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

wideford’s TMA Blog

Post to the TMA Blog

Finstown, May 20th 2004

First I went up the Old Finstown Road (a little further along which the trail to Cuween Hill Cairn begins) to look for the 'Market Green' Mounds centered on HY364133. These lie to the left of the Firth Community Centre. Three remain, one having gone from the other side of the stream or else simply out of sight beneath the modern copse. I only saw the two for certain, with a grass path going over a turf-covered one and past one ringed over with shrubs. From the original four (RCAHMS NMRS Record no.HY31SE 12) were taken two urns and two cists. At this spot there is now neither atmosphere nor enough notability even for the likes of me to bother photographing. Going back towards town I went into the graveyard and to the upper wall to locate the Hill of Heddle Mounds. Except that I couldn't even spot these ones. They lie between Maitland's Burn and the road running below Heddle Quarry, from the last house on Heddle Hill to the electricity sub-station, at HY359133 and HY360132 and HY359131. Though the HY31SE 13 group had the name in earlier archaeology of Paerkeith RCAHMS reports that no-one local kent why last century. Next on my list was the Finstown Burnt Mound HY31SE 16 at HY355140. As you go out of Finstown there comes a bend round which you cannot see. Go up the track behind the house and walled garden there and the site is a 15m piece in the further corner of a field at the top. Despite its being bereft of green cover it also I found devoid of scenic or other interest. The map shows it halfway up the fence so perhaps I was merely befuddled again. Not that the swollen bump going across this field looks anything but natural.
Thank goodness with my main target I hit paydirt. And potholes and nettles. Back into Finstown again and on the right is the road to Evie. Go out of town and you can't miss the pillbox. This sits on The Hillock (HY361142 (RCAHMS NMRS Record no.HY31SE 4). I spent two seasons based just outwith, whilst working on The Howe outside Stromness, and I never realised I had a broch practically on my doorstep. At the near end is a space going down to the shore. To the left is a square modern wall and from there looking across its nature was plain as a pikestaff, that familiar broch outline revealed. I went down on the shore to see if there was a nice vertical section but the lumps of tarmac sticking out a foot below the clifftop disabused me of any such notion. Maybe further along, but I was restricted to how far I could go. So I came back and followed a path over the rise of the near end that may have been the double wall. Up to the pillbox for a looksee. To the shoreside of this are the visible wall remnants and the 'cell' revealed by a minor dig relatively recently. You can make out some passages and an entrance. There is even a little exposed walling. It was very dangerous getting photos because the grass hides holes, a couple of pieces of wire-frames and abundant nettles. Gingerly letting myself down to the passage floor I was always finding myself reaching out for grass holds that then revealed nettles. The walling you can see from the pillbox is a scant course or two high but when you are down in the passage looking back the cell shows itself several courses high owing to that excavation.
Buoyed up again I decided to try for the Snaba Hill Cairn at HY35221470 (Snaba Hill Cairn & Mounds RCAHMS NMRS Record no. HY31SE 10). Back into town then down to the road that snakes round the mill. As you pass the mill look across The Ouse at the shoreline base of the dump sticking out into the 'pool' and tell me those huge stones don't scream archaeology at you. Around the shoreline here is a black stone pavement and also two standing stones on their lonesome many metres apart. Near the top of the climb a track turns off from the road back over the hill. Follow this all the way to a junction and take the upper line that goes behind Binnaquoy. The first thing I noticed was a small dome cairn sitting atop the far right of a huge band of quarry stone. Even if I had been prepared the combination of the hill's steepness and the many outcrops and quarries (not all obvious even with hindsight) makes mapreading rather haphazard. So I don't now even now if I found the sites !! Anyways, at the tracks end (after taking a couple of shots and debating whether to go back or no) I stepped up to the field fence, took tight hold of the wires wrapped round a post, and cautiously swung myself over the barbwire gate. Up to the fence along the top of the field where my two new targets lay. The other side was the quarry outcrop. To its left unfortunately just the other side of the fence was the mound that could have been Snaba Hill Cairn. But that was distinguished by the tops of a circular ring of stones splayed outwards whereas this (?HY352146) had many stones over it and when I went to the right end and looked at the back there was a chunk out at the lower end with a very neat open-ended box wall inside it. At the top end of the fence was a large spanking-new shed so for now I curtailed further investigation. Along the lower side of the track back down was the other seeming mound (?HY354145). The record for Snaba Hill Cairn does mention mounds to its NE. Some mound seen previously were not found later so perhaps these are they misplaced ?? Just as with Paerkeith over the alley mounds are specifically mentioned at 200m and 350m datum and I wonder if there is a significance to that.
Finally I had enough of being pixie-led (the Finns were mighty magicians) and headed out the Old Finstown Road. On the road by the Old Manse of Firth there is a big triangle of a hillock between the main road and the farmroad to Kingdale. It has always struck me as man-made despite lack ofany supporting evidence. This area is called the Cot of Cursiter. Cot probably means common pasture but the similarity of this hillock with Nevada Cott makes me wish it came alternately from cathair 'fort'. "If wishes were horses",eh ! Continuing further with the main road we come to Bridgend on the left. Between here and the regular Stromness-Kirkwall road are many small round clumps of bush/vegetation that speak to me of man's former handiwork. You can hear a torrent of water hidden by dense shruberry. Barely a glimpse can I get. Look upstream, over the other side of the road, and all is seen. It is very strange to see out here in the wilds that alongside the road the waters have come down the way between walls over two meters high. Is this just a sign that the modern road was raised that high or is it another sign of early (pre-)industrial activity. It is mighty impressive anyway.
Up to the very top of the road and you are running along the flanks of Wideford Hill. There are two ways to Wideford Hill Cairn. The first is a narrow footpath then track to the right of Haughhead then flanking around. Nowadays you go a bit further along towards Kirkwall and take the farmroad past Heathfield way up the very steep hill and then down. On the hill between these two alternatives I recently found out there are meant to be more mounds but it is a game to try and guess which are the unnatural features on this hillside and I tired of it.

wideford Posted by wideford
24th May 2004ce
Edited 14th July 2004ce

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to add a comment