HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 10 – the National Wallace Monument

Day 10.  The last day of our 10 day Compass Buster Tour 😢 But before the tears, there was some more exploring to be had!

We drove away from Oban early in the morning. Unfortunately as we got into Oban in the late evening, we didn’t get to explore it. And because we left early in the morning, we never got the chance to see Oban properly. We will have to come back to Oban for a proper visit and perhaps to take a trip out to the islands!

As we headed east across Scotland, the mist and rain surrounded us and made for a moody, mysterious atmosphere.

Our first stop was Doune Castle.

Does this castle look familiar?

Monty Python fans? Game of Thrones fans? Outlander fans?

The various rooms and grounds of Doune Castle were featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This iconic castle also served as Winterfell in the Game of Thrones TV series and as Castle Leoch in the Outlander series.

We had but a brief stop here – a chance to take some photographs, wander around the grounds a little and to kick a football (soccer ball) around. Although we didn’t this time, you can go inside for a visit – tour the impressive great hall, visit the kitchen where many dinners and banquets would have been prepared, peek inside the living quarters of the Duke and Duchess and enjoy the views from the battlements.

Doune Castle is currently in the care of Historic Scotland.  Information on prices and planning your visit can be found here.

~~~~~

Next up was a stop at the National Wallace Monument in Stirling. This monument commemorates the life of Sir William Wallace, who was instrumental in leading the fight for Scottish independence in the late 1200’s. (You may also know him from the movie Braveheart.)

Our tour bus stopped in the car park and visitor centre. As admission to the National Wallace Monument was not included in our tour fees, this was an optional visit. We were given the choice to hang out at the visitor centre, souvenir shop and cafe or to head up to the monument for a visit. We decided, since we were here, that we would pay it a visit and learn more about Sir William Wallace. If you are interested in visiting, information on admission prices and opening hours can be found here.

After getting our tickets, we headed up to the monument. There was a wee walk between the visitor centre and the actual monument. But it was a nice walk through the cool and refreshing wooded area of Abbey Craig. There is a minibus service that cycles between the visitor centre and the monument for those who are unable to climb the Abbey Craig.

The National Wallace Monument peeking out from the trees!

Here we are – at the National Wallace Monument. We’ll try not to spoil this for you – in case you are planning to visit yourself!

The National Wallace Monument was erected in 1869. This site was chosen because of its proximity to the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. At the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the Scots led by William Wallace, out-maneuvered and defeated the English – even though they were vastly outnumbered by the English. Although Wallace was eventually betrayed, found guilty of treason and executed brutally, the fight for Scottish independence continued with Robert the Bruce.

The various levels of the National Wallace Monument provides an insight into William Wallace’s life, his cause and the historical events that took place. There was lots of informative details on all of the displays in the Halls. There were also engaging films and reenactments. It was a great learning experience and gave us good insight into Scottish history and the fight for independence.

Inside the Hall of Heroes, you will find the Wallace Sword. It is said that this sword is sometimes called the Freedom’s Sword.

In addition to learning about William Wallace, we also learned about Robert the Bruce – who continued fighting for Scotland’s independence after Wallace was executed. Robert the Bruce, who has inspired many legends, was eventually crowned King of Scots in 1306, although the fight for independence did not end there.

To top off our visit, we headed up to the Crown – on top of the National Wallace Monument. From here, you can get an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding area, from Ben Lomond to the Pentland Hills.

Although it was a cloudy, misty and rainy day (and visibility was poor), the view from up here was still amazing.

From way up here, there was still learning to be had! Here, we learned about the Battle of Stirling Bridge and how the Scots defeated the English.

What I found really cool was trying to compare the current landscape with what it would have looked like during the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

Can you spot where the the battle site and the original battle bridge might be?

Soon it was time to walk back down to our tour bus and head off to our next stop. Stay tuned for the last post in our Compass Buster series!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Advertisements

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 9 – Glen Coe and Oban

After our trip to Hogwarts, it was unfortunately time to head back to our tour bus. 😢

We were told that Glen Coe or Glencoe is usually a stop for the last day. But we would be squeezing it into Day 9 of our Compass Buster Tour.

We didn’t actually go inside the Glencoe Visitor Centre but instead continued to the infamous Weeping Glen.

What happened in Glen Coe is known as an atrocious massacre of the MacDonalds – the Massacre of Glencoe.

A very brief history:

Before January 1st of 1692, all clan chiefs were to swear an Oath of Allegiance to King William of Orange. Due to a number of circumstances, the MacDonald chief was delayed in swearing the oath but his late oath had been sworn. Unfortunately, the damage had been done already. To make an example of those who did not follow orders, the MacDonalds were to be killed. Robert Campbell was to carry out this crime, along with his men. They arrived in Glen Coe and asked for shelter. Although the Campbells and MacDonalds did not get on well, the MacDonalds honoured the code of Highland Hospitality and provided them with food and shelter for 12 days. The next day, as a blizzard swept through the glen, the Campbell guests set about their task of killing all of the MacDonalds. Those who were not killed fled into the blizzard, where many succumbed to the frigid conditions. It seemed like some of the Campbell men did try to warn their hosts of their impending danger and some allegedly even broke their swords so they would not be able to kill. But when morning came, 38 MacDonalds had been killed, including the chief.

Even though the atrocious and callous massacre took place over 300 years ago, many still feel very strongly about it. It is said that there is still a sign at a Glencoe Inn that says “No Campbells.”

Glencoe certainly is a beautiful and scenic location – popular with outdoor enthusiasts. But you can imagine how incredibly difficult it would have been to try to escape the massacre in blizzard conditions through this terrain.

Many film fans also visit Glencoe to see the backdrop used in James Bond’s Skyfall and the Harry Potter films. We will have to research these locations and check them out on our next visit!

As the afternoon faded into dusk, our tour bus took a scenic, coastal route from Glencoe to our final destination for today. Along the way, we were able to admire more gorgeous views.

Here is a beautiful photograph of the iconic Castle Stalker – having been featured in numerous tourism videos, photographs and postcards! We didn’t have the chance to visit on this trip but if we were to return to the west coast of Scotland, this would definitely be on the list to see! This unique castle sits on an island and access is only via boat. (I did read that you could access the island on foot during low tide, but with great difficulties…) Castle Stalker is currently owned by the Stewart Allward family and they do offer boat trips to the island and a tour of their family home several months of the year. I think this would be a really interesting visit!

We finally rolled into our home for the night – Oban. Unfortunately as we squeezed in a visit to Glencoe on day 9 instead of day 10, we arrived pretty late into the town. By this time, most of the city had already shut down for the evening. We were told that there were some nice jewelry and little, local craft shops. But that will have to wait for our next visit. We also wished we had more time to explore the village of Oban – like McCaig’s Tower.

Can you spot McCaig’s Tower, up above Oban town centre?

We dropped off our things at our hostel – Oban Backpackers Plus and went in search of some dinner. As usual, being as indecisive as we were… it took us a while to decide what to eat. At least, we had the chance to wander down to the harbour to catch this iconic view of Oban in the beautiful evening light. At the harbour, we saw various posters of day trips to the neighbouring islands of Tiree, Mull, Iona and Staffa (where we could visit Fingal’s cave!) We definitely would like to return to Oban and take some day trips out to this islands!

At first, we wanted to try something more unique and local to the area but after wandering around, we decided to just go with a Wetherspoon pub – the Corryvreckan, which was recommended by the tour guide. It was quite busy that night, so our group separated to grab tables and get a bite to eat. There was great variety in the menu here. There was even enough vegetarian choices for myself and another vegetarian in our little group! We order a bunch of dishes to share and were quite impressed with the food – given the “pub” setting! Once refueled, we were ready for our next activity – a ceilidh!

We headed to Skipinnish Ceilidh House to dance the night away! Entrance for us was included in our Compass Buster tour and it included two drink tickets each. This place may look like just a club but… there was traditional music and ceilidh dancing to be had first!

Of course, many of us had never done any ceilidh dancing before but that wasn’t a problem at all! The band who was playing that night (we recognized a couple of the band members from the actual Skipinnish band!) talked us through all the steps – from the front/back/side steps to the make-an-arch-while-another-couple-runs-through-it! It was SO MUCH FUN! High energy, lots of laughter and definitely a memorable experience – especially dancing with Sergio, our tour bus driver, who had the best expressions!  If you want to do something a bit different whilst you are in Oban, we would highly recommend spending an evening here at Skipinnish Ceilidh House. Sure, it may be more tourist-oriented but the music is free and the ceilidh dancing is traditional – and FUN!

After the ceilidh dancing was over, the dance floor cleared and the band changed to a DJ. The night was not over yet – there was more dancing to come! Our 10 and 5 day tour groups danced and sang the night away – including our very own rendition of 500 Miles… as taught to us by Andy!

As the night drew to a close, we headed back to our hostel for a bit of rest before the last and final day of this tour!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 8 – Hiking the Old Man of Storr

After enjoying our lunch in Portree, we were off to explore more of Skye on Day 8 of our Compass Buster tour!

First up was a stop at the village of Sligachan – a good spot for viewing and exploring the Cuillins.

This is River Sligachan. Legend has it that if you dip your face into the waters of the Sligachan, you will be granted eternal beauty. The important point is that you cannot just splash the water onto your face, you must get on your hands and feet to dip your face into the magical waters.

We scrambled down the rocky riverbank to have a look at this legendary river.

Even though we didn’t dip our faces into the waters, we did get some lovely photographs of the picturesque Sligachan bridge from this vantage point.

After some of our group attained “eternal beauty”, we piled back onto the bus headed for a wee hike!

Our destination? The Old Man of Storr.

Before heading out, we were told that we only had a limited amount of time here and that we had better hike fast if we wanted to make it to the top and back in time. We had been so used to taking our time, enjoying the scenery and exploring with Andy and Greg, that this was a surprise to us! We were also used to having Andy and Greg leading our group on these walks and sharing tidbits of what we were seeing, the legends, myths and history with us. But this would not be the case today as we were sent off on our own for the walk with a stern warning to come back on time!

So with that warning, we ran out of the bus and started up the trail.

Even just a couple minutes up the trail, we were afforded this beautiful view!

We did have quite a ways to go! 😥

The weather was forever changing – with a mix of blue skies and then dark, angry looking clouds rolling in! We were just glad it didn’t rain – as we heard that it can get quite muddy and slippery in the rain.

Looks a bit different in a different light!

Still a long ways to go!

The dark clouds created some lovely shadows and lent a moody atmosphere to these photos – completely different from the ones bathed in sunshine and blue skies! We promise all of these photographs were taken on the same day!

Even way up here, we made an animal friend!

Here we are – getting closer to the Old Man of Storr.

There are many myths and legends surrounding the Old Man of Storr. Some say this is actually the thumb and fingers of a giant who died here. Another legend tells of a man and his wife who were running away from some giants. As they ran, they looked back at the giants and were instantly turned to stone. Yet another tale tells of a man who died of a broken heart following the death of his wife. This man had a friend in a Brownie – a mythical creature. And when the Brownie heard of his friend’s death, he carved out the man and his beloved wife here as a tribute. I’m sure if we asked all the locals of the surrounding area, they would each have their own version of the tale!

We made it!

Taking it a bit further, I scrambled up the rocks to get closer…

At this time, we had to make a decision… We wanted to keep going to what we were told was a spot to view the Old Man of Storr from another vantage point, but fearing that we wouldn’t make it back to the bus in time, we decided to play it safe and head back down. We didn’t want to get left behind! 😓

After seeing the photographs that our group mates took – looking across at the Old Man of Storr, I think we will have to come back to Skye so we can complete the hike!

~~~~~

Once we were all back on the bus, we headed off to our home for the night – Saucy Mary’s Lodge.

Ah Saucy Mary… Legend has it that a Norwegian princess named Mary lived around here, near present-day Castle Moil, with her husband who was a clan chief. She charged a toll to all ships for the right to pass through the narrow channel between the Mainland and Skye. She would then thank them for paying the toll by flashing the ships as they passed through – thus earning her the name of Saucy Mary.

What a gorgeous view of the sunset and Skye Bridge from the hostel – just breathtaking!

We reheated a quick microwave dinner and relaxed in the kitchen with some cider. Great way to chill and recap the day.

We headed down to the bar for some drinks after dinner. There was music, chats, jokes and we even met a guy who had apparently been wandering the wilds of Skye before being invited to stay at the hostel. We were so busy chatting and laughing away that we didn’t even realize when the bar closed. We only noticed when staff started putting the stools up and sweeping the floors… oops!

We were going to head off for some beauty rest (seeing as we didn’t dip our faces into the Sligachan, so didn’t gain eternal beauty 🤣), but our OG 10 Day squad was going to follow some of the guides/hostel staff to another bar and convinced us to go. Unfortunately, or fortunately, our OG group got left behind at the hostel – so we found a little lounge area and continued chatting, swapping stories and reliving memories from earlier in the trip. What a great night with these guys! (Even though we were confronted with the infamous beach incident again – Guys, honest we didn’t mean anything by our seating arrangements that day!) We were still smiling to ourselves as we wandered up to get some sleep.

Next up? Day 9 and a special day that we had been looking forward to since we booked the trip. This is the day we head to Hogwarts!!! (I knew I would get that Hogwarts letter one day!)

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 7 – Chasing Waterfalls and Bridges at Invermoriston

After a bit of castle spotting, it was time for another wee walk! Yes, Day 7 of our Compass Buster tour was not over just yet! This day would be full of little stops to break up our 6+ hours bus journey from Orkney to Fort Augustus. We were grateful for each one of those stops – which allowed us to get out of the bus, stretch our legs and see more of beautiful Scotland!

This wee walk took us to Invermoriston, a village a short distance from our home for tonight. We hopped out of our wee yellow bus and went exploring!

River Moriston and the new bridge

One highlight in the area is the Invermoriston Falls. And so we were off  to chase waterfalls 😉

As we walked through the forest towards the falls, we came upon the Summer House. This little stone building is perched on a rocky outcropping above the River Moriston.

From its windows, you can see the rushing water of the falls and two famous bridges. This summer house is a great spot to photograph the falls from downriver.

Can you spot the arches of the two bridges in the background?

After seeing the falls from the Summer House, we walked further into the woods. This walk, with the trees, the mist and the smell of nature, reminded us of home – our Pacific temperate rainforest 🍃🍁

There were huge trees that were completely uprooted!

And tree roots that are partly exposed and beautifully twisted by Mother Nature.

After walking through the forest, we headed off to see the famous bridge – the old Telford bridge crossing River Moriston.

Thomas Telford was a famed Scottish engineer. Throughout his career, he designed and built a vast number of bridges and roads, various canals and 32 Telford Churches . I first heard Telford’s name and the term “Telford Church” watching an episode of The Restoration Man. The episode was about an art professor who bought a listed Telford Parliamentary Church on Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. He and his wife transformed the dilapidated church into a beautiful, modern home and arts studio. Although we did not get a chance to visit Berneray on this trip, we did get to see and cross this Telford Bridge in person!

Built in 1813, this stone bridge has started to show signs of wear and tear. And in 1933, a new bridge was constructed to provide another crossing over River Moriston.

Standing on the new bridge, you can look back down the falls at the Summer House perched neatly on its rocky platform.

After visiting the falls, the bridges, the trees and sufficiently stretching our feet, we headed back to our bus.

Next up? Monster spotting! 🐉

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 7 – Urquhart Castle 

As we headed south towards our final destination for Day 7 of our Compass Buster tour, we stopped by for a quick look at the ruins of a famous Scottish castle – Urquhart Castle.

With the dark clouds and the low mist, the forests around here looked hauntingly beautiful that day.

Urquhart Castle is located on a promontory looking out over Loch Ness. So it makes for a nice trip to visit Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness and Invermoriston (more on those later!) all in one go!

Our first glimpse at the world famous Loch Ness!

Although we didn’t get the chance to go inside and explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle on this trip, we did manage to peer through some greenery for a glimpse.

Urquhart Castle has a rich history, from being a Pictish site to the struggle between the English and Scots. It is said that St. Columba may have set foot here and even encountered a monster in the loch! (Nessie?! 🐉 Is that you?)

Urquhart Castle has had a tumultuous past – being passed back and forth between English and Scottish control and also being raided by feuding Clans. Eventually the castle passed onto Clan Grant. They then constructed Grant Tower, which still stands as the tallest part of the castle and reportedly has walls that are up to 3 meters thick! Unfortunately the Grants’ hold on Urquhart Castle would not last. With the Jacobite risings, government forces were stationed at the castle and when they departed, they blew it up so that it could no longer be used by the Jacobites.

Urquhart Castle is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. You can visit and wander around the ruins of this famous castle. Admission and visiting information can be found here.

Just reading some reviews online, people report it can get very busy in the carpark – especially during peak season with all the tourists and tour buses. This is something to keep in mind when you are planning your visit to one of the most visited castles in Scotland. There are Loch Ness sightseeing cruises that include admission to Urquhart Castle – so that could be one way to get around the parking problem and spot Nessie while you’re at it!

As I promised last week, I want to share with you one of my favourite photographs from this trip.

And here it is:

I love the way the shrubbery frames Urquhart Castle. It provides such a nice frame – almost reminding me of fairy tales and Briar Rose, for some particular reason. The view looking out onto Loch Ness provides a moody and forlorn atmosphere, which suited this particular shot.

I can imagine how different and spectacular Urquhart Castle would look in the sun, with Loch Ness reflecting the mountains, the sun and the blue skies! Perhaps next time we are here, we’ll pop into the castle for a visit and hopefully get to see the castle ruins in the beautiful sunshine!

Stay tuned for a new post next week as Day 7 continues!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 7 – Learning about the Highlands

After a great time learning about the history of Orkney and exploring its wild and rugged landscape, it was time to return to mainland Scotland for Day 7 of our Compass Buster tour.

The night before we were to return, there was a bit of a storm brewing! We could hear the howling wind as we were cooking dinner and having a night-in with our group mates at the Orcades Hostel. Even as we left the next morning, the wind was still blowing and the rain kept falling. The wind and the rain doesn’t really bother us – being from Raincouver and all! But we were a bit nervous about the ferry ride back to the mainland.

This ferry ride was completely different from our ride to the Orkney islands. That time, we were bathed in sunshine on the upper deck. This time, the ferry tossed from side to side and splashed up and down as we crossed back to mainland Scotland. Ioana and I decided to hide out inside. I will admit – I did feel a bit queasy 🤢 There may or may not have been stories of people throwing up on the upper deck… A great piece of advice we got from our group mates… don’t stand downwind from someone who might throw up! It most probably won’t end well for you!

At last, we arrived back to mainland Scotland and back on solid ground.

Our first mini-stop was only a couple of minutes from the ferry terminal. Unfortunately this stop is “mini” because we could not actually access it!

Pretty clear we can’t go in, eh?

This is The Castle of Mey – purchased by the Queen Mother in 1952. Prior to that, it was known as Barrogill Castle and was the seat of the Earls of Caithness. This castle, the most northerly on the British mainland, was restored and renovated by the Queen Mother.  The castle also includes several gardens, which the Queen Mother took much interest in selecting the plants and tending to them. You can even purchase fresh veggies grown from the gardens here!

Although we did not go inside for a visit this time, it is possible to visit the Castle, garden and grounds. More information on admission and visiting can be found here. I think it would be interesting to visit the Castle of Mey. It is said that much of the interiors is still set out as the Queen Mother had it, along with furniture, bathroom fittings, photographs and portraits that she chose herself.

Alas, we would have to resign ourselves to a faraway photograph on this trip!

After reveling in our little Royal visit, we hopped back onto the bus for a short ride to Dunnet Bay. Even though it was still windy and spitting rain, I found it beautiful and calming – even with the rolling waves. Perhaps it was because we had this beach all to ourselves.

You could wander on and on…

From Dunnet Bay, you can even get a glimpse of Dunnet Head – the most Northerly point on the British mainland.

After a bit of a reprieve from the storm, it picked up again, just as we arrived at our next destination – Dunbeath Harbour.

Check out this spectacular and wild coastal scene. The white castle perched up on those cliffs, with the storm brewing all around it and the waves crashing underneath.

What a wild and rugged picture. I’m actually glad we saw this on a stormy day – it kinda fits the picture that I have in my head of Scotland. But I imagine it would look quite different and beautiful on a clear, sunny day.

This building is Dunbeath Castle. As it is a private home, it is not open to the public. So I will have to just imagine the stunning views from the windows of this castle – stormy or not!

Heading out of Dunbeath, we continued south towards our next stop. This next stop was a sobering history lesson.

We soon arrived at Badbea Clearance Village. As it was pretty miserable outside, Andy did give us the option to stay on the bus. But most of us wanted to learn more about the Highland Clearances, so we followed Andy out into rain.

Walking through this area with the rain and wind around us set a solemn tone for us as we listened to Andy explain the history and factors behind the Highland Clearances.

The Highland Clearances occurred mostly during the 18th and 19th centuries. Entire Highland families were evicted from their homes and farms, some forcibly and some with their homes and villages burnt to the ground. Instead of being resettled to green pastures where they could continue farming, these families were given small plots of land, which were often not well suited to farming.

One such Clearance Village is the Badbea Clearance Village. Located on the rugged coast and on a steep slope, residents had to clear the land for farming and build their own homes with whatever they could find.

The village is no longer inhabited and has fallen into ruin. But even just looking at the land and the ruins, it was easy to see that this is not very good farmland. Villagers tried to make the best of the situation – some turned to fishing and its associated industries, while others took on spinning and carding wool. But ultimately, the village’s last resident left in 1911. All that is left here are the ruins of their homes, which nature has already taken over again.

The monument here, erected by a descendent of a Badbea villager, commemorates the people of Badbea.

The Highland Clearances had other far reaching and permanent effects. The culture of the Highlands was forever changed. The old, traditional Clan system, their way of living and their settlements were no more. Wearing of Highland Dress, including tartan and kilts, was banned with the Dress Act 1746. Even speaking Scottish Gaelic could be met with punishments. It also led to the emigration of Scots to all corners of the globe – for example Nova Scotia or New Scotland. Even though the Dress Act 1746 was repealed and there are now efforts to revive and promote Scottish Gaelic, all of this has had a huge impact on the cultural fabric of present day Scotland.

After a tragic and reflective history lesson, we headed off to our next stop still deep in thought.

Half an hour later, Andy pulled the bus over and our group took a stroll down this pretty laneway to our next stop.

Can you spot our destination yet?

What a grand entrance into Dunrobin Castle!

We didn’t get the chance to go inside but we admired its beautiful facade, architecture and…

… its beautiful clock tower!

We also noticed these little features on the walls – can you spot the cannons?

Before heading off to our next destination, we stopped for a quick afternoon snack 😋 We could never resist dessert! This time it was a beautiful and sparkly blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake. Although this cake was really yummy, the cheesecake we got at Beauly was still the most delicious!

First time having a SPARKLY cheesecake!

Stay tuned for our next post – it’s going to feature another one of my favourite photographs from this entire Scotland trip!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 6 – Orcadian Standing Stones

After visiting the prehistoric village of Skara Brae to start off Day 6 of our Compass Buster tour, we were off to see some more standing stones. (Another chance to get through to Jamie Fraser?!) We had already seen the famous Callanish Standing Stones while we were on the Isle of Lewis, this time we would be visiting some Orcadian standing stones.

Our next stop was the Ring of Brodgar, which was a short drive from Skara Brae.

Even walking up to the site, we could see how expansive and impressive it is! This stone circle has a diameter of 104m, which makes it one of the largest stone circles in the UK.

This stone circle and henge is estimated to have been built between 2500BC and 2000BC. The exact age is not known. And we still do not know exactly why this was built. It seems likely this site, along with the Standing Stones of Stenness – located a short distance away, played a ceremonial role for the peoples living here in the Neolithic times.

What a moody, wild and beautiful landscape.

It is thought that there were originally 60 stones in this circle. Currently, 36 stones remain – some standing, some prone. These standing stones are large – some stones are up to 4.7m tall! It is really incredible to think how the Neolithic peoples would have planned, quarried the rock, transported them and constructed this stone circle…

Expansive panorama of part of the Ring.

Walking around the stone circle, we came upon this:

It appears lightning had shattered this standing stone, causing part of it to lie flat on the ground.

This particular lightning strike was recorded in 1980 – relatively modern. It is reasonable to think that lightning strikes over the past centuries would have also caused the other standing stones to have shattered – resulting in broken and fallen stones.


Besides these standing stones, there are also several mounds in the surrounding area. Similarly, we do not yet know exactly why these mounds were built. Perhaps they had a ceremonial use? Or perhaps some other purpose entirely!

A knowe – or mound, surrounding the Ring of Brodgar.

Although we may never find out the real reason why the Ring of Brodgar was built, I’m tempted to believe this tale – The Dancing Giants of Brodgar. This tale tells of a group of giants, who were so entranced by the music of their fiddler, that they formed a circle and danced the night away upon the Ness of Brodgar. Losing track of the hours and the night, the giants danced and danced until the morning sun rose from the horizon. When the sunlight touched the still dancing giants, it turned them into stone – thus giving rise to the Ring of Brodgar.


If you are planning a visit to the Ring of Brodgar, this website has directions and information to help you plan your trip. We found it really peaceful, walking amongst these megaliths. And there was a great sense of history seeped into the stones and the atmosphere here.

This landscape and incredible megaliths are pretty impressionable – I don’t think either of us will be forgetting this visit!

~~~~~

After visiting the Ring of Brodgar, our next stop was just a few minutes away – The Standing Stones of Stenness. This is also part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

The Standing Stones of Stenness is estimated to date back to 3100BC – similar to Skara Brae. This makes it one of the earliest stone circles in the UK. Experts think there were supposed to be 12 stones constructed in this circle – although 1-2 may not have actually been raised.  This stone circle is smaller than the Ring of Brodgar, with a diameter of 44m, but the standing stones here are much larger – true megaliths! Some stones are reported to be 6m tall!

Even as recent as in the 1700’s – 1800’s, the Standing Stones of Stenness and several nearby Standing Stones (particularly the Odin Stone) were shrouded in traditional myths and legends. People of all ages would have visited these stones – sealing pacts, declaring oaths and performing various ceremonies within this circle of megaliths.

Currently, there are only 4 stones standing here at this site. Unfortunately over the years, some of the Standing Stones were destroyed. In particular, one farmer (stressed to be a non-native Orcadian) set out to destroy these Stones. Perhaps he was sick of having to weave around the Stones with his plough, or perhaps he was tired of people walking through his fields to visit the Stones – particularly the Odin Stone. Whatever the reasons, he took down the Odin Stone, toppled one of the Standing Stones and destroyed another. He was eventually stopped before further damage could be inflicted on the remaining Standing Stones.

In early 1900’s, the Standing Stones of Stenness was placed into state care and in 1999, this site became part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are some fascinating links between the various Heart of Neolithic Orkney sites – both in their proposed functions, geographically and also in their alignments with each other. One such connection that I found fascinating is that you can view Maeshowe perfectly aligned in between the two dolmen stones near the entrance to the Standing Stones of Stenness circle. I think this is way too perfect to be coincidence!

If you’re interested in visiting these stones to see for yourself the fascinating Stones of Stenness and to admire the work of Neolithic builders and engineers, you can find more directions and information here.

~~~~~

We would definitely recommend visiting these sites if you are in the area. It is really awe inspiring to gaze at something that was erected thousands of years ago and without using any of our modern day technologies. Makes you wonder how wise these Neolithic people must have been! It is definitely possible to visit the various sites of The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site all in one trip – like we did on this tour.  And if you are traveling independently, you can spend as much as you would like in each location, more time at one and less at another. We were fortunate enough to have visited 3 of the 4 major sites of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site on this trip. All that we missed was Maeshowe, which is accessible only via a guided tour – guess we’ll have to come back to Orkney another time for this!

After our very interesting history lesson, we were off for a wee walk to finish Day 6. Stay tuned next week for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!