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

Knowe of Lairo

Chambered Cairn


Visited 5.6.12

Ever since reading Moth’s exciting field notes I just had to make this tomb a priority visit
All I can say is ‘Wow!’ and echo Moth’s comments – what a fantastic place to visit.

I was a bid worried about finding the tomb or getting access to it but in the end it was all very straight forward.

We parked next to the phone box and I walked up the farm drive while the others stayed in the car. I didn’t want to ‘risk’ taking Dafydd with me on this one. Walk up the drive until you see a gap in the stone wall on your right. All you then need to do is walk a short distance across an overgrown ‘scrubby’ field. Luckily the small stream you have to cross had dried up so that wasn’t a problem. The tomb is not obvious from the road but it is as you get closer.

The entrance to the tomb was clear of vegetation and (fortunately) the mud dried hard.
A large stone is used as the doorway lintel.

I lay on my belly and ‘commando crawled’ my way inside. I was so excited.
I spot some rather unpleasant animal droppings on the floor – I hope no one is at home!
Once you have crawled about 6 metres into the tomb the passage gets a bit higher and you can then waddle into the main chamber.
The ceiling is now a mighty 4 metres above your head.
Like the TARDIS is does indeed seem bigger on the inside.

Notes written from inside the chamber:
I have left the warm Orcadian sunshine behind me and I stand here in the darkness and cool of this scared site. The bright sunshine lures me outside but it is here I want to be.
I shine my light high up onto the roof and along both sides of the narrow passage way.
I have never been into a tomb this shaped before and it reminded me very much of being inside the walls of a Broch.

Two tall upright stones stand approximately 2 metres tall.
I count 5 supporting ‘bracing’ stones used to support the walls – just like a Broch.
Several large stones are used to cap the ceiling

I also count 4 small side chambers / recesses which presumably held the bones?
1 – A small alcove on my left, full of loose masonry
2 – Another small chamber on my left, part blocked with masonry.
3 – Behind me a sealed off chamber with a ‘shelf’ – a small gap allows me to shine my torch into the chamber.
4 – Standing on the chest high ‘shelf’ I look into an alcove on my right.

I decide to turn the light off and sit on the ‘shelf’ in silent contemplation.
You can ‘feel’ the atmosphere of the place and perhaps ever so slightly be in touch with the ancients.

This is a truly wondrous site to visit.
Not only is it so different to any other tomb I have visited it; when crawling up the passage it does feel like you are the first person to discover the site. A real ‘rough and ready’ place.
No easy access or carefully cleaned out chambers here.
No sign posts, information boards or coach loads of visitors.
This is how it must have felt when visiting burial chambers 100 years ago.

It was time to return to the others in the car – I could have stayed a lot longer than I did.
Before I crawled back out along the passage I left a coin ‘offering’ in a gap in the stones.
This is not something that I normally do and I can offer no logical reason why I did other than it ‘felt’ like the right thing to do – make of that what you will.

Of all the very many sites I visited during my stay in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland this would be in my top 3 - along with watching the sun rise from the Callanish stones and being inside the Dwarfie Stane on Hoy.

In terms of sheer excitement – this is probably the best site I have ever visited.

If you are fairly nimble I would recommend you make this a ‘must see’ site when on Rousay.
(Wear old clothes if it is wet – you are going to get muddy!)
Posted by CARL
11th July 2012ce

Comments (2)

Great fieldnotes Carl, it sounds like an amazing place, and one I'll definitely check out when I go back up to Orkney in August. Ravenfeather Posted by Ravenfeather
12th July 2012ce
You won't be dissapointed! Posted by CARL
12th July 2012ce
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