Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 7: Explore Orkney

Remember when I went to Scotland? And then I was blogging about it? Yeah, it's okay if you don't. It's been awhile!

You guysssss, Orkney is AMAZING! Before going on the trip, I did a little bit of research about the sites we would see on our Megaliths and Mysteries tour by Explore Orkney but was not prepared for how cool it is to see things that are thousands of years old.

We started out pretty early and met up with our tour, which was just us, one other guy, and our guide, who was a native Orcadian.

Our first stop was not far away and I readied my camera as we drove down the muddy driveway of a working farm and parked next to a fenced in area.

Rennibister Earth House

Rennibister is believed to have been built around 1000 BC, but wasn't discovered until the 1920s when a threshing machine fell through the roof. It was a neat thing to see, but I was shocked when our tour guide said that we were going to climb down into it! WHAT?! It just seemed unreal!

But we did it! And it was tiny down there! And short.

I just couldn't get over how this amazing archaeological thing was just...chillin' in the middle of a farm.

Next we drove just up the street to get a good view of the Bay of Firth where it is believed that ancient stone sculptures are. We didn't see any, but it's a great view.

And, from this spot, we got a great view of an upcoming destination, the Standing Stones of Stenness.

But first, Maeshowe! One of the coolest things I've ever seen.

They think Maeshowe was built 2800 BC, which is incredible because it is made out of large rock squares and is impressively well designed. There were two features that were most notable to me. First, to enter the tomb, one must lean down and walk along the very short entryway. (My sister had a great picture of us emerging from the tomb, but this photo kind of shows someone scooting out.)

Our guide explained that it was likely that this design was to force visitors into a kneel of respect upon entering. The other feature that is so insanely cool is that the structure is designed on a specific slope and position so that on the winter solstice each year, the light shines perfectly against the far wall on the interior.

Our guide was AWESOME and told such fun stories about Maeshowe and the people who built it and the people who later found it-The Vikings!

This is a photograph of our guide demonstrating the age of Maeshowe:

"The pyramids? Meh...Stonehenge? BOOO! And wayyyyy back here, Maeshowe."

Yes, Maeshowe is older than Stonehenge.

As you can kind of see in that photo above, there is tons of Viking graffiti on the walls inside the tomb. Our guide explained that it was ~3,000 years later when Norseman (Eric?) found the tomb and probably used it as shelter. I loved the stories of what the graffiti says because while in such a majestic and old tomb, one would expect there to be profound words carved into the walls. But, no, mostly the walls say things like, "So and so, the son of so and so was here." And "This chick is hot."

Maeshowe has the largest collection of runic inscription that survives outside of Scandinavia.

We LOVED Maeshowe:

And how do you follow up Maeshowe? Well, with this:

The Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar is a true circle of large stones with evidence of a trench around it and is believed to be from between 2500 and 2000 BC. It's not known what is in the center of the circle so, if you're a millionaire, be sure to donate to the excavation!

Following the Ring, we saw the Standing Stones of Stennes, which, like the Ring of Brodgar, is impressive and just really effing cool. These stones are actually larger than the Ring's, but there are fewer of them and they date to about 3100 BC making them one of the earliest stone circles in Britain.

Our guide told us that in more recent years (like, the 18th century), the stones seen above were used or engagements, where the couple would hold hands and walk between the stones or something. It's also interesting to note that you can see Maeshowe between those stones!

Next up: Skara Brae!

(And no, 5000 BC is not a typo.)

Skara Brae is right by the coast and is basically an entire little village underground. It's insane.

Owning the nickname "Scottish Pompei" because of it's preservation, Skara Brae is a collection of eight houses built into the dirt, most likely to protect against the winter weather.

Last for this most incredible tour was the Broch of Gurness.

We learned that whomever built this structure, made a perfectly round building...with no instruments to aid them.

The Broch is practically a baby, though, built between 200 and 100 BC.

And so concludes or tour of Orkney! Truly an amazing day. With a VERY early morning upon us, we had a good dinner of fish and chips and some brews at a bar by the water and turned in as early as we could. I was definitely sad to say goodbye to Orkney. It's a very special part of the world.

No comments: