Maeshowe is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave. It was probably built around 2800 BCE. It gives its name to the Maeshowe type of chambered cairn, which is limited to Orkney. Maeshowe is a significant example of Neolithic craftsmanship. The monuments around Maeshowe, including Skara Brae, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

Maeshowe is one of the largest tombs in Orkney; the mound encasing the tomb is 35m in diameter and rises to a height of 7,3m. Surrounding the mound, at a distance of 15m to 21m is a ditch up to 14m wide. The grass mound hides a complex of passages and chambers built of carefully crafted slabs of flagstone weighing up to 30 tons. It is aligned so that the rear wall of its central chamber held up by a bracketed wall, is illuminated on the winter solstice. A similar display occurs in Newgrange.

Estimates of the amount of effort required to build Maeshowe vary; a commonly suggested number is 39,000 man-hours, although Colin Renfrew calculated that at least 100,000 hours would be required. Dating of the construction of Maeshowe is difficult but dates derived from burials in similar tombs cluster around 3000 BC. Since Maeshowe is the largest and most sophisticated example of the Maeshowe 'type' of tomb, archaeologists have suggested that it is the last of its class, built around 2800 BC. The people who built Maeshowe were users of grooved ware, a distinctive type of pottery that spread throughout the British Isles from about 3000 BC.

A Neolithic 'low road' connects Maeshowe with the magnificently preserved village of Skara Brae, passing near the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. Low roads connect Neolithic ceremonial sites throughout Britain. Some archeologists believe that Maeshowe was originally surrounded by a large stone circle. The complex including Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness, Skara Brae, as well as other tombs and standing stones represents a concentration of Neolithic sites that is rivalled in Britain only by the complexes associated with Stonehenge and Avebury.



Your name


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sara Lynn (4 months ago)
If you are visiting Orkney, seeing Maeshowe is a must! Can't say enough about this fascinating place. The tour guide we had was extremely knowledgeable and the staff at the centre were helpful and kind. An experience I will never forget!
Rolf Asphaug (4 months ago)
The visitor center has some nice Maeshowe and rune-specific clothing and other items. There are displays on Neolithic culture that you can see before or after your tour. (Advance reservations strongly recommended: they only take 16 people at a time.)
Yvonne Lee-Jones (6 months ago)
Very knowledgeable guide Ellie was enthusiastic and made our tour to Maeshowe really enjoyable. You need to prebook as spaces are limited.
Robert Rae (7 months ago)
Always busy. Fine for a drink in the conservatory if not dining. Good views over the Harray Loch to Hoy.
Josef Schachner (10 months ago)
Well worth the trouble to book the tour. (You can not access the mound by yourself). Tour guide Sarah did an amazing job, educational and funny, very well done indeed. The entrance tunnel to the chamber is longer than it looks and depending on how tall you are a bit strenuous to crouch through. No pictures inside allowed but it’s more about the story and the runes scratched in the walls anyhow.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kastelholma Castle

First record of Kastelholma (or Kastelholm) castle is from the year 1388 in the contract of Queen Margaret I of Denmark, where a large portion of the inheritance of Bo Jonsson Grip was given to the queen. The heyday of the castle was in the 15th and 16th centuries when it was administrated by Danish and Swedish kings and stewards of the realms. Kastelhoma was expanded and enhanced several times.

In the end of 16th century castle was owned by the previous queen Catherine Jagellon (Stenbock), an enemy of the King of Sweden Eric XIV. King Eric conquered Kastelholma in 1599 and all defending officers were taken to Turku and executed. The castle was damaged under the siege and it took 30 years to renovate it.

In 1634 Åland was joined with the County of Åbo and Björneborg and Kastelholma lost its administrative status.