Ancient Monuments

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Watch Stone, stone settings, Barnhouse settlement, and related remains

A Scheduled Monument in West Mainland, Orkney Islands

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Latitude: 58.9954 / 58°59'43"N

Longitude: -3.2076 / 3°12'27"W

OS Eastings: 330711

OS Northings: 1012660

OS Grid: HY307126

Mapcode National: GBR L4FY.RCS

Mapcode Global: WH69W.P5SC

Entry Name: Watch Stone, stone settings, Barnhouse settlement, and related remains

Scheduled Date: 3 June 1999

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90352

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: standing stone

Location: Stenness

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: West Mainland

Traditional County: Orkney


The monument is an area including the Watch Stone and the site of a standing stone near to it, the site of the Odin stone and the sites of a nearby enclosure ditch, pit and stone-hole, structures including a fire place south-south-east of Odin cottage, and the late neolithic settlement at Barnhouse, and all between and around them.

The Watch Stone is a sandstone monolith 5.5m tall. The stump of a second monolith was found in a stone pit near the road. Its site is shown by the Ordnance Survey as about 7.5m SW of the Watch Stone on the modern edge of the Loch of Stenness. Excavation in 1991 revealed two stone holes and a pit near the traditional site of the Odin Stone, between HY30651260 and HY30651262. North of the Odin Stone an area containing part of a flint scatter and calcined material was studied. Surface collection of artefacts, phosphate analysis, geophysical prospection and trial excavation suggested that the remains include at least a rectangular part-enclosure roughly 9m across and a long cist burial, a hearth and associated activity areas. In the north-easternmost part of the area is the late Neolithic settlement of Barnhouse, partly excavated in the early 1980s. It includes remains of at least 8 house sites and a large late neolithic hall. Evidence from a scatter of artefacts shows that unexcavated evidence for the settlement extends well beyond the excavated area.

The area to be scheduled is bounded on the west, north and east by the shores of the Loch of Stenness and the Loch of Harray. It excludes the house, garden and outhouses of Odin cottage and a 0.5m-wide strip outside all the outer wall faces of the outhouses. To the SE it is bounded in the southern part of the area by the fence of the field in which stand the Stones of Stenness, and it thus includes the Orkney Islands Council footpath from the public road to the settlement at Barnhouse; 236m from the public road the edge of the scheduled area turns to run parallel to national grid east-west, continuing eastward to the shore of the Loch of Harray. The scheduling excludes the top 0.3m depth of the public road in an area bounded by the outer edges of the existing road drains and also the top 0.3m of the driveway to Odin cottage. It also excludes all above ground parts of fences and walls. The area is shown outlined in red on the accompanying map extract.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance for the evidence it contains about the prehistoric to early Christian use of the area, and because the structures and standing stone and stone'holes in it form parts of a prehistoric cultural assemblage relating to the Stones of Stenness and the settlement at Barnhouse. The Watch Stone is a remarkably fine standing stone, while the settlement at Barnhouse is an exceptionally fine example of a settlement of the period of Skara Brae's first phase. The area has produced firm evidence of use in the prehistoric and early Christian periods and provides an important archaeological context for the visible and excavated elements.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as HY31SW 11.


Richards C 1992, (n.p.) Survey and Excavation of Barnhouse, Stenness, Orkney 1991: an interim report for Orkney Islands council; on the survey and excavations at Barnhouse.

Richards C 1993, An archaeological study of Neolithic Orkney: Architecture, Order and Social Classification. PhD thesis, Glasgow University.

Ritchie, J N G 1976, 'The Stones of Stenness, Orkney' Proc Soc Antiq Scot 107, 1'60.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Stones of Stenness
Find out more
Related Designations

Barnhouse Stone, standing stoneSM90341
Designation TypeScheduled MonumentStatusDesignated

Stenness, stone circle and hengeSM90285
Designation TypeScheduled MonumentStatusDesignated

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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