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19thC Shetland Archaeology in Orkney papers

July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" George Petrie and Dr Hunt excavate 65'D 10~11' high bowl barrow. Near the centre 5-6' below the apex were fond a "peculiar" stone tool (similar to one found at Sefster on same trip), potsherds and ox bone fragments. Tumulus made of burnt stones, having a circle of stones just inside the perimeter with the remains of an encircling circular wall a few feet inside that. On the wall's inner face, roughly 15' inside the north perimeter, a large edgeset freestone block was found facing the centre. This was held up by a wall either side and had a large perforation near its upper end. Not far from the mound, but unconnected, were found two inscribed stones, each with a different kind of runes. These were taken to Lerwick.
Brindister Voe HU25NE 6
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" Broch of Brindister at edge of steep cliff and defended by double earthworks landward. George Petrie and Dr Hamiltton saw doorway and traced galleris in the circular wall but didn't examine inerior as choked with debris from broch tower.

Broch of Burraness HU58SW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" described. In 1854 one of the best preserved broughs in Shetland but a lot taken for cottage building in Burraness.

The Brough HU48NW 3
31st 1865 "The Orcadian" llttle left of Brough of West Sandwick's wall.

Brough of North Garth ~HY547005
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" brough below house, at beach's N end, almost entirely gone.

Brough of Stoal HU58NW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" at least 3 ditches cut off brough at stole/chair of Awick, very high banks.

Brough of West Yell
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" name mentioned.

Burgi Geo HP50NW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" description of approach to brough on Burgar Goes, a site mentioned by Hibbert.

Burra Voe HU57NW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" little left as most of Brough of Burnavoe stones taken to build house at Burnavoe by owner Mr Henderson, entrance to underground passages now blocked by stone.

Charlotte Street, Lerwick
February 12th 1886 "Orkney Herald" stone cist with remains, probably previously disturbed, found near surface in clearing site for Mr Ogalvy's houses at bottom of Charlotte Street.

Clickhimin HU44SE 2
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" Broch of Clickimin [sic] in worse state than Mousa but wall restoration more in keeping with design..
April 11th 1888 "Orkney Herald" Stones removed from causeway by local butcher for building material.

Fillicomb Point HP50NW 3
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" some ditches of brough in heads of Toft remain but part of broch fallen into the sea.

June 27th 1883 "Orkney Herald" report from "Shetland News"; man on Foulis [sic] finds fresh-looking but headless female body, lying on an o.g.s. of stunted heath, after digging 6' through solid peat.

Giant's Grave, North Yell
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" close to St Niniian's Kirk site (Papil Bay) is a N/S aligned low mound called giant's grave and never built upon, though slight attempts to excavate seem to show natural sandstone only.

Gossabrough HU58SW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" chambers visible in Brough of Gossaburgh ruins, graves reported nearby.

Graveland HU49NE 3
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" remains of buildings at Brough of Bergaard on small peninsula.

Greenbank HP50SW ?53
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" two stone fragments with worn lettering found at Clinsara Reggs on the meik of Papal by Margaret Craigie of Millby Cottage servant, near the St Ninian's Kirk site.

Head of Brough HU48SW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" description of Brough of Brough.

Holm of Coppister HU47NE 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" Brough of Cuppister mentioned (name only).

Levenwick HU412NW 3
August 21st 1869 "The Orcadian" recorded by Dryden.Broch excavated down to the foundations within the last fortnight by Gilbert Goudie and described. Only finds part of a handmill and bone fragments.

Loch of Huxter HU56SE 1
June 17th 1879 "Orkney Herald" described in notice read to Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Mailand (Unst) HP60SW
June 10th 1876 "The Orcadian" D Edmonton's men digging May 31st on area long dug for peats discover 4 cast metal items together mouth down in the peat, a large basin and 3 fire-pots different sizes.

Mousa HU42SE 1
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" description of Mousa-Borg, where restorations have been made to the walltop and the doorway but those to the latter has greatly changed the appearance.

Muckle Heog East HP61SW 12
September 27th 1864 "The Orcadian" burnt human bones from crouched people found in cist 18" below ground level in digging hole for flagstaff, 2 skulls sent by Mr Edmonton to Mr Roberts at Somerset House.

Papil Bay HP50SW 4
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" St Ninian's Kirk site at the Kinwail 'gard of Weeping' close to mound called giant's grave.

Sefster HU35SW 14
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" celts and stone knives found by minister Bryden several years ago in underground passage at Safsetter/Safester. Passage re-opened and many more tools found, including one similar to that already found in a Bressay mound. Potsherds and stone vessels also found.

St Ninian's Church HU32SE 4 ?
August 26th 1885 "Orkney Herald" letter from the "Scotsman" describing situation of unenclosed disused St Ninian/Ringan's graveyard: ~6 miles from Fitful Head on E side of tidal outlet on W side of mainland's southern part. Soil is loose light sand to a great depth.

Trebister HU43NW 13?
March 28th 1883 "Orkney Herald" preparations on Saturday for a graveyard at a grass-covered mound belonging to Rev Mr Walker bring to light a 'Pictish castle', 40' of a circular section 4' high surviving from what is likely to have been a ~140' outer wall of the building. Stone dyke encloses mound. Large quanities of dark red peaty ash in several places and a man's jawbone found. Other discoveries were a few stone celts, several 12x8" ovoid polished stones (some with oval cavities) and four pottery varieties - 2 dark red soft earthenware sherds, a hard brick red sherd, and a very hard modern looking highly polished grayish sherd with light green spots.

Uyea, Shetland HU69NW 7
March 18th 1885 "Orkney Herald" article includes extra to P.S.A.S record of meeting, being mention of 3 steatite urns found in tumulus and 4 polished oval porphyrite knives found by Mr J Leisk, all exhibited.


more early Orkney newspaper accounts summarised

Having gone back to Orkney's 19thC newspapers to extract accounts of non-Orcadian sites I found more Orcadian ones too. So here are more summaries


October 27th 1886 "Orkney Herald" decorated 8/9th century box found previous year on exhibit in temporary museum in Kirkwall Town Hall along with contents

Blomuir (not one of the known sites)

December 7th 1896 Orkney Herald" account of chambered mound near house of Blomuir (built of stones from mound) excavated few weeks before by owner, producing 8 skeletons and a polished gneiss hammerhead. Half skeletons found in E/W aligned corbelled chamber measuring maximum 10' x 3½', walls standing up to 2½' with entrance half-way along S side. Stone ball stone B.1914.594 found at mound a few days ago


June 11th 1867 The Orcadian" new road cut through small part extensive stoney mound ruins revealing bone fragments and shells

Burrian Castle HY75SE 3

December 6th 1882 "Orkney Herald" recovered relics donated by Mr Traill of Woodwick to the Antiquarian Museum

Corquoy (Mansies Knowes) HY43SW 17

November 2nd 1880 "Orkney Herald" account in The Scotsman of previous excavation of a Manx nound producing same knd of urn

Hillhead HY40NW 12

April 19th 1882 "Orkney Herald" full description of ornamented stone ball found draing a field - only other example found in Ireland several years before. Cast being sent to the Antiquarian Museum.

Ivar's Knowe HY74SW 10

October 31st 1894 "Orkney Herald" rising Ivar's Knowe and a few mounds ¾ mile to its W mentioned as full of burnt stones

Knowe of Taft HY22SE 8

January 20th 1880 "Orkney Herald" on rise called The Taft farmer George Garson of Hamar breaks through 3~4" thick slab roof into space 2½" square extending in a circular direction. Bones have been found near this
January 24th 1880 "The Orcadian" George Garson of Hammer [sic], Greenie, excavates opening 2'6"~2'9" broad by a foot deep (above a yard of soil containing bone) thought part of a broch. Taken to about 30', 2 'cists' are found and also red pigment a decorative circular glass piece.and rude pottery - Samian sherd found here some time ago


October 27th 1886 "Orkney Herald" perforated serpentine macehead found on property of Mr Graeme of Graemeshall on exhibit in temporary museum in Kirkwall Town Hall

Little Howe of Hoxa ND49SW 2

June 21st 1871 "The Orkney Herald short account of dig on concentric walled ruin begun previous Wednesday and finds to date

Munkerhouse, Papay HY45SE 26

August 22nd 1874 "Orkney Herald" Mt Traill of Holland allows dig of broch remains in cliff-face near Established Church. Most of large tower gone but extensive outworks, with some lintels remaining, proceed undergorund towards kirk.
Ness of Brodgar HY21SE 16

October 10th 1888 "Orkney Herald" visitors dig tumuli near Ring of Brodgar. One covered by 6" of peat, under which fine light brown earth, then after ~2'6" large stones cover dark ashy earth intermixed with small bone fragments. Mound lies on bed of clay

North Town Moss, Burray ND49NE 5

May 1st 1889 "Orkney Herald" very detailed description of silver hoard found on April 22nd by George Petrie of Little Wart 3' deep while diigging peats at "head of green slade" on N side of North Side Moss [sic] roughly a mile NW of school

Old Town Hall, Kirkwall HY41SW 142

November 12th 1890 "Orkney Herald" tombstones found in demolishing old walls of the old town hall, said to have re-used stone from Ear's Palace
December 17th 1890 "Orkney Herald" 2 12" white sanstone balls unearthed

Peterkirk (Tresness) HY74SW 7

October 31st 1894 "Orkney Herald" at St Peter's Chapel a fine well having been removed previously a narrow well-like vault with two recesses has been found and various stone tools and combs. The mound was originally at least 25' high

Pier of Gill HY44NW ?23

October 27th 1886 "Orkney Herald" Two polishd serpentine celts found in mound along with a skeleton on exhibit in temporary museum in Kirkwall Town Hall

Pisgah x2 HY44NW 7

August 22nd 1874 "Orkney Herald" description of 2nd earthhouse excavated in previous week by George Petrie a few hundred yards N of Pisgah souterrain, discovered at same time as that 25 years before but left undug

nr Sandwick Parish church

August 24th 1886 "Orkney Herald" unusually hig seas remove beach below church for some distance to reveal forest remains in a considerable depth of peat moss near where deer horns have been found

Saverock HY41SW 5

June 12th 1869 The Orcadian"
October 27th 1886 "Orkney Herald" two polished celts found in field where cists had been destroyed on exhibit in temporary museum in Kirkwall Town Hall

Thistle Brae, Sanday

June 11th 1867 The Orcadian" new road cut through small part of large mound "under the sands of South Myres" revealing bone fragments and shells. Thistle Brae conceals several buildings on 'western shore' and shows ruinous wall length of 38 paces roughly parallel to the road some parts burnt

Tofts Ness HY74SE

October 31st 1894 "Orkney Herald" reference to Picts Houses at Toft Ness

Ward Holm

June 22nd 1881 "Orkney Herald" apparently ecclesiastical remains on Kirk Holm [sic] and distinct cultivation traces all over the island


RSPB Cottascarth in Blubbersdale JUNE 19th 2014

Though the Orkney Blide Trust's Out and About had once been due to visit the RSPB's biird reserve in Rendall this han't come about. Then I received an e-mail from the RSPB for volunteers, saying that a hen harrier viewing centre is to replace the hut there, and they need to record the standing buildings of Dale before the builders incorporate them into the new fabric. Nine months working with the archaeologists over two seasons I had managed to avoid drawing plans, now was time to bite the bullet (though the work turned out to use very different methods, as I should have figured out). Over further e-mails we arranged that Julian Branscombe would give me a lift to Finstown and RSPB Scotland's archaeologist Jill Hebden (formerly with the National Trust) take me the
rest of the way. In the event Julian gave me a lift all the way in as he had to provide proof that there is enough water in case of a muir burn whilst the builders were on-site. Heading out on the Evie Road at the edge of Norseman 'village' you turn left onto the Lyde Road (a 90 minute walk from Norseman to the Harray Road by the way), Then as it starts to climb a farm road takes you all the way to Lower Cottascarth. On our way from the inside the car we saw an arctic skua above us, but alas nary a sign of a harrier all day ! Instead of continuing to Blu(b)bersdale/Bluebersdale (blae-berries dale) you turn left and park just beyond the last of the farm buildings. A new car park is to be made a little further up and the road tarmacked.

Looking to my left I noticed a small but hefty mound to my right around a field corner. Though covered in green it also looked oddly dark. This is the Black Knowe, NMRS record no. HY31NE 5 at HY36951988, which sits on the shoulder of a low hill called the Tooin 'tower/ward' of Rusht. On the 1st O.S. it marks a boundary corner and I was told that at the moment it is disfigured by a hash of fencing. In the dawn of archaeology George Petrie and Captain Thomas found ash and burnt bone under an inverted 10"x7"
broken clay urn, of coarse fabric with stone inclusions, in a short cist 18"x12" and 8~10" deep. The kistvaen was six foot down in the mound. Pure sandy clay lay beneath a foot of peat, covered by hand-sized flat stones to hold the mounds shape. As first described this bowl barrow wouldn't have appeared that different from a burnt mound I think, called roughly semi-circular. It is thought that two orthostats at the top are what is left of said cist, in which case the excavated mound would have been four or five metres high as in 1966 it still stood to about 2.2m high and fourteen across. Twenty years earlier RCAMS describe its composition as earth and small stones. Hurried measurements in 1993 show it reduced to 8 by 9 metres across and 0.75m high. It certainly looked higher than that from the Dale track - the Orkney Barrows Project notes it can be seen from as much as a kilometre away. An aerial view shows Black Knowe as a really circular patch of green, which raises several questions.
There's further archaeology northwards. Two chains west of the house of Blubbersdale is the site of the Harray Mans Grave, HY32SE 13 at HY37182000, traditionally the burial place of Harray men who died during the famine of 1740 after shellfishing at the Bay of Isbister. In 1856 John Skea found two (or three) cists during land improvements. The cists contained bones and ashes, but the skeletal remains mouldered into dust after meeting fresh air. If they had been under a tumulus, unmentioned in the account itself, this would have been removed to allow for the construction of the two land drains thereabouts. I myself think the name came from elsewhere, for in 1932 there is a description of the Harraymen's Graves located no great distance away, being 22 chains SW of Queenamidda. Seven E/W stones showed through two feet of peat from three to twelve inches in 1932 but with global warming are probably out of sight now I guess. The closest of them are two six foot apart, but despite the rest being seperated by greater distance they formed a row aligned roughly NE/SW.These are shown with the legend Graves on the 1st O.S. map at HY36702037. Here the tale is that that a man finding bones there took fright, though the only person to dig found nothing. Finally for Blubbersdale there is a clutch of bowl barrows, HY32SE 2, the 'original' 1880 Orkney Name Book one a burial place by tradition (RCAMS couldn't find this earthen mound). For it there are contradictory locations. First 34 chains from Blubbersdale and about 30 W of Castle (Ellibister), second 650 yards ENE of Blubbersdale on the O.S. (nothing at that spot the record states). The Orkney Barrows Project reports that only the second of three barrows 'A' 'B' 'C' reported in 1967 was locatable, but that the vegetation could well have hidden the others at the time of the visit : 'A' and 'B' had slightly mutilated tops ('B' cut for peats), 'B' and 'C' were covered by heather and 'A' turf-covered ; dimensions are 'A' at HY37862023 roughly 10x0.7m, 'B' very prominent from several directions at HY3784020320 10.0x10.9x1.2m, 'C' at HY37952025 roughly 6x1m high.

As the land levelled out an old steading hoved into view, and this is Dale where the hen harrier viewing centre is to be. The first thing you come to is a stone scrap heap. They think that it is formed of flags used to roof the place, but one of these is several inches thick. Dale itself consists of two buildings, one pre-1880 and the other 1880~1900, and continued in use well into last century. There are also later concrete structures in the angle between them. This is a sheep control station the farmer had to build during a liver fluke scare, and is to be removed. And behind that a squat tree with lovely bark and moss and lichen drenched branches shrouds the rest. A volunteer extensive local knowledge had been there since 7pm, and even he had seen no harriers. Whilst we waited for the others Julian went into a little more detail about what the builders would be doing in a fortnight to the E-W later building, showing us on the plan how it would be 'made good' then added to. There will be skylights in the new roof so folk can see inside the centre and viewing 'windows' at the front to see the birdies.
Jill Hebden arrived with Lorna Dow and a student who also lived locally. Jill said that the RSPB had found this site held more than first thought, and the downhill part of the N-S building had a mill. Unfortunately we wouldn't be planning the machinery inside the mill as the nettles were especially rampant here, though she did the rest of us a favour by tramping them down elsewhere (as the only one with a hard hat only she could do the room of the later building where some of a flag roof hung on). Standing Building Recording is, as I should have guessed, nothing like the planning I saw at The Howe. No metal frame divided into a grid here ! Instead you use a surveyor's tape, with the beginning starting before the structure and away from the wall. Then what you do is you measure from the tape to the wall at set intervals - every 2m in our case, except where we came to features. Once you have done the first line comes the difficult bit of setting up the next at right angles. Luckily Jill set up these for us, as when we tried we were pants at it. Even she found it difficult because of all the reeds and tussocks still standing way high. And the pins to hold the tape kept hitting stone at the older structure. Eventually I figured that part of this is owing to the fact that the flag paving so obvious near the house part actually went all the way along the front. There also appeared to be the remains of a path going towards the tree.
The long central home has fireplaces each end. One has the chimney breast exposed whilst in the other it is still covered by a large flag, which now is mostly secured by one nail, so we kept clear. A starling had a nest somewhere behind the latter, and spent ages slanging us off each time it returned with a beakful of food for them (a pied wagtail appeared one time similarly annoyed. But Willi's nest is somewhere in the semi-roofed building as it coninually popped up on the old eaves before flashing inside. Oh. and in the 'dinner break' I heard my first ever cuckoo in the big [for Orkney] tree where twa burns meet). Each fireplace had a cupboard space beside it. Though the room looks positively mediaeval despite the blocking you can see bonny fine wooden moulding still in place at a couple of the windows that belies this. My memory is hazy on whether the number of rooms including this and the mill is three or four, but there is one with two tall vertical flags that might be animal stalls.
At the back of the building the mill lade/leat meets the building under the home's central window. For some reason it 'hits' at an angle before the channel continues alongside the hill - we tried to backtrack but where it is before this is a stromash. Where the leat turns there is also a feature at right angles, including an orthostat. Short of the millwheel what look to be bits of the pulled down roof cover a small structure that must be part of the system. Its walls are orthagonal to the building but on the outside there is an arched section facing downstream. The wheel is of undershot design and had 24 buckets. Unusuall, again, it has only a single metal wheel. No-one could recall having seen a millwheel like this anywhere in Orkney, let alone the parish.Hopefully this can all be resolved if, as hoped, the RSPB and the OIC can engage community groups to further record Dale. A few low orthostats can be seen by the sides of the outflow before this reaches the burn. The 'old house team' stayed on after the others because of the unexpected complexities. I was much relieved when Jill said she could actually take me all the way back, as she was headed for Kirkwall. Indeed she even knew where my street was ! Thank you for the lifts Julian and Jill.

When I reached home and used Google Satellite the image showed a large rectangular enclosure taking in the front of the the old building and explaining why the newer one stood at right angles to it. So I then had another look at the first O.S. maps and found in the angle betwen them a roughly circular garden and/or drying area with a path bisecting it diagonally. So I think that the pins hit a low bank like that at Rowhall in Sandwick (which in turn could be wall footings - from the bus you can see what this may have looked like from a ruin east of Binscarth House). As for the mill, the aerial view shows the lade starting just short of a fence uphill then after a short distance taking a turn that takes it onto the alignment we observed. It goes a long way, then short of Dale enters a distinct sub-elliptical area that I take as being what's left of a milldam.



Took the bus to the start of the first Churchill Barrier. The driver was good enough to set me down quite close. As this counted as a Lamb Holm return I thought about crossing over the barrier. Not for the Italian Chapel, where I've been a few times with others, but for the Orkney Winery shop. Even then the draw for me isn't the wine itself, it is the like of chutneys, preserves and sweets that are made from them. A little too rich, in the monetary meaning, for my tastes alas.
My reason for going to East Holm was twofold; firstly that I had taken good views of it from Burray and wanted to return the compliment, secondly that having seen the recent storm-damage to the sea-wall I wanted to see if the nearest cliffs had given up anything (I had chosen low tide at St Mary's). In the bright light the coastal batteries opposite me resembled a landscape-sized art installation, surely intended as more than form following function. Too good not to photograph several times along the way. By the road are the Graemeshall properties. Here a 15th century dwelling was replaced in 1615 by Meil House, which after being sold on became Graham's Hall then Graemeshall (for what it's worth there is a Graemshall, one 'e', in Evie). And I imagine that the name Meil is an early designation for this whole area as we have the Muir of Meil between Hamly Hill and the B9052. A nice quiet road runs up between house and farm by Graemeshall Loch, which is well known to birders. However my attention was caught by the site to my right , two swans on the waters of Scapa Flow - obviously this near the burn outlet the sea is only slightly brackish. Loved the way they practically surfed the waves close inshore. A gentleman in a long motorhome was parked up with a huge camera pointed to the loch, but I still had the best of the deal from my view I think.

No damage looks to have been done to the cliff-section below Mass Howe, certainly the body of the mound must be accounted natural. Because of the name it is said that the structural remains on top are from a church, allegedly a local tradition, especially given the nearby Mass Road track. But it seems more likely to me that Mass=moss and refers to the once extensive Muir of Meil heath. Besides which Mass Road bypasses the mound - if anything the road goes up towards the nearer of the mounds below Hestakelda(y) 'horse well', now Hestimuir, and most likely went to the well as with the Tieve Well Road above St Nicholas Church. Took more photos of the coastal batteries. At the far edge of the nearer and larger one a roughly triangular piece of ground normally rather damp strucki me as positively parched this day. Here what is now marked as a burnt mound is below a wellspring (one of five Wells shown on this length of hillside on the 1882 O.S.). Not wishing to disturb the kie I moved on. Beyond and left of the burnt mound the long ruin roughly parallel to the coast is labelled Old School on the same very large scale map. Which is strange as at the roadside end of the trail the buildings to the left are also named Old School. Perhaps seperate schools for boys and girls (or children and sub-adults maybe). Alternatively as East Schoolhouse [in 1882 labelled as School (Boys & Girls)] lies over from Hurtiso they might be for the three Christian denomination hereabouts. Or more simply the lived-in Old School is named after the ruin. Does anyone know ? Still intrigued by an outpost of the wartime stuff. A narrow piece of land not many metres long sticks out of the body of the cliffs, with a rather precipitous neck at the end of which is a structure resembling the top of a pillarbox. In shape it is an hexagon with a hexagonal plug. There are two holes set close together, and my guess is that this had been a machine-gun post.
At the east side of the neck is what I take for a section of wall or walling composed of slabs. Eventually the coastal path section ends. Just beyond this point there is a long second wall, below the present fieldwall, that is either set into the cliff or hanging on grimly, made of the same material. Now the path runs straight up to the main road, running past Newark (wonder where the old Wirk had been). This is another usually sodden track. Which is hardly surprising as it is bordered by three of the wellsprings mentioned earlier ! If you can, use the Orkney Gate at the top of the track as the trail's style is a monster that is liable to swing you off. Across the road is Manse, which had been a manse for the Free Church. It is safe to assume that both mounds were used by the church but the Flagstaff Mound right of the building has no traces. On the other hand I have actually been on the Sundial Mound and there is a big scatter of stones on its top, though my theory is that some come from a previous structure re-used as I have seen no such remains on any other sundial sites and nor did they surmount big mounds.

Where the road turns to go to St Andrew's is the farm of Hurtiso. It is on Hurtiso land that the famous headgear came to light during peat digging. This appears to have been an antient heirloom, as what had started off life as a piece of neckwear was by stages transformed into a cozytrot, a kind of hooded shawl (except this item has half-metre long tassels on it. The Hurtiso Hood 'moved' into a Kirkwall collection, hence the next newspaper account gives it a St Ola origin instead of Holm. Someone must have pointed out it came from the next parish, because the third newspaper article places its finding in Tankerness, part of St Andrew's ! And so a tentative association with finds on Groatster/Grotsetter land has entered the record. Now that the truth is out the name has been changed to the Orkney Hood (to spare blushes I assume). I used to be puzzled by a niche in the roadside wall until I realised this space had been left by an old postbox ! There is a bench and viewpoint here. One day nearing sunset I photographed a beam of sunlight that from here ran straight across the Italian Chapel, truly wondrous to behold. Continuing over the green and going by East Schoolhouse and Vigga, the Cornquoy and Greenwall roads part just before the hill descends. From here I had distant views of the Burray brochs strongly illumined by the sun. A little too strongly for clarity but enough to show the proper distance between them (other views I'd had of them they had always appeared so close together I had imagined them in a much tighter framing of the chambered tomb that had lain just behind behind them on Northfield farm). Tried to make out St Lawrence's Church on Burray then and later to no avail. But my thinking at this vantage point was that whether brochs were for defence or lookout Laurenskirk plugged a gap that the East and West Brochs didn't cover, the other side of Burray having the Iron Age settlement on Hunda. Turned left onto the Greenwall Road and then down the Tieve Well Road to the Cornquoy Road. There are two mounds either end of the Howes Wick shoreline. Closest is the broch mound under the older section of St Nicholas' burial ground (there was also a well/wellspring beyond the northern well. formerly bounded by a ring of stones). In the late 50's a farmer took 40 trailers of stone from a drystone wall, including a cup-marked stone, and emptied them onto the shore. Near the eastern end of the wick is Castle Howe, where a small Viking wirk has been built over a D-shaped chamber. There are no reports of a circular structure here, but one could make a case for the lower chamber being [part of] one of those controversial IA structures labelled 'semi-broch' by some [no longer ??]. Perhaps I might compare it with North Taing on the Head of Holland that shows at the cliff edge as a dee-shaped bank with stones. There I have noted clumps of large stone coming up in the nearer side of a field during deep ploughing, indicating that the centre of a larger structure could have been removed. And this or an incomplete build are generally accepted as the origin of those 'semi-brochs'.

Turning left I continued all the way to the crossroads near the old St Nicholas Manse. Turned right here. Seems a long way from the church it serves, but the same is true of the Tankerness manse next to Northwood House and the North Church (that church now hosts the material worshippers of Sheila Fleet Jewellery). I felt fairly sure a track runs by the west side of the manse enclosure, but being uncertain from this end carried on to The Cottage. Alas the lawn seems to have taken over much of the track since my previous visit (when I walked the Sand of Cornquoy undisturbed) so I'll leave that for a weekday when I disturb none. Back up to the crossroads and decided to continue over to the Roseness trail. Before you reach the tiny car park Ducrow along the way is a perfectly lovely house and garden. My only intention had been to merely have a peek, but cresting the hill before Upper Cornquoy found me stunned by the clarity of Copinsay and the other Deerness on the distant horizon. A well-kept track runs between fields to a signpost marked for Stembister and Roseness paths. Take the right and it is a long way to Stembister in St Andrew's, with its standing stone moved slightly back from the cliffs edge to a drying green. Along the way the path sweeps down a steep decline before climbing equally steeply back up. From Stembister the road to the Deerness Road is only short by comparison, simpler the other way as you would need a lift ftom St Andrew's or know the few buses that way very very well ! Turn right at the signpost for Rose Ness. No, of course I didn't. Headed straight for the nearest cliffs to snap those islands. This is the Bay of Semolie. Nice place for a picnic. The cliffs are stupendous, the views likewise. Don't think you can get down to the beach at all. Here stands the King of Semolie. Sadly the Queen of Semolie passed about the midpoint of the last century. A rather bigger rock stack further along Rose Ness is nameless, so you wonder why they both had names - maybe some lost event took place in the vicinity involving a rig [or perhaps a tale like the "Queen of Morocco" relates]. Walked along the cliffs until I came upon a fence ending right at the cliff edge. Definitely low enough to swing over, but even I didn't risk it. Watched the waves down below crashing up and over the rocks of a small geo. Followed the fence up to the trail proper. The gate there is rather fiddly and most folk would find it quicker to climb the gate rather than open it. Be careful as this is not standing vertical.
Instead of going back to what I think is Tur Geo (whereabouts lies a Bruce's Hole) my feet took me a little further along to where there are rocky plates between the heath and the cliff edge, good for a bit of a clamber. Came upon Rosalind, one of the Orkney Blide Trust support workers. She had come here with a group of youths to do some actual rock-climbing. The day being very blustery they had had no look and contented themselves with scampering amongst the rocks in hope of a climb somewhere not dashed by the high spray. From there I went to the Hole of The Ness, simply The Gloup on the 25" maps. Imagine the gloup in Derrness turned ino a circle form. To my dismay this feature is now fenced in. And not narrowly at that, and in fact the fence struck me as more distant from the rim at its safest point. You can hear the the sea still rushing in and out, and walk over the arch at the cliff, but the most you can see sttod on tippy-toes is the top couple of metres of exposed rock. Didn't complete the walk as it became too overcast for the pictures I wanted. Anyway, the forecast had been for rain later, and fearing it earlier now went back to the start of the trail. Down on the main Cornquoy Road the climbing party soon approached behind me. Even though I had a return ticket I was only too happy to accept a lift back in the circumstances - seemed to take me half the way to Kirkwall before I had the safety belt gone, so I was obviously near the end of my endurance. Fortunately the Out and About planning of Orkney Blide Trust's trip gave me the opportunity to do the headland full justice a short time later. After leaving the gloup some of us kept closer than the others to the land's edge, and treated ourselves to peering down the sheer sides of long and narrow Pantie Geo. We reached the angular monument that I have seen from miles away at various places, a tall truncated pyramid topped by a cross. It sits on the site of one of two Rose Ness beacons. They both dated to the modern era, but at this one there is a large level mound of stones that speaks of an earlier vardr. Or something more, as during its construction in 1867 the men found a well-preserved skeleton and re-buried most of this under the stones dug up. Down near the far end of the ness the slightly later light beacon (1905) still stands. It is where we all finally fetched up.Long ago a neighbour took me here and, by prmission, let me up inside. These beacons are low affairs. Meant only to be seen in daylight they don't 'shout' at you like lighthouses, their human scale most appealing. By it are two concrete foundations that have to be wartime remains. Two of our party sat on the smaller one, about two metres square. A quick glance saw possible earlier stuff there too. The trail ends at The Riff, so there must be an obstacle between there and Roy [brief speculation - roy/roi. is the King of Semolie the Row/Roo 'rock' of Semolie]. Didn't go that far but returned by way of North Cairn. In the hollowed top of this cairn are a number of large stones and a single orthostat, a survivor. Further on we met a member who had arrived late on her own. We were all lucky enough to see a wader up omn the headland barely a small room's length away. The bird ran along the straight edge of a shallow ? peat cutting. Must have had a nest nearby we guessed as it made several passes. Lovely little thing. Jeff and I thought it could be a dotterel. Put rwa photos on the Facebook page of the Orkney Nature Festival and had it identified as a dunlin


THE HOPE TO HOXA January 23rd 2014

Only three for the Out and About today; the volunteer driver Patrick, me and the labradoodle Star. In St. Margaret's Hope we parked the minibus at Cromarty Square, went onto Shore Road and took the second road on our left, much steeper than School Road. Good way to build up to the walk, get the 'big hill' out of the way. First thing we come to is a set of tall walls roadside, with steps in between to take folk up to the level ground above and through step-topped gatepillars sans gate. Here is Bellevue, built in the last two decades of the 19th century. This angular two-storey house with blue-grey slates is the only one I've noticed in Orkney built of pale pastel red stone. More likely my memory let's me down. And mistakiing the house for Angle Cottage (which is by the site of St Margaret's Chapel) I thought the big walled enclosure it is part of was the school. Braehead behind is already on the 1st 25" map, though I think not much older. In the field on the other side of the road disturbed ground is all that is left of the the site of the Brough of Ontoft.

Cresting the hill we looked down at Heatherum where a modern double path of modern flags shone in the sun, more striking than any open air art installation. Turning left here takes you swiftly to Widewall Bay. Nah, that won't do. Turn right past the fine farm of Grutha and go around the coast we shall. This is the way I came when I stayed at the Murray Arms. On this road to your right look down onto the farms of Lowertown and enjoy Scapa Flow and its islands spread before you. On the map Hunda seems small, but from here it took a while to identify it as the causeway is much longer than on photos I've seen and we were looking at Hunda broadside on - explains why the circular walk from the Burray village takes as long as it does ! Not long to reach the other side of Hoxa Hill.

As we made our way down to the ayre we were much taken with the 'boathouse' at Mayfield (formerly the name of a dwelling back up the hill). This modern 'boathouse' is one of those modern conceits, a hoose made to resemble an upturned boat, but awfu' bonnie and rather large. The drystone wall divided seaside garden is pretty too. Somewhere hereabouts are believed to be the remains of an authentic boathouse, yer actual housing for boats. Next the shore this side of the Dam of Hoxa sits Longhouse farm range with its corn-drying kiln. Longhouse, Hoxa Mill originally, is now a residence. Something I only realised after I strayed onto the lawn to snap the kiln ! There is a track that takes you from the Dam of Hoxa over the old ayre to the Sand o'Wright. At this time, going by the overflowing pools either side, it struck us as maybe not the best route for now, might only get so far before being 'pushed' back. Tread the shore. Continue on to the road end at Howe. On the eminence above is the Howe of Hoxa. Which is a doubling as Hoxa is haugsheid referring to the broch. You can only see the top of the tower, and until you reach the spot it looks just a weird fieldwall. Then there you are with a topdown view. Which is a good thing, because the last time I went the interior had way too many tall nettles for one to venture in. From the broch a long mound heads doen the hill, and tradition states that Earl Thorfinn Hairsakljuf was hoy-laid here after his death in about A.D.960, However all archaeologists can say is that there are traces of settlement in the lower section.
Passing by the broch I contented myself with a few shots from the road as I had used my SLR up close some time ago and we wanted to be back on time. Had my first glimpse of its small 'companion' by the shore, which will be a lot easier to resch than I had assumed. 115 paces/yards from the broch is the Little Howe of Hoxa, though it is possible the name is that of the mediaeval ruin rather than the (supposedly) prehistoric structure. In June 1871 George Petrie excavated this, and after he left Mr Gray of Roeberry (who had partialy dug the chambered mound on Warthill the previous year) continued to clear it out and (it was believed) make further exploration. Petrie found an approximately circular structure with two concentic wall enclosing a space of ~21'D. The 4' thick outer wall was seperated from the inner by a 2' high passage tapering from 18~20" below the covering stones to 16" wide at the base where it met bedrock at one place.. A 20' long passage and doorway went all the way through the structure, standing 4' high and being 2½' wide. Traditionally a passage connected with the Howe of Hoxa, but no trace found of this at the time or since. Presently the site is called a homestead and thought to be either early broch or pre-broch, but the finds made seem to me to be as likely from a Viking wirk or borg - perhap not a "green site" still. It is notable that none of the newspaper reports refer to it as a broch. There is a way in still, an archaeologist friend of mine entered the hole even though it is generally considered dangerous to do so. A wall post-dating the excavation goes across the homestead. Little Howe of Hoxa may simply be a name used to differentiate the ruined dwelling. There is a slip near Howe and a couple of derelict buildings mentioned on the NMRS, what appears to be a roofless croft and a small square building of just four walls.
There are plenty of other early settlements in the area. Just back up the hill is Swart(e)quoy where excavations starting the same month found a probable earthen encampment suurounded by a strong rampart of earth and stone. Also at the same time some trenches made in a sandy knoll called Kirkiebrae on the other side of the isthmus found another 'encampment'. Though the name implies a church connection the finds don't bear witness to this, and the St Colm's dedication is a thoroughly modern fiction or the papers at the time would surely have said. One of the trenches turned up a fine red and yellow clay/pigment intermixed with ashes along with a huge number of bones from the same fauna as that at Little Howe. On a hearth of burnt stones one of the relics was a piecemeal bone comb held together by iron pins and having a central dot surrounded by small concentric rings. It stood comparison with examples from Hampshire and other English counties, bringing to my mind the recent theory that there had been Angles resident on Orkney in Pictish times. Situated close by where caravan park it doesn't look much to me, being more impressed by a mound in the elongated field triangle on the hillside. Wouldn't be the first time the slight repositioning of a boundary has put a site on a different side to that on maps, as happened to me with Brodgar's Fairy Well.

A short road section goes across the hill, and here is the junction with the road to Head of Hoxa - carry on to this and eventually arrive at the Hoxa Tapestry gallery and then a fine reastaurant with glorious views (when the mists clear), beyond which a lovely nature walk takes you around the wartime camps and emplacements. Another time. Arriving back onto the main road the pillbox you can make out in the land between the shores has been moved from its original location, so possibly an alternative explanation for what I see in the field corner. East of the toilet block are several hut bases and foundations from a small camp used by REME. As we came by the farmer was dropping hay fodder on some for his sheep. Very well behaved they were, staying in the field even after he left the gate open to get more fodder. Not enough time to tread the Sand o'Wright, so off up to Roeberry. A couple of interesting buildings on the farm.The ends facing us had wide ornate multicolour stone block archways, one open the other blocked off. Patrick and I spotted a very small belfry on the roadside building and thought this to be an old church, no, no, schoolhouse. Then at the other end spotted a big external staircase. So most likely a storehouse, with that 'belfry' housing a pulley system for hauling goods up to the next floor. The first O.S. shows something peculiar, apparently where Roeberry Cottage is now. I like the cottage gateway, framed by softly curving walls. And way above Roeberry House are the sad remains of The Wart tomb.
Now we were up the other side of Hoxa Hill overlooking the Oyce of Quindry. I wonder if it is a coincidence that tidal inlets attract Ba' games, but of course they provide (or occur in) big level patches of land e.g. Oyce of Quindry, the Ouse and the surviving Ba and the Ba ' Green of Orquil (probably the Ouse at Finstown and the head of Hamnavoe for Stromness too). Anyhoo, on the uphill side of the road a Nissen hut sits in complete isolation. Incredibly this is all that's left of Hillside Camp (ND49SW 33 in the region of ND435923) - some 500 men from the Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery stayed at the accomodation camp. At the head of the Oyce of Quindry a road goes by the shore to Ronaldsvoe. Near the junction with the main road I spot another Nissen Hut, though even through binoculars this resembled a small cottage.with a chimney at each end. My next thought was that a wartime building had been turned into a dwelling, but further observation showed the structure had been covered in concrete like many an engine house. So I suspect it provided power for Hillside Camp. However, no matter how far I drill down on PASTMAP absolutely nothing is shown there, never mind a site pin !! Most curious.

Of a sudden coming down the hill into the Hope headed for School Road, to the east is Stonepark. In the 19thC several cists were found in a mound at Stonepark [?ND444932 by a field bend], and in another fired stone and earth mound on the same farm of Blanster (near the farm buildings) a single cist held some ashes under an upturned urn. A little further down, somewhere near the playing fields on the other side of the road had been yet another small military camp, this one for the RASC with only a few hut foundations left to mark the endeavour. But the next thing to grab my attention is what I think is Angle Cottage, an L-shaped two-storey mansion house with crow-stepped gables. Though with a date of 1893 visible on a photo I take it that it has been re-modelled if so. When I wrote up this walk for the Blide Blether because I had mixed up the roads I had applied the name to Bellevue !! In 1866 at a spot 20~30 yards from the shore (that had been under cultivation for almost a century) men digging for office house foundations near the Established Church manse uncovered a skeleton 2-3' down, prior to which 5-6' of mound material had been already removed. I'm not sure whether this was U.P Church property as this is much further back, and all I can find on RCAHMS are several records for warehouses [offices is Orcadian for farm labourer accomodation at this time]. Another mystery. Patrick, Star and I got back in the minibus and returned to the Blide in order to be there at the alloted time, but the two humans agreed it would be a fine walk to extend into a full day by adding in a tour of the Head of Hoxa military sites.

Petrie's excavations in local papers :- June 21st & 28th1871 "The Orkney Herald", June 24th & July 1st 1871 "The Orcadian".
Swartiquoy, ND49SW 11 at ND431940 - lost site of tumulus with cist and urn. Enclosure almost definitely that down as Mayfield, ND49SW 91 at ND 43150 94238. The modern Mayfield farm's former name Swartiquioy, with East Swartiquoy near Kirmareth.
Howe of Hoxa. ND49SW 1 at ND4252693962, mentions.
Little Howe of Hoxa, ND49SW 2 at ND4243 9403
St Colm's Chapel / Kirkiebrae, ND49SW 8 at ND42229369. My own suspicions lie with the stuff in the field corner at ND42189371, rather than ouside, even so.
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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.

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