Knowes of Trotty

A walk in the past – visiting the Bronze Age barrow cemetery at Knowes of Trotty.

There is a small car park at HY 334164 and from the end of the road just beyond this a clear footpath, with sections of board walk, leads across the moorland to the Knowes of Trotty.  It is an easy walk with much natural interest – listen out for sky larks, but it can get very boggy underfoot after rain.

There are 12 earthen mounds at the Knowes of Trotty, all built some 4,000 years ago for the dead of the local Bronze Age farmers.  This is a spectacular site and there are indications that the Knowes of Trotty must have been a cemetery of especial significance.  The barrows were raised on top of natural mounds to enhance their prominence and excavations in the nineteenth century yielded gold and amber objects that had been laid to rest with at least one of the burials.  Goods like these would have been of great value, and were generally rare in Bronze Age society.  Although the gold was Scottish in origin, archaeologists have suggested that there may be links with the Wessex area around Stonehenge where similar objects have been found.

Sadly the earlier diggings have removed much of the evidence that would have meant a lot to the archaeologists of today, but Orkney Archaeological Trust have been working at the Knowes of Trotty in more recent times and they have uncovered the traces of at least one building alongside the barrows.  This may well have served during the burials and other rituals carried out here.

There are rarely many other people here and the Knowes of Trotty provides an opportunity to visit one of Orkney’s more important archaeological sites without the crowds that other locations attract.  It is not hard to imagine those who came here to bury, mourn, and communicate with their ancestors in the second millennium BC.

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