Sanday, as the name implies, has some of the finest beaches to be found on Orkney. The island is low lying, so much so, that it can be difficult to spot in high seas - before the distinctive Start Point lighthouse was built in the early 19th century there were a great many shipwrecks off the island's east coast.

Start Point lighthouse
(C) Richard Welsby

The Quoyness chambered cairn is an excellent example of the Maeshowe type. The mound measures roughly 20 metres by 17 metres, and stands about 4.5 metres high. The entrance passage is on the south east side of the cairn and leads to the inner chamber which stands roughly 4 metres high. When the tomb was opened, a circular cist containing the skeletons of ten adults and four children was discovered in the south corner of the main chamber. Four of the six side chambers also contained skeletal remains along with a bone pin and polished slate tools.

The old farm steading at Tressness has an octagonal roofed horse engine house. The horse powered device was used to turn a threshing machine in the barn next door.

Tofts Ness on the north east point of the island contains hundreds of burial mounds including a long mound possibly housing a chambered cairn. The site was in use as a burial ground for several thousand years.

The abandoned 19th century crofting village at Ortie is arranged in a remarkably long and straight 'Kloss' running down to the sea. The village once housed a population of more than 60.

The Viking boat burial site at Scar was a significant find for Orkney archeologists. Uncovered by a storm, the site yielded several fascinating artefacts including a sword, a brooch, a whalebone plaque, and a comb.

There is a badly eroded settlement site at Pool. Excavations have shown the lower layers to be Pictish, and the upper layers to be of Norse origin.

Photograph courtesy of Richard Welsby

Copyright Orknet 1996