|We turned up at Maeshowe visitor centre at Tormiston Mill at 5.10pm hoping to book a time to visit with as few other people as possible. How lucky we got! The last tour was due to go five minutes later and only had two other - rather disinterested - Chermans on it. We paid our £3 each fee and toddled off down the path towards the mound.
The henge was the first thing that surprised me, being so crisp and well defined. As Julian says in the big papery TMA the whole construction really is like a great grassy sombrero! Our guide, a young archaelogy student, met us at the door and showed us down the long passageway, beautifully square, made of single long slabs of sandstone. It felt very like crawling into an Egyptian tomb but without the multicoloured wall paintings. And then the chamber opens up in front of you! Wow-wheeee!
It was wonderful not to have to share the interior space with too many people. You really wouldn't want to be in there with a coach party of 20 garlic-breathed Americans.
Apart from the painstakingly neat, tight corbelling, the sheer height of the pyramid roof and interior proportions of the chamber the thing I found most notable was that the tall corner stones seemed to be the same shape, size and have the same 'angle of slice' on the top as the stones at Brodgar.
The guide gave a very thorough talk, only snippets of which I caught as immediately I sat down on the dry gravel floor and got out my sketchbook. Photography in the chamber is not allowed, but they couldn't stop me drawing. From the bits I heard she seemed to dwell at length about the Vikings ('bloody Vikings') and not enough about construction techniques for my liking. Rather than whinge I just kept scribbling.
Once the Cherman visitors had seen enough to be able to 'tick it off' their list, they departed leaving just the three of us. Suddenly it felt very big in there! And very, VERY tall, as I was still sitting cross legged on the floor. The guide seemed happy to have someone to talk about it to that took her away from her usual spiel. Moth discussed the chronology of the tomb with the guide who didn't know enough about other British sites to be able to accurately place it against West Kennett, for example.
It may cost £3 and you may have to share it, but it IS worth it.
Posted by Jane
5th July 2004ce
Edited 6th July 2004ce