The chambered cairn on the summit of Ronas Hill
|Elevation||450 m (1,480 ft)|
|Prominence||450 m (1,480 ft)|
|Translation||stony ground or scree (Norse)|
OS Landranger 3
|Official name||Ronas Hill-North Roe & Tingon|
|Designated||11 August 1997|
Ronas Hill (Old Norse: rön, meaning stony ground or scree) is on the Northmavine peninsula of Mainland, Shetland, at . The Norse name certainly describes the hilltop. It is the highest point on the entire Shetland archipelago. On a clear day, much of Shetland can be seen from the summit. It looks over Yell Sound, the North Sea, across to the Atlantic Ocean and even the highest points of Fair Isle.
Ronas Hill is a Ramsar site, containing many rare Arctic plants. Peculiarly for Shetland, there are several species of woodland fungi, notably ceps and chanterelles, which normally grow on the roots of deciduous trees (notable by their absence on Ronas Hill). Here, they are associated with creeping willow, which grows extensively on the hill.
On top of the hill, there is a Neolithic chambered cairn, unusual for its position on top of a hill. Most surviving Neolithic British cairns are sited in prominent places, but not generally on the top of taller hills. According to local farmers, until the construction of Sullom Voe Terminal in the mid-1970s, the cairn contained a variety of "sacrifice" items, such as coins (some "very old") and other items. Prior to that time, Ronas Hill would have been far off the beaten track.
Ronas Hill cairn shows evidence of substantial rebuilding of its upper structure, as evidenced by the lack of lichen on stones above the entry passage and main cyst. The current peak of pink granite stones is clearly visible from the valley below and may have been raised in height to serve as a "mede" or fishing mark in past centuries. The cairn was certainly altered by soldiers during a military exercise in the 1960s, when a wall was built around its entrance to turn it into a foxhole.
- Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
- "North Mainland". Visit Scotland. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
- "Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)". JNCC. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
- "Ronas Hill". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
- "Shetland Oil". Retrieved 26 April 2009.[dead link]
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