The Dwarfie Stane is a megalithic chambered tomb carved out of a titanic block of Devonian Old Red Sandstone located in a steep-sided glaciated valley between the settlements of Quoys and Rackwick on Hoy island.

The attribution as a tomb was originally based on its resemblance to recognized tombs in southern Europe. The Dwarfie Stane is the only chambered tomb in Orkney that is cut from stone rather than built from stones and may be the only example of a Neolithic rock-cut tomb in Britain. However, despite its unique construction, its plan is consistent with the so-called Orkney-Cromarty class of chambered tomb found throughout Orkney. Some authors have referred to this type of tomb as Bookan-class, after a chambered cairn in Mainland, although there's some disagreement as to the relationship between the two tomb types.

A stone slab originally blocked the entrance to the tomb on its west side, but now lies on the ground in front of it. It is unique in northern Europe, bearing similarity to Neolithic or Bronze Age tombs around the Mediterranean. There is no direct evidence, however, of any link to the builders of the Mediterranean rock-cut tombs.

The stone is 8.6 metres long, by 4 metres wide and up to 2.5 metres high. Inside the tomb is a passage 2.2 metres long and two side cells measuring 1.7 metres by 1 metre.

The tomb has been plundered by making an opening through the roof of the chamber. The time of this event is not known, but the hole in the roof had been noted by the 16th century. The hole was repaired with concrete in the 1950s or 1960s.

The name is derived from local legend that a dwarf named Trollid lived there, although, ironically, the tomb has also been claimed as the work of giants. Its existence was popularised in Walter Scott's novel The Pirate published in 1821.

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B9047, Orkney, United Kingdom
See all sites in Orkney

Details

Founded: 3000 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in United Kingdom

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4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sandra Otter (3 years ago)
Awe-inspiring feat of achievement by people with no metal tools to use to carve out the Chambers.
kat wyllie (3 years ago)
Lovely place to visit. But hard to find
Rob Dixon (3 years ago)
As ancient stones go, this is one mighty impressive. Mysteriously carved out by forgotten technologies and stunning location offsets this from the normal. Well worth a trek across the well laid pathway.
Alan N (3 years ago)
Revisit every time I get to Hoy. Interesting tomb with short walk over duck boards and rough rocky ground. Not suitable for wheelchair. Can be good location to see many spp of flora n fauna
Julie Hodgkinson (3 years ago)
Good path for the walk up from a designated, free car park. Fascinating place, mind bogglingly old, cut out with stone tools. The only chambered tomb cut from rock rather than built from stones on Orkney.
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