Last Monday was our last day in Orkney. Before leaving we went to say goodbye to the Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brogar and we stopped between these two sites to take a photo of two smaller standing stones which lie in front of a house and we knew were called Brodgar Farm stones. While we were there the two owners, Carole and John Hoey, approached us and we had a chat about the site on their land. It is now officially called Loch View stones and their owners also showed us a short alignment of some other low stones they found near their house. Carole and John would like to enlarge their house, but it seems that wherever they dig some stones appear. What are these stones? The remains of some previous building or a part of another megalithic monument? A serious excavation is too expensive to carry on, so these half-buried stones remain a mistery.
Afterwards we went to Skara Brae, the extraordinary Neolithic settlement whose houses and even the stone furniture have survived to present days. Approahing the site you can realize how old it is from some stone marks on your path. So, from 1969 (first man on the Moon), passing through the U.S. Declaration of Indipendence, the Maya civilization, the fall of Roman Empire, the building of Giza pyramids in Egypt, you finally arrive at 330 BC: Skara Brae. Under a pouring rain we took some photos and met a very nice custodian, Morris. Then we went back to the visitors centre (it opened last April), had a warm cup of tea and had a look to the exhibition area. It is very interesting: there you can enjoy a beautiful video, play with buttons and computer screens that explain the site and its ancient inhabitants and look at all the strange and useful objects found in the settlement. Not to be missed. By the way, thanks to Apple QTVR technology, now you can enjoy our 360 degrees panoramic wiew of the inside of Skara Brae's house number one.
While we were in the visitors centre we had the chance to meet Mr Robert McIlwraith, the very nice Historic Scotland's Regional Director for the North. He was at Skara Brae for inaugurating a new interesting feature: a replica of one of the Neolithic houses, which visitors can visit, closely inspect and touch. The official opening was the day after, so we could watch Alan McKerron and several Historic Scotland's men putting the finishing touches to the replica (arranging inside the house things like weeds, smoked fish and live crabs). Then we had to hurry to the ferry and we very, very sadly left Orkney.
On Tuesday we visited some sites in the Highlands. It was a day devoted to the chambered cairns and long barrows of Yarrows (where there is an interesting archaeological trail), Cnoc Freiceadain (two ancient sites in sight of a more recent site: a nuclear power station!), Coille na Borgie and Skelpick. We slept in Tongue, up on Scotland's northernmost coast, and on Wedsesday got very muddy and wet in Laid souterrain and began our visits to brochs (circular defensive Iron Age structures, with intramural passages and cells) with Dun Dornaigil. Then we made a long and tiring drive to the South, passing through some of the wildest and most beautiful landscapes of the Highlands. In the evening we visited Dun Troddan and Dun Telve, two well-preserved brochs, standing in a little valley not far from the peaceful village of Glenelg.
Yesterday morning we took a very small ferry from Glenelg to the isle of Skye. It was a cold day but with plenty of sunshine so we were lucky to admire the dramatic landscape of Skye at its best. The island is pretty touristic, but our archaeological stops are generally off the beaten path, so we could peacefully enjoy the places we visited. The first two of the day, Dun Ringill (a broch by the sea) and Na Clachan Bhreige (a ruined stone circle by a small loch) are situated on the splendid Strathaird peninsula. At Kilmarie, looking for info about the right footpath to reach the sites, we discovered the Kirkicraft workshop, a nice shop run by a very nice couple.
Then we drove to another broch, Dun Ardtreck, dramatically located on a steep cliff. Well, it is practically half a dun, because it is strangely D-shaped and half surrounded by the sea. A breathtaking site, literally. On our way back to our Twingo we met and have a chat with Dave, a very nice man who was working outside his home on our way to the dun. He also took a photo of us with his only camera and only film roll! We are surprised about how many friendly people are around in Scotland and its islands! They are indeed one of the best parts of our tour. Before going to Portree, we also quickly visited Dun Beag, another well-preserved broch.
We are now in a very comfortable B&B hoping to be apple to get connected to the Net in the morning. Keep your fingers crossed for us. And see you soon again!
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