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.

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Ian Goldsmith (4 months ago)
Doing their best under the current circumstances. Really interesting talk about Maeshowe.
tim adams (21 months ago)
Only us two on the tour today the guide was awesome a real passion for the place informative friendly allround great guy and a brill tour thanks from us both.
Tor PB (2 years ago)
Entry to Maeshowe is by guided tour only, starting from this visitor centre. It can get very busy so do book in advance to be sure of a place. The tour is well worth it, with knowledgeable and entertaining guides who clearly care about this fascinating place. The visitor centre itself is primarily a place to wait for your tour to start, but has a decent gift shop, toilets, coffee machine etc, and great staff!
Tor PB (2 years ago)
Entry to Maeshowe is by guided tour only, starting from this visitor centre. It can get very busy so do book in advance to be sure of a place. The tour is well worth it, with knowledgeable and entertaining guides who clearly care about this fascinating place. The visitor centre itself is primarily a place to wait for your tour to start, but has a decent gift shop, toilets, coffee machine etc, and great staff!
Kevin Hough (2 years ago)
Interesting guide. Funny at the same time very informative. A bit of crouching involved and don't go if you are claustrophobic.
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