Dwarfie Stane

The 5,000-year-old monument known as the Dwarfie Stane lies in a steep sided valley between Quoys and Rackwick on the island of Hoy.

A huge block of hollowed-out red sandstone measuring about 8.5 metres (28 feet) long, the Dwarfie Stane is thought to be Britain’s only example of a rock-cut tomb. It should be stressed, however, that not all archaeologists share this opinion.

Although it has been suggested that the rock fell, or was cut, from the rocky outcrop on the rock face above - known as the Dwarfie Hammars - this appears unlikely.  The sheer height of the cliff face would surely have broken the rock in its descent.

The presence of another similar rock slab - the Partick Stane - about 200 yards along the valley would indicate that both stones were dropped by retreating glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age.

What makes the Dwarfie Stane remarkable is the fact that the massive stone was hollowed out using nothing but stone, or antler, tools, muscle power and patience.

An opening, three feet square, is cut into the middle of the stone's west face and leads into the inner chamber.

This chamber contains two rock-cut spaces resembling bed-places, both of which are too short for anyone of a normal stature. These were undoubtedly responsible for the origin of the dwarf folklore that surrounds the site.

Lying outside the entrance is a large sandstone block, which was originally used to seal the opening. We know that the tomb was still sealed in the 16th century.

At some point, it appears that someone attempted to break into the stone via the roof. This left a hole that remained until it was filled with concrete. There is no record of any archaeological excavation being carried out on the Stane, nor do we know what, if anything, was found inside.

Dwarfie Stane Lyrawa Viewpoint Betty Corrigall Pegal Burn
Sandy Loch Hills of Hoy St John's Head Old Man of Hoy Rackwick Bay

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