Knowes of Trotty

A short walk to one of Orkney’s lesser-known archaeological sites.

The Knowes of Trotty is one of the UK’s largest Bronze Age burial sites to be found outwith the south of England.

It's tucked under the low slopes of the Ward o’ Redland in the parish of Harray.

Save this walk for a fine Orkney sunset, when the warm, slanting light will show these mounds at their best. It's a simple walk, but it can be quite rough and uneven underfoot at points.

Grading: 2
1hr 30mins
Gravel vehicle track, narrow grassy/heathery path with duckboards. Rough and occasionally boggy in places.
Map description
OS Explorer 463; OS Landranger 6

Start at the obvious parking place on the Howe Road in Harray (HY 3333 1637) and follow the well-maintained vehicle track heading northeast for around a kilometre.

Shortly after you pass a house and farm buildings the track takes a sharp turn to the left. After about 50 metres, as the track bends right, keep going straight ahead, following the line of the fence to head along a grassy peat track, devil’s-bit scabious and tormentil just two of the many wildflowers to pass under your feet.

After around 100 metres you’ll find a series of wooden duckboards to help keep you out of some of the wettest sections of the route. Some of these do require a bit of a step up/down and the rough path is quite uneven, so take care as you continue on your walk. Remember to watch for brightly-coloured dragonflies on these sections.

Keep heading roughly north along the route to arrive at the first of the mounds, or barrows (HY 3420 1727). From its modest summit you get a good vantage point west over the 15 other mounds. They were in use from around 2000BC to 1600BC and would, in their time, have been a striking feature in the landscape. Now, after four millennia, they’ve gently softened into their surroundings.

Continue west along the rough path for around another hundred metres, stopping before you reach a farm fence. In late summer it’s worth ascending a short distance up the hillside above the knowes to sit amongst the bloom of the heather, and imagine the lives of the people who lived, died and were buried here during Orkney’s Bronze Age, as hen harriers quarter the rough land below.

Return to the start by your outbound route.

Visit the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website for more information and advice on how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.

Further information

  • Places of interest

    This part of Orkney's West Mainland might appear to be a bit quieter than the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, but there is still plenty to see and do in the area. A stop at the nearby Michael Sinclair Woodturner gallery is highly recommended, with the chance to see Michael at work as well as viewing some of his beautiful pieces.

    Also close by is the home of Orkney's very own Harray Potter. Andrew Appleby is always working away at the potter's wheel in his Fursbreck Studios and a stop here is highly recommended. Just a short walk away you'll find the Aries Gallery and its wide selection of arts, crafts and photography items.

    Just over four miles away is the village of Dounby. Here you can visit Castaway Crafts and its fabulous textiles, with products handmade in Orkney. Nearby is Alison Moore Design, home to one of Orkney's most popular jewellery designers. Watch Alison's jewellery being made and browse the range at her new gallery and studio.

  • Food & drink

    The Merkister Hotel is around three and a half miles away on the shores of the Harray Loch and offers a wide selection of lunches, teas and refreshments. There's also a Co-op Supermarket in the village of Dounby, around four miles away.

    The village of Finstown is home to the well-stocked Baikie's Stores and Leighs Real Taste of Orkney takeaway van, offering delicious Orkney burgers and more.

  • Transport & services

    Orkney's number seven bus service runs to Dounby from Kirkwall and Stromness daily, Monday to Saturday, and passes the Howe Road which takes you to the start of the walk. View the full timetable on the Orkney Islands Council website.

    Petrol is available at the Co-op supermarket in Dounby a little over four miles away.

    There is a public toilet in the village offering one gents' and one ladies' toilet.

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