Visited 17th May 2014
It’s only possible to get to Eday and back in a day on Saturdays, it’s also rather extortionately expensive to take the car. So since the island is only 8 miles in length, and I like a good walk, then an epic trek taking in as many ancient sites as I could in a day trip on the island was the plan. The downside of this of course is that time has to be carefully managed, one eye always on the clock lest you miss the ferry home (I had the misfortune to do that on island of Rousay once, and wasn’t keen to repeat it!). This also means you just don’t get long enough to spend at somewhere as good as Vinquoy.
Vinquoy is the highest point on Eday, and the mound atop the hill has been prominent for miles. This is the main event for me on today’s trip, so I’ve walked briskly nearly the whole length of the island, not having seen a single soul in the last three hours. After passing the wonderful Stone of Setter, I start on up the hill toward the tomb. Vinquoy hill, whilst not exactly a Munroe, is taking it out of me now, my rucksack feels as if the Trows have put a few rocks in it whilst I wasn’t looking, but as I approach the mound, atop the hill, the fine masonry of its entranceway enticingly visible, all the fatigue falls away.
I open the small gate which bars the passage, and stoop into the long, slightly curving entranceway. Wooden planks have been placed along the damp passageway to avoid having to shuffle through the mud, and soon I’m in the inner chamber and able to stand up. Inside it’s wonderful. A tall corbelled roof, and four side chambers, two to each side are visible. But it’s the atmosphere inside this place which is sublime. The warm red colour of the Eday sandstone used to construct the tomb, provides a russet glow, whilst ferns cascade from the upper masonry of the walls, and a strange white lichen almost glows in the gloom.
A circuar skylight admits some illumination, along with a small vent, which is visible from outside the tomb, sticking up like a little chimney atop the mound. This combines to give the inner chamber an airy quality, and lets the place breathe, much better than the stuffy concrete capped burial mounds you can see on Rousay, thank goodness Callender and Grant didn’t get their hands on this one!
I take a look into the side chambers, their entrances are very low, and trying to squeeze in with backpack, camera and assorted accoutrements, would leave me plastered with mud for the day, so I’ll leave that for next time, a valuable excuse to return, as if I needed one!
I spend quite some time inside. Vinquoy has one of the most special atmospheres of any tomb on Orkney. I think the combination of a well preserved internal structure, the warm coloured stone, and fantastic vegetation all combine to make it somewhere truly special. I really have to force myself to leave, it feels as if I’ve stumbled into one of those fairy entrances to the otherworld.
When I emerge back out I’m pleased to see that hundreds of years haven’t elapsed since I went in (although looking at the landscape, you’d probably be hard pressed to tell if they had, so unspoiled is it, only a handful of wind turbines letting you know you’re in the 21st century at all.) Looking around from atop the hill the views are great, the Stone of Setter still prominent below by Mill Loch, and islands scattered around to either side, a truly fantastic place. It may require some effort to get to, but Vinquoy stands there proudly with the best chambered tombs that Orkney can offer, it’s really something special.
Posted by Ravenfeather
14th June 2014ce