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The Stone o' Setter, Eday

The Setter Stone, Eday

Perhaps one of Orkney's finest monoliths towers over a landscape dotted with chambered cairns, in the northern half of Eday

The Stone o' Setter is seven feet wide at the base and, at over 15 feet high (4.5 metres), is one of the tallest megaliths in Orkney.

Surrounded by ancient cairns, the Setter Stone stands in an area that was of some significance to the islanders of prehistoric times.

Centuries of weathering has given the sandstone monolith a distinctive profile. Tapering from the top, heavy erosion gives the monolith the appearance of a giant, stone hand - a fact that has ensured it a place in local folklore.

But although the stone bears an uncanny resemblance to a giant's hand, tradition has it that it was raised by a local laird.

This laird first dug a massive hole to house his monolith, before piling up earth to form a slope by the hole. The stone was laid, on its side, on the ramp, with the intention of rocking it until the stone final slid into place.

However, despite the their efforts, the laird's men couldn't shift the stone. They just didn't have the strength to push the megalith upright. So, to help overbalance the see-sawing stone, the laird asked his wife to climb out and sit on the other end of the stone - the end hanging over the deep pit.

The dutiful wife clambered out across the horizontal stone and, sure enough, it began to rock. As she jumped on one side, her husband and his entourage pushed the other, in an attempt to overbalance the massive, sandstone monolith.

As the rocking motion of the stone increased, the faster the wife jumped and the harder the laird's men pushed. Then, with a shriek, the laird's wife overbalanced and fell down into the socket hole. Seconds later, the stone crashed down on top of her.

According to the islanders, it was no secret that the laird detested his wife so made no attempt to remove her from underneath the Setter Stone.

Instead, the megalith was pushed upright and the hole filled with rocks and packed earth.