The Rhynie Man Way – Part One – Woodhill House to Dyce“>


TIME: Approx 3 Hours

Symbols handed out to: George (wolf), Iain (snake) and Annie (pictish beast)

Key features: Geology of the river, topography of North Aberdeen, industrial heritage including railways, waterways, roadways, factories and ongoing transformation of land.

Want to find out more about: the Marching Stones, the loupin’ Stane, Industrial heritage, Dyce Community Garden and Persley’s hidden garden.

Observations: Anne’s journey started from Woodhill House, North Anderson Drive, Aberdeen.  As you can see it’s not until you start walking around that you realise that there are hills and if somewhere is called Hilton it is usually for a reason.  The road names showing glimpses of what existed before estates and businesses moved in; OldCroft and Castleton perhaps indicating what was demolished to make way for the new community.  As she descended North Anderson drive she reported that she could see, in the distance, the aircraft landing in Dyce, on a short plateau at Kirkhill, North West of Aberdeen.


The area of Stockethill is an established community about a couple of miles north of the city centre of Aberdeen.  Most buildings were established in late 1940s as post war housing.  The area houses the region’s main hospital complex and the Council Buildings of Aberdeenshire Council.  A quarter of the population are over the age of 65 and a third under 35.  People were happy to chat as she walked past and the smell of cut grass and hedges being trimmed filled the air, allowing her the potential to forget the main A96 running beside her.

March Stones

It’s great to see stones still being used today, there is still evidence of them in the landscape. When walking through Woodside and Hilton keep an eye out for the March Stones of Aberdeen.  Sixty seven stones placed around the perimeter of Aberdeen after Robert the Bruce granted Aberdeen various rights to lands around the city.  On this route you will come across three or four of them; 53, 52, 51 and 49.  Watch out they are quite sneeky and could be mistaken for mile markers or may be hidden or flat on the ground. There are a couple of trail maps available from the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums website look for the Bridge of Don Trails and March Stones.

When the route crossed Great Northern Road, apparently it is like stepping back in time. You move away from the main road and busyness of the main routes through Aberdeen down into the valley of the River Don to a quiet tranquil and interesting landscape of industrial heritage.  I’m sure that it wouldn’t have been like that in the 19th Century, there would have been the lint mills, paper, calico, bleaching, kids running around, wheels turning, a busy waterway, bells, clunking of machines and people going to and from work.


But now it is a quiet place to walk the dog and imagine how the role of the River Don and its fortune over the centuries has changed since the Picts travelled through the area.


The river walk ends at the Persley Bridge, what now is called Persley Castle (currently used by a nursing home) where there used to be what some called the barracks or if they knew the history a children’s home (which used to house children who were the sweat shop-labour in a calico-printing business nearby), there is also what looks like a ruined church.  The memorial to those who have fallen whilst working in industry, starkly reminds you of sacrifices that have been made over hundreds of years for people of the 21st Century to have the things they have now.  The gardens are beautifully looked after but it wasn’t possible to find out more infomation about its history or who looks after it now.


Where the route moves onto the roadside, look out for the sign post at the roundabout and follow it into what is an area in transition.  The route takes you through Mugiemoss, an area that for over 200 years was filled with the sounds and smells of a paper mill and later chicken, milk and cheese processing.  The area is in the process of being transformed from an area of production to one of consumption.  Hundreds of houses, still being built, have been sold already.  A strange concept to me as a pict; I find it difficult to understand what the purpose is?  houses with no jobs seems to be strange and disconnected.  You can’t even see or get to the river anymore.  I’d give it a ‘watching brief’ as the archaeologists say.

Arriving in Dyce the signage is quite clear, there is a choice either to follow the Formartine and Buchan way, which used to be the railway lines north to the coast, or follow the route towards the river again and the Riverside park.  Both routes meet up where the main road north crosses the River Don and where the next update will start.

Anne’s feet are holding up and I’m looking forward to updates from the rest of the journey.

The Rhynie Man Way – Part One – Woodhill House to Dyce

The Rhynie Man Way – Stone 1 – The Rhynie Man

my home....for now

Also Known as: Rhynie 7

OS Grid Reference – NJ 4976 2636

Canmore Reference: 17218

Archaeology & History

A Class I Symbol Stone carved from gabbro stone with a symbol of a man carrying an axe with two hands over his right hand shoulder.  He wears a tunic and possibly a face mask which extends over his ears to a cover down the back.  His face is destinctive and shows his features in profile with sharp teeth.  Some have described him as a warrior, others a king or slaughterman.  One thing is certain, no-one knows why he was carved onto the stone which is thoughts to have been found where it lay for well over 1000 years.

He is sited in the reception of Aberdeenshire Council Headquarters, Woodhill House.  Found originally in Barflats Field, Rhynie by Gavin and Kevin Alston, it resided in the field and subsequently moved to their steading and finally in 1998 moved to Woodhill House, Aberdeen.

Finding Rhynie Man 

Numbers 10, 23, 27, 35, 37, 218 and X40 buses pass the building. Parking for about 10 cars and some disabled parking bays are available in the visitor parking area in front of Woodhill House. Entry to building is signposted.  Rhynie Man is in the foyer beside the reception desk. Opening times are the same as the Aberdeenshire Council buildings.



Aberdeenshire Council Sites and Monuments Records Database 

Aberdeenshire Council

The Rhynie Man Way – Stone 1 – The Rhynie Man

She’s on her way…Rhynie here we come!


Well, Anne’s started the journey home.  I wished her well and clear roads ahead.  She reminded me of messengers and Pilgrims with their staffs, alms and bags that I used to see sharing news and stories in communities up and down the country.  I’ve heard that there are quite a wide range of long distance walks around Scotland and the world.  One person who has recently set off on one of these is artist Anthony Schrag who is walking from Huntly to Venice.  It seems fitting that she started on the same day as Anthony reached day 55 of his walk, exactly half way through (in days) his epic 2500km walk.  Hopefully it won’t take Anne that long and her staff gets to Rhynie in one piece. She has to get to Rhynie in time to meet the archaeologists next weekend!

Wooden Etches 6 symbols

Pilgrims often walked without money and little else, using local hospitality and the good will of communities.  In fact, words such as ‘hostel’, ‘hospital’ and ‘hospitality’ all derive from their connection to the services, protection and care given to pilgrims on their way (often to Rome).


Pilgrims would often expect alms, tokens, food or money, as a way of sustaining their journey with the notion that the giver gets a positive feeling or positive status from their charity.  Anne decided that she wished to share my story so instead of expecting something of the people she meets, she wondered if she gave them something, in effect ‘paying it forward’, that they may look at the object again and are reminded of the story, want to share my story or do something similar for others in the future. Some of the laser etched and cut symbols made at MAKEAberdeen will be given away to people she shares my story with on the route.
6th July 2015 (1)A walking storyteller sharing stories would be lacking something if they didn’t have a staff.  So with some help from my 21st Century lookie-likie, Jake, he found her a couple of potential staffs in the Clashindarroch (Clais an darach means the furrow or the valley of the oaks in Gaelic), a wood outside Rhynie and one of the largest in Aberdeenshire.  As he couldn’t find any Oak, he choose a sycamore and a cherry wood from which Anne choose the cherry due to it being a native tree with a fascinating story in itself (more of that later).  Not afraid to whittle and make something Anne spent July debarking, whittling, fine tuning, drying, sanding and oiling the wood and creating the beautiful staff that has so much depth to it, it makes me want to do the walk myself. P1100163

Having everything organise the only thing left is to put one foot in front of the other and pose for a photo with me before she heads off on the 50Km which is about 30ish miles, quite a lot for her little legs, but she says she’s up for it.  Wish her luck, I’m looking forward to hearing what has happened in the Aberdeen City and Shire landscape in the past 38 years since I moved to Woodhill House.

She’s on her way…Rhynie here we come!

The journey home!

As you may know I live in Woodhill House in Aberdeen, and while I would love to visit my friends in Rhynie, it is not possible at the moment.  Well I’ve been trying to think of routes and things I would like to see on my way home and have come up with a plan.  Much as I would like to go home, there is the small matter of being a weighty stone, so Im going to send Anne. She’s small, but i’m sure she’ll manage, it’s only about 50km!

Having had a good look at your maps, there are still some symbol stones out there, so Anne and I plotted them out on the map and most of them are where I remember, mostly along the River Don.  Over the next few days Anne will walk between Aberdeen and Rhynie, visiting all the stones and then reporting back on what she finds.

Wish her well, and if you see a wee walker with her stick and pink trainers give her a wave, she’s got a bit of walking to do!

Route from aberdeen to Rhynie
Route from aberdeen to Rhynie
The journey home!

Planning for the Gala

It has been a busy couple of days in one way or another.  But this afternoon was beautifully warm and sunny and Rhynie was at its best.  Hopefully it will be like this a week on Saturday (15th August) when we welcome the archaeologists to Rhynie at the Rhynie Gala.  Exciting discussions were taking place regarding face painting, story telling, camping, selfie opportunities, pizza ovens, foraging, routes from Aberdeen and Rhynie, walking and a chance to find out about Rhynie Man and Rhynie Woman!

Looking forward to meeting you all, who’s coming along?

A pressie for Rhynie Woman, do you think she'll like it?
A pressie for Rhynie Woman, do you think she’ll like it?
Planning for the Gala

Pictish technology: Something old and something new

The reconstructed axe created by SSW
The reconstructed axe created by SSW

I’m having a look through some of the photos Anne has been taking over the past few months; ones that stick out for me are the ones with tools in them.  The SSW reconstructed axe is amazing and gave the makers and archaeologists a chance to get hands on with the weight of the object as well as experiencing and seeing the sheer amount of effort it took to transform ground into metal.

Helmsdale (5)

Another interesting place was at Timespan in Helmsdale, where they have reconstructed a smithy and other spaces from

150 years ago (that) capture many aspects of a way of life – now long gone.  Each reconstruction has its own audio narrative including a Gaelic lullaby and recollections about one of Helmsdale’s best loved blacksmiths.

The blacksmith’s space was the one that brought back the most amount of memories, it’s sights, sounds, smells and atmosphere were encapsulated into the narratives and video and took me right back.

Helmsdale (92)

The 14 second video gives you an idea of the sound an anvil makes.  Imagine a lot of them being used in the landscape of Rhynie and the Northern Picts.


When I talk to people about the Picts in the landscape, they imagine the stones, and maybe people doing their daily work, but few think about the sights, sounds and smells of what would have been there.  Imagine the sound of the bellows…

Helmsdale (90)

the roar of the fire…

Lumsden turf to tools (11)

and the smell of Rhynie Woman baking, cattle being cooked, possibly a tannery not to mention the latrines!  The sound I miss the most is the sound of the wind, something that Barflats has a lot of and on very special days, the sound of birds and smell of the Gorse.

// gorse sunshine

Returning to the smithy, can you see any familiar shapes?  do you recognise any of the tools in the Symbol Stones? like this one at Abernethy in Perthshire?  what do you see?  a tuning fork, hammer, anvil? or something else?

Helmsdale (89)

Perhaps us Picts weren’t that different from the people of today?  even though you’ve moved on in your making techniques the traditional crafts were around for thousands of years before the industrial revolution.  ‘Modernisation’ broke the tasks of making into their component parts and aimed, in the pursuit of profit, to disconnect people from making objects and ultimately their connection to where they were made completely.  What would happen if you had to go back to this way of working in the future?  How would you manage?

Have a look at some of today’s Traditional Skilled Makers in the Northern Picts area, these skills continue to be used and could link back directly to the Picts and other groups of crafts people that lived before and after us in the landscape.

Pictish technology: Something old and something new

Throwback Thursday – Crafting Kingdoms The rise of the Northern Picts

This weeks Throwback Thursday takes us back to the depths of winter, January 2015 and the opening of The Crafting Kingdoms exhibition at Kings Museum, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen.

After our trip to Aberdeen on the dark and chilly night we were given a warm welcome by the volunteers and members of the team who installed and curated this amazing summary of the Northern Picts.

Putting Rhynie right in the centre of things and the context amongst other pictish centres
Putting Rhynie right in the centre of things and the context amongst other pictish centres

The exhibition told the story of the Picts in, what is now, Scotland and then focused into the domain of the Northern Picts (where I come from).  It also highlighted the key find locations in the North East called Cé (pronounced ‘he’ as in S’he’ and Bennachie) which includes Tillytarmont, Gaulcross, Rhynie and Burghead (which could now possibly be augmented with the find at Dunnicaer in April 2015).  The exhibition was jointly curated between the Museum and Dr Gordon Nobel the lead archaeologist on the Northern Picts Project.

The gallery above shows the range and skill of craft(wo)manship that we had and were on show at the exhibition.  I don’t think the Romans were that complementary about us but I would argue that we knew what we liked, had highly developed aesthetic skills and sense of style and design.  We were also skilled traders and knew how to get hold of the odd bit of Roman silver when they weren’t looking!

Rhynie a very royal place, of course!
Rhynie a very royal place, of course!

It’s great to see that our history has not been forgotten, even though the archaeologists have not found that much of what we produced and how we lived.  The exploration is continuing and inspiring groups and communities like SSW and Rhynie Woman.  I’m happy in the knowledge that we won’t be forgotten, we just need to support these groups to make things happen.

the team getting ready to climb Dunnicaer!
the team getting ready to climb Dunnicaer!

There are lots of opportunities to get involved, whether it’s being involved in a dig, supporting a project or funding further research, so keep an eye on the Northern Picts facebook group and the Northern Picts Project website.  They are currently trying to raise funds to do some more digging at Dunnicaer:  on the sea stack, in the middle of the sea, with a big drop down off all sides, in the cold north wind where they need harnesses so they don’t blow away.  I’m off to calm down, I can’t cope with heights either; where’s one of Daisy’s Tap of Noth buns when you need one!

Throwback Thursday – Crafting Kingdoms The rise of the Northern Picts