The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme


Bu of Cairston, Stromness

In close proximity to one another, on the shore at Cairston, Stromness, there are at least three archaeological sites.

In 1985 a broch was discovered in a section of cliff, about 50 metres north of the mound known as the Bu o Cairston. Sherds of Iron Age Pottery were discovered, as well as an animal knuckle bone with a neatly bored hole through its centre - now in the Orkney Museums collection. In 2002 a nearby medieval cemetery (which once surrounded a chapel), was excavated, containing the remains of 109 individuals. The burials lay mostly east - west, and have been dated to the 13th or 14th Centuries. Six individuals were buried in stone cist-like structures and five were buried in wooden coffins. It is thought that the original parish church of Stromness was located at the Bu of Cairston, before the parish church was moved to St Peter's in Outertown in the 17th Century.

Part of the Bu of Cairston settlement contains a ruin known locally as a castle. It is thought to date from the 12th Century, possibly with 16th Century additions, and perhaps belonged to the Gordon clan. In recent times it has been used as a farm building - little is now visible.