We took an organized tour with Explore Orkney and turned out to be the only ones scheduled, so we had a private tour throughout the island. How cool is that??? The first place we stopped was called Earth House. It's a tiny underground circle made of stones that has been buried underground for thousands of years and was only recently discovered when a farmer's tractor sank into the ground above.
here's a site with good pics. The tomb (called a cairn in Scotland) has a skinny opening that is lined up precisely with the setting sun so that on the midwinter solstice in December, a shaft of sunlight streaks through the entry and lights up the back wall. But if you can't make the trip out for the celestial show, you can watch it through the site's webcam! In the 1100s, some Viking soldiers came through and wrote graffiti inside the tomb (in runes) that were along the lines of "I was here" and "For a good time, call..." While the content of the scratchings is not significant, the runes themselves are a neat piece of history. If nothing else, it is proof that human nature hasn't changed much in the last thousand years. LOL
Ring of Brodgar (above) and the Stones of Stenness. The wind had kicked up to an unbelievable level by this point. If I'd unzipped my jacket and held it open, I'm pretty sure I'd have gone para-sailing across the island! We were incredibly blessed to avoid rain pelting us (it seemed to only rain when we were traveling in the car between sights), but the wind was something else. I've never experienced anything quite like it, but our guide was completely unaffected by it, having been born and raised in Orkney. Amazing!
Skara Brae. In 1850, a terrible storm battered the Orkney coast and revealed a Stone Age village that was incredibly preserved, including pottery, dice, and tools. Underground passageways led from one room to another. It was just as cool as I thought it would be, though having experienced the bite of the wind, I can see why they had to build it underground! Not only that, but the sand from the coastline was like a compulsory all-over exfoliation treatment. I should have baby smooth skin now! *ouchie*
Our last stop on the tour was to the Broch of Gurness. This was actually my favorite part of the tour because we were able to wander through the broch and the stone village.
|Broch of Gurness today|
|Artist sketch of the Broch entrance|
|Grinding stone, well, and hearth at the broch|