Orkney Islands Journals

The Mysteries of the Orkney Isles explored

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An August 2005 trip to Orkney Islands by Drever

The Castle of Mey Photo, Orkney Islands, Scotland More Photos
Quote: Though small in area the Orkney Isles are filled with mystery. Ancient civilisations lived here and have left their monuments. Going further back, fossils are found in rocks from when the area was a vast fresh water lake. These and more recent events shaping the islands are examined here.

Broch of Gurness

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Attraction | "The Broch of Gurness"

Broch of Gurness Photo, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Quote:
A visitor’s centre run by Historic Scotland gives access to the Broch of Gurness whose defensive grey stonewalls have stood on the coast since 200BC. Although crumbling, excavated carried out in 1929 gives a sense of how it originally looked. A prosperous community surrounded the site in Iron Age times. They lived off the harvests of land and sea, spinning and weaving, as well as trading. Envious eyes turned towards them - perhaps from raiding warriors after cattle, land or even slaves. Whatever the threat it applied across northern Scotland. Circular defensive stone towers called brochs sprang up in response. After about 300 years the threat disappeared and brochs fell into dis...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 27, 2005

Broch of Gurness
Overlooking Eynhallow Sound
Orkney Islands, Scotland

The Orkney Marine Life Aquarium

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Attraction

A shell fish tank Photo, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Quote:
Coming face-to-face with the local fish, swimming in as close to their natural environment as possible, as I did at the Orkney Marine Life Aquarium was for me an enlightening experience. Rather than objects dragged out of the sea with a barbed hook in their mouth by my brother or I they become creatures with personality. At least we fished for food rather than sport – perhaps I kid myself? One tank contained a lonely octopus as his chum had gone walkabouts. He played around on the tank’s glass side while fixing me with an intense and unemotional stare. How could I tell that I didn’t stir its emotions? Well, octopuses are intelligent marine creatures and show their feelings. If ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 27, 2005

Brough of Birsay  Photo, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Quote:
Fancy a stroll with plenty of bracing sea air and some antiquities to ponder? If so a visit to the Brough of Birsay beckons. For 500 years political and religious power in Orkney centred on this small tidal island off the north-east tip of the parish of Birsay. It held importance firstly for the Picts and then for the Norse. The Brough is a tidal island. Access is possible by foot for a couple of hours either side of high tide – the Tourist Office in Kirkwall publishes these hours. A concrete causeway, wide enough for a couple of pedestrians, zigzags out across the seaweed and rocks to the Brough - roughly 240 metres. The approach is up a steep slope that for...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 27, 2005

The Castle of Mey Photo, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Quote:
The newly widowed Queen Elizabeth spotted the Castle of Mey in 1952 while staying with friends. The windswept beauty of the isolated, abandoned building struck a receptive chord with her feelings. The castle stands perched above the Pentland Firth between the two northern headlands of Duncansby and Dunnet with a view across to the Orkney Islands. She quickly negotiated its purchase and then spent four years restoring and making it into a private retreat. The Queen Mother (1900 - 2002) fascinated by the chequered history of the place liked to research the subject. Cryptic chambers, secret societies, cabbalistic orders and hidden passages leading to the shore are pointers to past ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 27, 2005

The Earl's Palace

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Attraction

The Earl's Palace Photo, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Quote:
The scale of the ruins built from the local grey flagstone seems odd in this rural coastal setting. My first reaction was to wonder why they are here at all. The whole area is mysterious for the Brough of Birsay is close by. It was a centre of power for the Picts followed by the Norse. Following their demise power clung to the area through this castle though the area offers few natural advantages apart from good farming land. There is no natural harbour or good defensive position. Robert Stewart the illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland and one of his mistresses, Euphemia Elphinstone had the palace built. It stands a monument to Robert's royal pretensions and to his oppr...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 27, 2005

The Orkney Fossil and Vintage Centre

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Attraction

The Orkney Fossil and Vintage Centre  Photo, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Quote:
The Orkney Fossil and Vintage Centre in its restored farm buildings on the Parish of Burray has been a popular attraction in Orkney since it opened in 1993. While Orkney’s richness in archaeological sites brings visitors from far and near few knew of the richness of fossils contained in the underlying rocks until this Centre opened. Glancing around today’s Orkney landscape with it undulating hills and surrounding seas gives a misleading impression of the area these fossilised creatures lived in for they lived in a subtropical climate and a vast freshwater lake - Lake Orcadie. These conditions existed in the Devonian period (416 – 359 million years ago). Sediments deposited in th...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 27, 2005

The Tomb of the Eagles

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Attraction

The Tomb of the Eagles Photo, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Quote:
Mysterious grassy mounds, which as a child we called Picts Houses, dot the Orkney landscape. Some lay broken open revealing low passages and a central chamber giving the impression Picts were dwarfs who lived underground. Visiting the Tomb of the Eagles clarified matters. Ronald Simison discovered the Tomb of the Eagles in 1958 when farming on the island of South Ronaldsay. He noticed flagstones poking through a mound which overlooked cliffs. Curiosity aroused he began digging. Ten minutes later, he reached the bottom of a wall. Before long he uncovered a black-and-white polished mace head, axe heads and a tiny button made of jet. Digging further he reached the top lintel of wh...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 27, 2005