The Old Man of Hoy

One of our main reasons for visiting Hoy (other than the excitement of the ferry crossing) was to see the ‘Old Man’ sea stack. From Rackwick where we stayed, it’s a very pleasant (if steep in places) fiva and a bit mile walk. We liked it so much we went out one evening, and again the next morning.

Rackwick Bay and Bothy

Rackwick bay is a popular place for people to stay on Hoy. One reason is the bothy – it’s very basic accommodation, but there’s a wood burner, table and chairs and camp beds – and a toilet next door. Perhaps, other than the lovely location, the main attraction is that it’s completely free.

We didn’t stay in the bothy, because you can also park your van there for free, and they provide toilets, waste disposal and water. You’re advised to boil the water, but as you have to do that to make tea, it wasn’t a problem!

Hoy ahoy!

We went over to the island of Hoy on a ferry. That was more ‘interesting’ than I’d anticipated. If you’d like, you can make the crossing with us.

It started off very foggy, which goes some way to explaining why at three miles into a two mile circular walk to see the lighthouse we found ourselves on a totally different path, heading away from the van. Still after only about another half mile we were able to get a phone signal and directions for the two and a bit miles walk back to base camp. We did find the lighthouse though! Other things we saw, before the fog cleared, were Betty Corrigal’s grave (don’t Google that if you don’t like sad stories) and the Dwarfie Stane – I filmed that too!

There’s a myth that giants used to live in the Dwarfie Stane. If true, they were extremely small giants. A slightly peculiar 5′ 3″ writer has been included for scale.

Summer solstice at the Standing Stones of Stenness

It’s the summer solstice today and it seems right to celebrate it at the Ring of Brodgar and nearby Standing Stones of Stenness. We won’t be staying up until it gets dark, because that won’t be happening here tonight, but we will walk amongst the stones and toast them (with something other than tea!).

Here are some photos taken a few days ago, when we had a guided tour of the stones and Barnhouse village – a neolithic settlement discovered fairly recently, right behind the stones.

The stones at Stenness were once part of a stone circle, with a surrounding ditch. This is the earliest known henge structure in the British Isles – several hundred years earlier than the Ring of Brodgar. The tallest stone is over 6 metres high.

By the way, this collection of 24 of my slightly spooky stories is currently on sale at 99p / 99c.

Wednesday word of the week – Peedie

Peedie is a word used on Orkney, and probably much of the rest of Scotland, meaning little or small. It’s used affectionately, rather than derogatorily. So I might refer to a friend who isn’t tall as peedie, but not to a less than generous piece of cake – such as all that remained of the chocolate brownie star the day after I obtained it from a cake shed.

Deerness, Orkney

There’s a nature reserve walk at Deerness, which includes a collapsed sea cave called The Gloup, dramatic scenery and good opportunities to see interesting birds, so obviously, despite the rain, we had to go.

After The Gloup, there’s the option to negotiate a really scary path to reach the brough of Deerness. All that remains of the brough is a ruined building which may have been a chapel, so we didn’t need to do that – which doesn’t mean to say we didn’t do it.

Despite me being as sure footed as a mountain goat, and speedy as a diving gannet, Gary still somehow managed to get far enough ahead to film me demonstrating my fearless mountaineering skills. I could have done with something stronger than tea after that, but we brewed a pot anyway, as wine o’clock was still some time off.

Earl’s Bu and round church, Orphir, Orkney

One of the many Earl’s of Orkney, built a Bu (which seems to have been a fancy farmhouse with a massive drinking hall) and a round church in Orphir. He then got a rival Earl of Orkney drunk and murdered him as he left the church. That kind of thing seems to have been typical for the time. The locals are a lot more friendly these days.

When we arrived the weather wasn’t great, and as well as taking photos we planned to take a coastal walking, looking out to Scapa Flow, so we had tea and cake in the van while we waited for conditions to improve – which they soon did.

The car park was popular with people eating various things, but in some cases rather than doing that before sightseeing and taking a walk, like reasonable people, they did it instead. That’s cheating if you ask me!

Cuween Hill – and Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn, Orkney

After visiting the chambered cairn on Cuween Hill, we carried on up to the top, where we found some piles of stones, which were possibly a ruin recently rearranged, and some orchids.

After that, we returned to the van for a cup of tea and piece of cake whilst we decided what to do next – and decided to try finding another chambered cairn. We’d seen signs for one on Wideford Hill, but the final one pointed towards a narrow farm track rather than a road. I went in to the sheep shed to ask and was told (by the farmer, not the sheep) that we’d get our van up there ‘nae bother’ so off we went.
Following the farmer’s directions, we reached a tiny car park. As we pulled in a Rabbies coach went by with the driver gesturing for us to follow him. We did that and reached the very top of the hill, where he’d taken his group for a panoramic view of much of Mainland Orkney. After enjoying that for a while, we went back to the car park and set of for the chambered cairn.

It was, ‘quite a trek’ as the Rabbies guide had told us to expect, but worth it. With this one, instead of crawling through a tunnel you access it through the top by a modern ladder. Me climbing down ladders looks just like anyone else doing it, only slower. A lot slower, especially lowering myself over the edge to get started, so I didn’t film that.

We’d read there was some Viking graffiti inside. I’m not absolutely sure that’s what I found, but I photographed it anyway! After that we had another cup of tea as we decided where to spend the night.

Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn, Orkney

We’ve been doing so much I’m struggling to keep up with blogging about it all! After visiting Grain Earth House, and attempting to video the experience, we went to another, more impressive chambered cairn at Cuween Hill. If you know your archeology you may have heard of the aisle of dogs – that’s in this one, although I wasn’t sure which of the various chambers that referred to (it’s dark, there’s not much space, and I’m slightly claustrophobic, so I didn’t linger long). We had to crawl on hands and knees to get inside, but could stand up in the first chamber – I wasn’t brave enough to climb into the others!

I had another go at videoing this one. We took our own lighting – without which it would have been completely dark. Although the film doesn’t look more impressive than the last one, I did some slightly more advanced editing to create it. Here’s the result.

Earl’s Palace

There have been quite a few Earls of Orkney, with marvellous names such as Thorfinn the Mighty, Thorfinn Skullsplitter, Sigurd the Stout, Harald Smooth Tongue, Harald the Old, Harald the Young, Einar Wry-mouth… Inheritance rules meant that rather than the title and all the dosh going to the eldest son, all siblings got a share. All the lads became Earls, all the lassies were also considered of high status, although they only got half shares of land and wealth.

Lots of Earls meant lots of palaces. The one in these photos is the best preserved (of those we’ve seen anyway) and located in Kirkwall, opposite the Bishop’s Palace.