The Shell Hoosie @ Dunnottar Woods


The North-east countryside is littered with heritage in the form of archaeology from the near and distant past. There are Roman marching camps, castles galore and of course a multitude of ancient stone circles and standing stones.
Most of these structures were built for a purpose. 

For example, each night the while on the march the Roman army constructed a temporary camp, complete with rampart and ditch, as a defence against attack while in hostile territory. Examples can be found at Durno and at Kintore.

The Castles and the big houses were in many cases also defensive structures but in more recent times they became potent symbols of the wealth that the area generated through agriculture, inheritance and trade.
Debate of course continues over the true purpose of the standing stones and the stone circles. Places of worship and centres of mystical ceremony say some.

Others wonder if the circles were simply settlements. After all, folk in those distant times needed a decent place to live.

Then of course there are the follies. There are various definitions describing follies ranging from “a structure with no practical use whatsoever” to the rather grand sounding “a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggesting by its appearance some other purpose, or merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building to which it belongs.”

Towers, cairns and temples seem to be the most common types of folly, perhaps due to their visual impact both on the landscape and on the visitor who chances upon them for the first time. Haddo, Pitfour and the Victorian hilltops of Deeside sport not a few of the genre.

However, some follies, such as the Shell Hoosie in Dunnottar Woods at Stonehaven, break the rules completely.

Hidden deep within the woodland, this tiny domed building has it's internal walls decorated and completely covered with thousands of sea shells. Constructed by Lady Kennedy of nearby Dunnottar House in the early nineteenth century and restored in 1999, it has the appearance of a large beehive when seen from the outside but from inside it feels very much like a hermit’s cave.

For more of the same, check out ‘The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire’ – available from any good bookshop, including Amazon.
Aberdeenshire Library Service and Aberdeen City Library hold several copies for loan.

Duncan Harley


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