The Standing Stones of Stenness, The Rings of Brodgar, The Broch of Gurness, Bay of Skaill and Saint Magnus Cathedral

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February 4th 2013
Published: February 4th 2013
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Today was a very, very windy day--gusts up to 60 miles an hour. Sometimes there was hail. Little pellets of hail that when hit exposed flesh at 60 MPH, stung like frozen bird-shot. Still, it was a great day.

The places we visited today have names that belong in a Game of Thrones novel:

"A cold wind blew in from the North; so cold that the water in The Bay of Skaill foamed into a one hundred-foot Frost Giant that pounded the Broch of Gurness with his icy club--and the timeless Stones of Stenness almost toppled against the wind's wraith."

The Standing Stones of Stenness are neolithic. Sheep were grazing between the stones when Charles and I arrived but they rushed to greet us when we entered the gate. When they discovered that we had nothing to offer they left. No sheep greeted us at the Rings of Brodgar; we were welcomed only by frozen bird-shot.

When we arrived at Skara Brae it was closed due to the weather. Skara Brae sits beside the Bay of Skaill. The bay was angry when we arrived. Huge waves battered against distant cliffs. These monstrous waves engulfed the cliffs; swallowed them whole and then spit them out only to repeat the feeding a few moments later. What must our neolithic ancestors though of such a scene 5000 years ago? Is it any wonder that gods were invented when such terrific natural forces exist? I consider myself a modern and enlightened person who would never sacrifice an animal to appease an angry god. I'm not so sure a near-by sheep so it that way. When a particularly nasty wave leaped up and struck my camera lens, this sheep slowly backed up just in case I went neolithic on him.

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age settlement that stands on the northern point of Aikerness. It was probably built by Picts. The wind really picked up as we walked through the settlement. I was almost blown into a small water-filled hole that was lined with stone. It is amazing to think that this whole still serves its purpose thousands of years after it was constructed. I assume it was built to hold water. Or was it a toilet? Then it wouldn't have been the first time that I almost fell into a toilet.

After Charles and I had soup and tea in Kirkwall we visited Saint Magnus Cathedral. Saint Magnus is Great Britain's most northerly cathedral. The original construction ended in the 12th century.

Even now hail beats against my hotel window as I write this. I am now safe from the wind and warm in the comfort of my room with a glass of Tomintoul whisky by my side. Tonight we will eat at the hotel. It would be crazy to go out into weather like this.

Additional photos below
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Saint OlafSaint Olaf
Saint Olaf

Saint Magnus Cathedral

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