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The Unstan Cairn in Someone’s Backyard

In our previous post, we skateboarded into the Isbister Chambered Cairn (aka Tomb of the Eagles) on the southern end of the Orkney Islands. As we headed back to the ferry from that excursion, we made a quick stop to see another Neolithic chambered tomb: the Unstan Cairn.

The Unstan Cairn is conveniently located just 7 minutes away from the Stromness ferry and just off of the A965 road. It’s essentially in someone’s backyard so it did feel slightly as if we were trespassing… but there are signs pointing to a mini car park for the Cairn. If you’re short on time and don’t want to deal with fees, a hike, and a video introduction that is pressed upon you at the Tomb of the Eagles, the Unstan Cairn is a good one to visit.

Path to Neolithic chambered tomb of Unstan Cairn in Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK - American Expeditioners http://americanexpeditioners.com/unstan-cairn
Neolithic chambered tomb of Unstan Cairn in Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK - American Expeditioners http://americanexpeditioners.com/unstan-cairn
Entrance to Neolithic chambered tomb of Unstan Cairn in Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK - American Expeditioners http://americanexpeditioners.com/unstan-cairn
Door is kept unlocked & visitors can crouch into the passageway to get inside the tomb.

Interior of Neolithic chambered tomb of Unstan Cairn in Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK - American Expeditioners http://americanexpeditioners.com/unstan-cairn

The original roof no longer exists. This concrete dome was constructed in the 1930s.

Interior of Neolithic chambered tomb of Unstan Cairn in Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK - American Expeditioners http://americanexpeditioners.com/unstan-cairn
  • The exact origin of this tomb is unknown but generally believed, based off of other tombs nearby, that this cairn was built sometime between 3400 and 2800 BC.
  • The cairn was excavated in 1884 & 1934.
  • Human bones, along with animal bones, were found in all the stalls of the main chamber & two crouching skeletons were found in the small side chamber.
  • The Unstan Cairn is best noted as the site of first discovery of a distinctive style of pottery called Unstan Ware.

Unstan Cairn Overview

  • Coordinates: 58.98674722220,-3.24940000000
  • Fees: FREE
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Usage: Light
  • Time Length: 15-30 minutes
Tags : neolithicorkney