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Skara Brae, Orkney (i)

After settling in at Stromness for the night, the neolithic village of Skara Brae, on the shores of Skaill Bay (or Bay o’ Skaill,) was the first place we visited on Orkney. Ever since I heard about it Skara Brae was somewhere I always wanted to visit so I was delighted to be able to.

It was mobbed with people though, only to be expected I suppose.

Early houses:-

Skara Brae Early Houses 1

Skara Brae, Early Houses 2

Passage to a house entrance:-

House Entrance, Skara Brae, Orkney

An excavated house, Skara Brae Visitor Centre in left background, modern day Skaill House in right background:-

Neolithic House at Skara Brae,Orkney

Neolithic house with stone dresser:-

Neolithic House with Stone Dresser, Skara Brae, Orkney

Neolithic house entrance:-

House Entrance, Skara Brae

A passage between houses:-

Passage Between Houses, Skara Brae, Orkney

Birsay War Memorial

From Marwick Head we travelled on up the west coast of mainland Orkney (though the road is not actually right by the sea) heading for Birsay which lies towards the northwestern tip.

Before we got there I spotted a War Memorial in what turned out to be Birsay Cemetery.

Birsay War Memorial

The inscription reads, “In memory of those natives of Birsay who died for us and truth in the nation’s service in the war 1914-19.”

The lower plaque towards the base reads, “Also those who died in the Second World War,” including Edith Carson, NAAFI.

Birsay War Memorial WW2 inscription

The other sides contain plaques for 1916:-

Birsay War Memorial (1916 names)

1917:-

Birsay War Memorial (1917 names)

and 1918:-

Birsay War Memorial (1918 names)

Two graves in the cemetery commemorate Great War deaths.

George Robertson, CEF, killed in action Oct 1916, aged 35:-

Memorial Stone at Birsay

L/Cpl William A D Flett, 5th Seaforth Highlanders, 51st Division, killed in action Cambrai, France, 21/3/1916, aged 21 years:-

Birsay Commemoration Stone

Marwick Head, Orkney

The cliffs at Marwick Head, the westernmost point of mainland Orkney, are stunning – at least on a sunny day.

The sea was a fantastic blue colour:-

Marwick Head, Orkney

Another cliff:-

Cliff and Sea at Marwick Head, Orkney

The southernmost headland had a standing stone on it. Seabirds circling:-

More Cliff at Marwick Head, Orkney

View South from Marwick Head, Orkney. Hoy in distance:-

View South from Marwick Head, Orkney

Looking north from the vantage point above. Marwick Head, Orkney, and Kitchener Memorial, standing stone in right foreground. The island off to the left is the Brough of Birsay:-

Marwick Head, Orkney, and Kitchener Memorial

Kitchener Memorial, Marwick Head, Orkney

We were motoring more or less up the west coast of mainland Orkney after visiting Skara Brae and Skaill House (of which more later) when I saw an imposing tower on a hill top overlooking the sea. Then I spotted a brown (site of interest) signpost saying “Kitchener Memorial” pointing off the road towards it. I immediately turned onto the one-track road indicated.

Kitchener made his name at the Battle of Omdurman – machine guns against spears; not an equal contest – during the punitive expedition against the Mahdi after his followers (Dad’s Army‘s “fuzzy-wuzzies”) killed General Gordon at Khartoum. He later took over the conduct of the South African War (the Second Boer War) instituting the measures that made sure the Boers could not live off the land, by taking their supporters/suppliers into the original concentration camps, before becoming head of the army and featuring on the famous Great War recruiting poster.

I knew Kitchener had been drowned at sea when the ship carrying him on a mission to Russia, HMS Hampshire, hit a mine recently laid by a German submarine but hadn’t realised it had been so close to Orkney. I also hadn’t known the memorial was there so this was a serendipitous discovery.

We managed to squeeze into a space at the very small car park and contemplated the long walk up to the memorial. I discovered later that the memorial lies on Marwick Head, the westernmost point of mainland Orkney. This Vickers pattern 31b Recoil Mk 2 gun salvaged from the deck of HMS Hampshire lay at the beginning of the path:-

Deck Gun from HMS Hampshire

Memorial from path at top of cliff:-

Kitchener Memorial, Orkney From Path

Memorial close:-

Kitchener Memorial

Kitchener Memorial Plaque:-

Kitchener Memorial Inscription

Much more recently a memorial wall to those who died on HMS Hampshire has been erected on the site. This shows its proximity to the Kitchener Memorial:-

HMS Hampshire Memorial Wall

Unfortunately the memorialised names do not stand out well in this photo:-

HMS Hampshire Memorial Wall

The HMS Hampshire memorial wall also commemorates the HM Drifter Laurel Crown lost off Marwick Head in June 1916:-

HMS Hampshire + HMS Laurel Crown Memorial

The Ring of Brodgar

“The Ring of Brodgar is the finest known truly circular late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone ring and a later expression of the spirit which gave rise to Maeshowe, Stenness and Skara Brae.”

Earlier this year a BBC TV series called Britain’s Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney fronted by Neil Oliver argued convincingly that Orkney was an extremely important cultural centre in neolithic times and that the construction of stone circles originated in Orkney, spreading south from there – eventually to produce Stonehenge.

Unfortunately the path directly round the outside of the Ring was undergoing maintenance when we visited so it was not showing its best appearance. And as you can see we were not the only visitors:-

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, From Path 1

I did try to get a photo without other people in it:-

Ring of Brodgar From Path 2

Ring of Brodgar from perimeter:-

Ring of Brodgar From Perimeter

You’re absolutely tripping over ancient man-made structures in the Stenness area. This mound, by the shores of the Loch of Stenness and not far from the Ring (from where this photo was taken) is called Salt Knowe. The hills in the background are on Hoy:-

Salt Knowe from Ring of Brodgar

Ring from perimeter path, Loch of Harray in the background:-

Ring of Brodgar

Single stone, with man to show scale, part of Loch of Harray behind. You can easily see wear to the grass around the stone, emphasising the need for maintenance:-

Ring of Brodgar, Single Stone

Looking Towards Ness of Brodgar and Maeshowe from Ring of Brodgar. Loch of Harray to left of Ness of Brodgar, Loch of Stenness to right, Maeshowe just to left of middle of photo:-

Looking Towards Ness of Brodgar and Maeshowe

Orkney Ferries

We made the crossing to Orkney from Gills Bay in Caithness via the Pentland Ferries’ catamaran the Pentalina. It skelped along at a fair pace:-

Pentalina

Landfall was at St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay, the third largest settlement in Orkney:

St Margaret's Hope,  South Ronaldsay, Orkney

Closer view of the town:-

St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay Closer View

This is the Northlink Ferries’ ship Hamnavoe in Hoy Sound on its way from Stromness to Scrabster:-

Hamnavoe in Hoy Sound

This video (click on picture to get to my flickr to play it) shows the Hamnavoe steaming through Hoy sound with Hoy in background. Unfortunately I zoomed in and as a result the focus went awry:-

Hamnavoe in Hoy Sound

Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney (i)

Panorama from road:-

Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney

Entrance and Cross of Sacrifice from road:-

Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney

Graves (WW2):-

Graves at Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney

More WW2 graves:-

Graves at Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney

Johannes Thill. Despite the fact more German sailors and one soldier are buried elsewhere in the cemetery this grave stands in splendid isolation well away from all the others. It can be seen in the background to my photo of the HMS Vanguard Memorial (previous post):-

Johannes Thill, Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy

A German Soldier. The other Germans in the cemetery were all sailors:-

A German Soldier, Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy

A Norwegian Seaman (Norsk Sjømann) called Ivar Jacobsen, 1941:-

A Norwegian Sailor (Norsk Sjømann)

HMS Vanguard Memorial

One hundred years ago today, on 9th July, 1917, just before midnight, HMS Vanguard, a St Vincent class dreadnought, suddenly blew up while at anchor in Scapa Flow, Orkney. 843 of the 845 men on board died.

This memorial to the ship and those who died in the explosion lies in the Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness on the island of Hoy, Orkney, which we visited on our recent visit there.

HMS Vanguard Memorial, Lyness, Hoy

Stromness

Stromness (the name is derived from the Norse Straumsnes [headland protruding into the tidal stream]) is Orkney’s second biggest town but that doesn’t mean it’s big. It has just under 2,200 residents.

It has a brilliant Art Gallery called the Pier Arts Centre with several works by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Stanley Cursiter among others. Well worth a visit – and it’s free.

Stromness Museum does have an entry charge but the ticket gives you entry for a week. It is also interesting with exhibits covering Stromness’s sailing hostory and from the Grand Scuttle of 1919 but also many examples of stuffed animals etc that may nowadays be frowned upon.

Here’s a view I took of North Stromness from the hills above:-

North Stromness

In this one most of the town is hidden under the brow of the hill but part of the harbour can be seen with Scapa Flow in the background beyond:-

Stromness from North-east

Both in the previous photo and the one below of Stromness from the south the Northlink Ferries ship ferry Hamnavoe can be seen docked at the terminal. (The picture on the link is no longer accurate. The ferry company has a newer livery now.) Quite often when we walked down into the town along by the harbour the Hamnavoe would be there. Hamnavoe is an old name for Stromness, meaning peaceful harbour.

Stromness from South

Looking south from Stromness, Scapa Flow in left distance:-

Looking South from Stromness

The High Street and those leading off it are very narrow. High Street:-

High Street, Stromness

This one is quite cheekily named Khyber Pass:-

Khyber Pass, Stromness

More Orkney

We had hired a cottage in (well, up above) Stromness for a week.

This was the view northwards(-ish.) Stitch of two pictures:-

View From Cottage, Stromness

The cottage complex. Ours was one of the middle ones. it was very well appointed. Other people came and went through the week:-

Holiday Cottage in Stromness

View south from cottage:-

View South From Cottage

Orkney is quite far north and so the nights never really get dark in summer. The second evening we were there (Sunday 4th June 2017) I took this one of the western sky very late on:-

Evening Sky, Stromness, Orkney

This was just after midnight the next night, so early morning of Tuesday 6th June, 2017. Looking north:-

Midnight Sky, Stromness, Orkney

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