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Fieldnotes by thelonious

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Jarlshof (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

12/09/2021 – Jarlshof – just saying the word out loud makes me happy. I love it round here. The whole area, Old Scatness, Ness of Burgi, Jarlshof and up to Sumburgh Head which has my favourite trigpoint. The beaches, cliffs, even the airport, hotel and coffee shop. The bottom bit of Shetland is just great. As fine a place for a long weekend as you could wish for. Summer's best for birds. Even in mid September there’s stuff still about. We were lucky and saw minke whale the day before in the bay.

This was our first big adventure since March 2020 when half way through a trip to Wales, lockdown loomed and we had to head home. 18 months of not really mixing with folk, we were nervous setting off on our trip. Picked Orkney and Shetland as we love these places and thought they should be quiet. We had been lucky to visit Sumburgh a couple of times before. Ending our big trip at Jarlshof seemed perfect.

We stayed at the Sumburgh Hotel. It’s a really nice place. Proper friendly and right next to Jarlshof. Room 32 has a great view of the site and the bay.

We visited Jarlshof the day before in the rain. As today was our last day, we thought we’d go again. Visitor centre is closed at the moment but you can still walk round. We got up early. Jarlshof before breakfast sounded good to me.

Jarlshof has to be one of my favourite sites. The history here is amazing. It’s a 4000 year timeline that you get to walk around. But most of all, I love the stones. The colours and shapes are just so good. Revisiting places, you always see things you missed the first time. The broch has a ‘well’ like the one we had seen in Broch of Gurness just a few days back. I didn’t remember this from last time. I like all the twisting paths, doorways and curved walls. Very exciting to walk around. Soon it was time to head back and pack for our trip home. We stood for a while, looking out to sea, Sumburgh Head and far away Fair Isle. It felt good to be adventuring again.

Weisdale Hill (Cairn(s))

10/09/2021 – Overnight ferry from Orkney to Shetland. Early morning, off the boat and on to the number 9 bus that goes to Walls. It’s a lovely bus route and if you don’t have a car, you could use it to visit the big sites like Scord of Brouster and with a bit of a walk, Stanydale Temple. Worth doing just for the scenery.

Today we were heading for Weisdale Hill. We had a bit of history with this one. Back in 2014 we were on the way here and had to turn back due to car problems. I’ve been wanting to get back and give it another go. Bus driver was proper friendly, asked where we were going. Dropped us off at Scord of Sound, the high part of the road just next to the track going up the hill. The feet were very grateful as it saved us 100m gain and we had full loads today with the rucksacks. Day 8 of the trip, we were tired. I’m starting to feel old for this backpacking game.

Slow plod up the track to the aerials on Hill of Sound then a pathless walk of about 1.2km to the top of Weisdale Hill. Nothing too bad underfoot. Pretty easy going. Weather wasn’t great today. Low cloud base so visibility wasn’t great but at least the rain was holding off.

Canmore has this cairn as a ‘a rubble pile covered in peat, which could be a prehistoric summit cairn’. Doesn’t make it sound that exciting. It’s a good size maybe 8-10m in diameter and over 2m high. There’s a small modern cairn on top. To my eyes it looked prehistory. It’s definitely built, not natural. The south side is covered in peat to a height over 2m. I’ve read the rate of peat accumulation is roughly 1mm per year, though could be slower this far north in Shetland. A depth of 2m would have taken 2,000 years or more. It’s an old cairn.

Bit of a shame it was cloudy today as the view from here would be very nice.

We didn’t stay too long, as it wasn’t a day for sitting. We headed back and into Tresta to wait for the bus back.

A nice day out.

Broch of Gurness

09/09/2021 – Rainy start to the day so we had a look round Kirkwall. St Magnus cathedral is very impressive and the museum across the way is worth a visit. Lots of prehistory items from sites round Orkney. The museum in Stromness is smaller but also nice and has the The Skara Brae Buddo. Both good places for a wet day. The rain had eased by the afternoon so we took the bus out to Evie to visit Broch of Gurness.

We got off the bus at Evie School and took the road signposted to the Broch. As an added bonus there’s chambered cairns either side of the road. We had a look at the one on the right. Pretty grassed over with a big stone showing. Looks a decent size extending into the next field I think. It’s a quiet road to walk down and before long we were at the carpark for the Broch.

I’d wanted to visit here last time we were in Orkney but just ran out of time, too many great places to visit round here! Excited to finally make it. The broch and surrounding settlement are very good. There were a few other visitors today but quiet really and lots of space. The ditches round the settlement surprised me. They are big. I think I liked walking round the different buildings of the settlement more than the actual broch. All very interesting. It must have been a busy place to live. It’s easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of daily life as you walk about. The broch still has good sized walls and the well is a bit mysterious. The views from the broch are good. There’s a nice bench near the carpark to sit and look out to sea. Misty Rousay looked inviting across the water. The appearance of layers in the landscape on Rousay reminded me of the layers on the outside of chambered cairns like Wideford etc.

I have to mention that we got to meet BC the broch cat too. It’s the friendliest cat. It hangs out at the broch, showing people round. Keep an eye out for BC if you go.

Dwarfie Hamars (Cave / Rock Shelter)

08/09/2021 – The Dwarfie Hamars are a wonderful backdrop for the Dwarfie Stane.

In an article about the Dwarfie Stane on Orkneyjar they mention a cave high up in the Hamars.

“Could it be that the cave itself, although not necessarily the dwelling place of the workers, was somehow involved in the rituals surrounding the stone?”

Canmore also have this entry –

“A visual assessment and exploration of part of the Hamars led to the discovery of a rock shelter (c9 x 5m and 2.5m high) at the NE end (HY 25013 00479) that may have been used in prehistory. No evidence of occupation was visible on the floor of the shelter but this could be buried below loose rock that has fallen from the roof.”

The Rock Shelter listed on Canmore isn’t the easiest to get to. A little bit of scrambling needed at times. Is it the same place as the cave mentioned on Orkneyjar? Does it have any connection to the people who carved out the Dwarfie Stane? Is it just a coincidence that if you stand in front of the entrance to the Dwarfie Stance and look up you are staring straight towards this Rock Shelter? So many questions about the landscape round the Stane, sure makes you wonder whilst there. It’s one of my favourite areas I think. Just a great place to spend the day looking at stuff.

Patrick Stone (Natural Rock Feature)

08/09/2021 – About 300m west of the Dwarfie Stane is this large erratic stone. This is surely the St. Patrick's Stone mentioned in a post by Rhiannon (hope they don’t mind me reposting on here).

“Some 900 feet further up the slope, to the south of the Stone, rise the Dwarfie Hamars, a crescent-shaped range of cliffs 700 feet above the sea level and facing the north-west, from under which there is said to be a very fine echo. The Stone appears to have fallen down from this cliff. Mr. Moodie Heddle, the proprietor of the island, informs me that there is a similarly sized stone further west along the same hill face, which, as far as he can ascertain, has always been called the "Patrick Stone," or "St. Patrick's Stone," a fact hitherto unknown outside of Hoy.In A W Johnstone's 'Dwarfie Stone of Hoy' article in the Reliquary, April 1896.”

It’s a good size and has a spring next to it which is often the case for named stones connected to saints.

Wideford posted

“A heads up to look for a 6' sandstone cube ~200 yards to the south - in a 1997 book John Bremner calls this the Patrick Stane and reports the faint presence of cup-and-ring marks on the top”

I couldn’t make out any marks. Just a lot of natural holes on the top.

It’s a very nice stone.

The Dwarfie Stane (Chambered Tomb)

08/09/2021 – Going back for a second time is always a risk. First visit was back in 2013. Seeing the Dwarfie Stane for the first time was close to perfect. Returning had me worried. It just couldn’t be as good and I didn’t want anything to mess with my memory of that day.

We hadn’t planned another trip to Hoy this week (we were there just two days back walking on the hill Cuilags). The pull of the stone proved too strong. We took the 7.30am ferry from Stromness to Hoy and with the whole day ahead of us, we made our way to the site. Weather was good today and it’s a nice walk on a quiet road round Ward Hill to the signposted path off to the Dwarfie Stane. Midges were a little nippy this morning though.

The approach is good over boardwalks and builds the anticipation nicely. No one there when we reached the stone. Just us, the stone and the quiet landscape. It’s a really peaceful location. Felt like meeting an old friend. Still very, very good. The rock-cut tomb is a wonder and a must visit if you get the chance. Outside the entrance is the blocking stone. What I missed the first time was a ‘rejected’ blocking stone laying some 30m ESE. It’s a good one. The setting with the Dwarfie Hamars behind is wow.

We headed west to look for a big stone I remembered seeing last time. I guessed it was the St Patrick’s Stone mentioned by both wideford and Rhiannon in earlier posts. It’s about 300m away from the Dwarfie Stane. I couldn’t see any cup marks on it, holes yes but all looking natural to me. It’s a nice erratic.

Next we made the short but tough walk SE to climb Dwarfie Hamars. I really wanted to see the Dwarfie Stane from up above the Hamars. It was worth the effort. The view down is just fantastic and seeing the stane’s setting within the landscape is very special. The top is a very good place to sit and rest. Maybe not great in breeding season due to dive bombing bonxies and eagles also nest on Dwarfie Hamars so best to avoid at these times.

After a brew and a snack, we carried on along the edge to our next stop. I’d read about a cave high up on the Hamars on Canmore and also Orkneyjar. A rock shelter maybe used in prehistory by the folk who cut out the Dwarfie Stane? People are just guessing but I like an adventure. We looped passed the last of the crags and turned back across the side of the hill to make our way to the grid reference we had. It’s a bit tricky to get there and a little scrambly at times, nothing too bad. The ‘Rock Shelter’ was nice with a fine view.

We headed back over rough ground to the Dwarfie Stane for one last view and to say goodbye before making our way along the road again to the ferry to the mainland. Worth mentioning the lovely Beneth'ill Cafe near the pier, it’s good.

I’ll post up a few photos of the St Patrick’s Stone and the cave.

It’s a proper adventure to get to, the Dwarfie Stane is a amazing place. I shouldn’t have worried about visiting again. The wonder and magic of this site is always going to be here.

Unstan (Cairn(s))

05/09/2021 - We took the early bus from Stromness to Stenness (where the Maeshowe Visitor Centre is now, public toilets there too). After a fine morning spent ambling round Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar and a stop by Loch of Stenness for lunch (there's a nice bench there overlooking the loch, take the track passed Salt Knowe), we decided to walk back to Stromness instead of catching the bus. Buses are pretty frequent but I like to connect places by walking if we can and the afternoon weather was good so why rush. The road back is pretty much the main road in Orkney but still OK to walk down, not too busy. We got a wave off everyone who drove passed, friendly folk round here. To break up the walk, we had two stops. First was the lovely ice cream shop in Stenness. Well worth a visit and cone in hand we set off to our second stop - Unstan Chambered Cairn.

I'd not been to this one before. Signposted off the main road, track passed a house to a small carpark. The grassed over cairn is just beyond. A fine setting with Loch of Stenness as a backdrop. Nice passage way in, which was a bit longer than expected. Inside is great. It’s one of those concrete roof jobs but it doesn’t really detract. Stones are pretty mossy now and it gives the cairn a darker feel which I liked. Nice stalled cairn with a little side chamber with good roof. Really enjoyed my visit to this one.

After a nice time spent with the cairn, we had it to ourselves, it was back on the road and off to Strommess. A bit of cake and coffee were calling.

Holburn Head (Promontory Fort)

04/09/2021 - As usual we were so early for the ferry it was still nearly yesterday. With hours to kill we decided to have a walk past the lovely Stevenson's lighthouse and along a signposted path to Holburn Head. The promontory fort has a good sized wall cutting the headland off. Not much else. The views are very good, across to Orkney, Dunnet Head and back to Thurso. We were going to sit here for a while but it was sheep poo city. Careful treading was very much needed. Instead we headed back to Scrabster and the Peerie Cafe for a bacon butty. Not a bad way to wait for a ferry.

Drum Moan (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

22/08/2021 - A Sunday stroll in Glenlivet. There's a lovely little hill here called The Bochel. About 200m gain and the views are really nice. A good place to sit with a brew and sandwich.

It has been 13 years since our last visit to this top. On the way down, the track passes over Drum Moan, it's a nothing bit of ground. There's an info post there now, saying that you are walking through a bit of hidden history. 10 hut circles had been found here. I know, 'just' hut circles but I was so taken with the post I thought I'd put it on TMA. Just great to see things like this, reminding folk history is everywhere and sometimes in the middle of nowhere too. Lovely.

We started from Tombae car park today. There's a waymarked circular walk round The Bochel. Well worth doing if you are in the area. Nice and peaceful.

Craig Dorney (Hillfort)

01/08/2021 - It's a bob up and down from the road for this one really but we were making a day of it though so approached from the west. Starting from Glacks of Balloch, we headed up and round Garbet Hill to Craig Watch and then east through the trees to Craig Dorney. We were here to walk a few tops and not for the hillfort. Just a nice bonus. Bits of ditch visible here and there. Fence on top was a little tricky. Of more interest is the craggy lump the hillfort sits on. Its prominent position gives it a fine view up and down the River Deveron. I was very taken with it. To the SW are the rocks of the Craig Luie and looking NE, the wonderful lumps and bumps of Craigs of Succoth. They are nice visible sections of the Succoth-brown Hill Intrusion, bedrock formed approximately 444 to 485 million years ago. This intrusion is believed to extend to a depth of 2.5 km.

Nice website for the rocks under our feet. The 3D is fun and also good for grid references and spot heights.

Druim Dearg (Kerbed Cairn)

17/07/2021 - Just walking to nowhere and back again. Saw this cairn on the map so had a little look on the way. Easy access and parking from Kirkton of Glenisla, up the Cateran Trail. Cows, sheep and horses in the field but no problems today. Maybe not the most exciting cairn but the bit of kerb is nice. Fine location overlooking the glen. Worth a trip to the area as it's a lovely quiet place for a walk.

Spittal of Glenshee (Stone Circle)

16/07/2021 - Walking a few tops east of Spittal of Glenshee. A visit to a fine four poster in sunshine was a nice way to finish the day.

Beinn A' Bhragaidh (Souterrain)

05/09/2020 - As we were visiting Benbhraggie Wood Chambered Cairn nearby, I had a look on Canmore to see if there was anything close. This 'souterrain' was listed near the top of the hill so we thought we'd have a look.

Canmore just has a pretty vague 6 digit ref so we used their photos as a guide. After a good search in the sunshine and rain we found the place. Canmore's description from 1911 sounds quite exciting - a souterrain, 40ft in length.

The hole we found matches their photo but is it a souterrain? Odd place to have one so high on a hill.

It's pretty much hidden in amongst the heather. Entrance is OK but gets small pretty quick. I didn't do much more than stick my head in. Love to know if it really went back 40ft and opened up to 5ft in height. Maybe one for TMAers with expendable small children to send down!

Walk up the hill is nice and the search was fun.

Benbhraggie Wood (Chambered Cairn)

05/09/20 – Had to get away. Just to feel a bit normal again (well at least normal for me). It’s been a long time without searching for the old stones. Too long. We took the early train up from Aberdeen (pretty much no one on it) to Golspie for the weekend. Got there round midday, dumped our stuff in the B&B and headed off for an explore.

I’d seen this cairn on the OS 1:25000 before lockdown and had been wanting to visit as I like it round here. Easy access, there is good parking if you come by car just before Rhives Farm. Sign posted trails for walking and bikes. Short walk from here to the chambered cairn. Just follow the track up the hill and right. The cairn is in a field so could have cows, none today.

On a rise, the stones of the chamber and entrance are still standing. There is a fantastic huge lime tree growing right in the middle of the chamber. It’s brilliant. Quality location with great views past the trees to the coast and sea beyond.

This Orkney-Cromarty type chambered cairn is really worth visiting if you are passing by. The walk up the hill to the statue is good as well. Top views from the top.

Good to be visiting the stones again.

Pressendye (Cairn(s))

21/03/2020 - Should have been in Dublin this weekend but that's on hold until later in the year (fingers crossed). Just needed a bit of height this morning so off to Pressendye we went. Decided to start on the east side. Track just north of Holmhead. It's probably one of the shorter ways to the top. Maybe 2-2.5 hours round time. It's a nice walk and very quiet. Bit cold this morning and with a chilly breeze. The cairn is pretty trashed but it's still worth a look and the view is very good. Good place to spend a few hours away from it all.

Maen Ceti (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

16/03/2020 – It had been a really good day out so far. The walk over from Rhossili is nice and soon it was time to catch the bus back at Penmaen. Just Cefn Bryn to go. Reaching Reynoldston trigpoint I was tired. We were in two minds as to whether to bother with Arthur’s Stone, it’s a little way off. I could see the cairn in the distance though. After a stop at the trig we decided to make one last detour and head for the stones. I didn’t know much about them so wasn’t expecting much. First Cefn Bryn Great Cairn which is lovely with a fine placement and very good vantage point. Next we walked over to Maen Ceti. Wow with a cherry on top, to think I nearly passed this one by! It’s just fantastic. The big stone is a bit of a monster, great space underneath. The cairn looked lower than the surrounding ground. Wonder if they dug down to get under the big stone instead of trying to lift it up? This site is really a must visit, guessing the area gets pretty busy in the summer months with a car park nearby. The site turned out to be the last of our trip south. On the bus back we heard that it was time for non-essential travel to stop. Time to cut short our trip and the next day we headed back home to Aberdeenshire. Long way to come for a couple of days but this big stone made up for it – top site.

Llanmadoc Hill (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

16/03/2020 – It’s a fine walk over Llanmadoc Hill from Llangennith to Llanmadoc. Not a big hill but you really feel away from it all. Lots of cairns on this one. Cairn XII just before you get to the Bulwark is very good. I was really taken with it and a great place to sit and admire the scenery. Worth mentioning the lovely Llanmadoc community shop at the foot of the hill as well. Good place for a coffee and slice of cake.

Sweyne Howes (north) (Chambered Tomb)

16/03/2020 – A day of blue skies, big stones and good walking in a fine landscape. I've always wanted to visit the Gower. Bus from Swansea to Rhossili in the morning for a walk over 3 hills, Rhossili Down, Llanmadoc Hill and finally Cefn Bryn to drop down to catch the bus back from Penmaen. I knew the area was full of old stones but with a longish walk ahead we decided to not deviate from our route too much to look at stuff. Just go with the flow and if we happen to come across things great, if not there was always next time. The walk and views were more than enough.

Heading up to the Beacon with its wonderful views, we carried on along Rhossili Down. My decision to not leave the track went straight out the window as soon as I saw Sweyne Howes down below. They looked too good to pass by so off we went. First Sweyen Howes south then on to the north one. Both in the very good category, North is probably more a wow than a very good.

Wished we had more time here, Rhossili Down is not a hill to be rushed. Always hard when you live a long way away and you only have a day at a place. Tricky to try and not do too much. If you haven’t been here (I see plenty of TMAers have) please go, pick a sunny day, the area has a bit of everything.

Twyn Disgwylfa (Round Barrow(s))

15/03/2020 – Wet morning walk up Mynydd Dinas from Port Talbot train station. Good access up the Wales Coast path. We did get a little lost finding the best route under the motorway near the start though. It’s a shortish walk up, a little steep in places. The cairn is a little off the path, there’s a faint track there. It’s not too tricky to find. Cairn is grassed over with a trig on top. Nice to see a few daffodils out already. Location is good with decent views all round. Might be a bit overgrown in the summer months. A fine way to spend a couple of hours.

An Sithean (Chambered Cairn)

26/01/2020 - Staying in Kyle of Lochalsh for a few days. Decided to take the bus out to Broadford for a stroll. This really is a lovely location for a cairn and a fine walk there and back. The weather had a bit of everything today. Luckily the sun popped out as we reached the cairn. There's a bench nearby for a sit and a grand view. Nice day out.
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