Egmondshowe, Sanday

Tombs of the Isles - Egmondshowe, Sanday

(Augmund Howe)

Egmondshowe, from the shore in 2018. (SCAPE)
Egmondshowe, from the shore in 2018. (SCAPE)
Type:Not known.
Notes:A badly eroding mound c60m south of the Quoyness chambered cairn, on Elsness, Sanday.

Situated on the edge of an eroding stretch of coastline, much of the large mound’s eastern side has been lost and continues to deteriorate. The question of whether it represents a chambered cairn has been pondered for decades.

Because of the confusion over its name – various accounts incorrectly ascribe the name Augmund Howe to the nearby Quoyness cairn – it is difficult to unpick details. In 1980, for example, the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments Scotland stated that in the 1820s “Augmund Howe” was a mound 5.5m (18 ft) high. This however was based on Traill’s erroneous entry in the 1845 New Statistical Account and actually relates to Quoyness.

On top of that, the name Augmund Howe itself is also incorrect, fabricated in the 19th century, perhaps an attempt to record its actual name, Egmondshowe.

As the Orcadian historian Hugh Marwick pointed out in his 1923 Antiquarian Notes on Sanday:

“The large ‘pictshouse’ on Elsness is spelt Augmund Howe on the map, but is locally pronounced Egmondshowe.”

In 1960, an RCAHMS survey suggested Egmondshowe may have had a diameter of c18m and was c1.5m high. A “mass of stones” at the centre led to the suggestion the mound once contained a chamber. These measurements, however, are contradicted by a survey in 1970, which stated that the mound’s surviving western half 23m N-S along eroded face x 11m and stood 2.2m high. It also indicated that there was “no definite indication of a chamber”.

By 1999, the cairn was sub-oval in shape, measured 8m by 20m and stood up to 3m high, above bedrock. The eastern side had continued to be severely damaged by the sea with stony core material exposed and hints of structural stone.

The remains of the mound sit in an area filled with Bronze Age activity. The field around Egmodshowe contains 18 mounds and is enclosed by a chain of 11 mounds, linked by a dyke.

It is probably these Bronze Age mounds that Traill was referring to in his 1845 description of Quoyness:

“The enclosed space is literally covered with tumuli and heaps of ruins. None of those now remaining are of great size. The largest have been levelled and ploughed over.”

Although the barrows have survived in the western area of the ness, they probably once covered the entire peninsula, with those to the east of Quoyness and north-west of Egmondshowe casualties of land improvement.

While the surrounding activity could indicate a Bronze Age date for Egmondshowe, it remains possible that it, like Tresness, was originally a Neolithic monument that was later adopted/adapted.

Whatever the scenario, there is no doubt that Egmondshowe became the focus of Bronze Age burials.
References:Davidson, J. L. & Henshall, A. S. (1989). The Chambered Cairns of Orkney. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Egmondshowe, Sanday. (Raymond Lamb)
Egmondshowe in 1979. (Raymond Lamb)
Elsness, Sanday (
1981 plan of Elsness showing Egmondshowe (Augmund Howe) in relation to Quoyness and the mass of Bronze Age mounds in the area. (
Egmondshowe from the air (bottom right) in 1983. (