Posted by: christinelaennec | January 4, 2012

A stone circle and the forest (nearly)

A few days ago Michael and I had a real treat:  a trip out to the countryside!  A family friend spent time with the Dafter while we had a chance to head west along the River Dee.  We picked a beautiful day for it:  the winds were strong (but nothing like the gales the day after), and it was very cold indeed, but bright and clear with blue skies.  Our first stop was Tomnaverie stone circle near the village of Tarland:

Tarland, Aberdeenshire, 2nd January 2012.

We hadn’t been out of the city since our trip to Harris in July, and it was just great to be able to enjoy the countryside.  (Even if she were perfectly well, this kind of day is NOT high on the list of the Dafter’s favy things to do!).  And of course, having driven an hour to a relatively remote archaeological site, what happened?  The other two people who came along while we were there, were people we knew from church in Aberdeen!  So we had a bit of a catch-up and enjoyed the stone circle together.

Tomnaverie Stone Circle, near Tarland, Aberdeenshire. January 2012.

The site is managed by Historic Scotland, and the information tablet states that the stone circle was built about 2500 B.C.  The recumbent stone (between the two standing stones) faces south, and once in a generation the full moon comes low over the mountain of Lochnagar, seen just beyond the recumbent stone.

View towards the River Dee and Lochnagar (wreathed in clouds)

My dear friend and neighbour, Mrs. Mary Morrison (1908-2003) used to come with her husband to Tarland for picnics.  She said, “It was always sunny in Tarland”.  And so it was the day we visited – but Lochnagar was covered in clouds.  The sun wasn’t strong enough to melt the ice in the puddles, and we had our picnic in the car!

We drove next to the village of Aboyne, on the River Dee.  If you’ve ever been to Oregon, or the Pacific Northwest generally, you can see from the photo below why Aboyne reminds me so much of where I grew up:

Aboyne, Kincardineshire, Scotland.

Except for the stone wall and house – but note the pretty wooden decoration – those tall pines are very like the ones you see dotted about Portland, Oregon.

We were pleased to see that Strachan’s, a wonderful general store in the village, has been completely rebuilt since it was gutted by fire a few years ago.  I remember feeling heart-sick looking at the ruin, but you wouldn’t know to see it now:

Strachan's shop, Aboyne. January 2012.

Its full name, as you see, is Strachan’s of Royal Deeside.  I will never forget another elderly neighbour telling me, with a tremendous rolling of Rs, that he was originally from “Rrrrroyal Deeside!”  It’s called Royal Deeside because of Balmoral castle, a bit further up the River Dee from Aboyne.  In Aboyne, and even more so in Ballater, the village closest to Balmoral, you see these insignias on shops that indicate they are patronised by the Royal Family:

"By Royal Appointment" - to the Queen and to the Prince of Wales. I wonder what they buy at Strachan's?

We stopped for a quick cuppa – and really to warm our poor frozen hands and noses – at the Gordon Arms hotel in Aboyne.  The staff were very friendly and we were soon revived.  I liked the stained-glass window in the lounge where we sat.  Apparently, the Gordon Arms has been there since the 1700s, although the stained glass is a bit more modern I’m sure!  It shows a scene from the Aboyne Highland Games:

Stained glass window in the Gordon Arms hotel in Aboyne

We then set out for a wee walk, across the River Dee and out of the village, towards the “Fungle Road”.  (I don’t know where the name comes from, but better Fungle than Fungal.)  It was great to walk along by the beautiful woods of Scots pines:

Walking to the start of the "Fungle Road", near Aboyne.

The Fungle Road was a droving path over the mountains – a road taken by cattle drovers with cattle destined for the markets further south.  It was a dangerous crossing as there were bandits hiding in the hills.  The woods is a mix of pine and birch (called “birks” in Scots).  The lichen was really amazing:

At the start of the Fungle Road

We didn’t go very far into the forest, because there was water streaming down the path off the hill, and it was getting dark.

The Potarch Inn, est'd 1740.

Our last stop was for another cuppa at The Potarch Inn, on the banks of the River Dee not far from Banchory.  The fire was warm and although I took the photo at a relatively empty moment, we had to wait for a table when we arrived, it was so busy.  We really enjoyed our day out.  It was a great way to start 2012.  And the Dafter had a fine time too, so all were happy!



  1. what a lovely day out! the countryside around there is gorgeous … i like the rolling hills and the vast green spaces. the table in the stone circle reminds me of Narnia; it looks magical. I think the Potarch Inn looks very warm and inviting; I particularly like the tartan floor.

  2. What a great pleasure it must have been for you two to get away together. The ideal day for me would include a gentle walk through the bush and a suitable recovery session in a local café – much the same as you experienced (although yours was probably about 20 degrees cooler than my optimum!)

  3. Oo Christine what a fabulous trip out. I can’t believe, sitting in the south amongst huge wet winds that such blue skies and peace exists! As always a lovely information packed shared visit. Thank you and I hope 2012 brings health and happiness to you all.

  4. I can see your architecture interest coming out strongly! What a lovely day out with which to start the year.
    By coincidence I was reading about Aberdeenshire stone circles in the copy of Archaeology Now or whatever it’s called that my daughter gets.

  5. What a lovely day. John was over there for a course last month and saw a lot of rural Aberdeenshire – over by Turriff and that area. He was very taken with it. The moon rising sounds very like the Sleeping Beauty at Callanish. xx

  6. Sounds like you have had a perfect day with Michael.Glad to read the Dafter had a nice day too…

  7. Lovely post Christine. I thank my lucky stars I found Aberdeenshire.
    We have lots of standing stones around here too.

  8. Thank you for a beautiful excursion shared with all of us! How wonderful that you have stone circles and Royal patronages and beautiful inns to have tea! The countryside is so very much like Oregon; the green rolling hills and tall evergreens, but with so much History! Glad you had a lovely day with your Michael and that the Dafter didn’t mind at all.

  9. I loved reading this post, Christine. It reminded me of our ten days in Scotland for our honeymoon; you and Michael did just the sorts of things Himself and I did on that idyllic trip. We drank our share of tea at hotels and walked miles! We did not spend much time in that particular area, though, and visited no stone circles. I’ve seen Stonehenge and Avebury, but would love to soak up the atmosphere at Tomnaverie.

  10. Lovely pictures, and they bring back good memories. Glad you had such a good day.

  11. What a lovely day for all of you and the photos were wonderful. Such beautiful countryside…and part of it did remind me of Oregon actually.

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