Maeshowe Visitor Information Guide

  • Maeshowe Latitude: 58.9783° N Longitude: 3.2235° W

  • Maeshowe WOEID 56494661

Maeshowe 3.5 miles north east of Stromness, is probably Orkney’s outstanding antiquarian showpiece, consisting of splendidly preserved relics of a civilization going back to 2000 B.C., and the famous chambered tomb is acknow ledged to be the finest in Western Europe.

Many archaeological writers have waxed lyrical about Maeshowe, thus V. Gordon Childe has written. The fantastic labour involved in quarrying and transporting the stones for the chambers and in heaping such a tumulus over it, like the elegance and ingenuity of the chamber’s construction, mark it as the tomb of a potentate, a veritable prince bishop. Truly megalithic the central chamber and mural cells are superbly constructed for the mostpart of gigantic stones which span the entire length of the walls, and the ‘finesse of the craftsmanship, at a time when the only primitive tools were of stone or flint, is in perfect affinity with the grandeur of the design.

Although only 16 ft square and the same in height, the fine corbelling of the walls and the incredible excellence of the masonry inspires a unique, almost cathedral like, sensation of spaciousness.

The central chamber is entered by a passage 39 ft long, and the whole structure is covered by a mound 26 ft high and l l5 ft in diameter. But the tomb was pillaged, probably of Mediterranean gold with which it was ornamented, in the 12th century by Viking marauders.

Norse Crusaders sheltered there from a storm and they left a new treasure which survives to this day, for they engraved on the walls the richest collection of runic inscriptions to be found in any one place.

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