MarySmith’sPlace – Secret Dumfries – a wee taster

I thought I’d be fully back in the blogosphere by now. Last week I’d written up all the chapters for Secret Dumfries and most of the ‘Did you know…?’ boxes leaving only the acknowledgements and bibliography to finish. The sun was shining so I went off for a stroll round the Osprey walk feeling ridiculously happy with life. Big mistake!

I sent off an email query to the publishers to check how much leeway they give on the word count. The guidelines say between 20-25,000 words and mine was likely to be a little bit over by the time picture captions were added in. Even at the ‘no more than 10 words per caption’ that adds another 1,000 words. Back came the reply to say the maximum text allowed is 20,000 words. I say but the guidelines states 20-25,000. They say, ‘Please check your contract.’ Oops! Much cutting and chopping and grinding of teeth followed. They did give me an extra couple of thousand words so as long as each caption is under – well under – ten words each, I’ll do it.

I thought I’d share one of my favourite ‘secrets’ from the book.

‘Around Dumfries the land is littered with prehistoric sites from Bronze-Age burial sites to cup and ring markings. The Twelve Apostles, the largest stone circle in mainland Scotland, is only a couple of miles from the town.

One Druid circle, however, is not what it seems. Half a mile from Friar’s Carse Hotel, a few miles from Dumfries, on a hilltop is a stone circle. Although the trees make it difficult to see it in its entirety, the circle is about 31 metres in diameter with some thirty-three stones ranging in height from 1 to 1.5 metres with a 1.8 metre pillar in the exact centre. Outside the circle is a rectangular cist.

Druids Circlenear Friars Carse090320184-HDR (Small)

The circle is a folly created by Captain Robert Riddell (or Riddel), an enthusiastic antiquarian, when he owned Friar’s Carse in the eighteenth century. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was an obsession with building follies: from towers to classical ruins.

The authenticity of the circle, though, has fooled people over the years – and possibly still does. Alexander Thom, famous for his studies of Stonehenge and other megalithic sites, surveyed the circle in 1939. He said: ‘This is reputed to be a fake but we believe it to have been an original megalithic site. The workmen who re-erected it could not have determined the azimuth of the small cist within 0.2 degrees of due east.’ In 1948, naturalist W. Balfour-Browne said: ‘it is now so weathered as to take in anyone. It should be a warning to all antiquaries.’

Even though the stone circle is a fake it has been built on top of a genuine iron-age fort with moat banks and ditches and although the circle only appeared in the 1780s its stones are ancient. No one, however, knows from where Captain Riddell took them. Similarly, a medieval cross standing outside the hotel is another mystery – a genuine cross but, again, not belonging to Friar’s Carse.’

We are nearly there. Photographer Keith Kirk is taking some last minute photos and then all (!) we have to do is match the images to the text.

I’m taking time out tomorrow because the osprey is back! He has circled the nest a few times so I’m going to go and see what he’s up to tomorrow.

27 thoughts on “MarySmith’sPlace – Secret Dumfries – a wee taster

      • If you look at all the gorgeous stone farm walls between England and Scotland border (made up of lovely regular stones from Roman roads, forts, Hadrian’s Wall, etc) you’d have to admit that ‘repurposed’ salvage has a long history. I’m guessing people would have seen this as preservation (if they even cared).

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for dropping by, Pete. I’d love to know if he took the stones from different stone circles – or moved an entire circle. He also built what he called a ‘hermitage’ and let Robert Burns use it as a writing retreat. Burns, at that time, was trying to make a go of farming and was Liddell’s tenant.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Secret Dumfries – a wee taster from Mary Smith | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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