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


Chambered Tomb


Maes Howe...... of all the chambered cairns you'd wish to be teleported to the end of a two mile mountain track, far away from the vaguely interested hordes, it'd be this beauty. But that would be elitist, wouldn't it? And of course remove it from its finely determined position within the Stenness landscape.

Despite only being accessible via (the dreaded) guided tour, there are no carvings or Neolithic art to protect here. Just the - no doubt drunken - braggings of Erik the Viking scrawled on the walls like some 15 year old in the school toilets (no doubt Helga would have disagreed and asserted that he was crap in bed, actually.... ha!). Although not without interest, surely a few slabs of perspex would cater for what are, after all, nothing more than graffiti? In my opinion too much emphasis is placed upon the runes and not nearly enough on what must surely be the finest chambered tomb in the British Isles? But everyone's heard of the Vikings, right?

Everything about the construction of Maes Howe is exquisite, from the unfeasibly long slabs fitted together in a manner that would make a dry-stone wall builder freak out (not to mention an Inca), to the superb entrance passage and blocking stone. But for me the four monoliths built into the corners - more than suggesting an existing stone circle or other arrangement was deliberately incorporated within the design - is the salient point. Never seen this before.

Maes Howe will never possess the atmosphere of, say, Cuween Hill or Wideford Hill just up the road. But it is the crowning achievement of Neolithic Britain and an essential visit.
1st July 2009ce

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