritage Site. This season saw the anticipated re-opening of Professor Colin Renfrew�s 1973 trenches at the Ring of Brodgar, the impressive monument which is thought to be 4 to 4,500 years old although the date has never been scientifically confirmed. Archaeologists now wait for summer 2009 to see what new exciting discoveries can be made made. In the meantime results for the date of Ring of Brodgar are eagerly awaited.

(More on this subject)


Interaction between the Stones and the Landscape.


The 'Head of Brodgar'.


It is not uncommon to find 'faces' in the stones of the megaliths. This has been reported at such noted sites as Stonehenge and Avebury and is visible here at Brodgar too.


Although the process behind the phenomena of facial recognition in inanimate objects is now familiar to us (Simulacrum), the addition of such stones appears to have been deliberate and would have been a powerful and evocative inspiration to our prehistoric ancestors who were connected with the earth and viewed it as a living, mother-earth.


Such stones, with their human characteristics, personify the megaliths, giving them a 'spirit' which this belief system, adding to the sacredness of the site.

(More about Simulacrum)


(Stone Circles Homepage)

(More about the Orkneys)

(Other Scottish Sites)



1). D. Zink. The Ancient Stones Speak. Muson Books. 1979.
2). A. Service and J. Bradbury. Megaliths  and their Mysteries. 1979. Macmillan Publ.
16). C. Knight & R. Lomas. Uriel�s Machine. Century. 1999.

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