Thursday, 25 August 2016

Day two

At the Visitor Centre we picked up tourist maps showing the location of every site of interest.  So we decided to just follow the map.  It's hard to get lost on Orkney so when I lost the signal on my phone there was no need for panic.  We followed the road out of Kirkwall to Cuween Chambered Cairn but it seemed to be up a steep hill, so we didn't go up.

We then looked for Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn but couldn't find it.

Going north on the road from Finstown we took a long single track road to the Broch of Gurness.

Driving across the north of Orkney we came to the village of Birsay in the northwest corner.

From Birsay

"Now a parish of Orkney, Birsay was already ancient when it became the centreof Viking power in the days of Earl Thorfin of Saga fame.  Orkney's first cathedral was in Birsay, and St Magnus was buried here following his foul murder, c 1116.  St Magnus Church now stands on these foundations.  Centuries later Earl Robert Stewart, bastard brother of King James V, built his palace here, testimony to the richness of the area. Today peace reigns over good farm land, fishing grounds, bird colonies, convenient services and quiet, beautiful scenery."

Earls Palace

St Magnus Church, Birsay

Brough of Birsay

This island can only be accessed at low tide and we were several hours too early.  You can see in the lower right corner the walkway which is safe to cross at low tide.

During our tour at Maeshowe the previous day, the guide mentioned that there were tours of the Ness of Brodgar archaelogical site, and that the site would be closed for the season on the day we were leaving the island.  No booking was needed so we timed our tours to arrive at the site for the very last tour of the season at 3pm.

The blog of the dig

Ness of Brodgar Trust

The site is 5,400 years old!  It will take decades to excavate the entire site.  The tour was fascinating and both Triana and I decided to donate to the site by placing a pin in one of the small squares of the site for £10.  We will be kept updated on any finding in our specific squares.

Explore a 3D of the site

Neil Oliver documentary on the site:

Obviously not my photo:

One of mine:

Skaill House - first mansion on Orkney

The owner of this 17th century mansion, William Watt, discovered Skara Brae in 1850.

Skara Brae

The main reason I wanted to visit Orkney was to see Skara Brae.

A few weeks ago I got an email from an Orkney tourism site I'd signed up to telling me that this summer they had begun having private evening tours of the site.  The size of the group was between 12-15.  During the day this site is mobbed with tourists, especially in summer.  Having a private tour meant that we had a guide and we also allowed past all the 'no admittance' signs into the dwellings.

Ring of Brodgar

The stones were erected between 4,000 and 4,500 years ago.

Triana against a stone

Standing Stones of Stenness

The stones were erected at least 5,000 years ago.  Only 5 of the original 12 stones are left.  I did not take any photos as it was pouring rain, but here's one from online:

Maeshowe, Standing Stones of Stenness, Ness of Brodgar site, and the Ring of Brodgar, and the Barnhouse Neolithic settlement are all very near each other.

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