N E W S F E E D S >>>
2008 Bulletin Index

Bulletins Index

Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin

Two Winter Solstice Observations (by Geoff Leet)

Some standing stones appear to have been erected to mark solar observations. These are not quite correct in 2007 due to the gyroscopic wobble of the earth's axis. This movement is well understood so the dates of erection have been calculated to be about 1800BC.
Winter solstices were often chosen for marking, and also used to align the entrance of Maes Howe in Orkney and an Irish cairn where a fan-light over the entrance allows the sun to enter and illuminate the back.

The Dorrery Site

On the shortest day of 2007, 21 December, cloudless and still, a group of members met at the gates of Dorrery Lodge at noon and tramped NW across deep heather to a standing stone. This stone is the only upright survivor of a stone circle, but with two fallen stones the 36.5M radius circle can be defined, and a wooden stake had been placed earlier at the centre at ND 06855 655631, which is the observation point. At 12.55am the sun started to pass behind two humps on Dorrery Hill, and by 1.05pm the sun was hidden.

The setting sunís last rays at a notch on
Dorrery Hill viewed from the centre of the
stone circle.

The Acharole Site
We then drove our leisurely way to Watten, past the Clough Chapel site, to Acharole ND 22345 51668, where about 100M to the right of the road can be seen one standing stone, and a second stone lies close by. From here from 3.10 to 3.15pm we observed the sun just dipping below the near horizon and then vanishing into the left flank of Morven. In pagan style we celebrated with a sherry.

Our member Leslie Myatt was abroad so unable to guide us himself this year, but his "The Standing Stones of Caithness" published in 2003, carries on the work of Professor Thom in reading the message of the stones, and served as our guide.

The setting sun in the notch between Morven  and the horizon as viewed from the Acharole standing stones

Bulletins Index