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  The Standing Stones of Stenness

The Standing Stones of Stenhouse
Orkney Islands

Stenness Centre Stone. Picture: Sigurd Towrie

"The most stately monument of this sort [circles of detached stones] in Scotland, and probably inferior to none in England, excepting Stonehenge, is formed by what are called the Standing Stones of Stenhouse, in the island of Pomona in the Orkneys, where it can scarcely be supposed that Druids ever penetrated. At least, it is certain, that the common people now consider it as a Scandinavian monument; and, according to an ancient custom, a couple who are desirous to attach themselves by more than an ordinary vow of fidelity, join hands through the round hole which is in one of the stones.

This they call the promise of Odin."

Scott's usage of the term 'Stenhouse' is common in non-Orcadian accounts of the area.

It is simply his attempt to render the correct name, 'Stenness', into a form he was familiar with. Even today the placename continues to be mispronounced by non-Orcadians as 'Stenn-ness', with the emphasis of the 'ness' element.

The correct Orcadian pronunciation, however, is 'Stane-is', with no emphasis on the second syllable.

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