The Dinnie stones
Outside of a café next to the River Dee lies a pair of stones named after Donald Dinnie, the first world-famous sportsman. The pair of stones are perhaps the most well known lifting stones in the world.
The Dinnie Stones or ‘Dinnie Steens’ have a combined total weight of 332.49kg (733lbs). The larger stone weighs 188.02kg (414.5lbs), and the smaller of the two weighs 144.47kg (318.5lbs).
The unbalanced ringed stones have multiple challenges for people to attempt.
The first challenge is to simply lift the two stones together off the ground. Lifting the stones and standing locked-out (legs fully staightened, body upright and braced) for two seconds is considered a successful lift. This challenge can be completed with straps (assisted) or without (unassisted), and is recorded as such. A partial lift (putting wind beneath the stones, but failing to achieve lock-out for two seconds) is not recorded officially, but is still considered a great feat.
Lifting the stones can be attempted in a straddle style — where the lifter stands over the stones, usually with one stone in front and one behind for a more mechanically advantaged position. Or they can opt for a side-by-side style.
The next challenge is to attempt Donald Dinnie’s incredible feat of walking the stones over a distance. Putting the stones down and lifting again is allowed. However if you take more than 10 seconds to lift the stones again, your attempt is over.
A variation of this challenge is to pick up the stones in a farmers-walk style carry, and walk with the stones as far as possible without dropping.
Lift and hold
In recent years, the lift and hold for time has become a popular test. The lifter picks up the stones (without straps) and holds the stones in the air for as long as possible, testing their grip strength, and their will. The first lift for time competition was held in 2016 at the Aboyne Highland games, introduced by Terry and Jan Todd.
To take on the Dinnie stone challenge, you must arrange the lift — following the guidelines on the ‘set up your lift’ page on thedinniestones.com. Doing this ensures that your lift will be judged by Dinnie stone officials who will accurately record your attempt. The stones are not available to lift otherwise.
Jim Splaine was so successful at lifting the stones he famously carried his son to add extra weight. Jim attends every Dinnie Stone event and photographs each lift to document them.
Robert Dinnie was a stonemason and had the job of maintaining the Potarch bridge. Sometime in the early 1830’s iron rings were attached to each stone and they were used as counterweights for scaffolding during maintenence.
Donald Dinnie carried the two stones across the width of the bridge (17’ 1.5”) in 1860. Donald himself references that his father Robert could also pick up the pair of stones together.
The stones were lost in the early 1900’s, around the time of the Great War. David Webster OBE searched for the stones and rediscovered them next to the river Dee in overgrown grass in 1953. One of the stones was missing a ring, which was replaced.
After the rediscovery, several people made attempts at lifting the stones only to manage a basic lift of the stones with wrist straps. The next successful bare-handed lift was made by Jack Shanks in 1972, more than 100 years after Donald Dinnie performed his feat. Not only did Jack Shanks lift the stones, but he also carried them over 17’ as Donald Dinnie did — winning him £250 from David Webster OBE in the process.
Over 180 people have lifted the stones to date — with some individuals lifting the pair of stones numerous times. Brett Nicol holds the record for most successful lifts, having lifted the stones 400 times as of November 2021!
Thanks to a documentary, social media, and the Arnold Sports festival, knowledge of the Dinnie stones and their unique challenge has increased dramatically. People from across the world are now training for the challenge and attempting the stones more than ever.
The Gathering is an annual event held at the Potarch Café and Restaurant. It features lifts of the Dinnie Stones and other stone lifting events. The Donald Dinnie Games also features at The Gathering — a strongman-esque event with natural stones.
The Dinnie stones are kept at Potarch Café and Restaurant, near the Potarch bridge.
The precise location is on our map.
Hold for time
Mark Haydock holds the stone hold record with the Dinnie stones at 46.3 seconds, achieved May 18th 2019.
Brett Nicol holds the record for most successful lifts of the Dinnie stones — 400 — and counting.
Laurence Shahlaei holds the farmer’s carry record with the Dinnie stones at 14’ 10”, after beating Brian Shaw’s previous record of 11’ 6.5”.
You can use our Dinnie Stone weight calculator to easily determine the amount of weight you’ll need to use on weight-loadable pins when training to lift the Dinnie Stones.
Gordon Dinnie had replica Dinnie Stones made. They were acquired by the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports. These are used at the Arnold Sports Festival as part of the record breaker events. These stones have separate records from the original stones at Potarch.
The Nicol Walking Stones are a pair of stones weighing 252kg (555lbs) combined. They are used in a farmer’s walk carry for max distance — directly inspired by the Dinnie Stones. They’ve been used in many competitions, including the Donald Dinnie Games at The Gathering, Europe’s Strongest Man, and the Giant’s Live World Tour Finals.
Laurence Shahlaei’s world record farmer’s carry
The smaller Dinnie Stone used as a duck-walk implement in Britain’s strongest man in 1982
Featured in Stoneland
Featured in Strongest Man in History S01E05 “Stronger Than a Scotsman”
A massive thanks to Brett Nicol for his contributions to this page.