St Ninian’s Isle

Shetland, Scotland. Day 27, 25th July 2013.

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In the distance is St Ninian’s Isle.  I originally hoped to stay in one of those houses overnight and perhaps get some dawn shots, but a room was not available.

 

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The island you can see on the horizon is Fair Isle, halfway between Shetland and Orkney.

 

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(While if you click on any image in this Blog you will see a larger one,  in some cases I have been able to offer a huge image you can scroll around in.  However, I can no longer create such images because Microsoft has killed its free Zoom.it service and I’m not aware of any easy alternatives.  This also means 64 such images in this Blog will become unavailable in their expanded form on 15th September, in about a week).

The island is connected by a sand causeway or tombolo.  The remains of a 12th century chapel are just to the right of the end of the tombolo.  Older ruins lie beneath.  The island may have been used as a domestic residence from the first century BC and as a Pictish burial ground from the third century AD.  There are Christian burials there in a graveyard that was used up till the nineteenth century as well as earlier Pictish burials from prior to the arrival of Christianity.

Excavation in the 1958 revealed a wooden box containing a cache of twenty-eight silver objects from the 8th century, the “treasure” of St Ninians.  This included bowls, weaponry and jewellery and is thought to be personal items rather than ecclesiastical.

 

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From the view in the previous image I am now looking to the right.   The strip cultivation suggests continuation of ancient forms of land tenure.

 

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Here we look from that tiny village back towards the island and the tombolo.

 

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If you click on the image for a larger view, you can make out a few people walking along the tombolo, which is 500 metres long.

 

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From St Ninian’s Isle I went to Lerwick, the main town in Shetland.  This is The Lodberrie, the best preserved of a series of Lodberries that used to front the Lerwick shoreline.  Dating from the eighteenth century, they were merchant houses and docks for loading and unloading produce from ships.  Hence the two boats in the foreground are on a stone sea ramp and the door behind opens onto the sea.  The globe in the window is in context with the historical significance of the building and in the background there is a seabird in flight and a Viking galley.  You can pay to go for a row in that galley if you’re there at the right time.

Mousa Broch

Shetland, Scotland. Day 26 to 27, 24th to 25th July.

I flew from Orkney to Shetland in the late afternoon, picked up a rental car and headed off to my accommodation for the night.  After finding a place for a bite to eat, I headed for Sandwick for a night-time voyage to Mousa Broch.  The purpose of this trip for most people was to observe the storm petrels returning to the broch.  For myself, it was mainly to photograph the broch by moonlight as it was just past a full moon that night.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

All of these photographs were taken in darkness and this was a 15 second exposure.  The sun had set at 10pm and the boat left at 11pm.  These images were taken in the two hours after that.  The main light source is moonlight and it is so far north that there is still some residual light after dark in summer (“the simmer dim”).

There are no people in this image.  We had stopped for a talk and I took advantage of that to make an exposure before the people arrived.

Moonlight is actually the same colour as daylight though we see it differently because in very low light we use our rods rather than our cones.  Exposures range from ½ second to fifteen seconds.  I could have processed these images to look as bright as full daylight but that is not how it was.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

A little bit later, there are now people around the broch.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Mousa Broch is the largest and most complete broch of them all, around 2,000 years old, and still stands to a height of 13 metres.  It is thought that this is close to the original height.

There is an account of this broch in the Orkneyinga Saga.  Erlend the Young had requested marriage to Earl Harald Maddadarson’s mother Margaret and been refused so he kidnapped her and they eloped from Orkney to Mousa Broch in Shetland.  Harald pursued them and beseiged the broch but found it impossible to attack and it was evidently well enough provisioned to withstand the seige.  Erlend then persuaded Harald to accept the marriage in exchange for his support, which Harald might come to need in likely conflicts with the other two Earls, so they reconciled and sailed off together.  This would have been in 1156 so the broch would have probably been over a thousand years old at the time.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

The inside is now an empty shell but there were originally five floors.  The light at the top is the moonlight seeping in; the light at the bottom is torchlight.  We were instructed to use red beams, less disturbing I think for the petrels.

The walls are very thick.  At its base it is 15 metres in diameter but inside, as we are here, it is only 6 metres in diameter.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

The base of the broch is solid, from four metres up there are two walls with a circular staircase between them.  There is a steel grid covering the top of the broch so no children fall in from the top.  What you see in the sky is the moon, not the sun.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Here people are using their torches to try to detect the petrels as they return to their nests.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

The petrels are small and very fast.  They have been out fishing by day and return under cover of darkness to the chicks in their nests so they can evade predators.  The nests are in the cracks between the stones of the drystone walls of the broch.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

There are moving people on the right and at the left a still person casting a light on the broch.  Here there is also the shadow of a bird on the broch.  You won’t be able to see it even if you click for a larger web image so I’ll show you a blow-up section.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, History, Landscape, Mousa Broch, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

The shadow is easy to see; it’s diagonal with one wing dipping into the red patch of the torchlight.  The bird is visible too.  You can see one wing better than the other though it’s clearer if you click on the image for a larger view.  It’s about halfway between the torch and the shadow and there is a white flash from its tail feathers.

It took me a while to work out what has happened here.  It’s a long exposure so the figures of the other people are blurred.  The birds are very fast but here is one and its shadow in focus.  The person by the broch must be holding a camera as well as a torch.  The torch is the red light.  The white light is the flash which just happened to go off during my exposure.

 

Orkney Monochromes

Orkney, Scotland. Days 23 to 26, 21st to 24th July 2013

These are some monochrome conversions of images that I have posted in colour in other Orkney posts:

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Earl’s Castle, Kirkwall

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Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

The Gloup, Deerness

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Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

The Stones of Stenness

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Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Farm buildings near the Stones of Stenness

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Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Broch of Gurness

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

The Between Room, Earl’s Palace Kirkwall

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Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Bishop’s Palace, Kirkwall

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

The Round Church of Orphir

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

The Ring of Brodgar

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

The Stones of Stenness

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

The sign says it all

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Abandoned Farmhouse near Dounby Click Mill

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

House # 1, Skara Brae

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Derelict Farm Shed, Tingwall

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Tingwall

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Corrigal Farm Museum

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Corrigal Farm Museum

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Stromness

 

Black and White, Castles, Castles of Scotland, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, seascape, Standing Stones, Travel

Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

Orkney, Scotland. Day 26, 24th July.

 

Just outside Stromness I saw a signpost to this cairn, a short distance off the road, that I was not previously aware of.  I had a plane to catch but I still had time to investigate….

 

Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel, Unstan, Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

Outside, the tomb is an oval grass mound.  After crawling in through a tunnel entrance (lower right corner of the image) and looking to the right, we see this view.  The tomb probably dates to between 2800BC and 3200BC.  It was excavated in 1884 and 1934 and the concrete roof and skylight was added in 1934.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel, Unstan, Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

This is the entrance to a small side cell.  Two crouched skeletons were found in this cell during the 1884 excavations.  These probably date to a later period because it was not the usual method of neolithic burial in such cairns.

First the bodies were left out in the open until there were only bones left.  Then the bones were deposited in the cairn but not by keeping the skeleton together.  They could be randomly arrayed or in some cases similar bones stacked together.  There were many such bones inside this cairn.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel, Unstan, Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

At the left corner of the lintel above the side entrance is a carving of a diving bird and what may be some runes.  I can also see the body and head of a larger bird behind the diving bird. It may just be my imagination though.  It is not known whether these are of great antiquity or relatively recent origin.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel, Unstan, Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

This is at the right-hand end of the tomb from the entrance way.  There was originally a shelf at each end (presumably to hold bones) but the stones for this are no longer in evidence.

The stone on the left unfortunately has a lot of graffiti and not from the Vikings.  Dates I can see are 1901, 1890, 1857 and 1891.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel, Unstan, Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

Turning around, this is looking to the other end of the tomb.  There were many pots found in this tomb in 1884, finely made neolithic bowls some of which had grooved patterning below the rim.  The cairn gave its name to this pottery which is known as Unstan ware.  There is another type, grooved ware, which some suggest evolved from Unstan ware but they are mainly found on different islands in the Orkneys so it may be there were two groups of people living here.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel, Unstan, Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

The other end of the cairn, with the entrance passageway again on the left.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel, Unstan, Unstan Neolithic Chambered Cairn

From the information board at the site, this is how the cairn may have looked when it was under construction.

 

Bibliography for Orkney:

Orkney by Patrick Bailey

The Other British Isles by David W Moore

Orkneyinga Saga

Orkneyjar web site.

Stromness

Orkney, Scotland. Day 26, 24th July.

 

I had a plane to catch to Shetland that afternoon but I still had a few hours to spare so I decided to go to Stromness and see whether I could find a cafe.

 

History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Stromness, Travel

Stromness is the second largest town in Orkney with about 3,000 people.

 

History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Stromness, Travel

It is the terminal for the vehicular ferry from Scrabster on the Scottish mainland and there is also a ferry from here to the island of Hoy.

 

History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Stromness, Travel

Stromness is essentially a Napoleonic War boom town.  During that period the Channel became dangerous for shipping so many ships went all the way round past the north of Scotland instead.  Stromness was developed as a convenient stopping place along the way.  Consequently, though there would have been a small port here before then, most of the houses are from that period.

 

History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Stromness, Travel .

Corrigal Farm Museum

Orkney, Scotland. Day 26, 24th July.

From Tingwall I drove to Corrigal Farm Museum. It is described in some of the Orkney web sites as an intact nineteenth century farmhouse but it is much more than that. For one thing there is a broch nearby and the area has been farmed since neolithic times.  For another, the farmhouse itself is an Orkney adaption of a Viking longhouse, so perhaps it even started as one.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

And here is the office and behind it to the left, the museum.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Going past the office, here is a collection of old ploughs and farm machinery arrayed on the lawn.  The actual museum is the second building and the entrance to it is the first door in the distance.  I didn’t take a closer shot of the building from this side so I’ll talk about it here.  Also known as a but and ben house, there are a series of rooms along its length.  First is the ben or bedroom, then the but or kitchen/ living room.  There is a door between these two rooms and the rest of the house to prevent unwanted access by animals.  Next there may be a byre (for cattle) and a stable (for horses), then a grain preparation area and finally a kiln for drying the grain.  Some young animals or animals in special need of attention might also reside for a while in the but.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Here is a space between the two buildings where peat is stored, for use in burning on fires.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

This is the ben or bedroom.  The structure behind is a cupboard or wardrobe but the structure in front is a box bed.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

This is the but or living area, and probably some bread simmering over the fire.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

This is a trap for some small animal, I don’t remember what, but it looks very similar to traps I would later see in Greenland that the precursors of the Inuit set for foxes.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

A loom.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

A rather elegant-looking cart.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Stacked piles of dried peat for the fire.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Threshing machines.

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

A small hand grinder on the right and it must be the furnace for the kiln on the left.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Looking through to the kiln.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Corrigal Farm Museum, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

And finally, a view of the farmhouse, looking back from the outside.

Tingwall

Orkney, Scotland. Days 26, 24th July.

I arrived in Tingwall hoping to have time to catch a ferry to the Broch of Midhowe on Rousay but I think I had misread the ferry timetables and this was not to be.

The name Tingwall indicates there was a Thing here, a local Viking Parliament. This is probably the Thing where Earl Haakon and Earl Magnus agreed to the fateful meeting on Egilsay where Magnus was killed. The Thing was probably at a mound near where the pier now is. This is believed to conceal a broch but I was not aware of this at the time so did not photograph it.

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

Here we have the Tingwall Weather Forecasting Stone, a form of weather forecasting that may have been in use since the neolithic.  The green building at the left is probably the local Meteorological Bureau.

You could click on the image to read the sign but since not many seem to do that, I’ll tell you what it says:

  • Forecast: Condition
  • Stone is wet: Raining
  • Stone is dry: Not raining
  • Shadow on ground: Sunny
  • White on top: Snow
  • Can’t see stone: Foggy
  • Stone is swinging: Windy
  • Stone gone: Jimmy Tulloch pinched it.

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

And once again, we have an assortment of fetching dwellings, mostly with sea views, that you might be able to get for a very cheap rent if you get on well enough with the local farmer.

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

I think this was a trailer for a boat.

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

Massive slabs on the roof.

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

 

Architecture, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Tingwall, Travel

I’d say that car has been waiting for the ferry for a long time.