Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn
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There aren't many hills to hike on Orkney's mainland, but the walk up Wideford Hill from Kirkwall is certainly one of the best.
But there's also a hidden gem tucked away on the western slope. Follow a rugged trail from a small car park just off the road up to the top of the hill and you'll eventually come to an excellent example of an Orcadian Neolithic chambered cairn.
The Wideford Hill cairn is around 5000-years-old and, like many others across the islands, it has similarities with its cousin at Maeshowe. There is the large central chamber, with walls up to three-metres-high, and there are smaller cells leading off from it. As expected, the building work is of the highest standard. Even part of the original roof is still in place.
The entrance to the cairn is a bit different, though. The traditional, narrow passageway you'll find at Maeshowe, Unstan, Quoyness and Cuween, amongst others, is still there, but it's closed off. Nowadays, a hatch in the ceiling is your gateway to the past, with a ladder leading down into the dark tomb below.
There are examples of Neolithic scratch art inside, and it's thought the Wideford Hill cairn could have been part of a wider society, with Cuween visible in the distance and the remains of an ancient settlement - already the subject of a number of excavations - on the lower approaches of the hill itself.
Explore the cairn and take a seat on top to enjoy the scenery before you make the trek back up the hill. You'll have plenty of time to marvel over the meticulous building work of our Neolithic ancestors.
Remember to continue to the top of Wideford Hill from the cairn car park, where you'll find fantastic panoramic views. There is a walking route to Wideford Hill from Kirkwall - head to the Muddiesdale, just past the Pickaquoy Centre and follow the path alongside Orkney Golf Club, then continue up the farm track to the top.