Saturday, 19 August 2017

RSPB hide, Cottascarth, Orkney

Our first hide was the Eddie Balfour hen harrier hide at Cottascarth. I've never been to such a high class hide - beautifully appointed and constructed - more like a house than a hide! As the name implied- a harrier jumped up fro in front of the hide - too close to photo! Most spectacular for me was the mural -fantastic art work...


The Orkney Museum, Kirkwall.

Housed in a grade A listed building, this delightful and free museum, tells the story of the islands from the stone age to the present day. Many of the key artefacts we have read about, from sites we have visited, are on display. Well worth a visit.

A selection of finds - the balls are the ones from Skara Brae; thought to be of some ritual significance
 and the claws are white-tailed sea eagles from tomb of the eagles. 

                          It was really interesting to see the sketches of the artist in residence, Karen Willis, at the Ness of Brodgar too.

Sails in St Magnus

The sails in St Magnus really added to the atmosphere in the cathedral and they had a good tale to tell.

St Magnus cathedral, Orkney

St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall was well worth a visit as it is a fine example of a Romano - Gothic architecture. It is built from local red and yellow sandstone took about 300 years to build, the foundations starting in 1137. It was dedicated to Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney. He shared the earldom with his cousin, Haakon Paulsson, but jealousy and greed culminated in Magnus being martyred on the island of Egilsay.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Stromness and the stones!

A glorious evening so a quick run round via Stromness and a re-visit of Brodgar and Stenness - this time in bright sunshine!

Stromness - I loved the architecture here and would love to sit and sketch 

Wilhelmina Barns- Graham sketches at the Pier Arts Centre 

Stenness in the sun.

Ring of Brodgar. 

Sandwick Fish beds, Yesnaby

Walking north from the car park you come to a broch ....and then Ramna geo and the fish beds. These are basically a turned over pile of mudstones but there are still obvious fossil bits and bobs. One piece we saw looked exactly like the piece that was in the Fossil and Heritage Centre on Burray that was labelled - this is what you need to look for - the blue colouration is due to weathering.

..and then there were lots of possible spines and scales - wish we'd had longer at this site!

Stromatolites at Yesnaby.

The geology at Yesnaby is superb.  Just by the carpark there are some excellent horse-tooth stromatolites (fossilised remains of blue-green algae for the mud flats of Lake Orcadie - Devonian) that show the yearly growth rings, just like trees. These are 400 million years old - and should be left for others to enjoy - sadly there was some evidence of bits being removed.

As you walk along the coast there are plenty of examples of fossilised ripples and cracks in the sediments of Lake Orcadie.

...and some very pretty patterns on which I am planning to do a tapestry weaving.

Yesnaby coastal walk

The carpark is at the WW2 anti aircraft station on the top of the most spectacular cliffs. First we walked south along the coast - spectacular cliffs, geos and stacks. The most spectacular stac is known as 'Yesnaby castle' and is often used as a practice climb prior to attempting the Old Man of Hoy. I've reduced the brightness on the photos quite a lot which shows you just how bright it was! Other highlights included the Primula Scotica (previous post) and the geology (next post).

'The castle'

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Primula Scotica at Yesnaby

Day 7 and a glorious day! So off to Yesnaby.

Primula Scotica

Yesnaby is home to the rare Primula Scotica - above  - the night before set off for Orkney it was suggested that I continue my felt bal project by making a Primula Scotica ball.....just what you want to be I was relieved it was out! 

...and it wasn't so windy the ball got blown off the cliff either! 

Broch of Gurness field sketches

This site is so large that rather than try to sketch it all and not do it justice, I decided to sketch the details.

The Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness was built as a planned settlement some time before 200BC. A circular area of nearly 50m in diameter was mapped out. Ditches were dug around the outer edges of the circle and ramparts were built with the spoil. The plan seems not to have been completed immediately, but within a fairly short time a broch was built, off centre within the inner ring of ditches defending the site.

Externally the broch was 20m in diameter and may have reached a height of 10m. Internally it was equipped with stone walls or dividers and a deep well. Around it was built a village of small stone houses, each with a yard and a storage shed. Over time, further modifications followed. The west side of the broch collapsed and had to be rebuilt, and other changes were made around the causeway bridging the ditches.

By about AD100 the population of the area had declined and the tower seems to have collapsed again. The inhabitants largely abandoned the site, leaving just one family who set up home amid the rubble in what has become known as the Shamrock House, because of the four rooms that lead off the central area. During the Pictish period in the AD500s-AD600s, this was also abandoned.

The Earl's Palace, Birsay.

This was a really dramatic ruin with copious windows, stairs and hearths.

The Brough of Birsay

Up to the Brough of Birsay and across the causeway at low tide. A glorious day; blue skies and crystal clear water.

 The site itself was excellent - I must say that Historic Scotland do good interpretation on their sites!

For over five hundred years this site was an important settlement for two different cultures, the Picts and the Norse, before being abandoned for more easily accessible sites. As it was never redeveloped, large parts of those settlements are visible on the ground. The solitary symbol stone found on the Brough o' Birsay, is probably the best-known piece of Pictish art found in Orkney.Thought to date from the eighth century AD, it paints a vivid and intriguing picture of the Pictish nobility who lived in the area.Originally over six feet tall, the Birsay stone was found in fragments during the 1935 excavation. The replica is now found within the graveyard, at the head of a triple grave, this is nothing more than "artistic licence" - the original stone was found in an area outside the kirkyard wall and is unlikely to have had anything to do with the graveyard. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Skara Brae...

Day 6 dawned and off to Skara Brae ..we got there for 9.30 when the site opens - something I could not recommend more strongly as the coaches soon start arriving! We had the site to ourselves! It is an amazing place and stunning buildings.

Fishermen's huts, Marwick Head

Walk from the carpark at Marwick Head, but in the opposite direction and you'll find these fishermen's huts ...well worth a short walk! ...and a sketch.

Great Yellow Bumblebees

Lovely to see so many of these rare bumble bees on the Thistles at Marwick Head and very lucky to be able to photograph them in relatively still conditions...and to be able to do a field sketch at the top of the cliffs.