Helliar Holm, Shapinsay

Tombs of the Isles - Helliar Holm, Shapinsay
The chambered cairn on Helliar Holm. (Dan Lee)
Round cairn.
Stalled chamber.
Notes:Sitting on the summit of an islet south of Shapinsay, the prominent cairn is slightly oval in plan, measuring 19.2 by 17.5m. A modern marker cairn has been built to the north-east of its centre.

In 1981, the cairn’s edges were said to be well-defined, rising to a maximum height of 1.8m at the north-western and south-western sides [2].

The chamber, orientated ESE to WNW, was defined by the tops of three pairs of transverse slabs and one stone of a fourth pair. The back-slab usually found within Orkney-Cromarty stalled chambers was not visible.

The surviving pairs varied from 0.35m to 0.6m apart, with the visible compartments along the north-eastern side measuring 1.7m, 1.6m and 1.7m long.

A filling of loose stones within the chamber and suspected entrance passage led Davidson and Henshall to conclude the chamber had been investigated [2].

Assuming he was referring to this cairn, Rev George Barry’s account of Helliar Holm confirms this “investigation” had taken place before 1805:

“At present, [the island] contains the ruins of an old chapel, and a Picts-house that has been opened.” [1]
  • [1] Davidson, J. L. & Henshall, A. S. (1989). The Chambered Cairns of Orkney. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • [2] Barry, G., 1805. The History of the Orkney-islands; in which is Comprehended an Account of Their Present as Well as Their Ancient State. D. Willison.
Helliar Holm. (Davidson & Henshall 1989)
Helliar Holm. (Davidson & Henshall 1989)