It was a little further out of our way than we expected… and a little farther off the road too. When we parked the car, there was no sign of the stones, just a sign saying we would need to allow at least an hour. With a long journey still ahead, we almost didn’t go… but then, we didn’t know what we might miss. Donning the boots for a tramp across damp fields, we set out, hoping the projected hour was an overestimation. When the land shifted and we saw the stones crowning the hilltop, two things were immediately obvious. An hour was a gross underestimation… and it was going to be well worth the walk.
The Four Stones of Duddo are actually five… and were once seven. There were six stones standing in 1811, but by 1852, two had fallen, with one of them finally breaking. Two sockets were found in the west of the circle during an excavation in 1890, when only four of the stones were still standing. One of the fallen stones was re-erected in its original position around a hundred years ago. It seems a little sad that the circle, which has stood here for 4200 years should suffer so much in modern times.
The hill upon which the stones stand rises alone, like an island in a ploughed sea, in the centre of a wide basin. You could imagine it appearing to float above the morning mists. In the distance are the hills of Scotland and the view from within the circle is wide.
As we walked up to the stones, we thought we could discern the last vestiges of a henge in the green circle the farmer had left unploughed. Doubtless, his predecessors had not been so gentle with the land. Later research threw up a report by the antiquarian Canon James Raine in 1852 that suggests there was also an outer circle, now lost. He recorded that the circle is “36 feet in diameter. Four stones alone are standing, the tallest of which measures 6 feet 9 inches in height, by 13 feet in girth.”
Figures alone do not and cannot give a true idea of the scale and the presence of these stones. It is not until you walk amongst them and are dwarfed by them that you begin to realise just how big they are.
They are shaped stones, tapering towards the base, which is unusual. It had been suggested that it is this form that gave rise to one of their names… The Ladies… which seemed most appropriate as the subject of the workshop we were on our way to attend was ‘Maiden, Mother, Crone‘.To me, they looked like ancient teeth crowning the hill.
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