The island of Rousay lies across the Eynhallow sound, and can be reached by ferry from Tingwall. The centre of the island is mainly high moorland with a large RSPB reserve at Trumland, and two excellent trout lochs at Muckle Water and Peerie Water. The lower lying land around the coastline is more fertile and has a large number of archeological sites.

Aerial view of Rousay
(C) Richard Welsby

The Taversoe Tuick chambered cairn is an unusual monument in that it consists of two chambers set one above the other, and a smaller subsidiary chamber at the entrance to the lower tomb. The lower chamber was dug into the hillside, and is entered by a passage on the south east side of the mound. The lower tomb itself is roughly rectangular and is divided into four sections by upright stone slabs. The upper tomb is entered by a passage on the north side and has been completely enclosed by a modern dome.

The Blackhammer chambered cairn is an oblong stalled cairn with a long inner chamber divided into seven sections by upright flagstones. The outer wall of the cairn was constructed with extraordinary care, and consists of a foundation layer of flat slabs with layers of slanting slabs laid on top in interlocking triangles.

The Knowe of Yarso is another chambered cairn, roughly rectangular with rounded ends, and an entrance passage on the south east end. The inner chamber is once again, divided by upright flagstones. When excavated, this cairn contained the remains of 29 people. The tomb was in use around 2900 BC.

The Midhowe chambered cairn has been enclosed in a large buiding to protect the stonework which has been completely uncovered. Externally, the tomb measured 32.5 metres in length and was almost 13 metres wide. The inner chamber, divided into 12 sections by upright flags, is some 23 metres by 2 metres. The external wall was built with a herringbone pattern, and this can be clearly seen on the east wall.

The Broch at Midhowe is a fine example of the type. It stands to a height of roughly 4.5 metres, and is 18 metres in diameter. The doorway of the broch faces out to sea, and it is thought that the larger of the two inlets which flank the broch may have been a landing place for boats.

The south western end of Rousay around Quandal was the only place in Orkney to suffer clearances under the infamous General Burroughs. The system of runrigs or long strips of land, originally used to divide the land, can still be seen.

Photograph courtesy of Richard Welsby

Copyright Orknet 1996