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Anyone been to Tomb of the Eagles?

My husband is dying to go, and I think it sounds really interesting, but I rarely see it mentioned in tours or articles when people are discussing visiting the Orkneys.
If you've been, what did you think? How did you get there? Was it worth the time spent?

Posted by
5678 posts

Not only have I visited, but sister and brother-in-law also visited in a separate visit. I had a car, so I drove to it. If you do drive, check out St. Margaret's Hope and the Hoxa Tapestries also on South Ronaldsay.

They have a small museum, but the highlight was walking out to the tomb and the. Lying down on your back on a trolley and using a rope to pull yourself into the tomb. You walk along some beautiful sea cliffs.

The owners have some lovely friendly dogs. My sister tells the tale of their visit. They were driving their rental car out the very long driveway, when my sister said to her husband who was driving, "Look at that!" And he promptly drove into the ditch. They got out and we're facing a long walk back up the driveway when they noticed the dog. He looked at them, checked out the car, and then wheeled and headed back up the driveway. A few minutes later, the farmer /owner was coming down the driveway on his tractor. He pulled the car out of the ditch and my Brother-in-law thanked him and apologized. The farmer said, "Och! Don't worry. That's not the first time Ronnie's wee car has been in that ditch!"

Orkney is a wonderful small place.

Pam

Posted by
1581 posts

We really enjoyed Tomb of the Eagles and would recommend you make time for it. We were lucky enough to meet some really engaging and knowledgeable docents in the little museum and they made all the difference in understanding the site. And as Pamela said, the walk is spectacular.

Posted by
7575 posts

We visted one rainy day last August. We were first welcomed as we walked inside the door (past the dog bowl on the front porch that had filled with rainwater) and it was suggested the visit was ideally done at a leisurely pace, and to allow at least 2 hours for the visit. A docent took us into the first museum room, a hands-on place with Iron-age residents' skulls and sea eagle claws found in the tomb (the tombs themselves are now empty of artifacts). After explaining the descovery of the tomb in 1958 by the farmer and explaining many of the items in the display cases, we were sent to Room #2 for a brief stop there.

We were then offered free use of their supply of waterproof jackets, pants, and/or Wellington boots, as it's a bit of a walk out to the tomb site, and if it's been raining (a 50% liklihood on any given day) you'll be glad, if you don't already have your own waterproofs. About halfway along the walk is the site of an ancient Burnt Mound (explained in museum room #2), which appears to have been a kind of Iron-age communal work site, and the ashes of fires were tossed next door, forming a mound (hence Burnt Mound).

Arriving at the tomb location (a bit muddy in the rain), we lay on the wheeled trolley and pulled along a rope to get into the low, long opening of the tomb. You can go on your back or stomach, feet or head first. While we were inside the tomb, some others came along, and we pushed the trolley out to them so they could roll inside.

The tomb contains several small chambers. It's lit up somewhat, but having a headlamp or flashlight might help you see a bit more detail of the stone construction of the chambers.

Back at the museum, we checked out the shop, which had a good collection of excellent CD's by several local Orkney musicians. We left just before 5 PM, and as we prepared to turn right at the end of the long driveway, saw a sign on the left for another, more recently-discovered tomb just down that driveway on the left. They were open only until 5PM, and we could've driven up to the front door just as it was being locked, so we didn't get to visit that tomb, but if you make the trip to the tip of South Ronaldsay, and have enough time, you could get two tombs for your efforts . . .Worthwhile!

Thanks so much for your thoughtful insights. I am so much more intrigued now and think it's going to be a real highlight of our trip! We'll definitely leave time to check out the second tomb.

Posted by
5678 posts

If you like to visit evocative graveyards, I recommend St. Peter's on South Ronaldsay. It's on the East Coast and you are on a wee road to get to it. When my sister and I first visited the graveyard, it was in July and the daisy's overran the graves and the sky was blue as was the ocean. It was quiet and beautiful. I went back again nearly 30 years later with my mother and father. We were on the hunt to find the gravestone that marked her father's and all of his brothers' deaths. She found it! It was absolutely covered in lichens. And do you know what that means? It means that the air is the most brilliantly clean air that you can find anywhere. Again, the peace of the place was amazing. As of the brothers, most of them died abroad. They were the Tait boys, sons of the South Ronaldsay Postmaster. Robert, my Grandfather died in Boston as did my great Uncle. I believe John died in Springfield, MA. I believe George died in London, and at least one brother died in South Africa. It was an amazing diaspora.

Pam