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

Fieldnotes by wideford

Latest Posts
Showing 1-20 of 317 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20

Tammaskirk (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

NMRS record no. HY 42SW 12. The way I went to the site requires low tide. By the Hall of Rendall the millburn enters the sea and you follow the shore from there. Some general features are apparent with a variety of construction techniques. It feels like the cliff isn’t natural but all mound material, and this appears to be born out by the rise to a low promontory at the N end close to the kirk site. Antiquarians deemed it a broch, though nowadays the more generic term of Atlantean roundhouse is preferred (“2 main sections of massive walling” with “coursed masonry and vertical slabs” seen as intra-mural). An alternative conjecture specifically related it to the Knowe of Nesthouse chambered mound, though the similarities strike me as superficial from a distance. From the main road you can make out the short arc feature between the field walls at the south end that shows on Canmap. If this were a roundhouse settlement you would expect more of these even with what is left of the site. If it is all we have of a broch tower perhaps the promontory is the outer bank for the outworks. We needn’t stick with any of the above, seeing it instead as a sequence of various Iron Age settlement types rendered higgledy-piggledy by time and erosion

Little Howe of Hoxa (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

As you leave the broch take the road up until you see a large hut on your right Facing this open the gate to your right and then the gate beyond that, closing both behind you. Look left to the ruined croft and the settlement mound is just in front. The pre-broch settlement or ‘homestead’ covers some 28x18m and is up to 1.5m high, and was originally at least 10m more inland than the present 15m. A modern wall crosses the site, obscuring the interior. Wide turf-covered banks up to 3m ht. surround a 13mD central structure with an uneven dished sub-circular interior where loose stones indicate a later insertion (Viking fortlet or a planticrû ?). On the S side entry to the structure is by a 3m passage though the enclosing banks. At the NNW a semi-subterranean passage or intra-mural gallery has become blocked by stones in recent decades [I know this because a fellow Brochaholic got in once]. On site it feels to me like Castle House in East Holm, where, near to the broch site at St Nicholas Church, a square building (likely Viking) has been placed within an earlier circular structure

Sower (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Coming down the road I first thought it to be the large mound I saw first, but this is a Great War battery. Further downhill a slightly lower mound is the castle A few have proposed this a a possible broch, but it lacks the usual outline. There was a cow with calf in the field and so I contented myself with photos taken with my ultrazoom camera. Fortunately this showed me a couple of the exposures of mound material. And it appears to me that there are two levels to the mound. Probably nothing, but I was minded on of one of the mounds in the site of The Cairns up the coast at Ireland. This too had been given a military designation, that of 'Danish fort'. Whence came Hoose-ha ? Perhaps some modern fancied it as being a house platform 'house hall' ? Likely to remain an enigma forever and a day.

Rowamo Cottage (Burnt Mound / Fulacht Fia)

Coming out of Finstown, just before the start of the Binscarth Wasdale Walk on the opposite side of the main road a farmroad goes up a slight rise and the mound is by Rowamo Cottage.
RCAHMS record no.HY31SE 16 is a burnt mound ~15m D by 1.2m ht. damaged by a ditch on the SW crossed by a fence. A small dig on the N side shows burnt material; rowamo 'heap of embers'

South Howe (Long Cairn)

On Rose Ness there is a structure similar to the Covenanters Memorial in Deerness, a tall beacon. This is the site of a horned cairn, ~46m long, that may be similar to the likes of the Vestrafiold cairn - a turf ridge 'tail' running to the SW not only has much stone but also several orthostats perpendicular to the length that might indicate a box construction similar to Vestrafiold's. Probable horns appear to be at the NE end, with perhaps similar traces at the other end. The 1867 beacon sits at the head end on a circular stoney platform. This foot high platform is probably modified cairn material. During construction a well preserved adult skeleton was found in the 'rubbish' and then, apart from a few bones the workers kept, put back "entombed under the refuse" (this could have been from a later period of course).
This is a much reduced mound, so could the beacon platform be the remains of a round cairn inserted like at the Head of Work horned cairn over in St.Ola ??

Toy Ness (Artificial Mound)

RCAHMS record no. HY30SE 9 - the Toy Ness designation covers part of the headland, from which four coastal sites were described in 1998. These can be distinguished from one another - inland are many obscured grassy mounds that (IIRC) to run into one other. The 4 are separated from the WWII radio mast remains by a marshy bit, but are closer than you'd gather from HES map. You could walk down the Swanbister Road and then from the Hillock of Breakna along the Bay of Swanbister, but this depends more on the tides (the Piggar farmtrack is often closed for livestock). Much simpler to approach from The Breck - from Orphir 'village' take the road to the Bu of Orphir and as you come to the Gyre junction take the road signed Breck and turn left at the coastline.
i) The first mound is 5mD by 0.5m high and stands slightly back from the coast edge, where under a foot of peat there is 8m exposed of a concentration of stone which an 2015 survey declared structural. ii) 25m to the south is a mound about the same size. iii) 5m from that, is one the same height but a slightly larger 5.5mD and only a metre from the coast edge. RCAHMS reported structural stone in rabbit scrapes and in the adjacent coastal exposure, but the survey did not find this and thought these remains might have been natural bedrock. 17 years is a long time with Orkney's weather. iv) 25m further south and 6m from the coast edge is a 7m by 5m oval mound with traces of a perimeter bank outside of it. Pitting in the middle could have come from an early dig.

Setter Noost (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Site visited 17/9/2017. From the pier turn left and go down onto the shore by the Balfour Gatehouse and it is a reasonably short walk. Site is very close to the Lady Well, which I assume has undergone re-use as a lime kiln after the early maps showing its position if they are the same site

Brough of Braebister (Promontory Fort)

Take pedestrian ferry from Stromness to North Hoy (alternately take the Houton ferry and drive from Lyness). From Moaness pier follow the road straight up until you're nearing the reservoir at the start of the Rackwick Trail then turn right onto the road that starts parallel to Round Hill. Unless you own property here you will have to leave any transport behind when you reach the interpretation board, opposite which is a people gate, Just past Murra turn left. The road turns into a track as you approach Head. At Head turn left towards Braebister Burn then turn right snd follow the fence. The brough lies between Braebister Burn and the steep-sided Yelting Geo. The footbridge you see is for folk taking the coastal walk from Moaness continuing to the Kame of Hoy, the silo drums upstream had been aadaped as a fish hatchery. Along the mound is a diagonal line that brings to mind days excavating with wheelbarrows. This a grassy path about a metre wide that goes all the way up and ends at the edge of the best preserved section. I'd love it to be an antique track there but sespect the way was used for plundering stones for work elsewhere. The mound definitely feels like two different sites, one upon another. The archaeolgy goes all the way up to the cliff edges, so watch your step - the day I was there 40mph winds buffeted me as I risked the photos but no way was I circling taking video, you could die that way.

Riggan of Kami (Broch)

The first time I went I came south from the Gloup via a group of minor earthworks only to be stopped by a field fence. Next time I walked the Sandside road and a track runs across the field to the promontory. Owing to its hazardous nature this is blocked by a fence. As I stepped over I saw my foot going below the level of the other, and having short legs and being alone I might get stuck for many hours. But a high-zoom camera worked wonders,

Scockness (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

One day I manaaged to walk from the pier on Rousay as far as Scockness. After navigating a field gate I followed the irregular shoreline to reach one of those enigmatic traditional 'Picts underground houses', which sits on a spit of land between Mae Sand and a tidal pond. From my visit it looks like as if it has been excavated at least once, with a slight hollow on the top and the pond-side rather too regular for simple erosion to my mind, and I fondly imagine the removal of a rectangular feature.
On the other side of the hill, by the N end of the Loch of Scockness, and only seperated from the sea by South Sand storm beach, is the Taft o' Faraclett Broch excavated in 1857. And up on the hill at Scockness Farm in 1994 an excavator hole showed that the chapel and burial ground had been built on a settlement mound also probably Iron Age. The Yetnasteeen standing stone is on the opposite hillside, a hill topped by the Faraclett mound that may be simply 'natural'.

Green Hill of Quoyness (Broch)

I came at it from the south after climbing down near an old ruin but the lady occupying the nearby house pointed out that it would be safer to come along the farm road from the main road and use the modern slipway. The mound above the cliff is all tussocks of grass, folk have gone on it but I know how treachorous this vegetation can be and I was alone. The place didn't photograph well in the light present

Queena Fjold (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

September 2015.Finally went into the field. The worked stones in a pile in the corner have come from the uphill mound/s. My guess is they formed a kerb around ine or both mounds - I feel some of the mounds only appear seperate because of later activity. There are two stones still in situ, the most exposed one a rather large cuboid IIRC about 6" square in cross section

Knowe of Gullow (Broch)

Up from the Harray Community Centre take the Netherbrough Road, go way down past Maesquoy and The Castle is on your right before the Ballarat House turn-off abutting the road. Because of the conflicting measurements I suspect some belong to the mound and others to the slight eminence it sits on. But most definitely well above head height from the road ! I didn't have time to go on the mound, so I don't know if the outcropping stones are still visible - perhaps they have been used for the modern cairn, thought to be broch material.
I went as far as the turn for Ballarat House, and in the field opposite Gullow is what looked like a banked feature which looks equally Iron Age but must be modern as it is not noted anywhere.

Knowe of Burrian (Garth Farm) (Broch)

North of Harray Community Hall is the Netherbrough Road. Just past Yeldavale the knowe stands out boldly in the far corner of a field, at this time swamped by bright vegetation vegetation. If only I hadn't already been walking for miles I would have paid a visit despite the blooming plants. It sits on marshy ground thought to have been a lochan. Less than a kilometre further down is another broch, the Knowe of Gullow.From there I went as far as the turn for Ballarat House, where in the field opposite Gullow is what looked like a banked feature which looks equally Iron Age but must be modern as it is not noted anywhere. Burrian's underground structure brings to my mind two Orcadian sites, one where a broch was built over a tomb and another where the supposed broch was purely ceremonial/ritual

Taversoe Tuick (Chambered Tomb)

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 !

Knowe of Yarso (Chambered Cairn)

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

North Biggin (Broch)

Going north to Dounby the North Bigging Road is a sharp turn on your right with the broch clearly marked on the map, but I approached from the other end after going on to Dounby and turning off there so (hopefully) I could see other sites along the way. After the Holodyke Hunting Lodge (no mere gateway but a grand mansion) the road turns back down to the main road. On the left is a converted wartime building and the broch is in the next field. After I did my work the farmer came to find out why my interest in his "knowe", rather bemused. A very understanding chap and I would suggest speaking with him beforehand as we need more people like him and I enjoyed our brief chat. There are a few exposed parts of the nound but I'd say that from what I saw the "many stones of considerable size" have gone. It also looks to me as if the present SE edge was the border because the field over the dyke is so level, though the report says that the long pit there might be wall core. Near the top of the downhill side is a shallow bowl that could be a cell as a low ridge seems to cut it off, though from the side it does appear like part of a structure heading down to the base of the mound.

Knowe of Grugar (Broch)

In February coming down the Evie Road the field containg this was open, so I took the opportunity to see the greater portion close up. Climbing to the top I noticed several metres of what could have outer face of broch tower wall. Couldn't see if ever so slightly curved or straight but the stones at the edges could be the "stones, several of which, laid on edge, can be seen protruding through the turf" that the record mentions. Actually, going down the southern side, is a definite structure with three built sides visible to perhaps several inches deep by 18 across. I assume this has 'appeared' since the 2011 geofizz. Could be a small fish tank or the top of a toilet I guess.

Unyatuak (Artificial Mound)

Appears as Unyatank on the 1st 25" map, which sounds the more likely name. Even on 2nd 25" it is Unyatauk not Unyatuak. Only seen it from the road, but there appear to be two similar rises 'behind' this mound

Russel Howe (Cairn(s))

Just north of the Sandwick war memorial take the road going east through the Midstowe and Netherstove. Before reaching Netherstove take the diagonal track up to the minor road and turn right. The Rossel Howe wall is plain to see two fields east of the road. I didn't realise you can walk straight up to it (the fence is practically gone) and so came around the edge ofa field. Looking at the rise atop the hill the cairn sits on I woner if it isn't man-made. At the southern end is a pile of stones that could be the remains of the second cairn, badly robbed for stone. Rossel Howe cairn is a rectangle with well rounded corners, feeling almost oval to me. There is another pile of stones at the other end of the cairn, buth this is obviously leftovers and parts that have come off the wall. The stones are very different from the two slabs, which are mostly white. It doesn't come out well in my photos that the erect slab sticks out from the cairn material at an angle of, say, 45 degrees. It is said the two slabs could have been parts of a cell. But there must have been a reason why they are where they are, and given the angle of the slab it strikes me that whoever built the wall was surely marking for posterity the place where the entrance had been (in which case could it even be in its original position ?). Standing at Rossel Howe there is a grand view almost the whole way around, and the mound is easily seen coming up to Skail. Indeed, because this day the hill was distinctly multi-coloured I was ablt to see it as I walked several miles towards Twatt and retracing my steps several more going to Stromness. If you wish to avoid the roads the set of tracks going by the site of the 'Snusgar' excavations takes you to the Netherstove farm road.
Showing 1-20 of 317 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
Unemployed and so plenty of spare time for researching contributors' questions and queries and for making corrections. Antiquarian and naturalist. Mode of transport shanks's pony. Talent unnecessary endurance. I love brochs.

My TMA Content: