On the slopes of Vinquoy hill an intriguing entranceway seems to open up into the heart of the hillside. Once it was a fine rare double-decker construction, but now all that remains of the upper chamber is a few stones to delineate the skeleton of the top part of the tomb.
There is a small information sign from the Eday Heritage Walk attached to a post nearby, which indicated that the upper chamber had a west facing passage, whilst the lower chamber faced to the east, just like Taversoe Tuick. It’s an intriguing design, and I wonder if there were any more tombs built like this which are lost to us now, or was this incredibly specialised design purely a local innovation amongst the folk of the northern Orkney’s? Farrer excavated here in 1855 but didn’t seem to come up with any answers, I wonder if there’s been any investigations since?
The sign, as well as prior fieldnotes, indicated that the lower chamber was generally flooded, but I’m ever optimistic, and there’s not been much rain on Orkney the past couple of weeks (well not much by Orcadian standards anyway!). When I bend down to take a look though it’s clear there is a fair amount of water in the passageway. Some tentative prodding with a nearby twig lets me gauge that there is about a good three inches of water in the interior, certainly high enough to come over my boots, and as I’d have to stoop I’d probably end up with sodden trousers too . It generally takes a lot to deter me on visiting somewhere, but lacking wellingtons, waterproofs a towel or change of clothes, the thought of tramping around for the rest of the day soaked to the skin and slowly becoming hypothermic is enough to stop me today.
I settle instead, like Ubik before me, for shining the torch down the passage to take a look. It’s swathed with ferns which grow along the entranceway, and the light of my torch reflecting off the water does little to drive away the shadows which occlude the chamber. According to the information sign it’s supposed to be a Bookan type of cairn, with compartments set around a central space. Although incredibly adept at dry stone construction, drainage obviously wasn’t the Neolithic Eday folks forte, and it’s frustrating not to be able to go in and check it out, as I’d love to see how similar the lower chamber was to Taversoe Tuick’s, but in the immortal words of Arnie ‘I’ll be back!’
What I am pleased to see is that there is no sign of any of the rubbish as mentioned in Ubik’s fieldnotes, although copious amounts of wool bob about on the water, so obviously sheep aren’t put off entering (or perhaps they just want a bath?). It’s an intriguing place, the entrance passage which seems to lead into the bowels of the earth reminds me a bit of the Rhiw burial chamber, and the placing on the slopes of the hill, with the Vinquoy tomb prominent on the horizon, and the Stone of Setter standing proud to the south, obviously mark this part of the island out as having some special significance.
Huntersquoy is an intriguing site on the Eday Heritage Trail, just don’t expect to get inside without a wetsuit!