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Orkney Itinerary

Brough of Deerness

EMAS Study Tour to Orkney

14 - 23 April 2020


  Tuesday, 14 April   Pick up at Baker Street

Wittering Church

Small Anglo-Saxon two-celled church of roughly coursed stone rubble with dressed long-and-short quoins.

The church contains a massive chancel arch with plain, heavy imposts.


      Barnack Church

The Anglo-Saxon parts of the church consist of the western angles of the nave and the lower two stages of the tower.

The fabric of the tower is small blocks of Barnack stone, with larger pieces of the same stone for quoins and facings.

Each of the two stages of the Anglo-Saxon tower ends above in an elaborate cornice, and there are triangular-headed north and south belfry openings with elaborately carved open-work transennae.


      Overnight at Middlesbrough


  Wednesday, 15 April   Leave Middlesbrough

Coldingham Priory

Æbbe (b. c 615) first founded a monastery at Ebchester then at what Bede refers to as Urbs Coludi (O.E. Coldingaham. The date of foundation is uncertain, but the first reference to Æbbe is in 642. The abbey at Coldingham burnt down in 679, but rebuilt. It was sacked by the Vikings in 870.

In 1098 Étgar mac Maíl Choluim confirmed possession of the lands of Coldingham by the monks of Durham, and attended the consecration of the new church to St Mary in 1100.


      Burleigh Castle

Although the heart of Burleigh Castle is the three-storey tower house, its chief delight is its remarkable corner tower. Round at the base, its rectangular top floor is corbelled out - an eye-catching piece of Jacobean architecture.

The existing stone castle was probably begun in the late 15th or early 16th centuries, though there may have been a residence here from the mid-15th century. The Balfours lost the land and castle in 1716.


      Overnight at Inverness


  Thursday, 16 April   Leave Inverness

Ferry Gill Bay to St Margaret's Hope

Orphir Earl's Bu

The Earl's Bu comprises the foundations of ancient buildings which have been identified as the remains of the early 12th-century seat of Haakon Paulsson Earl of Orkney.


      Orphir Round Church

The church was built in the late 11th, or early 12th century, and is believed to have been built by Earl Hakon. It was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and its design was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.


      Arrive Kirkwall


  Friday, 17 April   Stones of Stenness

The Stones of Stenness has been classed as a henge monument.

The stone circle was surrounded by a rock-cut ditch (four metres across and 2.3 metres deep). With an approximate diameter of 44 metres (144 feet), the ditched enclosure had a single entrance causeway on the north side, facing the Neolithic Barnhouse settlement on the shore of the Harray loch. Little remains of ditch today, although traces remain visible around the stone circle.


      Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement

The village was discovered in the winter of 1984, after a field-walking exercise undertaken by archaeologist, Colin Richards.

Agricultural activity over the centuries meant that little remained of the site, but the resulting excavations uncovered evidence of 15 small dwellings in varying stages of development.

The structures were round - perhaps with timber and turf roofs - with turf cladding surrounding the outer walls. Because there were no roofed passageways between the huts - such as those at Skara Brae - it appears that the Barnhouse dwellings were free standing and not encased in midden.

But particularly intriguing was the fact that each building appeared to have been deliberately demolished at the end of its life.


      Maes Howe

Maes Howe is thought to date from around 2700BC, and is one of the monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

Approximately 500 metres from the south-eastern shore of the Harray loch, Maes Howe is, by far, the largest and most impressive of Orkney's many chambered cairns. There are Viking Age runic inscriptions inside the chamber.


      Ring of Brodgar

Because the interior of the Ring of Brodgar has never been fully excavated, or scientifically dated, the monument's actual age remains uncertain. However, it is generally assumed to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, and was, therefore, the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness.

The stone ring was built in a true circle, almost 104 metres wide. Although it is thought to have originally contained 60 megaliths, this figure is not based on archaeological evidence.


      Skara Brae

The inhabitants of Skara Brae were makers and users of grooved ware. The houses used earth sheltering, being sunk into the ground. They were sunk into mounds of pre-existing prehistoric domestic waste known as middens. This provided the houses with a stability and also acted as insulation against Orkney's harsh winter climate. On average, each house measures 40 square metres with a large square room containing a stone hearth used for heating and cooking. Given the number of homes, it seems likely that no more than fifty people lived in Skara Brae at any given time.


  Saturday, 18 April   Ferry Tingwall to Rousay

Taversoe Tuick

Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn is one of a concentration of cairns on the Orkney island of Rousay, and one of four in our care along its south coast. Each seems to have been used for burial over a long period of time.

The cairn has a an unusual design. The main cairn has two burial chambers, one above the other – an arrangement seen at only one other Orkney tomb. Slightly downhill of the lower chamber is a third chamber.


      Blackhammer Tomb

Blackhammer is a fine example of a Neolithic chambered tomb, of a type known as a stalled cairn, with a long central chamber divided into seven compartments, or stalls. It is one of 15 chambered cairns on Rousay.


      Knowe of Yarso

Knowe of Yarso dates to between 3500 and 2500 BC, but pottery found inside the tomb suggests it remained in use until the late 2000s BC. Its roof was robbed in antiquity, but its walls still stand close to their original height, and the chamber is still entered through the original passage.

The chamber is divided into compartments by upright slabs, similar to the houses at Knap of Howar, also in Orkney.


      Skaill, Westness

Archaeologists have found what could be a Viking drinking hall during a dig in Orkney.

The site, at Skaill Farmstead in Westness, Rousay, is believed to date back to the 10th Century and may have been used by the chieftain Sigurd.

Stone walls, benches, pottery and a fragment of a Norse bone comb were found during the excavation.


      Midhowe Cairn

Measuring some 23m long internally, and 32.5m long externally, Midhowe Cairn is a vast and hugely impressive stalled cairn found on Rousay's south west shoreline. While it lies just a hundred yards or so from Midhowe Broch it dates back to around 3500BC: more than three millennia before its near neighbour.


      Midhowe Broch

Midhowe Broch is situated on a narrow promontory between two steep-sided creeks, on the north side of Eynhallow Sound. It is is part of an ancient settlement, part of which has been lost to coastal erosion. The broch got its name from the fact that it's the middle of three similar structures that lie grouped within 500 metres of each other and Howe from the Old Norse word haugr meaning mound or barrow.

The broch tower has an internal diameter of 9 metres within a wall 4.5 metres thick, which still stands to a height of over 4 metres. The broch interior is crowded with stone partitions, and there is a spring-fed water tank in the floor and a hearth with sockets which may have held a roasting spit


      Ferry Rousay to Tingwall

  Sunday, 19 April   Brough of Birsay

The earliest settlement on the Brough is thought to date from the fifth century AD, perhaps Christian missionaries. By the seventh century it was a Pictish stronghold, and by the ninth century had been taken over, and built over, by the Norse.

Most of the remains seen on the Brough today date from its final, Norse, period of use - giving buildings ranging from 800-1200AD. This means that, in some cases, different aged remains lie side-by-side, making interpretation of the site by the visitor rather difficult.


      Earl's Palace, Birsay

The palace was built in two distinct phases, the first in the 1570s and the second in the 1580s.

The first phase of work saw the construction of the great hall, the principal room of the palace, located initially in the south range and above the main door.

The second phase probably followed Robert's acquisition of the Orkney Earldom in 1581. This saw the addition of a new range, containing a great hall and chamber, built on the north side of the courtyard.


      Brough of Deerness

The Brough of Deerness is a well-preserved Viking Age settlement set atop a c. 30 m high sea stack in Orkney's east Mainland, Scotland. The summit of the stack is crowned by the ruins of a c. tenth- to twelfth-century chapel and the earthworks of approximately 30 associated buildings. The chapel was excavated in the 1970s, when it was found to have a timber phase that preceded the extant stone building, with a coin of Eadgar (AD 959-975) stratified between the two. This chapel is thus among the earliest known evidence for Viking Age Christianity in the Scandinavian North Atlantic region.


      Skaill, Deerness

A Norse settlement, including the foundations of a 12th c Viking square stone tower, has been excavated at Skaill farm by the Ministry of Works and by Birmingham University.

The existence of a Viking residence and the halls of Amundi and Thorkel at the farm has been suggested by the place-name, and by the 11th century references in the Orkneyinga Saga.


  Monday, 20 April   Ferry Tingwall to Egilsay

St Magnus Church

St, Magnus Church on Egilsay is unique in Orkney and in Scotland as a whole in that it has a highly unusual Irish style round tower. Aside from the round tower, the church has a rectangular nave and a square chancel. Today, the building is roofless and the tower has been slightly truncated, but it is otherwise complete.

Egilsay was the place where Earl Magnus Erlendsson (later St. Magnus) was killed in 1117 by an axe blow to the head from his cousin and rival. For hundreds of years the story of St. Magnus, part of the Orkneyinga saga, was considered just a legend until a skull with a large crack in it, such as it had been stricken by an axe, was found in the walls of St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.


      Hillocks of the Graand Chambered Tomb

The Hillocks of the Graand chambered cairn survives as a prominent mound at the south end of Egilsay.


      Ferry Egilsay to Wyre

      St Margaret's Chapel

St Mary's Chapel is a small twelfth-century Romanesque Chapel in the middle of the Island.


      Cubbie Roo's Castle

Cubbie Roo's Castle, built about 1150, is one of the oldest castles in Scotland and was mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga. It takes its name from Kolbein Hruga who was said to have lived there.

In King Haakon's saga, it is mentioned that after the last Norse Earl of Orkney, Earl John, was murdered in Thurso, his killers fled to Wyre. They took refuge in the castle, which was so strong that the besiegers had to thrash out a deal with them to get them out.


      Ferry Wyre to Tingwall

  Tuesday, 21 April   Kirkwall Cathedral

St Magnus Cathedral was founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald, in honour of his uncle St Magnus who was killed on the island of Egilsay in in 1117. The cathedral has fine examples of Norman architecture, attributed to English masons who may have worked on Durham Cathedral.


      Leave Kirkwall

      Ferry St Margaret's Hope to Gills Bay

      Mid Clyth Stone Rows

Hill o'Many Stanes, also known rather matter-of-factly as Mid Clyth Stone Rows. This unique arrangement of tiny stones (all less than 1m) is fascinating to see, if not as impressive as some of the megaliths in Orkney just across the sea to the north. Originally there were 250 uprights arranged in 22 rows aligned approximately north-south.


      Lothbeg Bridge Chambered Cairn

The chambered cairn is a mound of bare, boulder rubble, about 20.0m NW-SE by 18.0m and 2.0m high. The only structural feature which can now be identified is the back slab of the chamber; round the south periphery there are some earthfast slabs, which may be of a perimeter kerb. The cairn material, generally, bears signs of excavation disturbance. Immediately outside the cairn in the NW and extending for about 21.0m in a NW direction are the tumbled and overgrown walls of an enclosure of an 18th/19th century abandoned settlement, wrongly supposed by the RCAHMS to be the original bounds of the west end of the cairn.


      Arrive Inverness

  Wednesday, 22 April   Leave Inverness

Berwick Castle

The remains of a medieval castle crucial to Anglo-Scottish warfare, superseded by the most complete and breathtakingly impressive bastioned town defences in England, mainly Elizabethan but updated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Surrounding the whole historic town, their entire circuit can be walked.


      Arrive Middlesbrough

  Thursday, 23 April   Leave Middlesbrough

Roche Abbey

A Cistercian Abbey founded in the 12h century. In its heyday, it housed 50 monks and 100 lay brothers. It was suppressed in 1538, and most of the buildings dismantled, the early Gothic transepts of this Cistercian monastery still survive to their original height and are ranked in importance with the finest early Gothic architecture in Britain.

The Abbey ruins sit in a landscaped setting created by by 'Capability' Brown in the 18th Century.


      Drop at Baker Street




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