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The Stones of Stenness - Mainland, Orkney
Stone Circle
National Grid Reference: HY 307 125

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How To Get There

This stone circle can be found by taking the A965 out of Stromness. Follow the road around the southern shore of the Loch of Stenness and through the Village of Stenness. Take a well signed left on to the B9055. The stones are to the right of the road about half a mile along. There is a lay-by for those who need to park.

The Stones Of Stenness

The Stones of Stenness have to be one of the most striking megalithic sites (and sights!) that I have seen. As with the Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar) a mile further north up the same road, the setting is superb. Here stand some of the tallest, thinnest standing stones that I have ever seen. They look as if they should snap in half and topple over at the slightest knock, and yet those that survive today have stood here for around 5000 years.

It is thought that there were originally 12 stones standing here, set within a henge (traces of which are still visible). At the centre of the monument is a large square setting of stones that looks for all the world like a large hearth, like those found at the nearby Barnhouse Settlement or Skara Brae. It would seem that this feature might also have been used for burning as pieces of charcoal and cremated bone have been found there. This central feature can just be made out to the right of this picture, just below the smaller standing stone.

Stones Of Stenness

Just over the road from the circle, at the southern end of the bridge stands a tall stone known as "The Watch Stone". It used to be accompanied by a holed stone known as "The Odin Stone" or "Odin's Stone" now sadly destroyed. The circle was damaged by a local farmer in the early part of the 19th century who destroyed one stone and had toppled another before angry locals put a stop to his activities. From what I have read it seems that it was this very farmer who destroyed the Odin Stone in 1814.

A windswept Squonk shelters for a moment behind a stone.


Radio carbon dates show that the circle was in use by 3000 BC and pot finds from the site indicate links with the people of Skara Brae, The Barnhouse Settlement and Maes Howe. It is also tempting to imagine some kind of connection with the nearby Ring Of Brodgar, just a mile to the north and well within vision on a reasonably clear day. There is some evidence for a stone avenue linking the Stones of Stenness with the Ring of Brodgar, an avenue that might have included the Watch Stone and the Odin Stone. There are two other standing stones clearly visible on the way in the grounds of a house.

The picture above is just to give some idea of the scale of these megaliths. I'm around 6'2" tall, the stone that I'm leaning against is 19 feet high. It must have been a very impressive sight indeed 5000 years ago if all 12 stones were as tall as this!

Nearby Sites

Ring of Brodgar
Barnhouse Settlement

Related Sites




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This prehistoric site has been rescued for historical reasons by History X's archive