Thursday 31 August 2017

Orkney Tales 6 - To the Isle of Sanday

Thursday –  grey yet welcoming

Sanday is one of the inhabited islands of Orkney that lies off the north coast of mainland Scotland. It is the third largest of the Orkney Islands and a couple of hours on the ferry.

From Quoyness

We toured around, inland it is fertile there is much farming and is some commercial lobster fishing. We trudged the two or so miles to The Neolithic Quoyness chambered cairn. It is approximately 5,000 years old and is located on the shore side. In the afternoon it brightened up a bit and we enjoyed our lunch among some low sand dunes, looking out to sea.
A thoughtfully curated crofter's cottage

This is a place for shipwrecks due to Sanday’s low-lying topography. Those unfortunates provided the islanders with a steady supply of wood for building and fires! We saw the a more recent wreck, sunken WW1 U-boat submarine making its way out of Scapa Flow in 1919

Our lunch spot
Now deserted 

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Orkney Tales 5 - The Sands of Evie

Wednesday -  The Sands of Evie

After farewells, leaving Richard and Fi back at the Stromness Ferry, we head for the beach. It had turned into a really hot day

The Bay of Skail on the way to Evie (kind of)

One of our favourite spots is The Sands of Evie part of Aikerness Bay. We lay out in the sun reading our books. The sounds of a family at the far off water’s edge drifted up along the beach.  Right behind us was the Broch of Gurness an exquisite dry stone construction. It’s the Iron Age round tower fort is fringed by a number of additional structures and impressive concentric ditch and rampart form the outer defences. Add in some the rocky shoreline cliffs and this would have posed formidable challenge for would be invaders.

The Sands of Evie

A Pictish slab was discovered on this beach, suggesting that the Iron Age society liked to dine al fresco on the beach, for perhaps the slab was a picnic table?

A stop off at the Birsay Tea Room 

Sunday 27 August 2017

Orkney Tales 4 – Into the Viking bunker

Tuesday – Into the Viking bunker

We took Richard and Fi to Maeshowe. This is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave not far from us and v popular with the coaches that carry people round the island from the huge cruise ships that tie up in Kirkwall.

Outside Maeshowe ,sun on the water

Maeshowe was probably built around 2800 BC. Entry is by ticket and includes a spirited and breathless recitative by a Heritage Scotland guide, thus one knows all one needs in a short visit. During the 1861 excavation, its entrance passage was blocked, so an entry shaft was driven down through the top of the mound. Once inside the archaeologists discovered that they were not the first to break in…

Runic "graffiti" found on the inner walls confirmed the Orkneyinga Saga story that several groups of Norsemen had been here - known to them as "Orkahaugr" - in the mid 12thC and chronicled their presence on stone sides of the tomb.
A short stop at the Ring of Brodgar
‘Magnus with a big one was here’ and such
More detail (on Maeshowe not Magnus)

Friday 25 August 2017

Orkney Tales 3 – A walk with Tim Dean

Monday July 4  – A walk with Tim Dean

Our friends Richard and Fiona Campbell came over from the mainland, for a two-day break with us from their busy Scourie Hotel We scooped them up from the ferry terminal at Stromness and headed back to the cottage.

That evening we all enjoyed a wonderful four-hour magical botanical, and ornithological romp with naturalist and writer Tim Dean. He took us cross the cliff tops at Yesnaby. On our hands and knees we saw the Scottish primrose (primula scotica), which is only found in Orkney, and Sutherland and Caithness on the mainland.

The cliff tops were just loosing their haze of sea pink or thrift, although we still enjoyed them and the sea campion, bird’s foot trefoil, eye bright, wild thyme, and ox-eye daisies. Tim pointed out all these lovely flowers and other species. Overhead around cliff top birds, Arctic Terns, and Great Skuas Fulmars, Greater Black Back gulls, Puffins.  Birds were soaring and screeching to a halt landing in their nests on the cliff face.

And the time we said our good byes’ to Tim, just after 10pm, it was still broad daylight!

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Orkney Tales 2 To the Isle of Rousay

Sunday July 2 
Rousay is a small, hilly island about 3 km north of the mainland. It is the largest island in the Orkneys and has been nicknamed "the Egypt of the north" due to its archaeological diversity and importance. There are more treasures along the road that circles the island than there are kitchen shops in Beaconsfield.

Across to the mainland of Orkney 

Two years ago we gave up trying to cycle around it in a ferocious headwind and showers. Taking the car this time (!) we saw more had a wonderful picnic and caught the ferry home in good time for cocktails at Millbrig.

A wonderful house with many rooms at Midhow

Footnote: Over 100 archaeological sites have been identified on Rousay. However only a small fraction of them have been excavated and researched. The best known is the Midhowe Broch and Midhowe Chambered Cairn a good walk from the road but worth it.

A fisherman's hut on the north side of Rousay