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Tomb of the Eagles, South Ronaldsay
(4.1/5 based on 280+ reviews on the web)
The Tomb of the Eagles, or Isbister Chambered Cairn, is a Neolithic chambered tomb located on a cliff edge at Isbister on South Ronaldsay in Orkney, Scotland. First explored by Ronald Simison, a farmer, when digging flagstones in 1958, he conducted his own excavations at the site in 1976. Alerted by Simison, archaeologist John Hedges then mounted a full study, prepared a technical report and wrote a popular book that cemented the tomb's name.16,000 human bones were found at the site, as well as 725 from birds. These were identified as predominantly belonging to the white-tailed sea eagle and represented between 8 and 20 individuals. These were originally interpreted as a foundation deposit; however, this interpretation has been challenged by new dating techniques. These reveal that the eagles died c. 2450–2050 BC, up to 1,000 years after the building of the tomb. This confirms growing evidence from other sites that the neolithic tombs of Orkney remained in use for many generations.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • Fabulous introduction before you go to the tomb. You can touch artifacs that are over 3000 year old. The family running the visitor centre and tomb have a great appreciation of the find. They have a r...  more »
  • Visitors centre with giftshop, talks, toilets and coffee machine but no cafe. Incredible views but take waterproof clothing as weather changes quickly during clifftop walk. 
  • We really enjoyed our visit. We liked the brief introduction and warm welcome. The talk was well planned and interesting, and being able to hold the relics was quite moving! The walk was well signed, ...  more »
Google
  • We visited the Tomb of the Eagles on the last day of October which was also the last day they were open this year. Very friendly and knowledgeable staff. Nice little visitor centre and after that a stroll along the coast to the tomb. Don't miss out on the seals in the bay!
  • Fascinating site to visit, the children loved it too. The explanations of both sites (the Neolithic tomb and the Iron Age water heating site) at the visitor's center at the beginning were very interesting (and the bathrooms were spotless -- not a given in Scotland!), and the visit to the tomb itself was even better. To get in, you have to either crawl or slide through on your back on a plank with wheels, but once you're inside you can stand up straight. They left some skulls in one of the 3 compartments that contained all of the skulls. Very interesting, and the kids loved sliding through the small entrance. It's a bit of a walk from the visitor's center to the first site and then to the tomb (they say 1.5 miles total, there and back, but I think it's a little more...). But if you have trouble walking long distances, you can drive to the first site, leave the car there, and walk to the tomb and back (that walk's about 1.5 km). There's an entry fee, but unfortunately it's not included in the Orkney Explorer pass (which is worth taking if you plan to visit at least 2-3 sites during your stay -- which you should!). Nevertheless, it's worth the entry fee to see this!
  • Four of us visited the tomb in June 2016. The weather was glorious and the backdrop to this site absolutely stunning. The visitor centre is well laid out, the staff helpful and knowledgeable, and the little museum, with it's neolithic treasures was a delight. We felt privileged to touch and hold items of such antiquity. This site is a fitting tribute to local farmer, Ronnie Simison, who discovered the tomb decades ago, then had the foresight to excavate it to the highest standards. We all loved the place and would recommend that visitors take time to stop and enjoy this piece of our ancient history.
  • A trip to Orkney is not complete without a trip to the wonderful family-run Tomb Of The Eagles with its astonishing Neolithic cairn and Bronze Age building. The visitors centre is modern, well-appointed and has a gift shop and toilets. The name refers to the presence of Sea Eagle claws amongst the deposits left by the community that used the cairn 5000 years ago. The presentation, delivered by the highly knowledgeable and very helpful staff, covers the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze eras. You can actually hold the Tomb of The Eagles finds in your hand during the presentation. I know of no other museum which allows this. Other cairns that you can visit have long since had the contents removed and either lost or put in a museum. The Tomb of The Eagles staff interpret the finds superbly. The family have worked closely with archaeologists over many years to ensure that the information given is as accurate as possible. The Tomb is as it was when Ronnie Simison expertly excavated it over 50 years ago, and you can go inside. If the weather is bad, you can even borrow waterproofs. The Tomb is situated overlooking spectacular cliffs and the birdwatching is excellent. The walk to and from the cairn takes you by a beach frequented by seals. If you read the excellent book Tomb Of The Eagles by John Hedges you will find out how important this cairn is to modern understanding of the Neolithic era - it is simply the best information available to us on British communities that existed 5000 years ago. Also at this site is a fantastically well preserved bronze age burnt mound which is a bronze age community building. Bronze Age buildings occur all over Britain, but ones in such good state of preservation as this are incredibly rare. If you want to learn about the prehistory of Britain then a visit to the Tomb of The Eagles is thoroughly recommended.
  • This was a brilliant experience. The talks were informative, the sites were amazing and the people running the visitor centre were friendly and helpful. The set up is very good for anybody as there is wet weather gear to borrow for those not prepared. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning.