Aberdeenshire's large number of recumbent stone circles enjoy a wide variety of settings, ranging from open hilltops with superb views to, in at least one case, a deep forest glade.
What is easy to overlook is that these circles were constructed over 4,000 years ago, and there was a time when if you mapped Aberdeenshire these would have been the only man-made features worth recording beyond comparatively insignificant hut circles.
Sometimes you find yourself asking why the ancients chose this spot or another as a location for a stone circle, forgetting that pretty much everything else from the trees to, in some cases, the very topography itself, post-dates the construction of the ring.
Accidents of subsequent history can lead to some odd locations for stone circles. Nowhere more so, perhaps, than at Midmar Kirk, a little over 2 miles west of Echt. Here you find a 17m diameter stone circle immediately to the south-west of a Parish Kirk built in 1787. The juxtaposition is made all the odder because this particular stone circle has flankers (the uprights either side of the horizontal, recumbent, stone) that are 2.5m high and unusually fang-like and, if you have an overactive imagination, demonic.
The church replaced by the one you see today stood some distance away, and it is tempting to wonder just what the elders had in mind in picking this location in 1787: perhaps they simply wanted to prove that the kirk could triumph over paganism by directly moving in on its territory. Whatever the reason, the marriage that resulted is a very peculiar one.
It seems that the stone circle may have been relatively undisturbed by the construction of the kirk in 1787. The same was not true when the kirkyard was extended to include the area occupied by the circle in 1914. The stones in recumbent stone circles are invariable graded in size, getting smaller as you move away from the recumbent and flankers. This is not the case at Midmar, and the suspicion is that at least one stone was moved to a different position in the circle, and others moved slightly to change the circle's shape. At the same time it is believed that a cairn containing cremation burials from the later life of the circle was "tidied away", i.e. destroyed.