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  Orkney's Standing Stones

The Stan Stane, North Ronaldsay

At Holland, in North Ronaldsay, the most northerly of Orkney's islands, is a single megalith known locally as the "Stan Stane" - a dialect term simply meaning "standing stone".

Over 13 feet high and three feet wide, the stone tapers from its base, narrowing slightly towards the top.

It has been suggested that this solitary monolith was once an outlier for a stone circle that may have stood around the Torness area of the island.

Like the famous Odin Stone, in the Mainland parish of Stenness, the North Ronaldsay standing stone is perforated - the hole in this case about two metres up from the ground.

However, the hole in the Stan Stane is much smaller than that once found in the Odin Stone and there are no traditions of it being used in a similar fashion.

The stone is, however, the focal point for a centuries-old North Ronaldsay New Year custom that has seen the island's inhabitants gathering around it and singing.

Writing at the end of the 18th century, the Reverend William Clouston, minister of the Cross and Burness Parish of Sanday, said:

"The writer of this has seen fifty of the inhabitants assembled there on the first day of the year, and dancing with moonlight, with no other music than their own singing."
Statistical Account of Orkney 1795-1798