A KEEN history buff is hoping to open people’s eyes to the mesmerising world of Scotland’s standing stones and neolithic history with a new podcast series.

Matthew Magee, 48, spent the spring venturing to seven sites across the country after catching the ancient history bug on a trip to Orkney a few summers ago.

His adventure took him to the Ness of Brodgar and Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, the Stones of Calanais on Lewis, Machrie Moor on Arran, Kilmartin Glen in Argyll, Cairnpapple Hill in West Lothian and an intriguing modern stone circle in Glasgow.

Along his journey by bike, train and ferry, he spoke to experts about each site and its past, and his fascinating expedition is now documented in a podcast series called Stone Me.

“I always found with history that the more modern it was, the more boring it was,” Magee, who is based in Glasgow, told The National.

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“I was always drawn to the oldest possible history I could study because I like that sense of the unknown. The fewer things you know, the more space there is to tell stories and have competing ideas about what might have happened.”

Magee was keen to stress the podcast – which can be found on all streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple – is not for archaeologists but for the regular person who likely knows very little about stone circles and wants to find out more.

He said: “This is for someone like me a year ago, where you visit these places and just think ‘I’d love to know more’ because they’re so mysterious and alien-looking.

“I thought if there was something people could put in their ears when they are at the site, that would be amazing. It’s something I would love to have had.

“It’s designed for anyone to be able to understand.

“There’s something mesmerising about these places and objects – the fact you can put your hands on them and think, 5000 years ago, people were doing this here.

“They’re enormous too. These are feats of engineering we would struggle to do now without lots of sophisticated equipment. To think people were doing this at pretty much the dawn of society is incredible.”

The National: Matthew Magee used his bike to get around as well as trains and ferriesMatthew Magee used his bike to get around as well as trains and ferries (Image: Matthew Magee)

From a vast complex of ceremonial buildings discovered under a field in Orkney 20 years ago, to the home of a cosmic lightshow, there was no end to the mind-blowing information Magee absorbed on his quest.

Asked what he found most fascinating about his trip, he said he was stunned by evidence pointing to an extraordinary level of travel between different neolithic communities.

In the podcast, he also touches upon what he believes to be a “stone bias”, where we are led to believe people in this age built things purely in stone because that is what has been left behind, when in fact this is somewhat a smokescreen.

“The extent of travel was incredible,” said Magee, who works in content marketing for a law firm.

“People were travelling from Arran up to Orkney and down from Orkney to all these places.

“That’s amazing in itself, but what’s even more amazing is what does that say about the nature of society?

“There’s no evidence they were travelling to fight each other. They were travelling to participate in rituals and ceremonies, which means there was a single culture that spread across all of these areas.

“I think it’s incredible that that long ago there was a degree of sophistication that people who lived apart still shared enough that they could behave like they were all in the same society.

“The other thing that my eyes were opened to was how much wood there was and how it’s disappeared.

“We obsess about the stones, but that’s just because that’s all that’s left. They would make enormous longhouses out of big wooden pillars and timber circles which would often be replaced by stone ones with these enormous trunks of oak, but it’s not there for us to look at, so it’s a really overlooked part of society.”

READ MORE: Seven iconic neolithic sites explored in podcast series

Magee’s adventure was intrepid at points, with his trip to Lewis taking five days for just a one-hour interview.

But the dad-of-two felt it was beneficial to get a sense of the geography of these sites and open his mind to why they were, where they were.

The raw podcast also aims to capture being out in the wilderness, as Magee records himself walking over undulating land to the sites and speaking with experts out in the open.

He said: “It was a long way [to Lewis] for a one-hour interview but the whole point is for me to be out looking at the country.

“It feels brilliant to be out in these incredibly remote places. You see so much of the country but you also get a much deeper understanding of the geography of a place if you’re not whizzing by on a train or a bus, which is really important when you think about why sites are in certain places.

“Moving slowly through the landscape really helps with a sense of what was going on at the time.”

Asked what his favourite place out of the seven was, Magee said: “Purely for the glamour and beauty, I’d say the Stones of Calanais.

“It’s an amazing feeling you have when you’re there at the edge of Europe, next stop St Kilda and then Canada. You couldn’t be more remote and yet this was one of the centres of a huge culture.”

The first two episodes of Stone Me are out now and you can listen and find out more here.