After a brisk sail from Sanday, we arrived in Kirkwall at 15:30. The St. Magnus cathedral was the first to rise from the horizon and I finally thought that this town would take me back to medieval times. Coming from Jarlshof we thought that we had seen it all when it came to the Neolithic remains.
The magnificent Kirkwall Cathedral
Kirkwall reminded me of the Norwegian town of Haugesund, and the streets were full of cruise tourists. We found the laundry easy, but while trying to enter the cathedral we were interrupted by a wedding. Since the museum was still open, we decided to take an overview of the situation. The small museum was literally overflowed with existing objects, but seemed to be in desperate need of new facilities and a curator. What I learned was that I had not nearly finished with the Neolithic culture, and that we would have to hire a car and make some plans for next day. The girls finally had had enough of traditional dinners and made enchiladas and salad for dinner.
Next day we first investigated the Churchill Barriers trying to imagine the drama of the Second World War at Scapa flow. The Italian Chapel proved to be a touching, yet a strange example of war memorial, leaving us with a lot of questions about how life really was for the Italian prisoners of war having to build the barriers for several years under primitive conditions and discipline – since the site strangely enough didn’t say anything about this at all.
The museum at Skara Brae on the other hand had it all! The 4000-year-old houses are impressive in their own right, but the museum managed to take us closer to the people that lived there and even filled in the picture from Jarlshof at Shetland. While leaving we were wondering what made them give up their village after 600 years.
Standing stones, Ring of Brogdar
The ring of Brodgar came next, and there we got two skilled guides for free, sending us in the right directions of the new dig at Ness of Brodgar. The site is being dug right now, and they expect to be able to test their hypotheses that the ring was used for ceremonial purposes supported by a temple and temporary dwellings for people representing different communities at the Orkney Islands. They may even have carved their own sections of the ditch around the ring and brought their own standing stone to represent them at the site.
The Dig in progress at Ness of Brogdar
Exhausted by all the impressions of the day we ended it with Thomas Boeff Bourgignon. The girls then went crazy in Tesco’s dessert department and brought home all sorts of plastic wrapping that John doesn’t agree with, but we all ended up eating something sweet dipped in warm chocolate.
Sailing out of Kirkwall I must acknowledge that I would have to come back to study both the Norse culture and the transition to Scottish role.
Selma waves the Orkney flag!