This season's dig is showing that rather than a broch this is at heart a (Neolithic) chambered tomb - there is an item in this morning's Radio Orkney program (online later). There's only another week to go and the Open Day is this Sunday, July 22nd, from 11.30.
Visited Orkney last week and spent a day on Rousay. Unfortunately Midhowe was closed due to Foot in Mouth, but we went to 3 of the other chambered cairns.
Walking from the ferry terminal, the first along the way is also the most impressive-Taversoe Tuick. Discovered about 100 y ago, in true Victorian fashion by the Lady of the house in whose grounds the tomb is located (she was shocked to think of the summer afternoons spent lying on the mound unaware of the skeletons a short distance below the surface). The tomb is unusual, having two layers, and seems to have been designed this way rather than having a second tier added at a later time. Access is through an artificial opening in the upper layer-the original creep is very low & narrow and blocked by a grille. There's an exciting feeling inside - a metal ladder allows access to the lower chambers, all of which are well preserved. There's a glass roof which leaves the chamber feeling bright and airy, not damp at all. Outside there's a small chamber adjacent to the main tomb with a heavy wooden door covering it over - the boy had to creep inside and be closed in...
About a mile further along the road is Blackhammer cairn, situated about 50 yards from the roadside. This is a long stalled cairn, reminiscent of Unstan, but longer. It is preserved up to chest height, with concrete walls & ceiling. A heavy sliding door permits access in the midpart of the tomb - alas no symbolic crawling to enter.
The third cairn we visited was the Knowe of Yarso. This is a further mile away, but requires you to take a path (signposted) up a farm track and over some heather hillside for about 1/2 a mile from the roadside. We did this in a sudden blizzard of snow and hail, which made the cairn a real haven when we reached it. Again it is of stalled construction, with an outer and an inner chamber, reasonably large. Entry via a metal door - no creep. Again, it is preserved about 5 feet from the ground, with concrete above. A bit of a disappointment after the walk up - had little atmosphere I felt. The view from the top is spectacular however - looking over Eynhallow and the mainland.
Not too far away from the Long Stone, at HY380335 above Moan, is an earthfast stone 0.65m tall but 1.55m wide that is likely to be the stump of another standing stone. Lost/gone is the Westoval Stone, this was on a ridge called Steenie Festoval on the northern slope of Blotchnie Fiold (roughly HY4129) - if found, please return to owner.
Entering the enclosure the second thing I noticed after the cairn itself was a shallow trench all around the ege of the mound, and outside that a lot of stones of decent size. Canmore says "bounded by a wall-face of horizontally laid stones. Surrounding the cairn is a spread of loose flat stones forming a sort of platform. An alley, clear of stones, led through it up to the W edge of the cairn". Alley past tense. Before tackling the mound I investigated the other piece of the puzzle. This now has an angled metal door that swings out. This is where a fold-out screen comes in useful, sitting down on the horizontal stone and sticking the camera inside on wide angle. Then up to the main prize. I was very careful with the ladder in the cairn, starting face forward at the start, and the space between the rungs is over-large so that it would be all too easy for the whole leg to slip between them - I would have preferred to have someone with me just in case !
Just to emphasise it is a really steep climb, a very windy narrow path i places a foot wide. And when it levels out coming to the cairn there is a near vertical drop on the left, so not advisable if the wind is high