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North East Scotland road trip

I had been planning this one for a while, however, it was shelved for a number of weeks due to an irresistable urge to go to the Hebrides to see Callanish and its environment. So the day finally came, I had taken my wife away for a short break before setting off to set aside all guilt feelings associated with yet another trip, and I was really focussed. Despite so many sites I resisted all temptation to stop until I got to a Clava Cairns just short of Inverness. Huge site and well cared for by Scottish Heritage, a little sanitised for my liking but a welcome stop. Next up to see the Hill o many Stanes like a Carnac for a model village, a short drive to the unbelievable Grey Cairns of Camster which I crawled into all of the available chambers, this is a real crawl not a stoop. Set in a remote part of Scotland they are still well cared for with a proper board walk across the boggy ground to the Cairns and demand your time and consideration, if they were in Wiltshire I am sure they would be among our most treasured sites. Over the hills to see the Achavanich Stone Circle or U shape to be exact, the stones face inwards rather than sideways and no one knows why. The whole area oozes evidence of a Neolithic presence.
Time waits for no one and I needed to be on the 7pm ferry to Orkney.
So much has been written about this place I will just comment on what I found useful
Get up early, like 5.30 am early and you can have the standing stones of Stennes, the Ring of Brodger and Barnhouse village to yourself
Go to Skara Brae after hours by walking up the beach to it, the tourists during the day will do your head in. You can go to the visitors centre and pay if you conscience troubles you (I did)
During tourist hours you can visit the fantastic Unstan Cairn, the wonderful walk to Wideford Hill Cairn, and the atmospheric Cuween Hill Cairn. On the South side of the island, and free of tourists whilst I was there, are Tomb of Eagles very much worth a visit for its dramatic cliff top setting and best of all the Tomb of the Otters or Banks tomb as it used to be called. This is a live site only partially excavated and he closest you will come to feeling like Indiana Jones, assuming of course you want to feel like him.
Maeshowe is fine, even though on the tourist route you only get in with a timed ticket and so is not overbearing
Finally a couple of warnings. I went for a second visit to Cuween Hill very early in the morning and when I crawled in I was shocked to find someone sleeping in their, banged my head on the ceiling when my torch light caught him, and the second warning, under no circumstances descend into the closed Minehowe pit. Pure evil resides their and I will post a seperate forum link about it
In summary Orkney is just magical, however, with days running out it was time to drive the van on the overnight ferry to Aberdeen where I wanted to get a first hand view of the recumbent stone circles unique to this area. The showpiece sites like Easter Aquhorthies, Cullerie, Tomnavarie, Midmar Kirk and the Loanhead of Daviot were fabulous, however, more interesting results were to be found at places like Cothiemuir Wood, Old Keig, Whitehill, Sunhoney, Nine Stanes and Esslie the Greater where the stones are scattered and the sites overgrown, the sites felt alive and real rather than recreations. I was unable to make any connections regarding alignment to the sacred mother hills, lunar observations and not in all cases alignment, what I did feel however was a strong sacred presence and a place to grieve for the dead. Time has run out and I am now on my way home, stopping for a coffee and to write a quick blog, hope I have not gone on too much

Posted by costaexpress
17th June 2016ce

Comments (6)

Great blog again costa, that part of the world is full of megalithic wonders.

Interested to hear about someone sleeping in Cuween Hill, I once spent the night in the burial mound of Taversoe Tuick on Rousay (mainly due to missing the last ferry to Mainland), and can assure you a chambered tomb is not a comfortable place to spend the night!
Ravenfeather Posted by Ravenfeather
21st June 2016ce
He introduced himself as a Contemporary Shamen and had slept there to identify the healing properties of the Cairn! Actually a really nice guy, we chatted for ages and went off to Kirkwall together in the van, he got me thinking out the box on a number of fronts so it was a good meet despite the surprise.

Looking forward to visiting Rousay, storm blew up on the morning I was due to cross so didn't make it on this trip, however, I am sure you feel the same, Orkney is a place you just know you will be going back to.
Posted by costaexpress
21st June 2016ce
Good grief what an amount of amazing places. Sounds a fantastic trip. Can I ask if you had a favourite out of the RSCs you visited? I do like the ones amongst trees. thelonious Posted by thelonious
21st June 2016ce
The ones I spent the most time at were Easter Aquhorthies among the better known ones, Whitehill because I really enjoyed the mile or so walk each way through the forest and Cothiemuir Hill because it was clear no one had been there for a while and it is also part of a natural burial site and I was deciding where I wanted my plot! Posted by costaexpress
22nd June 2016ce
Cothiemuir Hill is just a wonderful place. It has a good feeling to it. I was a bit unsure about the natural burial site when it was first proposed but now I think it works really well there so close to the circle. thelonious Posted by thelonious
22nd June 2016ce
Just read this. Lovely, hopefully you'll discover the Buchan RSCs in another visit :-) drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th July 2016ce
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