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Another of those trips where I only made my mind up at the last moment, just caught the 9.35 bus with a few minutes to spare. And I forgot my watch again. Thursday might have been better but I didn't want there to be any chance of my missing the voting, especially with the three polls at one time. Coming up through Evie saw various coastal brochs on my right. Missed the main guy, Burgar, even so. Only goes to show how easy it is to miss large sites if you don't walk the walk, ho ho. Leaving all that behind as the bus starts climbing on the right Vinquin Hill on the left draws the attention just beyond the craft centre track. On the upper slopes of Vinquin Hill is the eponymous site (NMRS record no. HY32NW 13 at HY32682830) which is much quarried [1st O.S. shows a quarry outside the broch stretching from the NW to the N small one to ENE roughly 15m away] with stones scattered over a six foot high flat-topped mound 75m by 67m, aligned N/S - only three small slabs stab upright through the turf, though a WWII incursion found one or two human bones and plenty of building blocks five foot down. A turf-covered stone rampart ten yards from the mound's base survives to as much as two-and-a-half feet high except where fields encroach in the east. Much quarrying has gone on in the space between this and the mound, which makes me suspect rubble infill (else why leave the rampart). An upright stone in the SW portion could indicate outbuildings. As Mounthooly is only about 150m away it has been suggested that the site is simply ecclesiastical (even though the consensus is that all Mounthoolie names in Orney are fanciful), but many sites are both. Anyway I think here hoolie=halye 'flat rock', referring to the stoney flat top of the mound. Dave says there is not much visibly left of the broch but I should go there for the splendid views from it. Indeed even though Costa Hill Viewpoint has fifty metres over Vinquin Hill the broch holds an outstanding position, occupying the skyline from where I first saw it from the bus coming northwards all the way around my roadside walk into Birsa far to the west. All Costa Hill has, archaeologically or historically, is the WWII radio station [as far as we know, of course]. A piece of rock art is built into the inside of a barn gable belonging to Lower Arsdale, so could Vinquin Hill have started off a a chambered tomb like the Howe of Howe ?? Right kind of position certainly.

For a moment I considered walking back fron Newton Road End for a closer look, thence south to the broch at Burgar and on to the other brochs facing Rousay before fetching up at Tingwall for the bus home. Good weather for it and all but I had my mind set on videoing the Knowes of Lingro and having another stab at getting to the Knowe of Crustan site. Should just make it to Birsay village in time for the last bus to Kirkwall. Over the hill and east of the road (practically opposite where the bus stopped) is Upper Midhouse. Slightly up of an imaginary line from this to Midhouse ('Lower Mithouse'), and a little more than half the distance between them, an earthhouse [erdhus, souterrain] came to light in 1930 on the E shoulder of rising land. The 1946 RCAMS Inventory mentions a second earthhouse as being 350 yards to the NE of Midhouse. The only further detail for the latter is that it too was scheduled. and as neither have been they I wonder if maybe they might have been thinking instead of the area of the Mithouse (North Biggings) broch in Harray {not that one is listed for there either, I must admit]. In 2000 an earthhouse roof collapsed and had to be remedied. The implication is that this is the excavated site. I say implied as the equivalence is, unusually, not stated. There were two earthhouses at Grain (including Grainbank) and two at Hatston Aerodrome, both in the same part of Kirkwall. The Verron broch is to the north of Midhouse, by the shore at the foot of Costa Hill - all that is needed is a bournt mound for the LBA-EIA set (Late Bronze Age, Early Iron Age).

Further along, on the left, is Chrismo farm. The Chrismo mound, north of the steading by the east side of the road, was first identified as a burnt mound but some twenty years later a trench through it found only unburnt stones and earth. At that time J.Harper from Chrismo House said that until road levelling the mound could be seen on both sides of the road and that the works found lots of stone and a few pestles. It may have been a parish boundary marker. There is a stone nearby welcoming folk to Birsay but the Greystone that serves as march stone was [is??] on the slope just above the Chrismo mound - in this area the Birsa-Evie boundary has moved at least two or three times. What has struck me both times I have been by the farm, however, is a long mound in the farmyard south of the steading. Plenty of middling boulders can be seen from the road, though I must confess only those littering the southern half look to my amateurish eyes to be of any age. Just north of the farm buildings at the field edge at the Loch of Swannay shore I see what looks to be the remains of an old dyke, large boulders in a line [?intermittent], some clearly visible and others peeking out from low-ish vegetation (steeth dyke ?). This continues into the next field along with stones exposed. I had hoped it was simply natural except that where it ends (admittedly just beyond a bundle of rusty barbwire) in a several courses high wall at right-angles bordering a narrow hollow. Some of the visible boulders along the line on photo prove to be decorative carved
blocks. You have to mention the things you see or no-one else might have a chance to do likewise, and it is too late for others to go after the site has been identified after damage or through incidental destruction of its wholeness, the information has been lost. A parish boundary often attracts kirks, only none are known hereabouts...

At this point I became aware of two islets in the loch. Forgotten all about those. Actually there are three holms, two by the western shore and a larger third more in the midst of the waters. The latter, Muckle Holm at HY314274, is irregularly shaped but some hundred metres across in most directions. Strangely there is no archaeological record for this, probably because you really would need a boat to reach it. Stoney Holm (HY32NW 6 at HY31132731) is on record as a crannog, mostly covered by the approximately 37' by 23' foundations of a rectangular structure having its major axis almost NW/SE. Since first noted even the SW corner has become overgrown. It is wadable to, apparently. I thought I couldn't make out the smalllest isle, Park Holm (HY32NW 5 HY31272695) which is connected to the W shore by a fifty foot causeway varying in width from 2-4 yards (sometimes you paddle). But from my photos I look to have mistaken it for Stoney Holm. Possibly another crannog, it is mostly structural debris in the form of large stones. Aligned NE/SW, it measures 38' by some 29' and is 5' high. The stepping stones are not shown on the 25". However I have reason to think water levels have dropped since then [stepping stones not shown on 25" map]. Reminds me of Wasdale in Firth. It is my opinion that unless you know what the water-level was at the time of building you cannot tell a crannog from a broch/dun (could the longer causeways have been used for ritual too ?) On Canmore's aerial photo where Park Holm's causeway joins the shore it seems to form the south boundary of a lush green area (roughly the size of Muckle Holm) that appears to surround a 'something'.

Now I came to Costa Hill and bethought myself to get to the top and look for Verron broch. The long windy path up is a designated trail to the viewpoint but runs on a wide track bedevilled by the deep impression of tractor wheels. A couple of skuas flew over my head and I heard many small birds. When the track ran parallel to the field's I looked for the tumulus (once erraneously thought to have been simply a vardr 'beacon') without luck. Along the way there is a flat piece on the hill with an almost triangular large 'pool' of water. Must be permanent as it shows on the 1st 25". What they would term a tarn down in England-shire. The radio station ruins are at the tippy-top. The view from here of some of the North Isles is brilliant. Looking back over to Evie Eynhallow is closest. Eynhallow also goes by the name of Hildaland i.e. land of the huldu-folk (though the ones there seem to be more Fin Folk then sea-trows). But as the mystical island of Heather-Blether was reported to its west it would surely be the original name for that instead ? A literary version has the disappearing island finally tagged to become a grounded Eynhallow, similarly west of Rousay. To the north of Eynhallow the Skerry o' the Soond is a variant identity for Cubbie Roo's Burden, the earth that fell fom his kaesy 'heather bucket', with his footfalls in a rock in the shore nearby. Such a shame most of the good visible stuff is on the far end from where I stood. Behind Eynhallow is Rousay. It is strange to see it without Ward Hill as its backstop. On the skyline behind that I can see a long low island. At first I am thinking Sanday, takes me a while to realise this is simply the western half of Westray. Having to use full telephoto to take pictures, but despite the long zoom it is the haze that makes life difficult, one moment misting the scene the next confusing the autofocus mechanism (which can also 'read' the wind as an object I find). From here I had another perspective to look at the holms, an oblique aerial view. Not much different with the stills camera. But looking down on the Chrismo 'dyke' I did see its built end properly. Looking at the north-west end of the loch at the jetty (there is also a less solidly made 'modern' one to its SW) I notice the cliff-face at this end along from the jetty shining whitely. In my binoculars it is almost like a sea-wall, one composed of two rows of edge-on slabs one above the other.
Time now to get an overview of the broch so I go gingerly down the steeper side of the hill that faces the sea. The ground gives underfoot, probably boggy, though no water reaches for my holey shoes. Amongst the low plants there are stems bearing teardrop tufts soft and luminescent white like bog cotton. Another low plant has a sheaf of leaves like a budding chestnut or an umbellifer before the flower come out, though nearer the size of the former and more the latter's shade of green. Perhaps a rush, its flowers sprouting thin pale curving tendrils like some sea-creature's feathery food sifters. Somehow I had thought that the broch lay behind the hill but it is off the hill slope towards Midhouse lands. Verron (Costa Hill), NMRS record no. HY32NW 7 at HY31852990, consists for the most part of much eroded masonry fragments along with i) at the NW outbuilding traces ii) in the SE cliff-face midden material. Which means the whole site stretches from the Geo of Verron 'beacon', where it is most obvious on the ground, to south to Hundy>Hunda Geo where the land next meets the sea. From Costa Hill it is clearer that it sits on a slight rise between the geos. On one side I see a contoured green mound with scattered stones, then what might be a gap and at the other side several rows of exposed stone roughly following the cliff edge - like you might see ridges naturally on the shore but sus on land.
Unfortunately there is no way to get to the broch from the hill without going back to the road and going through the Midhouse fields. So I went around the flank of the hill in case I could find a track on the western slopes. No luck, so back up top to the north radio station structures. Not as flat as the main bit. A small hollow between them and the main structure held a few tiny pools. I looked closer at one as I passed. Obviously man-made and not shallow. First thought something has come out of it. Then I notice a thin straight line coming downhill into it, so more complicated than that. Back on the track then off it to get more images of the broch from a distance from another direction. Onto the track once more I see a faint bump that just might be the tumulus. Doesn't amount to much and only visible at certain angles, so still unsure. On the last stretch a skylark came to ground, a pale half-moon brooch on the head, the body at the neck and the 'pin' going through the eye (either that or I'm drea'fu' mixed up with a willow warbler despite my own certainty). She [or he obviously] turned her eager face to me, beady eye set fast. Reckon not many people come this way, can't park their cars and the trail not signed on the road itself, tsk, tsk. Because from not many metres away she holds her ground, continuing feeding, not even when the digital camera did its high-pitched opening signal ! After a while the lark did move. Only a few feet though. I thought to video the bird as well but I kept on zooming in to the wrong place and eventually it did fly off. Oh, the wonder of it though.

Back on the road again and there is a highly visible mound on the hillside facing the loch. At least it stands out when you are walking south from Costa, practically disappears when you are facing it roadside on even when you know where it is, so it was a good spot by archaeologist Jane Downes. This site, Costa Hill (HY32NW 22 at HY30722953), is described as a 16.7 by 15.2m heather-grown bowl barrow on uncultivated land (RCAHMS prefers the general term round barrow). From the south it stands out
against the hill with its two shades of vegetation. So why does it blend in viewed from the west ? Most likely this is not a plain bowl barrow but one with a ditch and low outer bank least, the latter least eroded at the downhill side. Even a Howe Harper or a Cuween would be difficult to spot if placed here amongst all that herbage
Mansie's Grip (grip 'ditch' or 'deep cleft rock'), one of the stopping points of St Magnus cortege from Aikerness to Birsay (alternatively the Broch of Birsay), is mentioned as being at the loch's NW corner. The jetty's both consist of a pair of groynes - the 25" shows only one arm of the jetty, but this must be a convention as it still appears thus on the present 1:25,000. Not much projects above water at the later jetty so the two walls are perhaps a foot high, two at most - I think it has to be fairly recent as it isn't legended on the present 1:25,000 though there was a sluice in the vicinity (grip also means 'mill lade'). I reckon at the landward end the older one is some four or five feet high, possibly more. Near the west arm there is what presents as a very small circular or sub-rectangular stone enclosure in the water. Natural ? Turning the corner of the road I find a piece of land where I can lean against a field wall for a closer view of an arm with the zoom. The landward end either has been cut out of the land or partly built into it. Handily there is a bit of old fencing along the loch bit, so I can say this wall section is a course or two above height of a post and I guess some half-a-dozen post lengths long. A mix of drystone and blocks and boulders, the last more further out. From my photos this is actually the west arm, ending in a large pillow-shaped stone though I suspect some of this end to be more modern materials used to hold what's left together.
Between the piers a jutty out bit appearing on the 1st O.S. as a slightly trapezoid headland with a small sub-triangular holm just off it is all turf now. Backing down the road I find a bit by the top of an arm where I can almost get into the field with the jetties etc. as the sheep are up on the land above. However its a near vertical drop to a tiny metal gate giving access to the shore and I've done my legs quite enough mischief to date thankyou ;-) So I content myself with balancing on the topside for taking pictures. The islet piece may support a slight mound that dips fractionally in the middle - I should note that from high positions level curves in a periphery can be read as rises, but this mound maintains its integrity from further up the road square on. Loose stones and boulders lie on and in the lochside end of this 'promontory'/ex-holm.

Getting to the other side of the valley in which Swannay Farm sits it was tempting to go over on to the lesser road to have another look at the Rattan/Mittens mound. Firstly I had other fish to fry and secondly last time I ended up going all the way down Hundland to reach Birsay - which wouldn't have been so bad if I wasn't so utterly lost after the loch that I couldn't even console myself looking for sites by the map. And I took a very wrong turning and went on to the road between Durkadale and Skelday Hill ! Along the road stretch from here to Garlaine northwards there is this alien looking landscape at the coastline near Skea, huge bare plates of rock. On the hillside I have seen one or two circular features that seem to belong together but it is too dry this day. The field between that and the farm is mostly a sea of yellow flowers and I am sure there are many rectilinear features patterned in it that aren't due to tractors. Hmph, ?not on the aerial photo map.

The Knowes of Lingro are in the field next to Garlaine and fortune favours me with an open gate. Another of St Magnus resting places. A farmer comes in at the same time and heads eastward out of sight. I later conclude that he is going around checking the state of fences for folk. My purpose is to video all the mounds, which involves circling around each and every one. Just a few yards from the northernmost a broad-ish linear depression goes down to the modern fieldwall, presumably a robber trench from an older wall, and there may just possibly be the scant remains of another mound askirt it. Of course the really interesting feature is the long cist exposed in the mound furthest east. No compass but from the map I would say very roughly EW/NS. I decide I must photograph this every which way, as this simple stucture presents a different appearance in each. Mostly it seems made up of fairly thin slabs, however this is a product of erosion as a reddish stone a couple of inches thick forming as much as half of the highest surviving portion at the north-eastern part is really part of the slab that side. No trace of the western end slab and of the southern side a triangular shard pokes up almost horizontal. At nearly right angles to the north-western corner of the cist the top of another straight stone projects from the mound, a few inches further down in comparison. Could it be another cist or a doublet or is the cist part of something greater still ?
Further along on the south side of the road is the old manse belonging to the former kirk at Curcum that once lay downhill from it. On the other side of the road a track going north curves slightly to avoid a small rectangular 'hut' near an old gravel pit and continues on to the remains of a long disused quarry. I see that man again, going to inspect something near the quarry. On the east side of the track, not many metres north of the gravel pit and just south of the quarry (both of which are on the 25"), is one of those large blanks on the 1st O.S. map. This belongs to 'missing' Windbreck (HY2797729062), a farm built of shallow stone blocks roughly the size of bricks, like a cross between a steading and a not quite mansion house (both now unroofed). Facing south is a large house with almost similar chimneys of pale brown, one on each gable. Either side of the central doorway are long windows. There is a smallish window in the north half of the east gable and above its level two narrow symmetrically placed slots three courses high. Abutting hard on the north side is a long building of two halves with the south wall a couple of metres from the house's north wall and the side a couple of course below the gable shoulder. The high pitched roof had been paved with large flagstones, which makes it early. I thought I had the whole, however the aerial view [] shows it as more complex than this (but obviously sans wall heights), as there is a NW corner - a courtyard and/or walled garden probably. A good thing I took photos as I had not noticed part of this, one image has a wall hard abutting the ?longhouse's north end at the east side whose top is six courses below the its shoulder.
On the aerial map I presume the massive swirly unicursal enclosed thing (considerably dwarfing Windbreck) in the field to the east is either natural, though not a burn, or modern as it is mindblowing otherwise. Now identified by owner Ian Tait as a 3 year old Motocross track, thanks to Orkney Live's Lucky1 asking on Facebook. You do wonder if archaeologists of the future would have got it right :-)

My next target is the saint's next rest - the Crustan ridge looking down on Birsay is commonly believed the last resting place of retinue bearing the Man's body before reaching their destination (it overlooks the kirk in Birsay village). A 4-5' high standing stone that once stood on the Knowe of Crustan could have had more to it than recorded as crustan = cross-stone. There are more mounds here than the Knowe itself, scattered in and around the buildings of the WWII radar station. The Knowe lay next to what is left of Crustan, and if my identification is correct one of the WWII buildings backs into it - you can see large stones or blocks on the mound behind the building's rear wall with suitable magnification. Alas you cannot now be sure (at least from the road) what is prehistory and what 20th century, as on the 1st 25" in this region we basically see only an area around Crustan and the Knowe along with a strip northwards, leaving huge blanks in the region with only a well/wellspring noted. The nearest is long and not that high, it rises slightly to a high point off centre and is likely wartime. The Knowe is about 35m across, almost three times the size of the second agreed suspect mound over a hundred metres NE that I presume is the one I can only see intermittently from the road, having a few stone blocks on it.
And still I cannot get to that goldurn site because of the bullwarning sign and the continued presence of the herd. Anywhere else the broad track would be fenced both sides at least as far as the radar station, so one suspects that some mean spirit at some time in the past has deliberately made it so difficult to reach. Wintertime maybe to go here. Last time I gained a different viewpoint from Windbreck and from an old broad track going to the cliffs. This time I went into the open field west of that track. More distant photos but still no way to reach the site. In the next field deserted Rosebank sits in isolation smack in the middle of a cultivated field.

Saw a large pussycat on the road. Then the cat stood up and was a hare. Stayed there awhiles while before dashing off into a field. Ah, Andraste. Saw several more hares after that, none as close and all in fields. There are no named houses on the 1:25,000 after Rosebank until you reach Glebe, which is strange when you consider that unlike Rosebank they are inhabited still. A glebe is the land that goes with a manse. You could think of the farmroad to Glebe as part of a staggered junction. On the other side is a road going to Newan which I go down. On the uphill side of the road there is another of those features I call 'standing stone fences', a line of erect stones (here mostly buried) a few to several yards apart. Roadside there are patches of a very decorative light green plant like an umbellifer with yellowish-green starry flowers, though the leaves are large and five-lobed with small-serrated edges. Perhaps a garden escape. Not a euphorbia though [saw BBC on the 23rd, Chelsea flower show - Lady's Mantle].
The Stanerandy tumulus, formerly known as Stanerandy Stones, is thought to be what the Knowe of Crustan is like. Traditionally Stanerandy was Earl Randolph's Stones, though the modern reading is 'stony ridge'/'ridge of stones'. But the 1760 Barony map has the tumulus site down as Gervie Stone. The etymology of this is unknown but could be from i) ge(y)r, an odd bit of land, angular and often left uncultivated, or ii) gør 'giantess/witch/trow'. Interestingly, these can be combined by the Northern Isles folklore that the 'White Folk' (Madruis or Queeda Folk) had enclosures surrounded by a dyke of earth or stones where there was often in one corner a rough affair, the White Chammer [i.e. chamber] where they lived. Certainly there are too many cut-off triangles of land in Orkney for coincidence. Stanerandy is also the site name for three barrows. But I now see it must surely be the 'Newan' chambered cairn that is the site in 1903 called "the stone circle of Randra... formed of a lot of upright slabs of stone with the altar placed in the centre, the ground all round mixed with vitrified cramps locally called smithow cramps". Unfortunately today the farmer was dispersing pellets in the field, so Orkney Live will have to be without a video. On the way back I found myself twitted by twite
(like striped hen sparrows some of whose heads have been dusted faintly red) but still managed a few shots of a couple of them on a fence.

Then back on the main road, which turns at a place the map labels Lower Garthsetter. Here I take pictures of a lovely display of several different tulips. This farm is multi-phase. My attention is usually taken by the enclosed ground but after I come back I find there has been a cornmill where I first come to the place. This piece is Upper Garthsetter. Having regard to time I considered it best to take the road to Northside to reach my third target, the Brough of Birsay. You see the name Meikleplank below the legend Northside. This is a reference to a way of dividing up land called planking, devised in the 18thC, well before the Agricultural Improvements.
Soon I came to Skipi Geo. The last of the Mansie Stones is, or was last century, at Round Geo. However despite a full list of coastal features in the Birsay place-names book and the 25" map there is no sign of it. But since coming back it seems to me a perfect name for Skipi Geo, especially as Skipi Geo also applies to this area in a more general sense. So somewhere in the turf is the alternative last resting place of St. Magnus body on its way from Aikerness to Birsay - at the top the map shows a well or wellspring, so perhaps the stone lies near here like the loose one opposite St.Magnus Well. There is only one fisherman's hut despite there being so many boat-nousts here, all laid out in a semi-circle just below the path.The two large ones on this side feel somehow seperate. There is a narrow, windy and very steep line of steps of uncertain age going down to the shore this side. I only go as far as the bench to rest my legs. There are a couple of fishermen nearer the Point. To my left I see a tumble of stones near the top of the geo. Above and behind these are bloody great cut rectangular blocks that I assume are there to protect the modern footpath. Around from that exposed rock plates go up from the shore, probably used to take the boats down as this is where the nausts are. As far as I can distinguish there are the two nearest me and then two apparent groups of four, ending at the partly sunken fisherman's hut. I think the first four shorter than the second four. In my imagination I stand inside one and stand at the edge as I use the noust as a template within which to build a boat. Crazy, n'est-ce pas !

Went nearer the Point and sat down beside one of the erect stones that can be seen from hereon in on the clifftops around it. Now I had a mini tripod with me and thought I would have a simple job videoing the Brough of Birsay from the mainland, but though the cameras fixed to it well enough it wouldn't hold them still, so instead of setting the view up and sweeping across I had to guide them all the way whilst holding them up as well. Not good for the neck or points south. If you go outside the Historic Scotland preserve and walk around it and up from the north fence you will come to a part-covered hole in the ground that you can walk into and [IIRC] out the other end. This is Cove's Hole, a cave littered with large boulders/stones. I have come across nothing to say that any digger has, pardon pun, looked into this and wonder what might be found if excavated now - should take only a little time. On the 1882 map a large sheepfold is shown in the area above the chapel. Perhaps for the shepherd or herdy boy this acted as a tidy wee hidey-hole. To the left a large chunk of land is calving off the landward side of the brough. Going by the name of Peerie Brough this is Little Brough on the 1st O.S. - mapmaker's choice or is modern name fause, can go both ways. I know it has been looked at in recent decades but nothing has reached the NMRS to date (which gives a.k.a. Peevie Brough, misreading handwritten r for v). Just to its east is Burra Taing, which is another broch/borg reference. Once done I proceeded to the point itself, stopping along the way to video the side of the mound I could see in the big walled field. There is still an awful lot of stone on this site, Point of Buckquoy 1'a', possibly used in modern times to make a small sheepfold but some excavation has shown these to be part of a far older structure.
At the Point I did more video with the cameras, this time handheld as I leaned upon a signboard. Much more comfortable. The tide being low folk were going over to the brough. Though I would have loved to investigate Peerie Brough for myself this near to the last bus I had to bear in mind my propensity for losing myself in the archaeology. Instead of this I went down to the shore and to video the nausts here - on this SW side of the Point of Buckquoy the 1st O.S. shows a line of about a dozen nausts seperated only by two small structures that must be fishermen's huts - west to east are two large, five small, five slightly smaller still. NMRS record HY22NW 45 is centred on HY24302833 and only mentions the boat-nousts, unless the recorded wood fragments are from one of those huts (which would mean their NW naust is not the end one). But I had to go back up onto the road in order to clamber down for a closer look. From what I could tell only the hindmost portions remain and it appeared to me that some have either slipped down or been partly built over. The midden below these remains dates back to the Bronze Age. Having considered how much more eroded these are than the ones at Skipi Geo either they post-date those or this area is much less sheltered. It strikes me that if you wanted to go to the Brough of Birsay regardless of the state of the tide you went by boat from Skipi Geo, assuming the current here is only as strong as the Whale Rost on the far side of Eynhallow (rather than as fiercesome as the Burgar Rost).
This side of the Point is the gateway to the mounds. Last time I hadn't realised that the first mound, facing the gate, is the Knowe of Buttquoy and so had neglected to take close-ups of the stones and blocks on top of it in my hurry to get general shots of all the other Point of Buckquoy mounds [buck=Pict ??]. Do that, video it and the rest (including 1'a' complete). Ah, young cattle in it at the moment, no sense entering the field only for them to follow and trash the stuff in their curiosity.

Heading in to Birsay village what looks like a fancy hut on the right belonged to a famous writer or summat. No plaque I can see. Along the way is a good, as in unblocked, view of the entire Earl's P(a)lace. Still plenty of time until that last bus arrives so I go see if I can identify a couple of mounds I saw from way back, one of which I reckoned should be Saevar Howe. On the other side of the bridge somewhere in the field to the right is where the Bishop's P(a)lace once stood (though dissenting voices opt for its having been where the shop is now). On the road on either side are two cats lying pieceful like, that on the left further up the hill only giving me one pose before she tootles off. I am fairly certain that the mounds are on the right but nothing really stands out amongst the dunes. On my left is a earthen mound that I mistake for Mount Misery, which is on the other side along with Saevar Howe. Must be natural. On it are a couple more hares and several groups of rabbits. One rabbit catches my eye. Parti-coloured and pale. Not albino or leucistic but a non-uniform brown and none of it the usual wabbit bwown. In Orkney every now and again black rabbits can be seen, this I haven't. Go a little further past the early-closing teashop. Still can't see a mound I want from what is now a track road. I know I will be able to identify Saevar Howe from the cemetery but time is of that essence rare and I wend my way back. The two cats are back again closer to. A young lady tries to sweet talk but they are having none of it.
The place where the bus stops is opposite the shop and I pick a wall to save my legs. Take some arty shots of the palace, chasing the vertical in widescreen mode and slashing the horizontals to suit my vision. In front of where I lounge a large block of stone looks carved. I know from old newspapers that two or three have been found in the vicinity, including one with characters an ornamental copestone/capital and another with Bishop Edward Stewart's heraldic shield. Take a digital negative to investigate with Photoshop Elements and fail to find anything positive, but Orkney's air has become polluting in recent years (only a tad, but only a few years ago the Back Road stone at the RC church in Kirkwall was clear and now it is blackening). However I can't find my reference for the first stone, the second [1921] is too small and the third [1957] is now in St Magnus Cathedral. Drat.
On the wall I spot a long bodied insect with legs heavily dusted yellow and yet more pollen splodged on the head as if it had been in a pool of this. Not a bee and not a wasp either I think. Some kind of hoverfly perhaps. Soon a small bus turns up. However it is not any of the usual lines. Still have to check with the driver as it is not far off the due time. No, this bus is not Joe Public's. Had to be certain though as I have been caught out like that before (in Peace's day some drivers would only wind on the the route name after they had left the station !). When the bus did turn up it was almost too long for the driver to navigate around the palace. And no passengers on board. Going to Kirkwall finally managed to identify Burgar. Lucky I hadn't gone that way as the broch field is entertaining kie at the moment. Picked up two passengers at Tingwall, a young couple who must have been over to Rousay. Finally rolling in to Kirkwall Travel Centre at 10-to-7 aching, breaking, tuckered out and fulfilled.

wideford Posted by wideford
25th May 2011ce

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