Vinquoy, Eday

Tombs of the Isles - Vinquoy, Eday
Vinquoy chambered cairn, Eday, in March 2023. (📷 Dan Lee)
Notes:A conspicuous cairn just below the highest point of Vinquoy Hill, at the northern end of Eday.

Its position means that Vinquoy can be seen on the skyline from most of north Eday and parts of Westray and Sanday. Vinquoy is one of three surviving cairns in the area, the other two being Braeside and Huntersquoy.

Vinquoy was opened by James Farrer and Robert Hebden in 1857. These antiquarians were “scandalously casual in both their methods and publications” (Davidson & Henshall 1989) and the only mention of the work is a few sentences on George Petrie’s 1863 paper, The Picts-Houses in the Orkneys. There were no recorded finds.

In 1985, the passage and chamber were cleared of rubble and a new plan and section drawings made by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).

The oval cairn has a diameter of 14.5m E-W by 13.5m N-S and survives to c2.4m high. The passage and chamber are partly subterranean, cut back through rock into the hill.

Access is by an entrance on the southern, downhill, side. Roofed by seven lintels, the passage is 3.95m long and c1m high, but varies in width from c0.6m wide to 0.4m. It, like the rest of the structure, is built of sandstone which gives the masonry a rather rougher appearance than in most Orcadian chambered cairns.

The main chamber is polygonal and measures c2.2m by 2m. At the time of the 19th century excavation the central chamber was roofless and filled with rubble, thought to be the result of structural collapse.

The four side cells are arranged in two pairs at either side of the entrance passage – a layout suggested was to minimise the rock cutting during construction (Davidson & Henshall 1989).

The low cell entrances vary in height between 0.7m and 0.9m in height.

Above the entrance to the south-eastern cell, and c1.5m from the floor, a rounded stone projects 25cms from the wall face – a feature that was presumably deliberate.
  • Davidson, J. L. & Henshall, A. S. (1989). The Chambered Cairns of Orkney. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Petrie, G. (1863) The Picts-Houses in the Orkneys. In Archaeological Journal, 20:1, 32-37
  • Marwick, H. (1952). Orkney: Official Guide
Vinquoy plan.
Vinquoy chambered cairn plan. (Marwick, H. 1952. Orkney: Official Guide)
Entrance to the Vinquoy chambered cairn, Eday. (📷 Dan Lee)
Entrance to the Vinquoy chambered cairn, Eday. March 2023 (📷 Dan Lee)
1985 plan and section drawings of Vinquoy. (RCAHMS)
1985 plan and section drawings of Vinquoy. (RCAHMS)