AROUND ninety sites in Scotland feature groups of standing stones, most often gathered together in ring formations.

Though spread across the country, there’s a prevalence on the islands, with circles at Stenness and Callanish on Orkney and Lewis respectively dating back around 5000 years.

With some stones weighing 10 tonnes or more, construction was no small feat.

Whether they were places to honour the dead or to show off to other areas, or were a form of ancient observatory, speculation continues today as to why our ancestors went to all that bother.

Machrie Moor Stone Circles

Isle of Arran

The six stone circles on Machrie Moor, near Blackwaterfoot on west side of Arran, and to the west at Moss Farm Road, were previously thought to date back to around 2500 years ago.

Excavations in the 1980s uncovered even older timber and stone structures such as burial cairns, hut circles and cists, all dating to between 3500 and 1500BC.

The six are situated below the divide of Machrie Glen into two valleys from which the sun is seen to rise at the summer solstice. In 1861 they were numbered by geologist James Bryce, with Machrie Stone Circle 2 featuring three surviving intact sandstone slabs.

Callanish Stones
Callanish, Isle of Lewis

Erected around 5000 years ago on the west coast of Lewis, the Callanish Stones are a 13-stone circle with a monolith near the centre.

To the east of the central monolith is a chambered tomb, discovered when peat was cleared from the site in 1857. Five rows of standing stones connect to the circle, forming an extraordinary cruciform pattern which is thought to have been a ritual site used for at least 2000 years.

Visible from a wide area, the dramatic site is rumoured to be an inspiration for the stones featured in Outlander.

Clava Cairns
Culloden Moor, near Inverness

Though Diana Gabaldon only first visited after she had written her first book, Clava Cairns, just five minutes drive away from Culloden battlefield, is also an Outlander hotspot.

Evocative and easy on the eye, the woodland setting at Balnuaran features a row of three large Bronze Age cairns built about 4000 years ago.

A thousand years later, the cemetery was reused, with new burials placed in existing cairns and the creation of three smaller monuments, including the kerb cairn, which was built within a ring of large boulders. This feature is common to 45 cairns in northern Inverness-shire, all called Clava Cairns after this location.

Ring Of Brodgar
Mainland, Orkney

Six miles north-east of Stromness is the Ring Of Brodgar, dating back from 2500 to 2000 BC. Though only 27 of its original sixty megaliths remain, the 104-metre-wide structure is thought to be one of the finest stone circles in the world. In 1999 the site was awarded Unesco World Heritage status alongside Standing Stones of Stenness, dating from the third millennium BC, the village of Skara Brae and Maeshowe, a Neolithic chambered tomb featuring graffiti left by Norsemen.

Sighthill Stone Circle
Sighthill Park, Glasgow

Completed at the spring equinox of 1979 through the then Glasgow Parks Department Astronomy Project, Sighthill Stone Circle was thought to be the first created in the UK in more than 3000 years. Led by sci-fi author Duncan Lunan, the 17-stone circle was intended as a tribute to the ancient builders and those who later studied their significance.

In recent years, there was talk of the council removing the stones entirely, but earlier this year a restored site was unveiled as part of a £250million regeneration project.