I am too big for small crawl spaces, even more so when there is a box containing torches for use once inside the tomb. However this just heightens two boys excitement at another tomb to explore.
The road is sandy and rutted, running between the calm Peedie Sea and the wild open sea of Sty Wick. Eventually the road runs out. Abandoning the car at Quoy Ayre, we walk along the edge of the large sandy bay of Sty Wick. Once an island the narrow band of water between the main island and Els Ness is long forgotten and now just an extension of sand remains joining the two together.
Gradually the beach to our left becomes more rocky and we pass a low run of rocks called the Taing of Corkatae before we get our first glimpse of the mound. Oystercatchers and dunlin are noisy as we approach, warning calls echoing on the wind.
Thistles and daisies dance in the brisk wind that wraps itself around us as we head towards the end of the flat promontory of Els Ness, the mound of Quoyness becoming more visible on the horizon.
Orkney cairn's have very narrow entrance passages. Some you can just about walk through, others such as this you crawl through on hands and knees. 9metres of entrance takes time to negotiate, especially when you have camera and torch to look after as well as old knees.
Once inside though, this neolithic tomb from at least 2900BC opens up. A 4 metre high central chamber has six side cells leading off. Each cell has a low entrance before opening up into a small chamber. The stones fit together perfectly, a jigsaw of sizes, reaching the full height of the cairn. Larger stones acting as a plinth over the openings, smaller stones filling gaps in the corners.
This cairn was first excavated in 1867 when the remains of 15 people were found in the main chamber and four of the side-cells. Small items, similar to those found at nearby Skara Brae were also found. Now the cairn is silent, a monument to the lives of the individuals who were buried here over 5000 years ago.
Eventually emerging into the summer sunshine we walk back along the shoreline. With the tide slowly receding as we walk we are able to explore rock pools and find the unexpected remains of a large seal slowly decaying on the high water mark.
Visiting Quoyness Chambered Cairn
From Lady take the Kettletoft road until Lady Kirk comes into view. Just before the kirk there is road to the left signposted to the cairn. Follow this along the shore of the Peedie Sea until you reach a gateway. There are signs here about the farmland. The road goes across a working farm and so dogs are not able to visit the cairn.
After the gate the road becomes a sandy track and eventually, just as the farmhouse comes into view the road ends. There is parking here.
The track to the cairn follows the coast to the left of the farmhouse and is signposted. There are two kissing gates and then a path that meanders across fields. The walk is flat but lumpy and takes about 20minutes (without stops!)
The cairn is open at all times and there is no charge. Torches are left in a box on the entrance to the cairn. Just remember to put it back in when you leave and drop the catch on the main gate and the gate to the entrance passageway.
There are no facitlites here other than an information board.
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