The Isle of Arran, off the West Coast of Scotland, has many stone circles and standing stones dating from the Neolithic period and the early Bronze Age. The finest collection of circles can be found on Machrie Moor, on the West of the island.
On the moors of Machrie, there is a complex of stone circles, cairns and hut circles which makes it one of the most intriguing, remarkable and awe inspiring archaeological sites in Scotland. It is well worth a visit as the area has plenty of photographic potential. Although the stone circles date from around 1800 to 1600 BC during the Bronze Age period, there is plenty of evidence to suggest much earlier use of the site. It is now believed that people have been present in this part of the island for up to 8,000 years.
The whole area is boggy ground but we need to remember that the stone circles were built in a period of much drier weather, before the growth of moss and heather rendered the land unusable for cultivation.
I had heard of the place from someone who had visited the area on a walk and I must admit that his view of the stones made quite an impression on me. I decided to do a small research and found many images of the stones on different internet sites.
I made the decision to get there and if I remember well, it was around September time. Took the Calmac ferry from Ardrossan and in 55 minutes I was on the isle of Arran. Machrie is on the West side of the island and Brodick (ferry terminal) on the East. The drive is only around 25 minutes. Parked the car and started finding my way there. The walk lasted around 50 minutes but it was worth it with plenty of Scottish wildlife on the way. Upon my arrival I was faced with an abandoned farm, a sign that explains the site’s history and a series of stone circles.
Only one of them is the most distinguishable and consists of three upright red sandstone pillars, the tallest of which is just over 17 feet high. I sat on one of the smaller rocks, looked around and tried to imagine how life would be like 8000 ago in this area. I soon realised that I was the only living soul around for miles and admittedly, I felt a chill sliding up my spine.
Right away I knew that I couldn’t leave the place with just another picture, similar to the thousands I had already seen. Somehow I had to do the place justice, somehow I had to bring it back to life, add a new dawn to it. And this is when it hit me, “A new dawn”. It had to be a sunrise and immediately I started visualising what I wanted to capture. I had a fair image in my head and all I had to do was to calculate the “When”. Compass came out, map and everything else and soon I discovered that for what I was aiming, the best time of year would be June. Sunrise in June.
Hold on a minute, this occurs at just after 4am, which meant that I would have to start my walk just before 3am, oh boy. As a passionate photographer though, the date was marked into my calendar and the following June it all happened.
How to get there
Have a look at the map first and presuming you are driving there, you will arrive from the North side on the west coast. Pass Machrie Golf course and around 100 meters after Machrie Water (the local wee river) there is a sign pointing to the Stones. On your right hand side there is a small lay by that can take only 2-3 cars if you push it. Please park carefully as the space is very limited and please keep clear of the farmer’s gate. Cross the road and climb over the stile by a gate. Follow the grassy path straight ahead. At the next gate and stile continue to follow the obvious path. Continue along the path to reach the ruins of Moss Farm. Once there, the stones and rest of the ruins can’t be missed.
Arran is a beautiful little island and is considered as “Scotland in miniature”. A long weekend stay there can be very creative (photographically) and productive as there are plenty of places one can visit for both sunrise and sunset. Machrie beach, Blackwaterfoot, Corrie, Shiskine, King’s cave on the west, Lochranza, glen Rosa are only some of the locations that can produce some stunning images. Visit the place and good luck to all and of course, I wish you good light.