Ruthietaing, Sanday

Tombs of the Isles - Rethie Taing, Sanday

(Rethie Taing, Ruthie Taing)

The chambered cairn at Ruthie Taing, Sanday, in 1979. (Raymond Lamb)
Type:Possibly Maeshowe-type.
Notes:Although all records refer to this site as “Rethie Taing” the correct name for the headland is “Ruthie Taing” or “Ruthietaing”.

The the north-east of the taing (Old Norse tangi – “tongue of land”) are the ruinous remains of a large mound, partially destroyed by coastal erosion. A shore dyke runs over the top.

In 1979, county archaeologist Raymond Lamb had no doubt it was a Maeshowe-type cairn, at least 26m in diameter, with a section of a possible entrance passage visible on the western side and aligned ESE-WNW.

Davidson & Henshall (The Chambered Cairns of Orkney. 1989) urged caution in interpreting very damaged sites such as Rethie Taing and did not include in their inventory of Orcadian chambered cairns.

Nearby placenames suggest the mound may have been one of a number that have since been lost. The cairn sits in a field knowns as the Ha’s o’ Meur, the first element of which may be a corruption of “Howes” – mounds. The adjacent field, Patie’s Hoose may also represent a corruption of the plural “Howes”. The placenames Yarrows and Knowes of Yarrows also suggest landscape mounds. (Lamb, G. 1992. Naggles o Piapittem. Byrgisey)
The location of the chambered cairn (red) in relation to nearby placenames. (Karl Cooper)