There are many prehistoric monuments scattered across Kilmartin Glen, but perhaps the best known and most intriguing comprises the remains of two stone circles at Temple Wood. This may be because a stone circle is by its nature more interesting than a cairn, and there are the remains of two of them here. It may also be because an early landowner, Sir John Malcolm was so fascinated by the place he planted a wood around the circles at the end of the 1800s, which he named Temple Wood to reflect what he thought to be the purpose of the site.
There is disabled parking nearby, but if you are relatively mobile, the best way to reach Temple Wood is to park in the car park that serves the Nether Largie Standing Stones and follow the obvious path that links the two monuments.
What you find at Temple Wood is a larger and more impressive southern circular area of large pebbles, complete with a partial ring of standing stones and a cist in the centre surrounded by a smaller circle of stones. The northern circular area of pebbles is less obviously impressive, with the only significant features being a long central stone, and a single small boulder placed near the circumference of the circle.
What you see today is the result of many different phases of construction and reconstruction over many millennia. The first monument was erected about 5,000 years ago, and comprised a circle of upright wooden posts surrounding a central wooden post on the site of the northern circle. A century or so later the wooden posts were removed and a stone circle was created here: together with a larger stone circle on the site of the southern circle. Move forward to about 4,200 years ago, and two stone cairns covering cist burials were placed outside the southern stone circle.
Two centuries later, about 4,000 years ago, the standing stones in the northern circle were removed, leaving just the two stones you see today. At the same time a broad, low outer cairn of cobbles was added around what up until then had been the perimeter of the southern cairn, and a cist burial took place in the centre of this circle. Fast forward seven more centuries, and further burials of cremated remains took place within the area of the southern circle about 3,300 years ago.
Today it is possible to get a sense of how the circles might have looked towards the end of this series of developments. There were originally 22 stones in the southern circle, and of these thirteen remain standing. Almost more impressive (if less obvious) is the much smaller inner ring surrounding the central cist. And if you visit at the right time of year it is still possible to observe important sun rises and moon rises over the southern circle from the northern. Temple or observatory? Well "Temple Wood" just sounds nicer than "Observatory Wood", doesn't it?