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Wideford Hill

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Site Name Wideford Hill

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Canmore ID 2483

Site Number HY41SW 1

NGR HY 4090 1211

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Kirkwall And St Ola
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY41SW 1 4090 1211.

(HY 4090 1211) Chambered Mound (NR)

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

Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn. A conspicuous megalithic chambered cairn with three concentric walls. The burial chamber, with three large calls leading off it,is entered by a passage. It is of neolithic date c.2,000 B.C.

RCAHMS 1946; V G Childe and W D Simpson 1961; A S Henshall 1963; H E Kilbride-Jones 1973.

This cairn has been built on a platform constructed on the western slope of a hill.

Re-surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (GHP) 5 April 1964.

'The Orcadian' reported the excavation of a subterranean chamber at Wideford Hill.


Publication Account (1996)

Though not an easy walk, the reward is a tomb in excellent condition and, on a clear day, a beautiful view over the Bay of Firth. This is another Maes Howe design and, as at Quoyness (no. 84), all three wall-faces are visible, representing the various stages of construction of the cairn. The chamber with its three side-cells is dug back into the hillside and the entrance is downslope (although entry is now through a hatch in the roof, the original passage being only 0.6m high). Excavation in the 19th century found the cells to be empty, although the main chamber has been deliberately filled with rubble.

On the northern lower slope of Wideford at Quanterness (HY 417129), there is a large mound which, though inaccessible, contains a magnificent tomb of Maes Howe design, with six cells opening off the main chamber. Recent excavation of 80% of the tomb (the rest left deliberately for posterity) yielded human bones estimated to belong to 157 individuals, who had been brought into the tomb in skeletal state as at Isbister (no. 85). Unlike Wideford the tomb had not been closed by infilling. Radiocarbon dates indicate that Quanterness was built around 3400 BC and remained in use for about a thousand years.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Orkney’, (1996).

Orkney Smr Note

Excavation report of 1849 by Petrie. [R1]

There is a short discussion of the chamber contents and

Petrie's belief that the stone filling was deliberate. [R2]

Chambered mound, near Quanterness, lies on the Western

shoulder of the hill at an elevation of about 400ft above sea

level and about midway up the slope of the hill. Overall the

mound at present measures N-S 46ft, E-W 41ft, NW-SE 46ft, NE-SW

48ft; but its original outline has already been much changed by

excavations carried out, it is believed, by G Petrie. One chamber

is at present exposed and at present the floor level of this

chamber opens to three definite compartments or passages are still

clearly defined. A fourth passage to another apartment is

obscured by fallen stones and the debris that half fills the

chamber at that end. This chamber is roughly oblong with a

somewhat curved wall and lies with its main axes, measuring approx

10ft, lying almost due N and S and it is roughly 5ft wide at floor

level contracting as it is ascending to almost 2.5ft and it is

about 7ft high with no indication of the manner in which it was

roofed. At the N end of this chamber is a narrow passage 21in

wide and no more than 15in in depth and gives no admission to a

small beehive chamber which measures roughly 5.75ft long by 3.5ft

broad at the widest parts and rises to a height of 5ft 9in. This

is the only chamber in the mound to which access, with great

difficulty, is possible. [R3]

Text abstracted from previous authorities. [R4]

Wideford Hill Cairn is situated on the steep W slope of the

aformentioned hill. The cairn is almost circular, measuring 45ft

NE-SW and 41.5ft NW-SE. There is a wall-face encircling the whole

structure, and two more wall-faces, 4ft and 4.5ft apart, within

the cairn, which is made up of loosely laid flat slabs. The

burial chamber, with three large cells leading off it, is entered

by a passage about 17.5ft long. Animal bones and teeth were found

in the rubble. [R5]

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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