The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian




Visited 9th August 2012

For the impatient this site can be visited within minutes of leaving the ferry after arriving on Orkney, which is what I did on my first visit to Mainland, overwhelmed as I was by the excitement of finally being here.

In fact I would recommend coming to Unstan first for two reasons. Firstly it allows a great vista across the Loch of Stenness to take in the heart of the Neolithic Orcadian landscape, Maes Howe, the Stones of Stenness and Brodgar are all visible from here. Secondly it’s worth remembering just how impressive this site is, something which can be overshadowed by the sheer grandeur of its more famous nearby neighbours, or after the megalithic overload of the surfeit of ancient sites on Orkney leads to complacency.

Today I take the opportunity to sit atop the mound and take in the wonderful views while I write my fieldnotes and Ellen sketches. Inside the cairn is a good size and an interesting hybrid of stalled cairn, with a side chamber such as those found in the tombs such as Maes Howe and the Fairy Knowe. Fortunately there are no smelly offerings inside today, but the covering of green algae colonising the stones seems to be getting ever greater. When I first visited in 1999 I remember there being hardly any on the stones, now it’s everywhere. Probably the horrendous excavation methods courtesy of archaeological cowboys Callander & Grant in 1934, which ripped off the original roof before slapping on a concrete dome, is leading to the problem. The concrete impeding ventilation, whilst the skylight in the roof raises the temperature inside enough to increase the interior humidity. I hope Historic Scotland are monitoring things to prevent any permanent damage to the stones.

The bird carving and twig runes are still visible thankfully on the lintel to the side chamber, and despite its increasingly verdant interior, it’s nice to spend sometime inside a light and spacious cairn. I’ve a soft spot for this place, as it always reminds me of my first trip to Orkney, and I think of it whenever I look at my reproduction Unstan ware bowl I bought all those years ago on my first time on the island. Although often overlooked don’t pass it by, you’ll be missing out if you do!
Ravenfeather Posted by Ravenfeather
8th October 2012ce

Comments (2)

Glad to hear the fish has gone! Posted by CARL
9th October 2012ce
Great notes, the kind that make you want to go there. Immediately. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
9th October 2012ce
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