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.

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.

Clickimin Broch

Shetland, Scotland. Day 27, 25th July.

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

Clickimin Broch is now surrounded by a suburb of Lerwick, the main town of Shetland, as you can see in this image, taken from a road at the side.

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This is the path in.  Originally there was an island and around the 6th or 7th century BC, a small family farm with a fence to enclose the cattle and sheep.  There was a large circular farm house from around the 5th century BC.  In the 4th or early 3rd century BC, the wall was enlarged as a defensive wall and a blockhouse was built

 

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I presume the feature parallel to the path is the original stone causeway and entrance path.

 

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The stones in front may be the remains of a small wall and gate at the end of the causeway, though with most of the stone removed over time.

 

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This is the entrance way through the outer wall.

 

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Just beyond the main entrance way, this is the blockhouse, originally much higher than now.  The broch is behind but hidden by perspective.  We will later see this blockhouse from the other side.

 

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Rather than continuing straight through to the broch, I first walked around between the broch and the outerwalls.  There are the remains of many dwellings here.

 

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Looking back towards the broch.  I think that is probably a hearth in the foreground.

 

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, Clickimin Broch, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel .

Archaeology, Architecture, Brochs, Clickimin Broch, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel .

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

The entrance of the broch, from the inside looking out.

 

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Looking down on some of the steps within the broch, perhaps the steps from the ground floor to the first level.  Not available for traverse in any case.

 

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A view from the top.  We can see remains of prehistoric houses, the outer wall, the lake and the town beyond.

 

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The broch was built around 100AD.  It was originally 12 to 15 metres high (much higher than it is now).  In the second and third centuries AD the need for such fortifications reduced and a wheelhouse was constructed inside the broch.

Sometime between 500AD and the arrival of the Vikings in 800AD, the broch and surrounding dwellings were abandoned.

 

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The stairway in the centre of the broch here is not an original feature but the stairs inside the walls are not open for use.

 

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

This is the back of the blockhouse, as seen from the top of the broch.

 

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

A couple walk past the remains of old dwellings.

 

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

Walking out through the blockhouse.

 

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A final view from the road, looking back.

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

Broch of Gurness

Orkney, Scotland. Day 25 , 23nd July.

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Early in the morning, as determined by opening hours, I visited the Broch of Gurness, not far from where I was staying.  The image is level, the broch is just built on sloping ground.

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This is what it would have looked like two thousand years ago, from the information board at the site.  Brochs are always circular stone towers.  This differs from most others, especially those on the mainland, in that it was surrounded by a fortified village.

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Here we can see the remaining lower part of the external wall.  In 1929, before excavation, there was just a large grass-covered mound here though there was rumoured to be a broch underneath.

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The sea was the highway of ancient times.  The broch is on the edge of Eynhallow Sound, between Mainland and Rousay.  I think the land in the distance on the left must be the small island of Eynhallow.

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Coming in a bit closer, we can start to see the remains of the village that surrounded the broch.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

There was a small fortified settlement here in 400BC, but the main period for the broch was between 200BC and 0AD.  From 200AD to 600AD, the community had gone and there was just a single family farmhouse on the site.  Perhaps the threat of attack and the need for fortification had diminished.  A Viking grave from around 850AD was discovered near here but by that time the site was deserted.

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This is the “Shamrock House”, a later Pictish dwelling with small radiating rooms.  Originally one of the dwellings adjoining the broch, it was painstakingly moved to near the Visitors’ Centre to allow excavating structures underneath.

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And this is what it may have looked like when in use, including a low thatched roof.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

The remains of a dwelling adjoining the broch, though I am unable to describe what we are seeing with any precision.  Perhaps the light brown stone square is a hearth.  Perhaps the recessed box beside it is a well, though the guidebook does not mention it.  There is a well within the broch, with steps down to water, but this is not usually open to the public.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

The path into the broch.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

This is what it may once have looked like.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Past the houses to the door to the broch itself.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Because it is surrounded by a fortified village, the door to the broch is taller than doors to brochs that stand alone.  They usually require that a person stoops as they enter.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel .

Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

This is the interior of the broch.  Much of what we see dates from a later period.  There originally would have been a wooden ceiling above here for an upper floor, and a thatched roof above that.  The wall would have extended much higher.

The rectangular corner on the very front left is part of the hearth.  I would presume the trees were long gone and they had to burn peat or turf, maybe cattle dung as in India today.  The rectangular hole in the ground behind it is the well.  There are steps going down but access is closed.

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A trough for cattle and sheep, perhaps?

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Archaeology, Architecture, Broch of Gurness, Brochs, History, Landscape, Orkney, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Elegant stonework on the interior of the broch wall.

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Dun Troddan and Dun Telve

Glenelg, near Skye, Scotland.  Day 12, 10th July

Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan and Dun Telve are two brochs that are unusually close together and located at Glenelg, opposite the southern end of Skye.  It is not clear whether one replaced the other or they were occupied at the same time.

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Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan is the smaller of the two yet more remains.

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Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan

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Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan

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Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan

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Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan

Here you can clearly see the two concentric walls.

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Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan has the remains of a staircase; Dun Telve does not.

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Dun Telve

Dun Telve

Dun Telve is the second highest remaining broch, with walls up to 10 metres high.  It survived relatively intact up until 1722 when much of its stonework was plundered to build the Bernera Barracks.

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Dun Telve

Dun Telve

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Dun Telve

Dun Telve

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Dun Telve

Dun Telve

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Dun Telve

Dun Telve

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Dun Beag

Skye, Scotland.  Day 11, 9th July.

Chilterns

Cuillin Hills

On my way in to Dun Beag, I stopped to take a photograph of the Cuillin Hills.  It probably would have worked better an hour or so later with the shadows at a different angle.  However, I was at Dun Beag then.

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Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

Loch Harport from Dun Beag

I am walking in to Dun Beag and turn around to see a view over Loch Harport.  There is another broch on top of that headland, Dun Ardtrek.

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Dun Beag

Dun Beag

Turning around again from the same point, this is Dun Beag.

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Dun Beag

Dun Beag

A view inside the broch from atop the walls.  The walls would originally have been ten metres or more higher, it would have been roofed over and there would have been two internal levels, the lower one for animals and the upper for humans.

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Dun Beag

Dun Beag

Another view inside the walls, this time a wider angle and looking in a different direction, towards the door of the broch.

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Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

Loch Harport from Dun Beag

While I was photographing the broch a sunset was starting to happen around me.

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Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

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Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

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Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

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Dun Beag

Dun Beag

This is the internal stone staircase of the broch, between the two walls.

Dun Beag

Dun Beag

This is a small chamber inside the wall, quite close to the door passage.  Probably a guard post.

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Dun Beag

Dun Beag

Another view of the same chamber.

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Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

Loch Bracadale from Dun Beag

The sunset continues.

Dun Beag

Dun Beag

And finally a view of the broch, turning back to look at it as I walk away.

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