The Nicol Walking Stones
The Nicol Walking Stones — sometimes referred to as just the Nicol Stones — are a pair of unbalanced ringed stones with a challenge directly inspired by the Dinnie Stones.
The heavier stone weighs 138kg (304lbs), and the lighter stone weighs 114kg (251lbs) for a total of 252kg (555.5lbs).
The challenge of the Nicol Walking Stones is to carry the stones for max distance — farmer’s walk style — along a 20m (65ft) course.
Athletes must carry the stones as far as possible along the 20 meter course.
Athletes are allowed a single drop along with a 10 second break, after which they must continue to carry the stones.
Once the athlete drops the stones a second time, their attempt is over and the distance is measured.
If an athlete manages to reach the end of the 20m course, they must turn around and continue the walk back down the course.
If the athlete reaches the end of the 20m course before their first drop, they are allowed to drop the stones and pick them up in the opposite direction instead of turning with the stones in hand. This is treated as their single allowed drop.
If the athlete reaches the end of the 20m course after taking their allowed drop they must continue to carry the stones whilst turning back.
After the athlete’s second (and final) drop, the distance is measured from the starting line to the front of the farthest stone.
The story of the Nicol Walking Stones begins with the Dinnie Stones thanks to Brett Nicol, who created the walking stones for himself whilst training to carry the Dinnie Stones across Potarch bridge.
Brett first lifted the Dinnie Stones in 2009, and has since become an integral part of the modern history of the stones. Not only is he the most successful lifter of the Dinnie Stones ever — having lifted them over 400 times — but he also assists and referees every time someone attempts their challenge.
The goal of the Nicol Walking Stones was to replicate the side-by-side carrying style of the Dinnie Stones, but at a lighter weight for training. So Brett searched for — and eventually found — stones that would closely match the ring height of the Dinnie Stones after he installed the replica metal rings.
After training with the stones, and seeing other athletes carry them, Brett found that his stones were more accessible for lifters who wanted to experience carrying stones like Donald Dinnie did1. More and more people carried the Nicol Stones, and eventually they started to be used in competitions as an event.
Typically, athletes that attempt to carry the Dinnie Stones side-by-side don’t manage more than a few feet — and although it’s an unbelievable feat of strength, it’s not the most exciting spectator experience since attempts are usually over quite quickly. It turns out that the Nicol Walking Stones are a perfect challenge for even the strongest athletes. The lighter weight (compared to the Dinnie Stones) allows athletes to carry them farther, grimace more, and compete for distance — which adds tension and excitement for spectators.
Luke Stoltman’s 63’ 3” (19.3m)2 carry at IHGF Stones of Strength National Final in 20193 was the perfect demonstration of the Nicol Walking Stones’ potential as an event. He showed how difficult and unforgiving the stones are compared to a typical farmer’s walk, and just how much grit, patience, and endurance is required for a successful carry. Luke’s impressive walk was perhaps the catalyst that put the stones in front of a wider audience, and ultimately into elite-level strongman competitions.
Since then, the popularity of the Nicol Walking Stones has exploded. They’ve subsequently been used in high-profile strongman competitions such as Europe’s Strongest Man, The Giants Live World Tour Finals, and Scotland’s Strongest Man — where they have become a popular event that showcases Scotland’s stonelifting culture.
Whilst Brett’s name is on the stones, he says they wouldn’t be as popular or as successful as they are today without his team who help make sure every event runs smoothly. And it’s no surprise either, every member of the team — Mark Haydock, Mark Sherriffs, John Gibb, Jamie Duncan, and Gordon Ingram — are all successful lifters of the Dinnie Stones.
The Walking Stones are developing a legacy of their own, but they are just one pair of many stones that Brett gathered for himself. His heaviest pair weigh significantly more than the Dinnie Stones, and are an immense challenge in their own right.
The distance records for the stones are split into two different categories — indoor and outdoor — because of the two very different surfaces athletes have to walk on. All of the other conditions (like the course length and the drop rules) are identical.
Andy Black currently holds the outdoor record at 19.5m (64ft) which was set at Potarch on August 21st 2021.
Kevin Faires holds the indoor world record of 24.61m (80’ 8.9”) which he re-set at the Giants Live World Tour Finals on the 8th October 2022. He re-set the record after his previous record of 22.2m was broken three times in one day by Paul Smith (23.1m), Andy Black (24.08m), and Mitchell Hooper (24.14m).
The Donald Dinnie Games at the Gathering in Potarch
Europe’s Strongest Man — 2020
Scotland’s Strongest Man — 2021
Giants Live World Tour Finals — 18 Sep 2021, 8 Oct 2022
A pair of Brett’s other stones were seen in stoneland, carried in a straddle style by Stevie Shanks.
A huge thanks to Brett Nicol for his contributions to this article.
The Nicol Stones team: Mark Haydock, Mark Sherriffs, John Gibb, Jamie Duncan, and Gordon Ingram