Drystone Walling

Drystone walls first appeared in North West Europe in the Neolithic age and the traditional building technique has been used ever since throughout the world. The walls can be made from slate, granite or other types of stone. Unlike brick walls, the drystone wall contains no mortar and earth is used to bind the stones together. This means that it is more durable and held together by the weight of the stone, and the skill of the builder who needs to select and fit the stones together.

Drytone walls are enviromentally friendly and sustainable as they use recycled stone and are simple to make. The wall requires little maintenance and can last for hundreds of years. They attract insects and wildlife, and are good for drainage and preventing soil erosion. Above all, the drystone wall is a thing of beauty, and the ancient craft been used by our ancestors for generations.

How to build a Drystone Wall ?

A wall should be between one metre (3.5 ft) and one and half metres (5 ft) tall and about 50cm (20 inches) wide for stability, and needs to get narrower as it reaches the top. First of all , you should prepare the ground and select the stones that you are going to use. You will need to dig a trench and put the large, flat foundation stones into the bottom and then pack them with smaller stones.

Then you will need to build up the layer of stone postioning them lengthways. You should make sure that the stones touch each other and that all the gaps are filled with smaller stones.  As you progress, each layer should get narrower as you reach the top. Make sure you build the layers up on either side to secure the wall. Use the straight edged stones at the front of the wall, and shape the stones which you need using a stone hammer. You should also use gravel or smaller stones behind the wall for drainage and stability.

When you reach the top of the wall, cap the wall with large, flat stones. You can either lay the stones upright and press them tightly together or leave them flat as capstones.



Simon Burns-Cox is a Sculptor and Letter Carver working mainly in stone and marble and is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Simon makes interior and exterior garden sculptures, and offers all types of stone and letter carving for home and business plus drystone walling projects.

Simon also teaches sculpture, stone carving, letter carving and relief carving to groups and individuals in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Simon Burns-Cox can be contact at or