Aikey Brae: the North Wind Doth Blow

Aikey Brae Recumbent Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The dense block of pine trees that partially encircled the stones on Aikey Brae has been felled, leaving the site feeling like a windswept wasteland.

I knew it had happened but it was still a shock when I visited the circle at the weekend.

This was the first sighting of the stones after walking up the, admittedly, much improved and cleared, track:

Megalithic stones on the horizon

Gone is the path through the dark forest.

Gone is the experience of stepping out into the sunlight and the stones.

Traversing the now rough ground at the top of the hill, I got a bit closer, the taller uprights coming into better view:

Aikey Brae stone circle ahead!

I ran the last bit of the way, wanting to be within the circle to get my bearings, so the place could feel like it used to. I sought views that would not have changed, having been open to the countryside all along.

Facing the great recumbent:

Recumbent stone at Aikey Brae

It still felt different. With no tree line at the side of my eye, everything seemed bright and glaring. I never fully appreciated just how much the trees sheltered the site before, till I was buffeted by wind at every turn! That shelter contributed to the calm feel of the place.

Now it feels stormy.

Stone at Aikey Brae

Cold.

The stone circle at Aikey Brae

But I’m going to stop my complaining now. Because… well… things change. I’m sure the circle has looked like this many times during its 4000 year lifespan. Trees will have grown. People will have harvested them. Current thinking is that the surrounding land would have been tree-less when the circle was built.

Three prehistoric stones

And improvements have been made to the place. There’s a new path round the hill, boasting benches and a picnic table; a shiny new sign announces this upon arrival. I didn’t explore the path and the views it offers, still being a bit post-pneumonia feeble, but I will go back and walk it later in the year.

I’ve spent so much time at this stone circle, both physically and at my desk while writing, because though the circle in my books is fictional, it’s Aikey Brae it’s based on. The change will take time to settle. I need to notice the new beauty it brings. The light is different, I see that already. There are plans in place to plant indigenous trees; I will enjoy watching those grow large over the coming years.

And, no matter what changes we make around them, the stones still stand tall and majestic against the sky.

Two tall stones at Aikey Brae stone circle

Go here to view Aikey with the trees, and in the snow.

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR has a new sexy review from Grumpytyke: “Not far into the second half it became pretty sexy! I didn’t expect that, not from the first half of the story nor from Ailish’s blog posts.” See the whole review here.

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, features an often overlooked event in history, the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, and a love story.

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57 thoughts on “Aikey Brae: the North Wind Doth Blow

  1. Oh no!! What a shame, the trees were part of the mystery and adventure of a visit to the sight. Oh well, like you say, the presence or lack of trees over the 4000 year history of the sight is and will be ever changing. Thanks for the awesome post, I really must read your book!!

  2. Good, thought-provoking post. (I enjoyed the photos, too!) Change–sometimes good, often not. Your post made me think of the old homeplace where I grew up. For years, it elicited fond memories whenever I returned for a visit. Now the pasture, hay fields, apple orchard, and woodlands are gone. In their place is a subdivision. I can’t fault my dad for selling it to a developer. That was his retirement income. But now it’s no longer the same. Only vague memories. But I’m grateful for the memories. They’re the only thing I have left. (Glad to know that you’re back to writing. Hope you’ve fully recovered from your recent illness.)

  3. It is surprising how improvements and making a site more accessible also have a negative effect for some people. Change is unsettling and the loss of a shelter belt completely changes the approach and the atmosphere. I hope you feel less ‘thrown’ next time you visit. The pictures are lovely and make me wish I could go there and see the place for myself.

  4. So beautiful the words and pictures on your blog, and this last week I have enjoyed the touchstone you’ve written as a story set in time, “The Mermaid and the Bear.” The beauty, even in the darkness of parts of the story stirred my longings for my own ancestral home in Scotland, which surely I will never see with my own eyes.

  5. It’s so different without the trees. If that had been my regular place to go to, I think I would take some time adjusting to it. But I can imagine all those years ago as you say, that they probably were not there then.

  6. Yeah I’ll miss the trees too! There was nothing like the trepidation of going through that mini forest blocking out the surrounding fields and even most of the sunlight just so it can open up at the amazing view of the stone circle. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for Aikey Brae. It was the first time I’d ever felt the pulling force of the stones.

  7. The trees did add a wonderful background, but they’re fir and should regrow rather quickly. I’m sure you’re right about there having been times with no trees – perhaps in the beginning? Where exactly is this stone circle?

    • Aikey Brae is near the village of Old Deer in Aberdeenshire. It won;t be fir trees they’re going to plant; I’m hoping for beautiful oak and rowan, even though they are slower to grow.

  8. The removal of trees made me sad, so I went digging for the reason why. Sounds like those trees were non-native and the plan is to replant native tree species. So someday it will be sheltered again, but it will be quite a few years from now. I’m involved in native plant restoration here in Kansas, so this is something I can get behind. Thank you for sharing these pictures!

  9. I suppose its a case of wanting things to remain the same, the sense of comfort that apparent permanence gives us. We feel a tie to places, a sense of belonging and change can threaten that.

    The Primary School I attended as a child wasn’t old, but has been demolished and now has a housing estate in its place. I remember buildings, an assembly hall, a small swimming pool, playing fields… now its someone’s kitchen, somebody else’s driveway. The school was behind my parents house, so when I go back to visit or walk my dog around the park nearby, all I see is my past suddenly missing, the familiar replaced by something quite alien. It doesn’t feel right, as if part of me is missing. I suppose its progress.

    Sorry, your post has gotten me feeling quite maudlin for some reason….

  10. It’s a pity if the circle has lost its ‘magic’ (as I referred to in my review – thank you for the link to that) in which the surrounding trees played an important part in your book. However, you managed to put back a bit of the magic in your post so I’m still convinced!

  11. Beautiful atmospheric photos and fascinating old stones – thanks for sharing. Where I live in Ireland people complain about the conifers because we have huge plantations of Sitka spruces which block out the light and don’t give a good habitat for wildlife. You might find a bit more variety creeping into the area for a while until the new trees grow up.

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