Day 35, Orkney – Skara Brae and Maeshowe

The forecast for the day was dreary, but we had 2 very important sights to visit today. After a good breakfast ( yes, haggis and black pudding were involved!) we headed off to our first site: Skara Brae.

Scara Brae is a Neolithic village that was completely submerged in the sands of time until a severe storm came up on the North Atlantic and washed part of the settlement into view. This village was preserved intact, other than the rooftops, for 5,000 years! the visitor experience took us by key historic dates that preceded this settlement, and it is amazing to think that this was built well before the pyramids of Giza!

A mock up of one of the houses in the settlement that allowed us to enter and see what life was like in one of these homes.
Inside the mock up you could see shelving for pots and precious objects, bed shelters that would have been lined with soft materials and a fire pit in the centre to keep the home warm and provide heat for meal prep.
We then walked along the pathway to the settlement itself. What an amazing sight!
Here you see a home much like the mock up in the previous photos. The shelving, bed stands and hearth were all found in place! These people used this sight for 500 years and then simply disappeared without a trace.
Some little bunnies used the excuse of illiteracy to ignore the signs and graze wherever they liked! …and they showed NO FEAR!
Our next stop was a visit to Skaill House, where the Laird of Breckness discovered Skara Brae after a huge winter storm off the North Atlantic. The storm was so bad that it unearthed the settlement after having been buried for 4500 years!

The manor house was lovely. While once having fallen to disrepair, the present Laird has restored the home and opened it to the public.

After our visit to this incredible site, we decoded to explore the town of Stromness. This is the town where our ferry to and from Orkney sails. It’s a pleasant town, with building huddled together to try and protect themselves from the raging North Atlantic.

You can see the very austere buildings in their minimalist design. Oh, and this was the Main Street at noon!
The homes are built so close together, they sometimes have to modify the rectangular shape to make way for a door or passageway.
You can see the cut out in this building to make way for the “Kirk Lane”.
The lovely waterfront of Stromness
A view looking towards the ferry terminal.

We headed back to Kirkwall for lunch and a last walk about the town before heading out to our next location, Maeshowe.

Meet Ben. The most knowledgeable 24 year old consultant of whisky I’ve ever met! You can see him in Kirkwall at the Brigg store on the Main Street.
Our next visit was to the burial chamber of Maeshowe. This is a Neolithic chamber that again dates back 5,000 years. While no photos were allowed inside, we had an amazing experience crawling through the entrance passageway to the inner chamber that used standing stones as the 4 corners of the interior. Interestingly, the chamber was first discover by Vikings in the 11th century, where they wrote a number of runes on the stones after being forced to seek shelter from a bad winter storm.
A look at the entrance way, locked except for guided tours. The door you see is about 3.5 feet high and leads to a corridor that’s about 10 metres in length before you enter the actual chamber. Not the best walkway for the likes of Dan!
This is an artists rendering of the dragon rune that we saw carved into the stone. The actual size was about 3 cm tall! Truly amazing when you think about the rudimentary tools that were available over 1,000 years ago.

As you can see, the day ended up rather rainy, but our last adventure was primarily inside. Now it’s time to get back to the house in Kirkwall and get packed up for our next adventure. We take the ferry tomorrow from Stromness to Srabster and back onto the mainland of Scotland where we continue along the NC500 to Ullapool. It should be a great day for incredible sights ending up in a scenic coastal town. Hope you can join us tomorrow. Until then.

Categories: Hiking in Iceland and the UK

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