The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Hillock of Breakna

Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork


I have always been put off the trek to this site by what sounded like meagre remains. On Thursday I attended a FOAT lecture by Anne Brundle of Orkney Museum on the Bu of Orphir. At this a map showing fieldnames and archaeology in Orphir. I was 6p shy of the asking price so took the chance for a close look then. Looking at the name Hillock of Breakna there was beneath the notation "poss. broch". And directly below that I was startled to see the notation ' Earl's Palace'. Which turned it around into a must-see.
Today, fortuitiously, Dave Lynn popped by to see me during a visit to Orkney and offered to take me. Out to Orphir and down the unmarked Swanbister road, past Swanbister House down to where the road turns right opposite the shore.
At first all I see is a mound of man-height with an angular stone sticking out the top (made me think briefly of the NE mound at the Taing of Beeman, though that was only an earthfast slab). My fellow brochaholic was strongly confident of its broch identity despite all the accretions. From the top looking down you can see the circular edge resulting from ploughing most of the way round. The terracing effect, especially on the seaward downhill side, brought me in mind of Wideford Hill Cairn. Probably a fancy on my part ( though at both Quanterness and The Howe roundhouses were 'smashed through' earlier chambered tombs).
Wish we had known about the First World War construction when we were there, to help make sense of things. The stone that was clearly visible from the road had a fairsized anchorpoint and short length of chain, both rusty, attached to it. Across the way another rusty anchorpoint is attached to an only slightly smaller stone. So the hollow leading down seawards would appear to be where boats had been secured in modern times, well away from the shore. There are many visible wall traces but it is far from easy to assign periods to these. Similarly with the various stones sticking up through the turf. Dave thought he could make out at least a domestic structure at the seaward end.
The cliff geology extends its rocky outcrops around and up the dyke below the RH-side of the site. It certainly bears out the Orcadian fondness for putting their settlements in places we now consider a little too damp. Between the site and the dyke peaty (as Dave said) waters came to the surface and reached for the burn.
wideford Posted by wideford
28th February 2005ce

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