On the way to catch the ferry to Rousay we stopped off to have a look at the Grain Souterrain.
We called into the jewellers to pick up the keys (the staff were very friendly and helpful) and we drove the short distance (300 metres) to the site (well sign posted).
Historic Scotland provided a torch but I think the batteries needed changing!
Fortunately we had brought our own head lights.
Dafydd and myself climbed down the steps and into the main chamber.
I was just about able to stand up straight – Dafydd had no such problem.
Although it was warm outside, down here you could see your breath.
The Souterrain is well constructed and has 4 large uprights supporting the roof.
Drips of water trickled over some of the stones.
This is a very easy site to access – don’t be put off by having to ask for the keys – and is well worth a visit when in Kirkwall.
Amid the modern paraphenalia of a bustling light industrial and trading estate on the edge of Kirkwall harbour hides this underground chamber. Vans and trucks rush past delivering crates of fish only metres from its weird surface mound, which is fenced off and locked.
Going down into it is really quite steep, though not as steep as Mine Howe. You descend about 3 metres into the ground. To the right is a small storage chamber area, about 1 metre cubed and the passageway leads off to the left, curving round slightly and running for about 4 ms. You have to stoop. It then opens up into a large chamber with four really extraordinarily beautiful pillars, with supporting capitals tied into the walls of the chamber. And lovely corbelling. Another masterpiece of construction. Take note ye architects of ugly industrial buildings! A functional building can be beautiful and long lasting!
Like many of the tombs and souterrains hereabouts, a powerful torch is provided for the visitor, this time by the keeper of keys in the jewellery shop round the corner.
Going out of Kirkwall you obtain a key (weekdays only) from Ortak Jewellery that sits at the corner of Hatston Industrial Estate. In the estate take the second road on your left and then at the second junction on your right, the bottom end of Scott's Road, lies the earthhouse.
There have been at least two sites of this type in the kilometre area, the present one at HY44131161 (RCAHMS NMRS record HY44SW 19) and another fully excavated ahead of a new road and car park at HY44181159 (RCAHMS NMRS record HY44SW 14).
Grain Souterrain, Kirkwall
In an industrial estate on the outskirts of Kirkwall stands a rectangular fenced-off piece of grassland with a couple of strange looking mounds in it- Grain Souterrain. A set of small stone steps takes you down into the earth (mind yer head on the lintel!) and there's a passage leads off to the right. It's only about 5 m or so, then opens up to reveal a larger oval chamber. There are four stone pillars holding up the roof (along with some help from a couple of twentieth century iron bars), some of which have been vandalised with modern-ish day carving. Don't forget yer torch/lantern- this place is lucky enough still to have the original roof intact. I'm always amazed when I get photos back from souterrains, chambered cairns, caves etc as there's bugger all to see through the viewfinder and it's a bit hit or miss!
The Just About Anything earthhouse had an Iron Age building above it, and there were further structures to the N and S of the main excavation. This is described in the published excavation report as the remains of an extensive IA settlement that in all likelihood encompassed the still-visible souterrain also.
Hatston generally seems to be a hotbed of earthhousing. In wartime the Hatston Airfield Souterrain was found at HY43621238. After excavation the roof and uprights were buried/stored at HY43621265. And the Saverock Souterrain used to be at HY43681296.
Hatston Airfield was also a set of two ("The Orkney Herald" 12/7/39)