St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland

This morning we explored Kirkwall, capital of Orkney with emphasis on St Magnus Cathedral which is known as the ‘Light in the North’.This was founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald, in honour of his uncle St Magnus. ¬†The Cathedral belongs to the people of Orkney and its doors are open to all.

St Magnus Cathedarl, Orkney

Next, we drove to Stromness and then on to Maes Howe.

Maeshowe is the finest chambered tomb in north-west Europe and is more than 5,000 years old.r. The site is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, along with Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness.The last three named sites we visited yesterday.

Maes Howe, Orkney, Scotland

Maes Howe appears to be an insignificant small hill on the landscape. Entrance is via a low passageway. Unfortunately, photography of the impressive internal chamber is not permitted.

Next, we drove to the Broch of Gurness on the northern coast of the island. A broch is a circular, round tower construction similar to a modern-day lighthouse. Broch architecture is unique to Scotland.The buildings were usually high status residences.The Gurness Iron Age complex is one of the most outstanding examples of a later prehistoric settlement to survive in Scotland.

Broch of Gurness, Orkney, Scotland

Next, we moved to the nearby Brough of Birsay which is located on a tidal island. Unfortunately, the state of the tide prevented us reaching the actual site but we were able to view from the cliffs opposite.

Brough of Birsay, Orkney, Scotland

The Brough site contains Pictish, Norse and medieval remains. Brooches, rings and dress pins found on the Brough of Birsay suggest that it was a Pictish power centre.

The Norse settled the island 200 years later, in the 9th century, possibly peacefully alongside the native Picts. Remnants of Norse houses, barns and even a sauna are visible. A small church and monastery were built later in the site’s development.

The Brough of Birsay concluded our touring for the day after which we returned to our lodgings in Kirkwall where our evening was interrupted by a false fire alarm.

Tomorrow, we return to mainland Scotland.

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