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Jan 24 2004 :- World Heritage plus

Two objectives today were to sort out the Lochview standing stones and to try and visit the Ring of Bookan . Set off from Kirkwall on the 10.15 bus to reach the Brodgar road junction and caught the 2.30 Stromness bus back . Just over four hours at my "rate of knots" . And if you retrace my steps it is likely you would looksee the Barnhouse and Stones of Stenness sites , spend rather more time at the Ring of Brodgar , and would actually go to the Ring of Bookan . So more like a full day if you were foolhardy !

On the bus you pass on the left Tormiston Mill and going from a path on the road opposite that you reach the imposing hill of Maes Howe , a little further along ( also on the right ) the Barnhouse Stone stands solitary in its own little paddock in a field . Between Maeshowe and Barnhouse you have a glimpse of the Loch of Harray , which was today almost camouflaged white by several dozen swans in contrast to several flocks of geese between here and the other side of the Brodgar road .
On the Brodgar road your travels start . On the right you will see the Stones of Stenness beside the road , with the Barnhouse settlement reached by a path alongside ( to come back you will have to retrace your steps as you can't actually reach the church from here ) . Ahead the Watch Stone stands sentinel on the left just ahead of the Bridge of Brodgar , looming over the road on its little tump . The other side is an unremarked standing stone or somesuch . The Bridge of Brodgar divides the salty Loch of Stenness on the left from the freshwater Loch of Harray on the right . On the former the odd seal or two can often be seen sunning on sumerged rocks . On at least one occasion I saw a family of seals on the small spit of land the other end of the bridge , though it is usually the heron you will find in this area .
Everything from the Bridge of Brodgar up to the region of the stone circle is on the left ( the Loch of Harray shoreline is on the road's right , with a fair smattering of gannets in its 'cliffs' in their time ) .
The two green ?huts you first see are Bridgend . After these is the low hill that is down as Brodgar Farm cairn HY304128 and may be broch remains . You can see the scallop scar of excavation but nothing else - if you follow the path around it that skirts the Loch of Stenness the view is even less distinguished ! After this comes the hillock/rise on which stand the Lochview Standing Stones . Your first view of this pair sets them against the Lochview Cottage to to make them look for all the world like a modern folly in someone's garden . One mission accomplished . Next up is Brodgar Farm itself , and beside Brodgar Cottage on another hillock a pair of old stone gateposts sit in splendid isolation in apparent imitation of the standing stones' situation .
Further along you come to a wide metal-fence bordered track running at a slight angle ( something to do with nature conservation it seems ) and along which you approach the Comet Stone group . This consists of the Comet Stone itself and two stone stumps . These latter have been held to be a cove's remains but to me look the wrong distance and not part of a fitting arc . I wonder if the Comet Stone was there first and then much later the present mound built around it for the twa stones to sit in - you can see how the Comet stands in its own seperate circular depression . Certainly the geophysic clutter around the group represents more than the news report of an extra stone . above the group are several low-lying tumuli . The Ring of Brodgar is before you with a big knowe above it .
The 'proper' way to approach the Ring of Brodgar stone circle rather than havering off to the Comet Stone is to continue along the Brodgar road , passing two more knowes on the right , and going through the Historic Scotland entrance on the left . No bikes are allowed and you are meant to keep to the grass track , though today this was awash with water and the new turf hadn't worked in yet . I decided to look for markings I had finally found on my previous visit . Not the runes etc but cup marks . Found them on the front of one of the standing stones below the Comet Stone track 'entrance' , a stone that looks like a hatchet face . Possibly natural but perfectly circular with a hint of the tool created them . And at the left side I now saw a small crevice whose outline brought to mind a leaf .
Now I went in search of my second objective and further up the road I thought I saw it up on a ridge . Took ages to try and match what the map depicted with the landscape around me , back and forth back and forth , time and again . Eventually I wrongly concluded that I had fulfilled my second mission ( before visiting Scottish sites I urge you go to the RCAHMS website and register with CANMORE , for its CANMAP is the right tool for complete certainty of identification ) . After my first sighting what next took my interest was a scatter of stones in the corner of a roadside field . Its next corner had the barred metal gate from which a broad track went up to my objective , which I now know to be Bookan Chambered Cairn . A strange track that I have never seen the like of before - stones beneath and cleared away to the sides . At the cairn you can just make out a surrounding ditch . I wasn't entirely sure at first that the cairn was not the result of field clearances . Then as I came closer I saw the excavation in the middle . Before I left I took one last look from the top and saw the top of a radial slab . A closer look and I thought to remove a piece of black bag but when it would not shift I knew that this was evidence that the 2002 dig was not the end . To the left of the mound there is all sorts going on ; ponds , dumps , tumuli . Most of this lies in an odd fenced area . Hereabouts was muddy and squelchy underfoot ( and you need to be aware that this could be its usual condition ) so I didn't do too much investigating ! The tumuli listed on CANMORE would be on the downhill side , whether within or without this fencing I do not know .

Back down from the ridge I continued up the hill to Buckan Farm . For a short distance to the right I could make out afar the Broch of Burrian . Looking to my left I noticed a big hillock a little away and in its central emptiness a standing slab and something else . After the fact I know this to be the henge and/or chambered tomb the Ring of Bookan . Being ignorant of this I put it aside for another time as I only had half a film left and reserved this for the Stackrue broch remnant as I decided to carry on around to the Stromness road the other side of the Loch of Stenness .

Easy to miss is the small Lyking signpost downhill on the right . This byroad goes around the top of the Loch of Stenness . You have no doubt come across roads that make way for ancient sites , well this one curves strongly round the Lyking Farm . CANMORE shows only a tentative account of a burial mound to the north yet it is the only explanation for why the road does not simply cut across the top of the farm ! Here is a concentration of various forms of standing stone worthy of your attention , though all unremarked . One short pillar has an obtuse-angled corner that could be the result of artifice .
On the left away from the farm one comes upon a pair of old gateposts immediately parallel to the road . The left post is a standing stone set in stone packing , a larger version of some settings by Lyking Farm . Of the right hand post only the stone packing remains in place but with a large wooden section across the 'gateway' that may have been in there last . A little curious it seems to me .
Then on the right Stackrue Broch comes into view . First impression is that this stands a little higher than Oxtro but the stones are smaller . Just the usual "remnants of broch" then . Nearer and I see the other end and am surprised by the size of the blocks in the wall here and how bright they look . This is the actual broch wall standing several courses tall . Looking back it is obvious I am seeing structures from at least two periods . Only now am I struck by what should have struck me from the start , a large deep ditch running around the site . Somewhere about the middle of the building I think I see a void behind some slabs . The 'broch' end in the ditch against the bank are several large slabs of stone and nearer the road a few what look like standing stones . [ On the Monday I find out the other side of the road is a subterranean passage and a little distance away and closer to the loch lie , or lay , the turf footings of a chapel and a burial ground ] .
Having alas finished off my film too early ( oh I forgot to mention the heavy showers that had passed over me at Stackrue but failed to dampen my spirits ) I carried on . In the loch there were two islets , a very small one on which were some no doubt natural slabs and a larger one with the remains of some structure apparent . Only one on the map and both unremarked . A little along from them is Veron Point HY257150 which I had hopes of . Unfortunately even with binoculars I saw only a reed bed with the scant remains of a wooden fence [ On the Monday I find I was looking at two sites , not only a chapel with burial ground but also a possible burial mound ! ] . The fields above me held wildfowl again , several swans in one and a large flock of geese in the next along . The geese almost immediately flew off but the swans despite being closer were unpertuturbed . That's centuries of royal protection in inaction !
Coming up to the road end there is a green hill behind a cottage which is the Voy Burnt Mound HY236150 . To the left of the junction I head in towards Stromness . This end of the road has no signpost . It is a common failing in Orkney that minor roads are only marked at one end . The last time I walked up from Stromness I had passed by here and had presumed the Lyking Road to be simply a quality farm road that ended on Linga Fjold hill . A little further up is a comparatively huge sign for the oncoming parting of Skaill and Birsay roads .
From the junction I looked across to Redland Farm and saw near the shore both a big jumble of large stones and a green mound of rectangular appearance . In between here and the beginning of the farm road the mound disappears from view for a while . The jumble is I think the Redland Burnt Mound HY267138 , and the mound is the Knowe of Redland HY267139 also known as Arion Broch ( after the area ) .
Soon after I knew I would be in plenty of time to catch the bus . But when offered a lift to Stenness villageI knew it would be churlish to refuse . Then I walked on past Tormiston Mill until the bus came by . Our buses stop anywhere for you and this is a great help if you are out in the wilds and have had enough !!

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wideford Posted by wideford
27th January 2004ce
Edited 28th January 2004ce


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