Posted by: lindsaygoes | June 19, 2010

Ancient stuff in Orkney

Ring of Brodgar

So after exploring Edinburgh, I’ve started my 10 day Haggis Tour of Scotland, on a ‘Wild and Sexy’ Bus. Well, that’s what it says on the side! Once again, it’s mainly composed of Aussie’s!

So we headed off from Edinburgh and got into the countryside and highlands pretty quickly. Such gorgeous scenery! From Edinburgh our driver attempted to amuse us with some pretty bad jokes until we arrived at Dunkeld Cathedral where myself and another girl completely missed the gate to the grounds and only realised once we reached the end of the fence where we couldn’t find an entrance, and then turned around to discover no one was following us. So my sense of direction is as good as ever! Inside the grounds and the cathedral was really nice, with a semi-ruined nave and right inside is ‘The Wolf of Badenoch’, the tomb of a murderous, raping scoundrel who’s family had paid lots of money to get him buried in a church. Apparently if males touch the tomb they get seven years bad luck. If female’s touch it they instantly become pregnant. Probably a myth, but no one was taking any chances.

Our next stop was ‘The Hermitage’ where we had a short walk through some lovely woods (some of the tallest trees in Scotland) and saw a very pretty waterfall and summer house as well as some swimming dogs (who proceeded to come and shake themselves on us!). We continued our drive through the stunning scenery of the Cairngorm mountains onto Kingussie where we had lunch and then visited the Ruthven Barracks, some very picturesque ruins with a bonus view of Highland Cattle (hairy coos) and even a little bit of sunshine. Next stop was Loch Mortlich, a lovely lake with a sandy beach, a view of snowy mountains, swimmers (why oh why!), ducklings that attacked my shoes and some teenage boys learning to surf who kept us amused with their cries of ‘Oh God! It’s freezing!’ and ‘Aaaah! Me nads!’ as they fell into the water.

Our last sightseeing spot of the day was the Culloden Battlefield, the last battlefield site in Britain where we learnt a bit more Scottish History and then it was on to our rest stop for the evening, Inverness, apparently the Minger Capital of Scotland. I guess I’ll have to visit more places in Scotland before that’s proven, but there were a few to be honest.

Had an early start so we could get to the Orkney Islands. On the way we stopped at Duncansby’s Stacks, some gorgeous cliff formations where we saw loads of seabirds, including some puffins. I got a photo of one, although it was in the distance so hopefully I won’t forget and delete the random photo of a cliff with a tiny dot in the middle. Then we briefly stopped at John O’Groat’s, mainland Britain’s most northerly point. It was a short stop. We then caught the ferry over to the Orkney islands. A very picturesque trip with views of the island, and to be honest, some blue in the sky, but it was frikking windy. They don’t tell you that about Orkney! Once we arrived in the islands we visited the Tomb of the Eagles, a tomb over 5000 years old with some amazing neolithic artefacts (and some skulls!). Entry into the tomb was via a small passageway which you either crawled through – or pulled yourself along on a skateboard. Yee hah! That night we hit the pubs of Stromness, getting dinner at one and then I had some Irn-Bru at another. Surprisingly high in caffeine, but luckily we had some very comfortable beds.

The following day we saw the sights of Orkney. Our first stop was Skara Brae, a prehistoric village, again from about 5000 years ago. Amazingly preserved for something older than the pyramids and again some fantastic artefacts. Then we stopped at the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle which was fantastic, and we did have a few giggles when some of the boys in the group took their shirts off for photos. Not sure if they were brave or stupid in that weather! Then onto the Standing Stones of Stenness, more stones, but more in a group than a circle and they were very tall! Next it was to Maeshowe, another neolithic tomb with a bonus of Viking Graffiti, some examples of which are ‘I am a viking writing up high’, ‘This was written by the best scribe in the world’ and ‘I have a big axe’. Although I’m not sure what you’d use it for in Orkney because there are no trees (too windy!). It was amazing how far the sun came into the tomb when the lights were turned out, I think on the winter solstice when the tomb is aligned with the sun it would be spectacular! After lunch we went to Earl Robert’s Palace in Birsay, a bit of an older ruin, but still amazing and Yesnaby cliffs which were stunning and no mist so fantastic views! Then it was a delicious dinner of local Haddock and then back to the hostel for inappropriate group conversations.
Today we visited Gloup Cave, the name of which is apparently Orkadian for a part of the anatomy and the Italian Church, which had amazing trompe-l’œil paintings, giving a wonderful illusion of bricks and three dimensional carvings. Then it was back on the ferry (where we stayed inside because it was cold) and onto the mainland of Scotland. Did lots of driving through some amazing Scottish highland scenery, which was so empty of human development but full of stunning moors, mountains, lochs and beaches. We took photos of sheep on a beach and went to Smoo cave which was enormous, and once again gorgeous! Then it was past Carbisdale Castle, where we were meant to be staying (except it was booked out!) and back to Inverness. All in all, a wonderful day. I wish the photos did it justice!

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