Marionburgh Cairn and Stone Circle

Written by Chris Thornton | 10th of September 2023
Marionburgh Cairn and Stone Circle

After a fantastic visit to Ballindalloch Castle, I just had to check out the cairn and stone circle near the entrance to the castle estate. We pulled over at the side of the road near the ticket office, and I hopped over the dry stone perimeter wall to explore this early Bronze Age Scottish monument - The Marionburgh Cairn.

Ring Cairn

Marionburgh Cairn is meant to be of the Clava Cairns type (see my article on Clava Cairns at Balnuaran of Clava). It is a large central mound of stones with a central space for burials, and standing stones surround the perimeter. The circular bank has no trace of kerb stones (apart from one) that would have originally held the mass of small rubble stones in place.

The circular cairn is overgrown and has had many of its stones robbed over thousands of years. It measures about 14m in diameter with a half-meter central space.

Recumbent Stone Circle

The stone circle here is by no means impressive in comparison to the standing stones elsewhere in Scotland. However, it's still an interesting site, and the largest stone is upright in its original position at 2.74m tall. Smaller stones are still upright, but most lie flat on the ground. Five stones remain standing; four are recumbent.

Clava Cairns

Despite being of a similar age to Clava Cairns (4000 years!), this site is in much worse condition; as mentioned before, many of the stones now lie flat, and the central stone mound is not large or prominent. The grass-covered ground undulates a fair bit, but there is no defining boundary without close inspection.

The site did seem better maintained compared to older photos I have seen online; I'm not sure if the grass had been cut or was just stifled by the thick canopy of leaves above.

It must have been an important site in ancient times, and it is no coincidence the nearby confluence of the River Avon and Spey.

Recumbent stone circles.  Scheduled monuments in Scotland of national importance.
The largest upright stone at the Marionburgh Cairn.
Small stones near the clava type cairn.
A fallen stone, lying flat.
The largest of the upright stones, south east.
Another view of the large stone, 2.47m tall.

Layout diagram of Marionburgh Cairn

Please view this diagram of the Marionburgh site; it shows the general shape of the site and the standing stone circle layout.

Stone circles diagram.
Layout Diagram

What type of cairn is Marionburgh Cairn?

There is debate over what type of cairn this is, a ring cairn or a passage grave. Considering there is no depression leading to the centre of the cairn, maybe it is more likely to be a ring cairn.

Historic Scotland Scottish Charity
The picturesque countryside around the site.
Ancient monuments
One of the smaller upright standing stones.

Where is Marionburgh Cairn located?

When turning off the A95 as if going to Ballindalloch Castle, the cairn is on the left, just past the green ticket shed (about 200m from the A95). It's surrounded by a dry stone wall with large mature trees growing throughout the site. The River Avon flows some 300m away and is very picturesque. The nearest town is Aberlour.

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Location near the ticket office.
The distance from the ticket office and A95.

Can I visit Marionburgh Cairn without paying for Ballindalloch Castle?

There is a small area for parking cars before the ticket office; maybe it's possible to visit the stone circle without having to pay the entrance fee for the castle... enquire at the ticket office. You should check out the castle, though; it's great!

How old is the Marionburgh Cairn?

Around 4000 years old, dating from 2000 BC.

Great Crowns of Stone, sheduled monument.
Another of the smaller standing stones.

Are there other cairns nearby?

There are two cairns and stone circles to the south; they are within fields with animals and hard to reach. The site at Clava Cairns, nearer to Inverness and Culloden Battlefield, is the most impressive example of the cairns and stone circles in the area. West of Inverness is Corrimony Chambered Cairn, another fantastic example with a fully intact cairn and stone circle.

A circle of standing stones surrounded the cairn.
Two standing stones.
Wide angle view.
Wide angle shot of the Marionburgh Cairn.
Chris and the large standing stone! Historic Environment Scotland.
A selfie with the big stone!

Key takeaways:

  • The site is 4000 years old.

  • Only a couple of the stones are still standing.

  • The largest stone remains upright.

  • The site is very near Ballindalloch Castle and can be visited at the same time.


It was just a quick stop at this ancient site after Ballindalloch Castle, but it's worth a look to add it to your list of places visited in Scotland! We quickly stopped at Bridge of Avon for a few photos and headed south to Drumin Castle.

If you are interested in Scotland's ancient history, there are a few other sites here nearby:

Marionburgh Cairn Location

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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