|Exceedingly last minute decision to risk the weather. Took the first bus to Birsay and took off around the headland opposite the Brough of Birsay. Easy enough to find the Knowe of Buttquoy HY24482820 as it is an obvious mound in the stone-walled field that has a stone 'hut' straddling one of the walls. Found no way in for a closer look and no visible features. There are many standing stones on the headland's cliff edges, and these seem to be in association with the field boundary as they practically begin and end in tandem with it over the other side of road and track. Most had visible, or at least uncoverable, stone settings. I was reminded of Yesnaby a little, though those bestride the landscape magnificently rather than only hugging the actual lines of the coast.
Coming to the further coastal reach of the stone wall and the last stone I could see a solitary specimen further along. Along the way I passed a rockstack coming to Skipi Geo, like a squat Old Man of Hoy only far more accessible. The standing stone HY24902829 1.3x0.6m wasn't at the cliff edge, instead it is at at a field corner ending a barbwire fence that goes to the road into Birsay village.
Retracing my steps it was time to measure up and take note. ?Age. In the final analysis no-one knows for a certainty.
b: The first stone HY24532843 0.4mx0.3m aligns with the eastern fieldwall and has a low stone and a setting eroding in the cliff face.
c: HY24502842 1.2x0.6m, setting at front 0.3m deep and 0.2m high.
d: HY24452840 1.2x0.6m aligns with the Point of Buttquoy mound 1/'A' HY24462835 and has a setting extending right and front of it 0.2m. You would expect it to line up with the more prominent Knowe of Buttquoy in the same field but it does not. Point of Buttquoy is decent enough, though the many stones one sees on it are mostly from a far later sheepfold.
e: HY2443240 1.0x0.4m with a complete stone-setting 1.2x0.6x0.1m. In the field opposite this is Point of Buttquoy mound 2/'C' HY24432826 but I don't have the two lining up.
f: HY24422819 1.2x0.6m.
g: HY24412817 1.1 (I think,ink damp) x0.5m.
h: HY24462010 1.2x0.5m with a stone-setting 0.2x0.8x0.3m is photogenic, but alas the back is now the cliff face itself. I think it aligns with the eastern wall of the stone-walled field.
i: HY? 1.2x0.5m.
j: HY24582814 1.5x0.5x0.3 with complete stone-setting 0.9x0.5m. Nearly opposite this there is a length of wall inserted where some time past a gate was. Or at least a long gap in the wall filled in. Where the stone-walled field turns the drystane wall itself only continues for a few more metres.
k: HY24602814 1.0x0.6m the last stone 28m from the spot of cliff opposite the field corner.
And no more stones do I meet from here until I am heading out of Birsay village. On the LH side of the A966, at the end of the last barbwire fence fence before the crossroads, is a 0.9x0.6m stone HY25302789.
Taking the road as it heads for the gallery I reach the Vinbrake junction, and today my journey takes me this way to go down the turning for two good sites. Soon I can see Stanerandy Standing Stones, more properly a tumulus in which standing stones were later inserted. From here this is at the back of a field of standing corn. Looking for a way in I am disappointed. Because though there are gates to climb the crop is to the very edges and you just couldn't help damaging it whatever you did. No go. Further along I find some stones on the left past the Hillquoy turnoff. Two metres back from the road at a right angle is the first of a pair HY26822770. It has small circular holes bored at top and bottom, is 1.4x0.7m and rectangular like its twin, which faces the road 3.9m away and is 1.2x0.5m. At the field corner beyond a ragged/pointy-topped standing stone 1.2mx0.5m also faces the road HY26912766.
At the corner where the road turns instead I continued along a farm track. Radio Orkney having the weather wrong again a man was working outside on his house here. Going left my next site lay in the second field on the uphill side. Though I could see Newan Chambered Tomb just inside of the barbwire fence above me the wire was high and taut. At this end of the fence HY27212773 and in line with it is a stone 1.2x0.6m that would have aligned with the cairn when that lay whole. Another stone 1.2x0.5m is across the way and has a small hole near the top HY27222772. At first glance I thought they were flatface-aligned. They aren't in the slightest. Down in the valley, at that field's end and slightly away from the corner, there's another standing stone HY27232759. Similarly unaligned. Continuing along the farmtrack where the track next swerved around I came across another standing stone HY27222773. This 1.2x0.6m stone along the field edge at an angle that aligns with Newan Chambered Tomb too. So much for objects this size being from an historical period, as even I had begun thinking. Still no way in.
Had to circle up the hill and all the way around till I was in sight of the disused quarries. Here several barbwires were down across my path. I was in luck because this is the 'Orkney gate' for the field of my target. So in I finally go. By the time I reached the cairn I'd been almost around the whole of the field boundary ! That it stands back from the field edge is the result of ploughing on the outside. There are few stones visible at first but things become better once you are looking down instead of from the side, despite its not being what you'd call high. Coming from the fence the near top has two stones, a very sub-rectangular 0.8x0.6m slab and, to its top left at an angle, a probable top of one 0.5x0.1m. The top back is taken up by an apparently circular collection of stones 1.6x1.8m across. One that is a little larger than the rest, at 0.8x0.3m, is at the LH side of the 'arrangement'. On the left again are three stones abutting that would widen the collection to 1.8m but do look like sides of a cist really.
Back down onto the road to see if there could be a slightly better viewpoint for Stanerandy Tumulus. In front of the cornfield are various outbuildings. I snuck behind the Nissen hut, a little hesitant initially but the gentlemen out on the other side of the road would have said if it weren't allowed so I was on. The field corner has a nice sturdy post to provide a camera rest. Still would prefer to be in with my subject. Later in the year, eh. Then on the road once more, only this time clear round the bend. Downhill between there and Newan Farm (clean the other direction from the tomb, silly) another flatface-aligned stone pair offers itself HY26982755. They are 4.2m apart, the LH a roundy top and 1.0x0.6m and the other 0.7x0.8 and rectangular. Usual position for this type of pair etc. Between here and the fence above Newan Farm you look straight across to Stanerandy Tumulus. A very different view though from further away than the uphill view. Good if you have binoculars as I did.
This road along the topside of the Loch of Boardhouse takes you to Kirbuster Farm Museum just after it meets the next junction if that's your fancy. Coming relatively near the junction the Knowe of Nesthouse HY279257 showed itself to me as a prominent piece of land sticking into the loch with a great bushy mound. Too hairy for me to visit this time of year, wait till the vegetation perhaps dies back. Though this 2m high site is down as a chambered mound, with a couple of well preserved chambers in the north half, it is a much mutilated Iron Age settlement.
Somewhere hereabouts I saw a boulder on the hillside with some rocks I thought were something. Would however seem to be an old field boundary. Or perhaps a slip fault. Above the line I saw a scar of dark exposed soil. Next field along was a similar line, only a few metres further up. And another dark scar. In both lines there were rocks. Didn't look like any kind of wall though. Two offset tracks with short vertical faces of light soil at the uphill edge ?? Don't see any features on CANMAP where memory located these.
I looked for the Loch of Boardhouse Standing Stone HY28052520 where the Burn of Kirbuster meets the loch the other side of the museum. Memory at fault. Saw a dark stone at the loch edge slightly further on which must be it. Probably marshy area, summer lush, not safe at the moment surely. The NMRS says this 3'2"x2' stone is probably not very old. Hmph.
Soon I was in sight of Twatt, that practically unmistakeable building on the skyline. Decided not to go there and instead take a turnoff that met the Dounby road below. Made a boo-boo identifying a junction (drat and double-drat mapfolds) that meant instead of the direct route to Dounby I went 'round the houses' on a very minor road to the B9057. Wondered why the wind generators grew closer ! Mixed up the Hundland and Banks lochs to confuse mself for longer.
The beginning of this road goes below the Loch of Hundland. Approaching the bottom pocket of the loch there are any number of water-blackened stones of which I appeared to make out at least one alignment. Definitely a feeling that this part used to be farmed (or at the very least marked out) in prehistory. This whole are is part of a nature reserve now (the board only mentions birds but I saw a lovely stretch of Grass of Parnassus at the road edge, wonderful green-veined pale white flowers in full bloom, and a disabled lady was gathering long-stemmed water-loving plants too), and in pools at the marshy roadside edge there are several big light-coloured boulders that could just be from some kind of structure. Up over on the east side of the loch there is actually an Iron Age settlement HY298264 similar to the Knowe of Nesthouse on the Loch of Boardhouse, with a few low upright slabs protruding.
My next standing stone HY29542530 1.2x0.5m I found just in front of the RH side of a bridge going across the road. If I had known where I really was then looking over in the same general direction I would have been looking in a boggy area for the Burn of Durkadale Mound, 11x9x0.4m with long slabs protruding HY29562527. Perhaps I did see it, only to doubt the antiquity.
At this time I became definitely lost. The map couldn't help me as I still thought I was only slightly out. Perplexed I felt I could only carry on and tough it out. Passing Hundasaeter I looked to the right down into Durka Dale, where I saw a large (as it seemed to me) solitary monolith in an area occupied by ruinous dwellings, which became a symbol for my pisgy-led state. It certainly looked all by itself, only perhaps it was only sticking out of a burnt mound. So much stuff I saw or could have looked for, simply too bamboozled to get my bearings I let it all go. At least I saved time on all that measuring of stones because I could not place them. So I continued dazed and confused along Skelday Hill until I found a marked junction, the Evie-Dounby road. Where I erred again and took the shorter stretch to Dounby.
Nearing Dounby if I'd known I had enough time I would have gone down the marked North Bigging road for the mostly unexcavated broch, aka Mithouse HY308200. Time enough in Dounby for a little lookabout. The two burnt mounds shown behind the collection of houses on the Evie-Dounby road are gone now. Considered taking a gander at the burnt mound I'd seen afar on my last visit that started here. Nah, new target. Of the burnt mounds labelled in the north quadrant of Dounby one did still remain. Pass the Swartland junction going north and there is a gap between the housing on your right. Look across and there is a burn at the back of a house where you can make out the much mutilated Knowe of Makerhouse HY29352114 24m by 1.7m high. No go here but as I come to the end of the gap there's a flat area with a couple of barred metal gates that should let me get up and around to it. Too done in to do it this day. More promises.
There's a few nice little shops in Dounby that offer something different to Kirkwall or Stromness. Oh to have even a little spare cash. Like the Birsay shop I'd been in earlier Dounby Stores were selling Birsay tomatoes at £1.99 a punnet, six to a punnet ! Ah, but these are heritage ones of differing shapes and colours. Though tomatoes aren't favourites of mine if I felt my tastebuds were up to the challenge yours truly would have fallen to temptation.
Finally the bus came. Had misread the timetable. It didn't go all the way but stopped at Tingwall where the last bus did go on to Kirkwall. As we approached Birsay it was with mixed feelings that I saw the Oxtro Broch for one hadn't disappeared beneath summer growth as I had missed my chance at photographing the other side now that the kie were gone. Once at Tingwall I had another hour to wait. Perhaps I should have kept myself warm seeing if I could get onto that broch or ahint it. Now the weather had finally arrived, and me with no jacket of course. Looking across the waters Egilsay is to your left (Westray to the far left possibly, don't know if ever visible from here. Rousay in front. Gairsay to the right. That nipple at the top of Gairsay is a burial cairn HY441223 that Trevor Garnham thinks could align withe the lowere passage of Taversoe Tuick on Rousay.
What with research and notes its taken nearly as long to do this weblog as to do the walk itself. Tomorrow another weblog.
Posted by wideford
19th August 2004ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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