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Holm of Papa Westray South, chambered cairn

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Orkney Islands

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Latitude: 59.3501 / 59°21'0"N

Longitude: -2.8648 / 2°51'53"W

OS Eastings: 350919

OS Northings: 1051845

OS Grid: HY509518

Mapcode National: GBR M490.LCS

Mapcode Global: XH8KB.077X

Entry Name: Holm of Papa Westray South, chambered cairn

Scheduled Date: 21 March 1929

Last Amended: 7 May 1996

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90163

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Papa Westray

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Orkney


The monument comprises a chambered cairn, excavated and capped by a modern roof. Although the cairn has been in the care of the Secretary of State since 1930, it was inadequately scheduled (the negotiations for Guardianship having overtaken completion of the scheduling documentation) and this proposal rectifies the omission.

The cairn was excavated by Captain Thomas in 1849. It was at the time of excavation a mound 38m long by 18m wide and 3m high. It is elongated NNE-SSW. Excavations revealed a long central chamber with 12 subsidiary chambers opening off it. Two of these sub-chambers were subdivided into two cells. The entrance passage was long, low and narrow, and entered from the SE, long, side of the cairn to the middle of the main internal chamber.

After the cairn came into State care, it was capped with a concrete roof, and entrance provided by a hatch in this. Several stones within the walls of the internal chambers are recorded as decorated, although some of these are now not identifiable. Decoration took the form of cup-marks and simple incised line designs. The only finds recorded from the interior are a few animal bones, probably recent in date but now lost.

The area to be scheduled is the same as that in State care. It is a rectangle 46m by 23m, aligned NNE-SSW, and is shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling includes the modern concrete roof with access hole, but excludes the hatch, runners and ladder which provide access to the cairn interior.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a fine example of a Neolithic chambered burial cairn of unusual plan. It has the potential, through comparison with other cairns, to provide information about the architecture and purpose of such constructions. Although the interior has been emptied, the body of the cairn will seal deposits contemporary with the cairn's construction, and these have the potential to provide evidence for ceremonies and construction-related activities as well as the contemporary land-use and environmental conditions.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as HY 55 SW 1.


Henshall, A. S. (1963) The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 1, Edinburgh, 202, ZET.22.

RCAHMS (1946) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v. Edinburgh, 186-9, No. 544.

Petrie, G. (1859) 'Description of antiquities in Orkney recently examined, with illustrative drawings', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 2, 60-1.

Wilson, D. (1863) The archaeology and prehistoric annals of Scotland, Edinburgh, Vol. 1, 115.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Holm of Papa Westray Chambered Cairn
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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