Scheduled Monument

Rennibister, souterrainSM90245

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement (if not assigned to any more specific type); souterrain, earth-house
Local Authority
Orkney Islands
HY 39739 12601
339739, 1012601


The monument is a souterrain and the ancient structures in an area immediately around it. Although the latter may be part of a much larger settlement mound, the scheduling is intended to protect the souterrain and the structures physically closest to it rather than whole potential area of settlement, the full extent of which is unknown.

The Rennibister souterrain has a passage about 3.5m long, at the inner end of which there was a drop of about 0.7m to the floor of a chamber which is roughly hexagonal in plan and measures over 3.3m in length by just over 2.5m in greatest width. The walls are constructed partly of slabs on edge and partly of built masonry and the roofing slabs are supported by four pillars.

The chamber contained the disarticulated skeletons of what may have been two or three family groups when it was discovered in 1926. It is near the top of an extensive low mound on the flanks of which are the modern buildings of Rennibister farm. The scheduling is, outwith the fenced area round the souterrain, explicitly restricted to the sub-surface remains, with the intention that the farm road may be resurfaced without constraint.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan measuring a maximum of 25m N-S by 22m E-W. Its west side is in part defined by the outer edge of, but excludes, the wall of the farm buildings N of the farmhouse, and also excludes the modern surface of the farm road to a depth of 30cm or the top of the stonework of the souterrain, whichever is the lesser. The scheduled area is outlined in red on the accompanying map extract.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is a well preserved souterrain in which the skeletons of two or three families were found. It is in the care of Scottish Ministers. It is of national importance as a fine example of an enigmatic class of structure conventionally dated to the first few centuries AD or BC.



RCAHMS records the monument as HY 31 SE 3.


Childe, V. G. and Simpson, W. D. (1961) Illustrated guide to ancient monuments in the ownership or guardianship of The Ministry of Works: vi: Scotland, Edinburgh, 108.

Marwick, H. (1975) Scotland: an archaeological guide: from the earliest times to the twelfth century, London, 238.

Marwick, H. (1952) Ancient monuments in Orkney, [Edinburgh] 21.

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, 93-4, No. 325.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Rennibister Earth House

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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: 21/03/2019 07:36