Brochs and BroughsAugust 26, 2017 in the United Kingdom
Through our very helpful B and B hosts we had managed to secure another hire vehicle - a lumbering Citroen Relay van which would do us until our late night ship to Shetland Islands the next day. Prior to pick up however we had a morning to fill and so decided to explore the Broch of Gurness. Brochs are unique to Scotland. There are over 500 of these towers throughout northern and western Scotland and the islands.
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age settlement, one of 6 on the mainland, which faces 5 on the shores of the nearby island of Rousay. Between them lies the shores of Eynhallow Sound, an important navigational route and food source. Before excavation in 1929, Gurness was simply a large, grass-covered mound. Indeed there are yet-to-be-discovered settlements lurking amongst the mounds on Orkney - Orcadians have a bit of a thing about mounds.
We found that the best way to really get a feel for this site was to walk down what would have been the entrance way (this is more effectively captured by video than photograph). Partially eroded by the sea, the layout of the village is still very evident and if you close you're eyes it's almost possible to imagine the sights, sounds and smells of this productive village.
Further north lay the Brough of Birsay. Both Brough and Birsay derive from the Norse word borg, meaning fortified place and it's easy to see how this fortified island village would have been an effective barrier to invasion. Accessible only for a couple of hours either side of low tide, this island village shows evidence of Pictish, Norse and medieval occupation. Picts (meaning Painted People) lived in northern Scotland between 300 and 800 AD and were probably descendants of the Iron Age population. They left no written records so little is known about them. We found it difficult to differentiate between buildings from the different periods, which were sometimes built on top of earlier occupations. Either that or perhaps we'd saturation point on the historic front. A long walk to a spectacular lighthouse overlooking an equally spectacular coast line revived our enthusiasm. Sufficient at least for us to head out for a night of traditional Orcadian music at a local pub.Read more