Winding our way around the scenic west side of Mainland after a visit to Staneydale Temple, and the landscape is like Scandinavia in miniature, each turn of the road allowing a vista over another fjord like sheltered inlet, and occasional coloured wooden houses clustered together around the coast. I’m navigating whilst Ellen drives, and I suggest we head towards Aith, a village our information leaflet optimistically describes as ‘a large township in a scenic setting’. Whilst Ellen has visions of a little coastal town replete with coffee shops, my ulterior motive is that I’ve spotted those magical words ‘chambered cairn’ on the O.S. map right next to the road we will follow out of the village.
While I wouldn’t exactly describe Aith as large in any shape or form, it’s certainly in a picturesque setting, but sadly lacking anywhere to get a coffee, so onwards we go around the coast of Aith Voe, before the promised cairn appears in a field to our left.
There is a handily placed passing place right by the fieldgate, so we pull in. Ellen stays in the car, worried me might block the road should we be caught up in the Shetland rush hour, but given that the volume of traffic along this road seems to be at best one car per hour, I think we’ll be pretty safe.
I open the gate and am approached by two curious rams, who look at me expectantly as if I’ve brought them some food, and follow me at a distance to the nearby cairn.
It’s a small structure, a ‘peerie’ mound as they’d say in these parts, but despite being dug into, denuded and raddled with rabbit holes, enough of the form remains to give a good impression. Large stones outline the central chamber, and again the siting of the monument takes in a lovely vista overlooking a sheltered bay, in this case East Burra Firth itself.
I really like it here, I know I always seem to wax enthusiastic about each new site I find, but it does have an indefinable atmosphere, a certain pull here which gives the place a presence beyond the size of its actual physical remains. Maybe it’s the setting, or perhaps the joy of finding somewhere new but I loved it. I do my usual thing of taking photos from every conceivable angle and sit in the dip of the mound to write my fieldnotes, sheltered from the wind. I don’t want to leave Ellen on her own in the car for too long, and she’s still reticent about entering the field, more so now due to the rams still giving me the eyeball from near the gate, so before long I bid my goodbyes to the cairn, farewell East Burrafirth, it was lovely to make your acquaintance.
Right next to the B907 – to the north of Aith
Near a parking area. Access is via a metal field gate.
This is a lovely little cairn despite being well mangled.
Dug into and full of rabbit holes.
There are many large boulders visible – some two courses high.
There are good views down the valley and well worth a look when in this fairly remote area.
‘A chambered cairn, 30ft in diameter up to 3ft high. The central chamber is trefoil-shaped and built of massive walling of which no more than 3 courses are visible. Two large displaced slabs lie in the chamber and one in the entrance’ - 1965