Twelve Apostles Stone Circle

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The Twelve Apostles
Twelve Apostles Stone Circle 2017-05-16 - 2.jpg
The largest of the stones
Coordinates55°05′52″N 3°39′06″W / 55.097804°N 3.651705°W / 55.097804; -3.651705Coordinates: 55°05′52″N 3°39′06″W / 55.097804°N 3.651705°W / 55.097804; -3.651705
Designated1 April 1924
Reference no.SM641
Twelve Apostles Stone Circle is located in Dumfries and Galloway
Twelve Apostles Stone Circle
Location of The Twelve Apostles in Dumfries and Galloway

The Twelve Apostles (grid reference NX9470079400) is a large stone circle located between the villages of Holywood and Newbridge, near Dumfries, Scotland. It is the seventh largest stone circle in Britain and the largest on the mainland of Scotland,[1][2] it is similar in design to the stone circles of Cumbria, and is considered to be an outlier of this group.[3] Its south-westerly arrangement aligns it with the midwinder sunset.[1]

It is a scheduled ancient monument.[4]


The circle is composed of eleven stones, of which five are earthfast; however, there were originally twelve. A plan taken by Francis Grose in 1789 shows twelve stones and the First Statistical Account, published two years later, records the same number.[5][6][7] One of the stones was removed before 1837, when the New Statistical Account entry for Holywood was compiled;[8][1] the 25 inch Ordnance Survey map of 1850 shows twelve stones in the circle, but this is due to an accidental spot of blue ink on the original plan which was carried on to published work.[9]

Local traditions recorded in the nineteenth century associate the stones with the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, and link the removed twelfth stone with Judas Iscariot.[9][10] W. C. Lukis notes that in one tradition the stones were said to be set up by the apostles.[10]

The tallest upright stone is around 1.9 meters tall. The longest, lying in the south-western sector, is 3.2 meters long.[2] The circle measures 89 meters at its maximum diameter, it is not a true circle in formation; rather, it is an example of Alexander Thom's Type B 'flattened circle'.[11]

All but one of the stones are Silurian rock; the other being Porphyry. Four, including the Porphyry rock, are natural boulders; the rest have been quarried; the nearest occurrence of Silurian rock is two miles away, near Irongray Church.[12][1]

The Easthill stone circle is 3¾ miles SSW west of the Twelve Apostles.[13] There was another stone circle a mile east near the River Nith but this was destroyed and used for building material before the New Statistical Account was compiled.[8][3] Nearby are two cursuses, one of which, if extended, would run towards the circle.[1]

In 1882 it was reported that a four inch bronze figure was uncovered at the circle some years before; this has since been identified as Saint Norbert, and dated to the twelfth century. It is now housed in the Dumfries Museum.[11]

The Twelve Apostles

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Burl, Aubrey (2005). A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. New Haven; London: Yale University Press. p. 124. ISBN 0300114060.
  2. ^ a b Stell, G. (1996) Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh: The Stationery Office, p. 170
  3. ^ a b Burl, Aubrey (2000). The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 197. ISBN 0300083475.
  4. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Twelve Apostles,stone circle (SM641)". Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  5. ^ Grose, Francis (1979). The Antiquities of Scotland. London: Hooper & Wigstead. pp. 169–170.
  6. ^ The Statistical Account of Scotland. I. Edinburgh: William Creech. 1791. p. 18.
  7. ^ Coles, Fred. R. (1894). "The "Stone Circle" at Holywood, Dumfriesshire" (PDF). Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland: 85.
  8. ^ a b The New Statistical Account of Scotland. IV. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons. 1845. p. 559.
  9. ^ a b Coles, Fred. R. (1894). "The "Stone Circle" at Holywood, Dumfriesshire" (PDF). Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland: 86.
  10. ^ a b Lukis, W. C. (1885). "Report of the Survey of certain Megalithic Monuments in Scotland, Cumberland and Westmoreland, executed on behalf of the Society in the summer of 1884". Proceedings of the Antiquaries of London: 304.
  11. ^ a b ScotlandsPlaces record
  12. ^ Gilchrist, J. (1887). "Notes on the Druidical Circle at Holywood" (PDF). Transactions and Journal of Proceedings of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. 2nd series. Volume 4: 44–45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-01-09.
  13. ^ Burl, Aubrey (2005). A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. New Haven; London: Yale University Press. p. 142. ISBN 0300083475.

External links[edit]