Saturday, May 27, 2017

Standing Stones

Stones of Stenness with sheep (cell phone)
Today started with a subpar breakfast buffet at the hotel. We tried finish breakfast quickly, because there was a tour bus group at the hotel, that we were pretty sure intended to go to all the same places to which we wanted to go.  Our first stop was the Stones of Stenness, which are three large standing stones with two pointer stones that align with the sun during the solstice.  There were four sheep hanging out by the stones, that really didn’t care if people were wandering around, and because of that you had to be aware of sheep poop. From there we walked at short distance up the path the remains of a neolithic settlement and over to the Watch Stone. From there we got back into the car and drove up the road a short way to the Ring of Brodgar, which is a large circle of standing stones.  Part of the circle was blocked off for archaeological excavation which ruined the ambiance of some of the pictures.  I originally had an idea to go out and photograph both sets of stones at sunset/sunrise, however that plan got the kibosh since the sun comes up round 3:00 AM in Orkney, and doesn’t go down till 10:30 PM.  Our days are so long as it is, and I get so little sleep on these trips getting up at 2:00AM or staying up till midnight just was not going to happen. So there will not be any sunrise/sunset pictures.

The Ring of Brodgar (cell phone)

From the standing stones we went to Skara Brae and Skaill House.  Skara Brae is a prehistoric village which has been partially excavated.  The homes were extremely small and very interconnected.  Skaill House is manor home of a Scottish Lord.  I was very surprised they allowed you to take pictures inside, since all the previous manors/castles did not allow photography inside.  From there we went to Yesnaby to see a rock with a hole in it.  

Castle Rock at Yesnaby (cell phone)
Yesnaby is a lookout point at the edge of the island with a 4 mile walking path that leads to Castle Rock.  The rock is interesting because it is large free standing column with a hole at its base.  Do I think it is worth the walk, possibly but not something I necessarily have to do again.  However, I do believe I got some nice pictures of the cliff faces that we were walking along. We had lunch at Yesnaby in the car overlooking the North Sea, then traveled all the way to the other side of the island to go to the Italian Chapel and the Orkney Wine Company.

The Italian Chapel was built during World War II by Italian prisoners of war located on the island.  The chapel is all hand done and the painting inside is beautiful.  If  you walk in you would think it was lined with carved stone but upon closer inspection you can see it is just painted that way. Everything, was done by the prisoners, so they could have a place to worship.  

The Orkney Wine Company makes wine and liqueur from local fruits, berries, and flowers that grow on island. They had a wide selection of three actual wines and ten liqueurs. I tried a few of their liqueurs and ended up getting the berry port and the flower mead.  The port is nice with a full body, while the mead is strong but sweet.  After the winery it was back across the island to Brough of Birsay with a stop at Broch of Gurness.

Broach of Gurness (cell phone)

Broch of Gurness is an iron age settlement with a large circular meeting hall.  It was also one of the largest settlement iron age settlements in Scotland.  From there we went over to Brough of Birsay to take advantage of the low tide and walk to over to the island where the Brough of Birsay is located.  It was interesting to walk to an island.  Was it worth it, not really sure, but at least I can say I walked to island.  The Brough of Birsay was a Viking settlement, that includes one of the first churches built on Orkney.  From there it was time to head back to the hotel. Tomorrow we finish up on Orkney with a few more historic stops then catch the ferry back to mainland Scotland to continue the rest of our vacation.

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