Saints Journeys: The Cairns Stone Site

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The excavations at The Cairns are part of an archaeological research project investigating the later prehistory of the landscape around Windwick on the island of South Ronaldsay, Orkney. Work at The Cairns has been taking place since 2006, with the investigation now focusing on the excavation of a large Atlantic Roundhouse, or broch, and associated structures from various phases through the Iron Age and Norse period. The project is run by director Martin Carruthers, a lecturer in archaeology with UHI Archaeology Institute, based at Orkney College. So far, 12 phases have been assigned to describe the chronological complexity and development of the site at The Cairns, running from the later Neolithic period to the Medieval and post-medieval periods.

The Cairns is located approximately 30 minutes and 20 miles (32.1 km) south of Kirkwall, the main town in Orkney, at NGR ND45428688.

From the center of Kirkwall, the route to The Cairns is fairly straightforward. Head south on the A961 out of Kirkwall. Cross over the Churchill Barrier No. 1 to the small island of Lamb Holm. Next cross over Churchill Barrier No. 2 to the small island of Glimps Holm. Continue south over Churchill Barrier No. 3 to the larger isle of Burray. Drive through Burray on the A961 and at its south end drive over Churchill Barrier No. 4 to the large isle of South Ronaldsay. Pass by St. Margaret's Hope, the main village on the isle, continue south until you see a sign on the right for Windwick. Take a left onto the small one lane road to a junction, then take another left onto another small one lane road, and continue to the fourth road to the right and proceed to the parking spot on your left that looks over Winwick Bay. Walk to the dig site from there. (These instructions are approximate. Please check a map before proceeding.)

Note: The Cairns is the first site to be highlighted on the Saints and Stones Homepage not previously visited. It is hoped that this Summer this site will be visited and catalogued on the Saints and Stones website.

Visitors Information

Visitors information on THe Cairns may be found at the The Cairns website. General tourist information for the area may be found on the Scotland: South Ronaldsay website.


Please check local road conditions for possible changes prior to venturing forth on this journey. A helpful resource for changes and possible trip interruptions if you are travelling in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland is the AA-UK Route Planner. Another map source that this website uses and that may be useful to you on your journeys is Streetmap UK.

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