Ancient Monuments

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Auskerry, chapel & settlement 590m north east of Auskerry Lighthouse

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Orkney Islands

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Latitude: 59.0298 / 59°1'47"N

Longitude: -2.5651 / 2°33'54"W

OS Eastings: 367662

OS Northings: 1016004

OS Grid: HY676160

Mapcode National: GBR N40V.ZKJ

Mapcode Global: WH8D8.K9RH

Entry Name: Auskerry, chapel & settlement 590m NE of Auskerry Lighthouse

Scheduled Date: 11 December 2014

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13521

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: chapel; Secular: settlement, including deserted, depopulated and townships

Location: Stronsay

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Orkney


The monument comprises the remains of a small chapel, an associated structure and enclosure, and a nearby settlement. The earliest remains are likely to be Late Iron Age or Pictish in date (possibly 7th-8th centuries AD); the chapel is likely to be Norse or early medieval (perhaps 10th-12th centuries AD). The chapel is roughly rectangular on plan, orientated WNW-ESE and measures an average of 4.5m by 3.7m internally. The S and E walls survive up to 1m high (maximum); the lower two courses of the N and W walls also survive, but are largely obscured by rubble. An entrance can be traced in the W gable. Another structure, visible as a group of upright earthfast slabs amongst a tumble of larger stones, is situated approximately 5m NW of the chapel and appears to extend beneath the chapel, indicating that it is of earlier date. These structures are enclosed by a curvilinear earth and stone bank, which arcs around the NW edge of the site. The settlement is situated approximately 80m to the SW. It survives as an amorphous heap of large tumbled stones, measuring approximately 29m NE-SW by 16m transversely, with several orthostats indicating the presence of a structure, probably a house. Previous survey recorded an entrance-fa├žade at the S end, flanked by horn-walls, with a main chamber at the heart of the building, flanked by smaller compartments. The monument is situated in an area of level ground at around 10m above sea level, adjacent to cliffs on the SE coast of Auskerry, overlooking the North Sea.

The scheduled area is roughly oval in plan to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the origins and development of early historic (Pictish) settlement and early ecclesiastical sites, both in Orkney and across Scotland in general. This site is of particular interest because it appears relatively undisturbed: a significant amount of material is visible on the ground surface and there is high potential for the survival of important below-ground archaeological features and deposits in and around the structures, which can add to our understanding of their origins, function and use, and the relationship between them. Its significance is enhanced by the opportunities for comparison of this site with other early historic sites, both in Auskerry and elsewhere in Orkney. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the nature of Pictish domestic architecture and settlement, the origin and development of early chapels, and the place of both in the historic landscape.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HY61NE 1 and HY61NE 3.


Anderson, J 1794, Stronsay and Eday, Old Statistical Account 15, 387-434.

Crawford, B 2002, The Papar Project, University of St Andrews, [viewed 26 August 2013].

Morris, C D 1989, The Birsay Bay project: coastal sites beside the Brough Road, Birsay, Orkney: excavations 1976-1982, vol 1, University of Durham Department of Archaeology, Monog ser no 1, Durham.

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, 337.

RCAHMS, 1984, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Eday and Stronsay, Orkney Islands Area, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 23, Edinburgh, 33-34, 188, 191, 194.

Ritchie, A 1979, 'Excavation of Pictish and Viking-Age farmsteads at Buckquoy, Orkney', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 108, 174-227.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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