- Part 4
part of the wide circle at the
Ring of Brodgar with Loch Stenness in the background.
The mountain that can vaguely be seen in the background is Keelylang
southeast of this site.
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The Orkney Islands
morning of August 15 we
left Thurso to take the ferry to Stromness on the Mainland of the
Orkney Islands. It turned out to be a pleasant town consisting mainly,
as far as we discovered, of one long main street and the long stretch
of harbor with several different ferries coming and going and a number
of youth-type looking restaurants with loud music. We found, after a
somewhat boring experience on our first evening, a very pleasant
restaurant at the Royal Hotel where we had three very pleasant dinners
in an international ambiance.
was a heavily overcast day and
we couldn't see much of the coast line that we passed by. This is the
Island of Hoy, the
second-largest and the
southern-most island in the Orkney
archipelago. "Hoy's best-known
sight is the spectacular Old Man of Hoy, a 137m-high rock stack that
juts improbably from the ocean off the tip of an eroded headland."
(Scotland's Highlands and Islands - Lonely Planet Publications)
Museum in Kirkwall and the Ring of Brodgar
The first afternoon in Stromness, we took a short ride to Kirkwall on
the eastern edge of the Mainland. We visited the Orkney museum, which
contains relics of Orkney culture from the last 5000 years. Among
other things, it has some beautiful Pictish carved stones.
For specific interest, compare the
similarity in the carving patterns between this
stone from Newgrange, Ireland, and the above Pictish
stones from the Mainland, Orkney Islands. This similarity
would certainly indicate a close
cultural relationship between the Picts (identity unknown) and the
"The Picts were a Scottish people
who forged their own kingdom before uniting in AD 843 with the rest of
Scotland ... They are first mentioned in AD 297. ... After 367 their
raids upon Roman Britain became increasingly fierce. The Pictish
kingdom, which in the 8th century extended from Caithness to Fife, is
notable for the stylized but vigorous beauty of its carved memorial
stones and crosses."
"Their identity has been much debated, but they possessed a distinctive
culture seen particularly in their carved symbol stones. Their original
language, possibly non-IndoEuropean, has disappeared: some Picts
probably spoke a Brythonic Celtic language." (Encyclopedia
Britannica - Micropaedia and Macropaedia)
The Ring of Brodgar is
situated on a narrow isthmus of land between Loch Stennes and Loch
Harray. It forms a wide circle of
standing stones, some of them over 5m tall. On
our way back west
Stromness, we took a turn
north at the Stones of Stenness to visit this impressive site.
"Twenty-seven of the original 60 stones are still standing among the
heather. These old stones, raised skyward 4500 years ago (Neolithic
period), still attract
elemental forces - on 5 June 1980, one of the stones was split in two
by a bolt of lightning. It's a powerful place, with the two 'lochan'
standing still and serene on either side." (Scotland's Highlands and
Islands - Lonely Planet
It was getting towards evening and the twilight hour when we arrived at
the site. The very high and narrow stones on the right are seen against
are also several large mounds and smaller tumuli in the area, which are
probably Bronze Age, as well as another circular mound to the
north-west called the Ring of Bookan (HY284145). It seems that
the Brodgar area remained important during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC
at least, and today it still has a magnetic attraction." The Ring of Brodgar - Charles Tait, photographic Ltd.
Brae / Skaill House and then the fascinating 5000 year-old
"Overlooking a beautiful sandy bay, 8
miles north of Stromness, is northern Europe's best preserved
prehistoric village, Skara Brae. Built around 3500 BC, this remarkable
site was hidden under the sand dunes until 1850 when a severe storm
blew away the sand and grass covering the stone huts. The local laird,
William Watt, discovered the complex, which sits just half a mile from
his mansion at Skaill, and made excavating the ruins his personal
project for the next 18 years. Skara Brae was given World Heritage
Listing in 1999." (Scotland's
Highlands and Islands - Lonely
Link to Skara Brae
Neolithic Village (Charles Tait, photographic
Ltd.) - (Click on 'Neolithic Orkney' in the menu on the left and
then on 'Skara Brae')
(HY232188), by the shore of the Bay of Skaill, is virtually unique.
This remarkably well preserved village is one of very few
archaeological sites where it is actually possible to imagine the life
style of the inhabitants. First revealed after a severe storm in 1850,
this prehistoric community was occupied for about 600 years.
Radiocarbon dating suggests that the site was occupied from before 3100
BC to about 2600 BC."
House, an early 17th century mansion, the
home of the laird of Breckness, William Watt, who discovered Skara Brae.
Brae, the prehistoric village
Skaill House mansion is off in the background
"The houses are in an incredible state of preservation. Even the stone
furniture - beds, boxes and dressers - has survived the 5000 years
since people last lived here." (Scotland's
Highlands and Islands - Lonely
You can see a
glimpse of the sea
here behind the "beautiful sandy bay" mentioned in the same guide book.
to a room at Skara Brae which was considered too insecure for access to
|"North of Stromness, the
coast rises into a truly dramatic series of cliffs and exposed sea
stacks at Yesnaby, off the road to Skara Brae".
waiting for our appointment at Maes Howe, we took a side trip towards
the south from Skara Brae.
Howe, constructed about 5000 years ago
finest chambered tomb in Europe." Here we are on the path leading out
to this fascinating monument coming from the
road where the tourist center is situated. Interesting
info about Maeshowe at Welcome to the Maeshowe Webcam Site
enter the low stone passage leading into
central chamber, you step back
the dawn of man. The vast main chamber
is over 6.7m
high and 35m wide,
and the entrance passage is
aligned with the direction of sunset at the winter solstice."
(Scotland's Highlands and Islands)
group was lucky to have a
knowledgeable and very lively young woman guide. We were told that,
other remarkable facts, the chamber had been used for a group of
vikings, having to take shelter from extremely bad weather for quite a
long period of time. They had evidently been able to enter into the
mound from an opening in the roof and they had left clear traces of
their sojourn in their shelter. Runes were to be seen in several places
in the chamber, which indicated that the guests had been extremely
literate and thus most likely upper-class Scandinavian chieftains. Our
young guide said she had learned to read some of the runes, but since
the writing was in old Norse, she couldn't really read the words and
she thought learning old Norse in order to be able to interpret the
rune inscriptions would be a bit too much work.
Next - Part 5