Dwarfie Stane

  • On Hoy, Orkney



An oddity 

The Dwarfie Stane consists of a huge hollowed out block of sandstone. It is thought to be unique, as the only wholly rock-cut prehistoric tomb in the British Isles.  

A narrow entrance passage opens into a main chamber, with two small cells either side. Each cell opening has a kerb, forming a carefully squared door. One cell has a stone ledge or ‘pillow’ at its eastern end. 

The large rock that once sealed the tomb now lies in the heather beside the tomb entrance. The tomb was still sealed in the 1500s, though at some point someone attempted to break in through the roof. 

Tomb or retreat? 

The Dwarfie Stone is categorised as a Neolithic tomb, based on comparison with similar examples from the Mediterranean. Archaeologists believe it was carved between 3500 and 2500 BC. 

The stone’s inhabitants 

In his novel The Pirate, Sir Walter Scott alludes to the stone’s function as the favourite residence of Trolld, a dwarf famous in the northern sagas. 

In 1846, the famous stonemason and geologist Hugh Miller carved his initials and the year of his visit into the right-hand cell. 

British spy Major W. Mouncey carved a beautiful Persian script into the soft sandstone of the tomb in 1850. It reads: ‘I have sat two nights and have learned patience.’ He also carved his name backwards in Latin. 

Opening times

Open year-round.

Historic Scotland


Download our visitor app

Discover more on the go – the Historic Scotland app lets you find out about Scotland’s most iconic places wherever you are.

Plan your visit

More than 20 of our sites are now open. Please book your tickets in advance.

Become a member

Join Historic Scotland to visit our properties free of charge for a full year and support our work at the same time.

Hire a site for filming

Use one of our fantastic locations on your next shoot for an awe-inspiring backdrop to your work.

Learning visits

Our 300+ historic places serve as creative inspiration for all sorts of learning activities – and for learners of all ages.

Search our events

See the past brought to life by the imaginative year-round programme of events at our properties.