Tomb of the Eagles

Tomb of the Eagles

The Tomb of the Eagles, also known as the Isbister Chambered Cairn, is one of the finest archaeological sites in Scotland. Located on the Orkney Isles, the Tomb of the Eagles takes you back 5,000 years to the Bronze Age and offers an incredible look into a time long past. If you’ve ever wanted to peer into Neolithic humans’ lives, then visiting South Ronaldsay is a must.

We’re here to cover what this amazing collection has in store for you, how to get to the Tomb of the Eagles, and how it was discovered. Spread your wings, and let’s travel back in time to the Tomb of the Eagles, Orkney.

History of the Tomb of the Eagles

History of Ibister Chambered Cairn

The Tomb of the Eagles remained hidden for thousands of years on the quaint and peaceful Isle of South Ronaldsay until local farmer Ronnie Simison uncovered it in 1958. With one man’s curiosity, one of the top Orkney archaeology sites may still be uncovered.

Even after Ronnie found a few notable skulls and bones that pointed to an ancient cairn while digging flagstone, he was still patient, and no significant archaeological endeavours had been undertaken at the site for 20 years. From 1976, the Tomb of the Eagles and the nearby Bronze Age site became one of the busiest Orkney archaeological sites with a wealth of Neolithic information.

The Stone Age tomb revealed over 16,000 bones found on site, which archaeologists believe were from at least 320 individuals. The site’s popularity even spawned a book that cemented the name ‘Tomb of Eagles’ for the site after the number of eagle bones found on the site. While the bird may have been a spiritual symbol for the group that lived here, historians are still unsure.

Update: Unfortunately, the Tomb of the Eagles has been permanently closed since 2020. There is no current news about whether it will open again, but ensure you check online before committing to a day of travel here.

How to get to Ibister Chambered Cairn?

The Ibister Chambered Cairn is on the picturesque island of South Ronaldsay, the southernmost region of the Orkney Islands. You won’t be able to drive to this chambered cairn from the Scottish Mainland, although there are roads from significant towns on the Orkney mainland, such as Kirkwall. The main way to reach South Ronaldsay directly is by ferry.

By Ferry

A ferry leaves from John o’Groats and takes you directly to South Ronaldsay. Jogferry provides passage and serves foot passengers and cyclists only. Passage is only 40 minutes and offers access to other major attractions on the tiny Isle, like Scapa Flow.

The ferry travels three times a day during the summer season and twice a day every other day.

The Best Time to Visit the Tomb of the Eagles

The main visitor season to the Tomb of the Eagles is during the summer when Scotland becomes jam-packed with tourists who want to come and see the best of Orkney tourist attractions. Other remarkable sites on the Isle of Orkney are the Heart of Neolithic Orkney on the Mainland, which features several amazing sites like the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae, and Standing Stones of Stenness.

Things to Do at the Tomb of the Eagles

Once you’ve arrived, you may ask yourself, “What should I do while visiting the Tomb of the Eagles?” Well, look no further! Here are the top things to do at the Tomb of the Eagles when you stop by!

Explore the Tomb of the Eagles

Explore the Tomb

Why not start with the highlight and explore the Tomb of the Eagles during your visit? The burial site is accessed by a trolley that takes you into the depths of the burial site. Get hands-on with the fascinating stone cairn within, with plenty of opportunities to see the aged rocks thanks to the skylight above the tomb.

While there are no human remains or bird bones still within the site, you can see the fascinating displays at the visitor centre to learn more about the history of the Tomb of the Eagles.

Learn about the Bronze Age Site

Bronze Age Site

Once you’ve visited the Tomb of the Eagles, follow the well-marked path about a mile inland to the remains of a Bronze Age stone building that Ronnie Simison also discovered. You can see it to this day, with a water trough, hearth, and burnt mound of stone. The site tells us a lot about the Bronze Age people who lived there, although archaeologists are still unsure of why the site was abandoned.

Go on a Wildflower Trail and Coastal Walk

Wildflower Trail

There’s plenty more to look forward to on the Isle besides the Tomb of the Eagles! During the summer, the water is inviting, wildflowers are in bloom, and the caw of sea birds soothes the weary soul. Going for a stunning walk alongside the dramatic South Ronaldsay cliffs is magical, although it’s best to stay away from the cliff edge on especially windy days.

Pick up Something Hot and Delicious from the Visitor Centre

Visitor Centre

The visitor centre is packed with amazing things to do and learn at the Tomb of the Eagles! From a fantastic collection of artefacts like bird bones and human remains to daily talks that offer insights into the significance of the Ibister Chambered Cairn.

While you’re here, pick up some hot and cold drinks and snacks (their coffees are delicious!). If you want to pick a souvenir from your time at the Tomb of the Eagles, there are many local crafts and art made by locals that serve as the perfect gift to take home.

When visiting one of the well-loved visitor attractions and Orkney’s ancient sites, taking something home from what this gift shop offers is an absolute must!

Support this Blog 💙

My Voyage Scotland is an independently owned website. If you find the information on this website helpful, please consider booking your next trip using the links below. We make a (very small) commission on anything booked via the below map, and it doesn’t cost our readers more.