The Stone Stacks of Aberdeen

22 March 2014 · 19 comments

in Art & Music Outdoors, Early Years Outdoors, Nature Play & Learning

Post image for The Stone Stacks of Aberdeen

There is a mystery stone stacker in Aberdeen City. I’ve seen him work from a distance but the moment you get too close, he disappears leaving the only the stacks as a trace. They can be found in several locations: the Mouth of the Don, The Breakwater Beach and Nigg Bay.

Triple stack

There is something very appealing about this activity. It is an unobtrusive form of guerrilla art that has ancient roots. Our ancestors thousands of years ago probably enjoyed the challenge as much as people of all ages do today. 

Rogue stack

It’s also a skill which improves with practice and which is suitable for any age or ability. Patience is needed and lots of determination as the rocks do fall over a lot, especially once you move beyond large, flat rocks.

Stone stack letters

There is no rules about having straight stacks either. The P6/7 class at Inverallochy School were quite creative in their efforts as illustrated in this photo, taken by Eunice Stephen(along with the photo below too):

Kids Stone Stack 2

The level of critical thinking and problem solving is high with this sort of activity. Compare it to building a similar tower with a collection of Lego bricks or other artificial construction material. Suddenly there is a real role for the use of natural materials in schools as it encourages new and different ways of working.

Kid Stone Stack

It is also a natural step into learning about Inuksuks. These structures are integral to the Inuit culture and life and sometimes referred to as “stone people” who act as guides and way finders across the Arctic landscape.


Another natural progression is to move onto making arches with stone. You begin with two stone stacks of a similar size but have to find the right keystone to complete the structure.  There is a wonderful small arts organisation, Responsible Fishing UK, which run workshops on stone balancing and taking the art of stone stacking to new heights. Have a look at their Facebook page too.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Share the knowledge...

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Cheryl March 22, 2014 at 11:04

Oh fun. I can’t resist stacking stones on a beach. Love the idea of a secret stacker. Aberdeen’s own Banksy. Natural materials for art are wonderful to work with. I like the temporary nature of it too. #CountryKids


Juliet Robertson March 23, 2014 at 19:23

Thanks Cheryl – I agree – I’ll be keeping an eye out for the stone stacker. I nearly caught him in one location but he’s ever so shy 🙂


Kierna March 22, 2014 at 11:35

Great photos & like you say lots of skill involved in making the stacks stay upright. Thanks for your support as always xx


Juliet Robertson March 23, 2014 at 19:24

Thanks Kierna – the photos have been compiled over several beach visits. That’s the beauty of a smartphone in one’s pocket.


Mama Owl March 22, 2014 at 16:01

How clever, and what lovely photos!


Juliet Robertson March 23, 2014 at 19:24

Thank you – now I need to get better at the stone stacking bit.


Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk) March 22, 2014 at 16:37

Its such a zen activity really aint it? The stillness and concentration that one need to stack and balance the stones.

I always wanted to see a person who do this. Thanks for sharing photos.



Juliet Robertson March 23, 2014 at 19:25

Agreed – it is very contemplative and for that reason I think it works well with children and adults of all ages.


Tom Bedard March 22, 2014 at 21:33

Juliet, we call these cairns. When I traveled to Lake Superior and in Canada, I saw these all over the place. Some are quite elaborate and some take the form of sculptures. You are right, they are not like legos but or so much more intriguing . If I am not mistaken, the word cairn is Scottish Gaelic.


Katie March 22, 2014 at 21:41

Such simple pleasures. I fancy having a go myself now!


Juliet Robertson March 23, 2014 at 19:27

Hi Tom

We have cairns too – but as way markers on hills rather than on beaches where it’s the act of balancing that comes to the fore.

It is a Gaelic word – you are right.


Shay Noble March 22, 2014 at 23:11

Great photos, I remember stacking stones on the beach with my Brother when we were little…always fun.


Juliet Robertson March 23, 2014 at 19:28

Oh wow! For some reason it never occurred to me – I guess the sand and the big rocks were the attraction.


Jen March 23, 2014 at 00:57

I love trying to stack stones…always such a challenge. Thanks for linking to the Outdoor Play Party.


Juliet Robertson March 23, 2014 at 19:28

You’re welcome Jen

It’s always a good link up. Very good hosts!


james March 25, 2014 at 16:34

In a very small cove, on the remotest part of the remotest of the inhabited isles of Scilly (St Agnes) there are hundreds of these stacks – big and small, high and low, simple and complex. They’re always there, and it’s always rather breathtaking when you round the headland and are presented with them spread across the bay. I’ve spent many an hour adding my own to this spectacle and getting entirely drawn into the colours, textures and shapes of the stones – it is all-consumingly relaxing and everyone should have a go (but don’t all go to St Agnes cause the peace and quiet there is rather marvellous!).


Leila - Mud Mud Marvellous Mud March 27, 2014 at 14:27

I love the idea of guerilla stone stacks. I’m gonna make one at every beach visit now (at least that’s the plan!)


Jennifer March 30, 2014 at 01:18

In Alaska they are called Inutsuk!


Juliet Robertson March 30, 2014 at 06:58

Thanks for letting me know Jennifer. I used a Canadian book – Make Your Own Inuksuk by Mary Wallace as a guide for the spelling I used

It’s interesting to learn that there are different spellings, so perhaps there’s also different pronunciations too.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: