Stones of Stenness

Standing Stones and Henge
Mainland, Orkney
Nearest town: Stromness
Nearest village: Stenness
Map reference: HY 307125

Stones of Stenness Image These stones were nearly destroyed in 1814

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The circle originally had a diameter of 31.7m (104 ft) and a total of 12 stones. Now only four unusually shaped stones remain; the tallest is about 5 m (16 ft) high, but not far away at the southern edge of the Bridge of Brodgar, is an even taller stone of 5.6m (18.5 ft) high and known as the Watch Stone. This may have been part of a line of standing stones linking the Stones of Stenness with the nearby Ring of Brodgar.
    Thousands of man-hours must have been devoted to hewing the 2m (6 ft 6 in) deep and 7 m (23 ft) wide ditch from 1250 tons of solid sandstone bedrock. The site dates back to about 2970 BC, but the ditch and outer bank are now almost disappeared; the three stones of the cove were reconstructed on 1906. Actually, the cove has been 'restored' using some fallen stones to form what was then mistakenly thought to have been their original formation.
    According to Dr.Robert Henry, an 18th century antiquary, the site was once known as the Temple of the Moon, and the Ring of Brodgar as the Temple of the Sun. There are stories of couples going first to the Temple of the Moon, where the woman fell down on her knees and prayed for strength, and then going to the Temple of the Sun where the man did the same. Each New Year's Day, the local people met at Stenness church and danced and feasted for several days.
    On Christmas Day 1814, the tenant farmer, Captain W. MacKay, tried to destroy the Stones, angry that visitors to the site were damaging his fields. MacKay had broken up one stone, locally known as Odin Stone, and felled another before he was stopped. His actions roused the anger of the locals and there were two attempts to set fire to his property.

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