Cubbie Roo’s Burden, Rousay

Tombs of the Isles - Cubbie Roo's Burden, Rousay
( Davidson, J. L. & Henshall, A. S. 1989. The Chambered Cairns of Orkney)
Round cairn.
Stalled chamber.
Notes:The remains of a stalled cairn on the lower slopes of Knitchen, overlooking Wyre Sound and Wyre to the south-east.

The round cairn has a diameter of 16m, with five visible orthostats in the centre recorded in 1982 [1]. These probably represent two pairs of dividers and a back slab in the northern end of a rectangular chamber. This being the case, access was presumably via a passage in the south side.

The outer part of the chamber and the passage could not be traced. [1]

The cairn takes its name from the folkloric giant Cubbie Roo, or Row, who was so large he was said to use Orkney’s many islands as stepping stones. His traditional home was the island of Wyre, but there are tales of his exploits throughout Orkney.

He was renowned for his numerous attempts at building bridges between the islands but in all these cases his efforts were in vain. The basket strapped to his back to carry the construction stones always breaks and the stones fall, becoming some well-known landmark, mound or skerry.

And this is said to be the origin of the chambered cairn – a failed attempt at building a bridge between Rousay and Wyre. Loaded up with stones and earth on his back, the strap on the basket broke sending the contents plummeting to the ground to form Cubbie Roo’s Burden. [2]

A variant of this tale has the giant falling and being buried beneath his burden. [3]
  • [1] Davidson, J. L. & Henshall, A. S. (1989). The Chambered Cairns of Orkney. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • [2] Marwick, H. (1924) Antiquarian Notes on Rousay. In Proceedings of the Orkney Antiquarian Society Volume 2.
  • [3] Robertson, D.J. (1923) Orkney Folklore. In Proceedings of the Orkney Antiquarian Society Volume 2.