On the southern slope of a low hill covered in heather and gorse, is an arrangement of about 200 stones that in 22 rows aligned very roughly north-south, and which fan out just a little at the southern end.
As we walked around the path which goes around the perimeter of the site, we were able to appreciate the pattern of stones from all angles. There is no explanation given for why these stones may have been placed here, but there must have been a good reason, and the effects have been felt: the sign at the top of the hill relays the story of a farmer who took one of the stones home to use it in a kiln he was building, and “returned it in terror after it burst in to flames.”
According to an account written in 1871, at that time there were 250 stones visible. There is speculation that there might initially have been up to 600. The stones are not large like a stone circle, but they are large enough to be very heavy and must have been difficult to move. Each stone has been carefully placed and aligned, and each was packed with smaller stones around its base when it was erected.
The Hill o’ Many Stanes is the best preserved of a number of ancient monuments of a type unique to Northeast Scotland (Sutherland and Caithmess) and it is generally believed to have been erected some 4000 years ago. There hasn’t been any real dating evidence found for the stones. No one knows what the lines of stones were used for. Suggestions have ranged from religious and ceremonial purposes to an astronomical observatory.