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Glasgow Live
Glasgow Live
David McLean

The curious origins of Glasgow's Sighthill Stones as fenced-off landmark reopens to public

For the most part, we know very little about the prehistoric stone circles that are dotted around Scotland's landscape.

Shrouded in mystery, we have no idea who put them there or exactly what their purpose was - but that's definitely not the case with Glasgow's 'mini Stonehenge' - the Sighthill Stones.

Erected in 1979 as part of the Jobs Creation Scheme, the landmark was the first astronomically-aligned stone circle to be built in the British Isles for more than 3,000 years.

READ MORE: Sighthill stone circle is restored 40 years after first being built

The stones, which came from Beltmoss Quarry in Kilsyth, were airlifted into position by Royal Navy helicopter, each into a precise spot that marked the alignments of the Moon and stars.

The chosen site for the Neolithic-inspired oddity was an elevated position within the newly-created Sighthill Park, due north of George Square and overlooking the M8 motorway.

The erection of the stones, which was overseen by the Glasgow Parks Astronomy Project, acted as a celebration of the city's achievements in the field of astronomy.

Recalling his involvement in the project, Duncan Lunan, author of the Stones and the Stars, wrote in 2019: "In 1978 Glasgow District Council, as it then was, asked me to build a ‘mini-Stonehenge’ in one of the city’s parks, a ‘special project’ in the Jobs Creation Scheme.

"The request was originally to copy one of the ancient sites, but that wouldn’t work: each megalith’s alignments fit its own date, latitude and skyline. For the monument to be functional and educational, as the brief required, I would have to find a suitable site and design the structure in accordance with the ancient principles.

"Professor Thom was previously the first Reader in Aeronautics at Glasgow University, and Dr. Thom was Acting Professor of Aerodynamics and Fluid Mechanics there at the time, while Euan MacKie was Assistant Keeper at the University’s Hunterian Museum and Archie Roy had recently become a Professor in the Astronomy Department after many years as Senior Lecturer.

"By building an astronomical megalith dedicated to them, the first apparently for 3000 years, the city would be paying tribute to its most prominent researchers in the field."

The stones were removed in 2016 to make way for redevelopment of the area, and former Project Manager Duncan Lunan was commissioned to redesign it, for a new (more astronomically accurate) site overlooking Pinkston Road.

The stones were re-erected at the spring equinox of 2019, but for health and safety reasons around nearby construction they had remained fenced off by the contractors until recently.

The stone circle has been relocated within the new landscape, around 200 metres to the south-east of the former site and the original site that Duncan had chosen, however this location was not suitable back in 1979 due to the multi-storey flats then in the area obscuring the horizon sight lines.

On June 22, 2023 the midsummer sunrise was photographed and filmed by Grahame Gardner and by Dr. Kenny Brophy of Glasgow University. The Sun rose precisely over the marker stone, as they predicted.

The Sighthill Circle's location on a mound gives tremendous views of the city centre - underlining how close the area is to central Glasgow - and neighbouring communities as well as the Campsie Hills.

The regeneration of Sighthill is the biggest project of its kind in the UK outside of London, and in the coming years, the area, located immediately to the north-east of the city centre, will be transformed to create a community with almost 1,000 new homes for sale and rent for the existing community and new residents.

Commenting on the reinstatement of the stone circle, Duncan Lunan said: "It has been quite moving to learn how much the circle has meant to so many people since we built it in 1979, and I hope they'll come to it again at its new location, where it will be more visible and accessible.

"On its specially created platform, this time the stones will stand at their true height, and several additional features have been added that were planned back in '79.

"Using the observations compiled over the last 40 years, and computing methods which weren't available back then, the alignment of the stones will be still more accurate than before. The contractors and the council have gone to great lengths to do that, so it's exciting to see it all come together after so long."

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