Orkney & Shetland 2019 - Day 11

Orkney - Italian Chapel, Maeshowe Cairn & Ring of Brodgar


Sunday morning started overcast with a few cold showers but it soon cleared to a mainly fine day. After breakfast we headed north across the Churchill barriers to the Italian Chapel. From there we drove across the island to Mull Head where there is a walk around the headland. From thre we headed into Kirkwall and on to Maeshowe Cairn. Visits to this cairn must be pre-booked, so we booked the 1pm time. This gave us time to visit the nearby standing stones. After Maeshowe we visited the large standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar, then back to Kirkwall to find the Ayre Hotel. .

Italian Chapel

The Italian Chapel was built by Italian prisoners of war in 1941-1944 whilst they were building the Churchill Barriers.It was built from whatever material the prisoners could salvage including scraps of wood, paper and bully beef tins. The inside is cleverly painted to give the appearance of the large beams and carved walls typical of large and ornate Italian churches. The original Italian artist returned in 1960 to undetake restoration work.

The Italian Chapel in the distance
Nice view, shame about the camper...
The front of the chapel
The entrance way - A.D.1944
Inside the chapel showing the Nissan Hut origins.
The door.
A ceiling decoration - paint not plaster.
Painted features that resemble plaster relief mouldings.
The altar.
Candle holder made from bully-beef tins.
The St George statue that demonstrated the artist's abilities.
The barriers built by the Italians.

Mull Head

Mull Head is a rocky headland on the east coast of Mainland, Orkney. It is a wild place, noted for its bird life, a broch and a deep narrow stream that empties into the sea through a tunnel known as "The Gloup". There is a well-formed walking path around the headland and a range of wildlife. While crossing a rocky section I caught sight of movement, aimed the camera in that direction and magaged to get some photos of... a weasel!

Mull Head carpark.
Visitor Centre in an old barn, but nicely laid out inside.
You are here...
"The Gloup" a stream has cut into a rock fracture. Note tunnel exit.
Coastal rocks
Seabirds swimming.
Steps cut into the stone take you up to the Iron-Age Broch of Deerness. The safety chain is modern.
The Coastguard sails past.
Farm dominated by a large wild turbine
Back to the visitor's centre

Stones of Stenness

Standing a few metres above sea level on a narrow isthmus of sand stand 5 large stones, the remains of a large ring of sanding stones. We had a quick look before heading back to the car, it was a windy site and extrememly cold.

The St George statue that demonstrated the artist's abilities.
The St George statue that demonstrated the artist's abilities.

Mid Howe Cairn

Close to the Stones lies Midhowe Cairn, another well preserved burial cairn. Access is by pre-booked tour only. The Visitor Centre has been moved from close by the cairn to about 1km away for safety reasons. Locals enjoy speeding along that stretch of road, apparently cars have been recording doing 126 miles per hour or nearly 200 kph! So we booked for the 1pm tour then sat in the car enjoying a nice hot cup of tea. At 1pm we joined others waiting for the small bus that takes visitors to the cairn. The cairn is noted not so much for the burials but for the Viking party that broke into the cairn in 1153 to escape a snowstorm. They left lots of grafitti on the walls that give an insight to the thinking of the time.

The cairn as seen from the road.
A bus load of visitors braving the cold.
The cairn with the door visible.
Through the gate and wait at the door...
No photos allowed inside, so the cairn as we departed.

Ring of Brodgar

Close to the Stones of Stenness and Midhowe Cairn lies an exceptionally well preserved stone circle, the Ring of Brodgar. There is a car park across the road and a nice boardwalk to the site. An impressive stone circle, similar to the Callanish Standing Stones on Lewis.

The boardwalk from carpark to stones.
There are some large stones.
The cairn with the door visible.
Adjacent is another burial cairn.
A cartoon character?
The outer circular ditch.
Another bus load of people praving the cold winds.

Kirkwall and the Ayre Hotel

After a day of braving the cold, we headed for our new hotel on the harbourfront in Kirkwall - the Ayre Hotel. The reviews of this hotel were generally good and the price reasonable so we booked here for 3 nights. Overall the hotel was a pleasant place to stay, but was far below the facilities, service and food that we had experienced at the Sands Hotel the previous 2 nights. The Ayre Hotel had a nice bar, but it was dominated by locals who played loud music while shouting and yelling over the pool table. On top of that the bar had run out of local beers. The restaurant was trying hard with a good menu but the food and service did not match up. The wine list was cheap and disappointing. our room was fine, but each day we were left without towels and had to ask Reception for more. And finally, the wi-fi did not work...

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Last updated: 20/06/2019