October 8, 2010

0 Scotland Trip; Orkney Islands, October 8-9 (Part 2)

 Orkney is rich in history, and Paul and I were able to visit some of the most interesting sites.  The entire following group (along with a few other Neolithic monuments nearby) was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.   There are many standing stones, both single and in groups, around the islands.  There are also numerous cairns, or mounded tombs.  

We didn't take any pictures of Maes Howe, a Neolithic chambered tomb dating around 5000 years ago.   We were able to go into the chamber, which was impressive in itself, but it also holds a more recent historical interest.  In the mid-12th century a group of Norse took shelter in Maes Howe during a storm.  The men carved runes and pictures into the stones, most of which are still visible.  These make up the largest single grouping of these runes in the world.   If you're interested beyond the links I marked above, we did get the guide book which is very informative and has the translations of the runes.

 The other most prominent Neolithic site on Orkney Mainland is Skara Brae.  It was a village inhabited around 5000 years ago.  The incredible thing about this site is the preservation- it was unknown until 1850, when a storm destroyed the dune that covered it.  There is a reconstruction that tourists are able to go into of House 7, the most complete of all the houses.
 This is a view of most of the village.

House 9.  You can see the fire pit in the middle and the beds on opposite walls.

Showing the outer construction of the stone huts.

Here you can see the entrance to this house and one of the beds. 

The ocean behind (in front of?) Skara Brae.

This is the Ring of Brodgar.  It was erected between 4-4.5 thousand years ago, and is one of the largest Neolithic henges.  Estimated to have originally been 60 stones, 36 stand in some form today.

This grouping is known as The Stones of Stenness, estimated to be somewhere between 5.4-4.5 thousand years old.   A small flock of sheep grazed around it during our visit.

Paul, to give scale.   

Before you think we spent our entire day and a half on Orkney traveling back in time, I'll show you two more modern pictures.  We spent the night in Stromness, one of the two main burghs on the Mainland.  Paul thought this street name was particularly funny.  (Sorry it's blurry, it was getting late and the light was poor!)

  This tomcat followed us down the street a good ways, so I decided to make friends.  As soon as I sat down he hopped in my lap and started purring, and didn't want to leave our company!  You can see how bundled I was- that's two shirts under a fleece pullover under a fleece jacket under a down vest (and leggings under my jeans!)- all for a "nice" day on Orkney, with some of the natives in short sleeves and shorts!

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