Maeshowe on Orkney

Ever since I realised that Maeshowe existed I’ve wanted to go there as I’ve always had an interest in Neolithic (Stone Age) monuments and their significance to the winter/summer solstices. Maeshowe is aligned with the winter solstice and the sun shines onto the back wall of the tomb then – if it is a sunny day of course! As you can see, from a distance Maeshowe is a green mound, Orkney is full of such mounds but only a tiny amount of them have been excavated – exciting stuff. If I lived there I’d be tempted to get my trowel out, especially as one woman told me that every time she dug in her garden she found something ancient and interesting.

Maeshowe Mound

You can see a photo of the interior here.
You have to go on an escorted tour to get into Maeshowe and unfortunately they don’t let you take any photos of the inside of it, not that there is much room to do that anyway. The tomb is 5,000 years old but in more modern times, 1153, some Vikings broke into it to shelter from a snowstorm which lasted for days and they filled in the time by carving runes on the walls, you can read more about that incident here.
Maeshowe Mound

Below is a photo of the entrance and you have to bend almost double for about six yards/metres in a tunnel before you reach the interior.
Maeshowe Chamber  entrance  ce

The land around Maeshowe has cows grazing all around it and one American father pointed out to his wee boy that a calf was getting a drink of milk from its mother – he said: These are happy cows. I don’t think they had ever seen anything so rural before.

The photo below is looking over from Maeshowe to the Stones of Stenness and the Ness of Brodgar.

Stenness and Brodgar 2

There’s a lot more information on Maeshowe here if you’re interested.

10 thoughts on “Maeshowe on Orkney

  1. Another fascinating site.
    We can only guess at the knowledge the people had, and their motives for undertaking these important constructions.
    To gain access to such a place when it had been undisturbed for centuries must be breathtaking.

    • Valerie,
      There certainly must have been some reason for all the work entailed in building these structures. It’s a pity there were so many people in there with us, but we did manage to get to a few smaller tombs that were open to anyone, it was nice to get those to ourselves and have a good look around in them.

  2. So interesting! You didn’t go inside?

    We have a commercial over here for a dairy company and they use the slogan happy cows. I think it’s California cows. That’s probably what the dad meant.

    • Peggy,
      Yes we did get inside but we weren’t allowed to take photos, mainly because it was packed out with about 30 of us in there and there wasn’t room to take photos with so many people in the way – so the guide said anyway!
      Hmm there was no feeling of jokiness when he said that to the kid so I’m not sure about that.

  3. I loved learning about Maeshowe–I went to all the links and then some. Pre-dating the pyramids and the Sumerians and Stonehenge. This is crucial from an anthropological and archaeological standpoint. I’m so grateful to have you show me all about it! My youngest nephew Aidan will be fascinated as well. He’s 17 and totally into history and archaeology.
    Local farmers around here, in just general chatter, refer to their “happy chickens” and “happy hens” and “happy pigs.” In the Local Food Movement here, it’s sort of a catch phrase, to contrast with the very unfortunate chickens and pigs and cows that are raised on huge industrial agricultural “farms,” but which are really the equivalent of the worst of huge corporate factories. The absolutely appalling conditions in these places, which produce most of our food, have led to the “Local Food Movement” in the Northeast and in other parts of the country here.

    • Judith,
      According to Neil Oliver Orkney was the centre of the Neolithic world, I think he is probably right about that. You might be able to find some interesting archaeology TV programmes on You Tube – such as Time Team that might interest Aidan and you. Britain’s Ancient Capital – Secrets of Orkney doesn’t seem to be on You Tube now but might be on your side of the pond.
      That was maybe why the father was saying that then. We don’t have those massive factory farms here, it’s all fairly natural still. They did try to get permission for a pig farm on an industrial scale but there was a big hoo-ha about it and it didn’t go ahead.

      • That’s what I love about the UK. My mom grew up on a family dairy farm, and family farming is what loads of my ancestors on my mom’s side of the family did, so I really appreciate the fact that small farms can be part of cooperatives, etc. and feed the country.
        Ken and I are lucky to live where we can buy locally-raised dairy products all year round and bacon, and all kinds of vegetables from June until October. And greenhouse tomatoes from our local area year-round. And mushrooms. This small-farm agriculture is growing and we’re very happy about it. Restaurants all want to serve locally-raised food. The whole movement is mushrooming–!

        • Judith,
          It’s much the same here with people being encouraged to buy at local farmers’ markets, so cutting down on airmiles and eating things when they are in season here rather than buying from abroad.

  4. Wow! beautiful and fascinating! How neat you got to go inside too though too bad you could take photos, would have been fun to see the Roman graffiti. Is this on private or public land? Just curious because of the fence and the cows which makes it seem private but the tours make it sound public.

    • Stefanie,
      I believe the tomb belongs to Historic Scotland. There is a corridor of land fenced off that leads to the tomb, I suspect the rest of the land belongs to local farmers. This is a photo of the Viking runes, quite different from our alphabetmaeshowe

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