A side trip to the Stone Age: the Orkney Islands

Orkney Islands greeted us with a mist so thick you could hardly see the side of the road.  Luckily, the mist cleared for these few photos. The Viking heritage is still a very strong feature, and thus the Orkney Islands were a fitting last stop on this Viking history tour.  The guide assured us that the Orkney Islands were geographically closer to Norway than to Edinburgh, and that both Orkney and Shetland Islands treasured their Viking/Norwegian connections. According to Wikipedia, most of the residents of these islands carry Viking DNA, and the Vikings had initially considered the Islands a part of Norway.  That nice, logical thinking came to an abrupt end when the King of Norway (in 1468, after 800 years of being part of Norway) pledged the islands as partial dowry of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III of Scotland.   The marriage never occurred, and the islands have recently tried unsuccessfully to secede from Scotland. 

Also very dominant was the history of the area in WWII.  6000 sailors from the British Navy were stationed in the Orkney’s during the war; the fear was that Germany would attempt to construct an airbase there. 

Bob was so excited about his visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Skara Brae, in the Orkney Islands that he wrote about it, and gave permission to share.  For more comprehensive information, two websites might give the basics: Skara Brae and the Guardian description.  Here, is Bob’s excited report:

We first drove past 4? standing Stones and then a Solitary stone.  We also drove by ~ 13 remaining standing Stones.  There had been perhaps 20 plus Stones that attracted Tourists so that the owner tried to blow them all up but was stopped after a few were destroyed.  Then the real attraction appeared.

These are the Standing Stones of Stennis in Orkney, Scotland  Originally perhaps 63 stones and today 27 stones are standing.  There are also several burial mounds here and nearby we saw.  One mound has the light reach into the inner chamber on the day of the Winter Solstice, like the the mound in Ireland. Vikings broke into this chamber after a raid and left the best example of Viking Runes graffiti  Our guide said that the Runes suggest Ingrid must have been a very busy girl.  I took many pictures.

Our last stop was Skara Brae, a well preserved Neolithic village located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, Orkney Scotland.  Our guide said the ‘bay’ had been a freshwater ‘?lake’ that would have been their water supply until the Atlantic Ocean broke through the land barrier.

Our guide said perhaps a 100 people at a time lived here from about 3400 to 2600 BC in 10 houses.  Skara Brae is Europe’s most complete Neolithic village, a World Heritage site buried under the sand for millennia, an 1850 storm uncovered this small village.  It is currently believed that stronger winds covered the village and surrounding areas with sand several thousand years ago.  They would have had to leave.

A fascinating look at how people lived so very long ago.  More than 5000 years ago.  A HIGHLIGHT of the trip for me.

The subtext in this visit is Bob’s unadulterated joy at being able to travel on excursions.  He has a nasty cold, and will probably give it to me and others (the ship’s cruise director has just added a warning about the nasty cold traveling the ship; I think he means Bob) but keeping him isolated would be impossible.  For me, all of this history is MUCH less exciting, and the upcoming stops in Copenhagen and Stockholm where the featured tourist attractions are museums will encourage me to pursue the pleasures of the ship and its retreats with increased vigor.

Just to keep with tradition, here is the Oceania in the harbor at Kirkwell, Orkney Islands:

The Oceania in busy, industrialized Kirkwell, Orkney Islands.

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Betty Warner

Married female, mother of two, grandmother of five. Living in a senior living community, where dinner, house maintenance, and continuing care are part of the contract. Residents in this community are actively engaged in our lifestyle here; I currently help produce Zoom programs, and help edit our webpage. Physically "healthy for your age" despite shortness of breath, two knee replacements, a cardiac murmur, various skin issues and an incipient back problem.

2 thoughts on “A side trip to the Stone Age: the Orkney Islands”

  1. You’ll love Copenhagen and Stockholm . Wonderful cities, great mix of history and modernism, organized, easy to get around and filled with treasures (museums architecture.)


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