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Ring Of Bookan

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)(Possible), Henge (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age)(Possible)

Site Name Ring Of Bookan

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)(Possible), Henge (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age)(Possible)

Canmore ID 1754

Site Number HY21SE 7

NGR HY 2834 1450

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Sandwick
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY21SE 7 2834 1450.

(HY 2834 1450) The Ring of Bookan (NR)

Annotation on (undated) OS map.

Childe states that the Ring of Bookan is a Class II henge monument but Feachem believes only that "its ditches betoken a relationship, even if of an attenuated nature, with henges ...", while Henshall states clearly that it is a chambered tomb of Maes-Howe type.

The central, denuded area measures 146 ft by 124 ft and the ditch is 44 ft wide and 6 ft deep.

R W Feachem 1963; A S Henshall 1963; RCAHMS 1946; V G Childe 1962.

The Ring of Bookan is generally as described and planned above. The central area, enclosed by the ditch, measures 42.6m. E. to W. by 41.0m. transversely and contains several earthfast stones set on edge, and also two circular features, purpose unknown. The ditch has been almost ploughed out on the east side and is there just traceable as a slight ridge in a pasture field. The size of the ditch, and its close similarity with that at Maes Howe (HY31SW 1), suggest that the Ring of Bookan is most probably a chambered cairn.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (RB) 27 April 1966

The interpretation of the Ring of Bookan, the final site of this group lying 1.6km NW of the Ring of Brodgar (HY21SE 1), is not at all certain; what survives at present is a broad flat-bottomed ditch, rock-cut in part, enclosing a flat area measuring about 44.5m by 38m. The ditch itself is about 13.5m across and at least 2m in depth. The width of the ditch is certainly greater than the two henge monuments already discussed (Ritchie 1985), and its depth, though less than that of the Ring of Brodgar, is comparable to the Stones of Stenness. There is, however, no sign of a causeway across the ditch, although the E side has been obscured by ploughing, nor is there any trace of an outer bank, but the cultivated ground now comes up to the edge of the ditch. Placed eccentrically within the ditch there is an irregular mound and a number of stones, one of which appears to be earth-fast, but it is not altogether clear whether or not these are the remains of a cairn. Certainly on the surviving evidence the interpretation of the site as a Maes-Howe type tomb finds less favour with the writer than that as a henge monument with a series of internal stone settings or a cairn. The internal area of the Ring of Bookan is closer to that of the Stones of Stenness (44m in diameter) than that of Maes Howe (76m by 60m); clearly only excavation can solve the problem.

A Ritchie 1985.

The 'John O'Groat Journal' in 1849 mentions that the stone circle was being used by druids as a place of worship.

M Howe 2006


Ground Survey (August 2011)

HY 2834 1450 In August 2011 two days of non-intrusive recording were undertaken by MA students and staff from Orkney College UHI. The work aimed to enhance understanding of the Ring of Bookan, a possible henge/chambered cairn, in light of the geophysical survey work undertaken in 2009–10 (DES 2010, 126). A detailed survey of the interior of the monument recorded a discrete and coherent group of earthworks. Initial comparison with the results of the geophysical surveys appears to confirm the presence of a concentration of in situ stonework, which may add weight to the interpretation of the site as a chambered cairn. Survey work was also undertaken over the nearby barrow of Skae Frue.

Report: Orkney SMR and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Orkney College UHI

Orkney College UHI and ORCA, 2011


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