» Skip to content

Home » News and Blogs » Punds Water cairn

Punds Water cairn

Published: 11 July 2023

Dr Val Turner, has been working as Regional Archaeologist at the Shetland Amenity Trust for almost 40 years. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing 5 things she loves about Shetland's archaeology, second on the her list is the remarkably well-preserved chambered-cairn at Punds Water in the hills above Mangaster, Northmavine. 

The majority of burial cairns from the Neolithic (the first farmers) have a distinct “heel” shape. This is quite different to burial cairns found elsewhere in Scotland.

One of the finest examples of a chambered cairn at Punds Water. 

The cairns have a curving back but the front is concave, creating the front of the heel.  A passage runs in from the middle of the front, ending at a chamber in the middle.  Usually the chamber is just big enough for one person to lie down in.  It is possible that only a few bones from any one person were placed in the cairn. Alternatively, the cairns may have been swept out regularly and a new body replaced an earlier one. A mystery which we have yet to solve.

Punds Water chambered cairn is one of the best examples we have. Sitting on a particularly wild hill, overlooking a loch, the cairn has spectacular views including the peninsula in the loch, where there is a well-preserved prehistoric house site. Either the ancestors kept an eye on the settlement, or the living wanted to keep watch on the dead.

Dr Val Turner, Regional Archaeologist

Val's recommended walk - Off the Beaten Track 1 – Punds Water
It’s easy to get lost in this landscape.  So, ideally, go prepared with a map or GPS.  This walk will take you 2-3 hours, so take a flask and please don’t attempt it in fog or low cloud.