|Visited 14th May 2014
Wideford Hill holds a special place for me, I must have more fieldnotes from this place than any other ancient site, its combination of fantastic views, impressive construction and overall sense of presence, makes it a one of Orkney’s best chambered tombs.
I see the tomb perched on its hill often as I pass by on the Stromness to Kirkwall road, and I always make a point of visiting here at least once each time we are in Orkney, and as today, I like to walk from the house in Kirkwall out of town on the Old Finstown Road, before ascending the hill to the cairn, like a pilgrimage of sorts.
The day is filled with beautiful sunshine today, the hill a beacon ahead of me as I walk. It’s a good hours trek from Kirkwall, although of course you can drive and park near the top of the hill if you want easier access. The path that curls around the flanks of the hill which leads to the tomb is dry today after the recent clement weather, but at times can be difficult going, its peaty, muddy surface often rough, so a good pair of boots is advisable. The old gate with the woollen ‘offerings’ mentioned by Carl is still next to the path, and just beyond in the distance you can make out the fence that surrounds the tombs enclosure.
As you circumvent the hill the views open up over the Wide Firth looking out down Mainland, with Finstown spread out around the bay, and the sister tomb of Cuween hill just visible on the horizon if you know where to look.
The layered wedding-cake like construction of the tomb stands out, the stonework exposed and giving a fine example of how these corballed tombs would look beneath their grassy mounds. Checking on the ‘municipal’ torch (how many of these would find ‘doon sooth’?) I’m pleased to see it’s all present and correct, and in working order, although once I slide open the rooftop entry hatch the bright morning sunlight floods the chamber and its clear no torch will be needed today.
Inside the cool damp exterior I sit and soak up the vibes. The corballed stonework is exquisite and two low entrances enticingly open into side chambers. Today I’m content just to sit in the main chamber, not wishing to get myself too muddy by squeezing into the side cells. It was in one of these cells that I experienced what I can only describe as a presence, the first time I was ever here some fifteen years ago. As I sat inside the chamber in total darkness, I became convinced there was someone else in there. I could even hear their breath in the silent chamber, but as I reached out, all I could feel were the cold chamber walls. It didn’t feel at all threatening at the time, quite the opposite in fact, and I felt a real sense of welcome and belonging, and since then I’ve always felt Wideford Hill was a special place.
After a while I emerge back into the sunlight, and sit atop the cairn to write my fieldnotes. Mainland seems stretched out before you and it’s easy to recognise why this was designated as a sacred space. It still feels that way now, come and visit and experience some of Orkney’s magic for yourself.
Posted by Ravenfeather
10th June 2014ce