Muness Castle

Unst, Shetland, Scotland. Day 30, 28th July 2013.

 

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Muness Castle is named after Mu Ness, a nearby headland.  It was built in 1598 by Laurence Bruce, half brother to Earl Robert Stewart (sharing the same mistress of James V as mother).

 

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In 1571 Earl Robert appointed Laurence as Foud (anglicised as Sheriff) of Shetland.  Laurence developed an unenviable reputation for corruption and cruelty.   He undertook acts of piracy on passing shipping, changed weights and measures to increase his income and fathered 24 local illegitimate children by imposing feudal “rights” on local women.

He was removed from his post in 1577 after complaints from residents led to a Commission that visited Shetland and took evidence from 700 male Shetlanders.  Notwithstanding this finding and a prohibition by the Commission of his further living in Northern Scotland (i.e. north of the River Tay), Laurence returned the next year when he was appointed Sheriff-Depute by Earl Robert.

 

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After Robert died in 1593, Laurence did not have such good relations with Robert’s son Earl Patrick Stewart and this led to building Muness Castle in 1598.  In 1608, Earl Patrick turned up with 36 men and artillery, intent on destroying the castle, but withdrew for unknown reasons before completing the task.  Laurence was amongst those who testified against Earl Patrick in his trial in 1610 and he died in his bed in 1617.

 

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This is a cottage very close to the castle, with an adjoining dry wall shed that seems to have fallen into disrepair.

 

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The castle was sacked by French raiders in 1627 and though rebuilt was no longer occupied by the end of that century.  It was finally abandoned in 1750 and the roof had disappeared by 1774.

 

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The way in to the gate is mown and you can see the entrance door behind the wall to the right of the gate.

 

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This is how the castle may have looked in 1600.  The top floor and the roof are now missing.

 

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Above the main door is a nearly obliterated coat of arms and an inscription that reads (after translation from archaic spelling):

Listen you to know this building who began
Laurence the Bruce he was that worthy man
Who earnestly his heirs and offspring prays
To help and not hurt this work always.

He had good reason to be nervous about the longevity of the castle.

 

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This is the kitchen, on the ground floor.

 

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This is a chamber, or bedroom, also on the ground floor.  You can see from the circular walls that it is in one of the towers at each end of the building.

 

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Stairway to the second floor.

 

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This is the main fireplace in the great hall on the second floor.

 

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Here is what that hall may have looked like when in use.  I would think that peat was a more likely fuel than logs, though.

 

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This is a chamber or bedroom on the first floor, once again in one of the towers.  You can see where the floor was for the floor above.

 

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This is probably the smallest window you are ever likely to see, on the first floor, intended for use by musketeers.

 

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Looking through to the Great Hall, and the doorway to the room beyond.

 

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A double window this time, one for the view and one for the musket.

 

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The Lord’s Private Withdrawing Room, off the Hall with a private staircase leading to his chambers above.  The gaps in the surface of the wall are where the front of a chimney has fallen away.

 

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A different “double window” in the larger circular tower.

 

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Looking straight up in the tower.

 

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Probably the stairway to the no longer extant second floor.

 

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A different stairway, also closed, looking down.

 

Grenwell’s Booth, Uyeasound

Unst, Shetland, Scotland. Day 30, 28th July 2013.

With my extra day in Shetland I decided to head for Unst, the northernmost island. Getting there required driving across the island of Yell. My main objectives were Muness Castle and Hermaness Reserve.

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Muness Castle is in the South-East corner of Unst.  On the way there I stopped at the tiny village (and bay) of Uyeasound (I have no idea how the locals pronounce that).

 

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This is Greenwell’s Booth, in the village of Uyeasound.  It is a trader’s store and warehouse, for goods arriving and departing by sea.  It was built in 1646 by William Bruce, presumably a relation of Laurence Bruce who built the nearby Muness Castle (next post) fifty years earlier.

 

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This abandoned farmhouse is a short distance away from Uyeasound, very close to Muness Castle.  It probably incorporates stones from the castle as construction materials.

 

Jarlshof

Shetland, Scotland. Day 29, 27th July 2013.

On the southern tip of Shetland there is a most remarkable site, uncovered in a storm in the 1890s, that shows evidence of different periods of occupation over nearly 5,000 years.  There are remains of neolithic habitation, bronze age and iron age houses, a broch and several wheelhouses, viking longhouses, a mediæval farm and a mediæval Laird’s house.  These are built up on layers and much has been lost to erosion from the sea.

 

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This is part of a house from the Bronze Age settlement.

 

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A view from a nearby viewpoint.  In front is the remains of the smithy.

 

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This is what the smithy may have looked like while it was in operation, from an Information Board on site.

 

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This is an area close to but not part of the bronze age settlement according to the booklet I purchased.  Probably remains of iron age buildings.

 

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This is the remains of the Laird’s House.  The original buildings were constructed by Earl Patrick Stewart, bastard half brother of Mary Queen of Scots, but the ruins as we see them were mainly constructed by his son Earl Robert Stewart.  It was abandoned by the end of the seventeenth century.

 

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This is what it may have looked like around 1600.

 

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Another view of the Laird’s House.  The stones at the right are a grave yard, dating I think from the 18th century (but I can’t find the reference I saw a few days ago).  In 1814, Sir Walter Scott visited Sumburgh and Shetland as Commissioner of Lighthouses.  In 1822 he published a novel The Pirate which features the Laird’s House and which he named Jarlshof (or the Earl’s House).  This name has stuck for the settlement in place of the earlier name of Sumburgh (a Viking name referring to a fort).

 

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From the viewpoint in the Laird’s House as shown in the previous image, we are able to look down on the site.  There are four wheelhouses, from the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD.  This is what you see here and in the next few images.

 

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This is what like may have been like inside a wheelhouse.

 

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There was also a broch from the last century BC or the first century AD, which later had a wheelhouse built inside it.  In the foreground is some of the remains of the broch, though much of it has been removed by the sea.

 

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The design of the broch must have been similar to the cutaway above.  It would originally have been about 15 metres high.

I might have been better to purchase and read the information booklet before taking photographs and I may have found other views worth of note.  For example, I am not showing you remains of viking-age buildings or one of the iron age souterrains or underground storage tunnels, 6 metres long and 60cm high.

 

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From Jarlshof I then went to catch my plane to Aberdeen.  Except that it didn’t happen.  I had somehow managed to book the flight for the same day on the next month.  So when that was sorted out I had another day in Shetland and one less in the Lofoten Islands in Norway.

Fortunately I was able to stay another night at Burrastow and the image above is from the evening there.

The Drinking Horse

Shetland, Scotland. Day 28, 26th July.

From Scalloway Castle and West Burra I headed to Northmavine, the wild top corner of Mainland on Orkney. Due to the weather and shortness of time I didn’t see many of the places I had identified as worth visiting. It’s the sort of place that would repay long walks and much time spent in different weather conditions. That wasn’t available to me but much of what I saw was nonetheless impressive.

 

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_1383258_s This is Dore Holm, or the Drinking Horse.

 

 

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This is Calder’s Geo at Esher Ness in Northmavine.  A sea cave on the northern side (here the right hand side) is the largest in Britain, 20 metres high and with a floor area of 5,500 square metres (or about eight football pitches).  The cave is accessible from the sea and only when it is calm.  There are also not too many boats in the near vicinity.

The lighthouse was designed by David Stevenson  It is the last built by the Stevenson family and first lit in 1929.

 

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Another coastal view nearby, at Esher Ness.

 

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The stacks on the horizon are The Drongs.  We are now driving away from Esher Ness.

 

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A dry stone farm building at the end of a remote road.  Perhaps this was once a family house.

 

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Back in West Mainland, near where I was saying, this is the Scord of Brouster.  Here we see one of the neolithic farm buildings.  It was farmed from 3000BC to 1500BC.  In 1500BC a climatic change brought wetter and colder weather and because all the trees had been chopped down for land clearing, building or fuel, the fertile soil changed to peat and the land was never farmed again.  This is why we can see these ancient remains today.

 

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This is a cairn.  I presume that means a funeral cairn but I don’t know.  There are three houses and one also has a workshop or outhouse.

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Another of the houses.  The earliest houses were made of wood and no trace of them is visible.  There are also some remains of field walls.   The farmers grew an early form of barley and ploughed their fields with wooden ploughs or ards, pulled by oxen.  The ploughs had stone tips which broke when they hit rocks under the ground.  Seventy-five of these ard tips were found on site.  Fragments of pottery, steatite (soft stone) bowls and handled clubs were also found.

Australian readers are free to speculate that the Scord of Brouster may have been the home of the ancestors of the Brewster Brothers.

 

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Close to where I was staying at Burrastow, here are a couple of abandoned croft houses beside the road.

 

Return to Sumburgh

Shetland, Scotland. Day 29, 27th July 2013.

This was the day I was to catch a plane to fly out to Aberdeen but it was to leave mid-afternoon so I had plenty of time to visit some places first.

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Very early in the morning this was the view where I was staying at Burrastow, with fog and no dawn colours.

 

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I headed off to the west and this is Buxter Click Mill, on the western tip of Mainland.  The roof evidently used to be turf, perhaps atop stone slabs.  Hopefully someone will get around to restoring that to allow the wooden roof structure to survive.

 

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Underneath the mill,  these are the wooden blades the water turned to grind the barley.

 

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Hours later, I have turned around and am heading for Sumburgh on the south tip of Mainland.  I stopped to visit the lime kins of Fladdabister but found they were a longer walk than I had time for.  These are abandoned crofting houses by the sea.

 

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Abandoned house detail, also at Fladdabister.

 

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These two images are on the west coast, near Scousburgh.  The island is Colsay.  The second image is available larger than the usual expanded size if you click on it.

 

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This little bay is called Peerie Voe.

 

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This is the Croft House Museum.  It is a nineteenth century ben and but house, such as we saw at Corrigal Farm Museum in Orkney, with living area, barn and byre under one roof.  Unfortunately it was closed, probably for lunch.

 

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This is in Sumburgh at Old Scatness, a site under excavation with overlaid remains of iron age, Pictish Viking and Mediæval structures.  This includes an iron age village with broch, wheelhouses and later dwellings.  It was found during construction of an airport access road in 1975 which was then directed around it.  Unfortunately the site was also closed and all I can show you is two reconstructed structures.  I have no specific information on what they are, though I presume the roofed one on the left is an iron age house.  However, Jarlshof was open and that will be the next post….

Scalloway Castle

Shetland, Scotland. Day 28, 26th July.

It was a wet day so I stayed in my room for some hours processing images until the weather began to clear.  Then I headed for Scalloway Castle.

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En route, I went to Lerwick where I visited the museum.  I also briefly stopped to take a couple of images there.  This is a different lodberry (eighteenth century warehouse/ wharf) to the one at the end of the St Ninian’s Isle post, with the Viking galley still in the background.

 

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Boats at moorings in Lerwick.

 

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Less than ten kilometres away is Scalloway and this is Scalloway Castle.  We have previously encountered Earl Robert Stewart, bastard half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots in the post on Birsay and his son Earl Patrick Stewart in the post on Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall.  Scalloway Castle was built by Earl Patrick Stewart as his residence in Shetland from 1599 to 1604.

 

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There were originally also various outbuildings, courtyards and enclosed gardens.  The main building was originally four stories high.

 

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This was probably originally a ground floor office

 

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This was originally the kitchen (also on the ground floor).

 

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A corridor, probably on the first or second floor.

 

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This is the Main Hall.  There was another story above the floor here.  By 1701 the slate tiles had started to fall off and the roof beams were decaying.  In 1908 the ruined castle came under State ownership.

 

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This is how the Main Hall may have looked at the time, from an information board at the site.  The walls were plastered and hung with tapestries.  There were also many large open fires to maintain warmth, extravagant no doubt in a land with little or no wood unless they used turf, dung or peat.

 

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This is a chamber or bedroom.  There was another, including a toilet, on the floor above.

 

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Looking down a castle stairwell.

 

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And this is Hamnavoe, on the island of West Burra a few kilometres south.

 

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I’m not sure exactly where this is but it must be in West Burra or East Burra, not very far from Hamnavoe.  I might have gone for a walk in the countryside near here but the weather did not encourage it.

 

Culswick Broch

Shetland, Scotland. Day 27, 25th July.

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The walk out to Culswick Broch offers views along a particularly fine stretch of coastline.

I can no longer offer massive images to zoom in through since Microsoft is in the process of killing Zoom.It but this image and the fourth one expand to a larger than usual size if you click on them.

 

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Here it is, on the top of the hill.  A drawing survives from 1774 that shows it as largely intact at that time.  The remains of later buildings down the slope to the right would have used stones from the broch.  The same probably applies to many of the walls and ruined buildings in the first image.

 

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A telephoto panorama with Vaila Island in the background.

 

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Approaching the entrance of the broch, with its huge triangular lintel stone over the door.  You can see that it held a commanding position, with any ships visible for many miles.  It has not been excavated.

 

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I am now standing on top of the broch.  Out to the left is the Atlantic.  Then there is the island of Vaila.  Where I was staying for the night was behind there.  The water to the right of Vaila is Vaila Sound.   The peninsula to the right of that is White’s Ness, which has a small lighthouse on the end.  The stretch of water to the right is Gruting Voe.

 

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A view from inside the broch.  You can see part of the entrance way but I suspect that was blocked and not the way I came in.

 

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Looking past the broch to the coastal views.

 

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Later that night, after dinner, here is the sunset at Burrastow.