Scheduled Monument

Point of Buckquoy, four moundsSM1290

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Last Date Amended
Secular: mound (unallocated to other category)
Local Authority
Orkney Islands
Birsay And Harray
HY 24446 28271
324446, 1028271


The monument comprises four mounds dating probably to the late Iron Age (Pictish) and Norse period (between around 500 and 1200 AD), or possibly earlier. The four mounds vary in size and form, but they are all turf-covered with exposed stone visible in places. The mounds survive as follows:

Mound 1 lies to the NE of the group. It is roughly oval in shape, measuring approximately 18m NE-SW by 14m transversely, with a ruined sheepfold on top. Mound 2 lies some 80m to the W. It is oblong in shape, measuring 22m by 16m and stands up to 1.2m high. Stone is visible within the mound and on its upper surface. Mound 3 is situated some 90m to the SE of Mound 2 and is crossed by a field boundary running approximately N-S. It is an amorphous shape with a mound around 10m in diameter to the N, and a raised terrace or platform to the S, extending approximately 12m and measuring 7m from E-W. Mound 4, known as the Knowe of Buckquoy, is the southernmost of the four mounds and lies around 85m SE of Mound 3. It is an elongated oval grass-covered mound, measuring approximately 23m E-W by 16m N-S and standing up to 1.5m high. It sits on a wider platform measuring approximately 30m E-W by 22m transversely. Stones are visible within the mound, including a stretch of walling exposed on the SW edge; stones protruding from its top give it an uneven surface. Previous excavations by Fraser in the 1930s revealed two lines of walling in the NW of Mound 4. One was a straight wall, four courses high, and the other was a single course of an arc of walling, indicative of the inner wall of a circular chamber.

The monument is situated on the flat promontory known as the Point of Buckquoy on the NW coast of Orkney Mainland at around 10m above sea level, ESE of the Brough of Birsay. The monument was last scheduled in 1965, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

The scheduled area consists of four discrete polygons, two circular and two rectangular, each centred on one of the mounds. The scheduled area includes 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. The scheduling specifically excludes the stone-built shed S of Mound 3 and the above-ground elements of the stone field dyke running across Mound 3.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because of its inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Pictish and Norse settlement, society, agriculture and economy. Given the size of the surviving mounds, the visible stone content (including walling), and the wealth of archaeological remains discovered during excavations in the near vicinity, especially along the Brough Road, these mounds are highly likely to contain very important structural remains and archaeological deposits. The potential for the survival of one or more figure-of-eight type houses within the mounds makes them particularly significant, as this is a relatively rare site type. The mounds have considerable potential to enhance our understanding of the processes of cultural change during the transition from Pictish to Norse authority in Orkney, and the rate and nature of Norse colonisation. The close proximity of these mounds to Pictish and Norse settlements on the Brough of Birsay and at numerous other broadly contemporary settlement and burial sites around the Bay of Birsay further enhances the monument's significance. There is considerable potential to study the relationship between these various sites which could develop our understanding of settlement patterns and changes in culture and economy during this crucial period in the history of Orkney and northern Scotland. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to appreciate and understand changes in settlement, land-use and economy between the late Iron Age and the Norse period in Orkney.



RCAHMS records the site as HY22NW 13 and HY22NW 11.


Morris, C D 1984, Viking and Early Settlement Archaeological Research Project, unpubl manuscript, Durham.

Morris, C D 1989, The Birsay Bay project: coastal sites beside the Brough Road, Birsay, Orkney: excavations 1976-1982, vol 1, 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, 18-19, no 25.

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

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

Scheduling is the way that a monument or archaeological site of national importance is recognised by law through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments of national importance using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The additional information in the scheduled monument record gives an indication of the national importance of the monument(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the monument(s). The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief and some information will not have been recorded. Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

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Printed: 12/12/2018 09:45