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King of the Castle - July 19th 2004

Along the Deerness road way out to the turnoff for Holm and points south. Went this way because somehow I remembered it as mostly downhill compared to the reverse route of starting out on the South Isles road and coming back this way. From here I found myself going uphill anyway. At the top of this hill was a bend sign, and from the summit I hung a left off to the lesser road marked Greenwall, Muckle Ocklester being at the farmtrack on this same junction. As I passed the lesser Ocklester there was a magnificent view of three seperate islands - to wit Copinsay and Corn Holm and Black Holm - that is likely to be why the farm is where it is I felt.
When I came to the Greenwall junction there was a nice looking standing stone on the left HY51400137 with its head above the thistles. Looked for a partner alongside it at the top of the field but found none until I ventured a few more paces down the hill. I found it hidden among the nettles, so if they had ever been a pair of gateposts they would have been a very odd couple and the sizes were the wrong way around besides their configuration cutting across the corner of the field. At the junction turned left. Looked at the plain though artistic wall of a building around the corner (HY51450129 not on the map as a complete structure). The end is a beauty with lots of bits and bobs and spaces filled with a variety of stones. The front is a disintegrating disappointment. At some point I imagine it was lived in. Probably the first building here, windows filled in at the time of the Ancient Lights Act and then falling into disuse when the posher stuff came in after that time.
Next turning came at the sign for Lower Bu. A nice bit of synchronicity there. And further along the road are Upper Bu and East Bu. Didn't find out till after I came back that CANMAP shows a couple of stones at the top corners of the field past the turnoff HY51880114 and 52020118. And in one of the fields behind Braehead another one is marked at HY51840688. No info on any of them, no NMRS or nowt. If I had known I would have had a peek, though I suspect they might no longer actually be other than on a map.

Anyway, back to the junction. From here you can see, right to left, St.Nicholas Church surrounded by its graveyard, Castle Howe (from here you see only the wall placed about the top in 1923), what looks like a tiny lighthouse, and a 'modern cairn' with a stone pillar (though someone did put it down to the tradition of beacon hills). As I took the turnoff the rains started. So I waited awhiles betwixt headlands until it turned a piece drier. Finally I crossed the coastal fields to Castle Howe. The vegetation was tall and rank, making this is the worst time of the year to investigate such a ruinous or fragmentary site. I never learn. Couldn't really tell what was underfoot, seemed to be channels and/or ruts of some type as I neared the hill. Coming up my feet encountered a multitude of lumps and bumps and I appeared to be climbing over different levels on the hill, putting me strangely in mind of Wideford Hill Cairn. What a struggle to reach the top it had been. Be very careful going about the summit still. Once there I found it took a while to tell the chamber wall from the outer protection of the excavator's wall. Rather disappointing. The inner area looked like a rockfall and I wasn't aware of seeing any steps at the time. Mindst you the modern wall isn't weathering well either. Just about worth it still. Lifted my energy levels for sure.

Had a look at St.Nicholas Church. If I had read the latest on the NMRS I could have done more there (see misc. for details). Somehow I only took in the bit about an earlier church on the hill, for the arc of protruding stones on the mound's summit outside of the church wall sounds intriguing. Even so it was fairly obvious to me that the place had a pre-ecclesiastical significance with the later church site (if perhaps not the original) being placed beside the mound rather than on it and continuing outwith the existing walls. In Orkney several religious buildings were built on or by brochs for example. Not far away lies an archaelogically recent bridge with a no dumping sign. The water on the seaward side was fair honking, perhaps related to the black stuff encountered on the shore of Howes Wick as I had walked between the howe and kirk headlands. Beneath it on the other side, and at right angles to it, is a smaller and more primitive bridge HY508009. This bridge is on one end of the newer bridge and at the other is a very tall drystane wall. Taken together these two items lead me to believe the mound behind them could well be settlement related. Now the heavens opened and verily it chucked it down. Fortunately I was given a lift from the Hurtiso junction for I still had a ways to go even to reach St.Mary's.

wideford Posted by wideford
20th July 2004ce
Edited 22nd July 2004ce

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