Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Summers Dale

Battle Site (16th Century)

Site Name Summers Dale

Classification Battle Site (16th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Summersdale

Canmore ID 2099

Site Number HY31SW 14

NGR HY 344 105

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2022.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map


Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

HY31SW 14 344 105

See also HY31SW 15.

(HY 345 104). Site of Battle (NR) Between the forces of the Earl of Caithness and Sir James Sinclair AD 1529.

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1903).

On May 18th, 1529, the Earl of Caithness and Lord Sinclair, whose forces had invaded Orkney by sea, were beaten at '..a place call'd Summersdale ...' by the 'People of the Country', under Sir James Sinclair.

J Wallace 1700.


Field Visit (5 May 1966)

No further information.

Visited by OS (NKB) 5 May 1966.

Reference (2011)

In his Introduction to Low’s Tour, Joseph Anderson quotes from a letter from George Low (1747-1795), minister of Birsay, to the antiquary George Paton (1721-1807) in June 1773, referring to ‘… a place called Summerdale, where there is an account of a battle having been fought between the Counts of Caithness and Orkney; in the latter, the bodies (many of which are found to this day) are thrown down without order or distinction into pitts, without coffin, and few of them with a shroud …’. An accompanying footnote, presumably part of the original letter, adds that ‘Last year a corpse was found in this place wrapt in a cloth, which, by the action of the moss water, was preserved as if in a tan pit; and was probably one of the chiefs’.

The find is also mentioned in another letter from Low to Paton sent in 1775:

‘On the moor where tradition tells us a skirmish happened between the Earls of Caithness and Orkney, called the Battle of Summerdale, a man lately dug up a corpse wrapt in what was judged a linnen cloth, tanned by the moss-water’

The battle took place in 1529: both the Old, XIV, 1795, 135-6 and the New Statistical Account, XV (Orkney), 1845, 68) note the battle but not the body.

T Cowie, J Pickin and C Wallace 2011

Anderson 1879, xxxvii & liii

Orkney Smr Note

John, Earl of Caithness, pretending some right to Orkney,

came over with troops to seize it, landed at Houton, and proceded

to Summersdale in Stenness, where they were beat back by the Orkney

and Shetland people into a place called Moss of Bigswald, where

the Earl and most of the people were killed, and the rest taken


Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions