Orkney & Shetland 2019 - Day 12

Orkney - Rousay Island


Close to Mainland and easily seen from Kirkwall is the island of Rousay. It is accesssible by a small ro-ro ferry from the village of Tingwall, a few miles north along the coast from Kirkwall. Rousay is well known for the many Neolithic sites, mostly burial cairns but also the Mid Howe Broch. The weather forecast for Monday was promising so we decided to head for Rousay.

A day on Rousay

After breakfast at the Ayre Hotel we walked outside and were immediately hit by cold white stuff blowing everywhere - SNOW! But it only lasted a few minutes and soon the skies cleared for the rest of the day. There are no cafes or shops on Rousay so we stopped at Tesco's for food and fruit for lunch then headed north. The ferry was scheduled to leave Tingwall at 1040 but it is a small ferry and only takes 8-10 cars. We arrived in plenty of time and booked our tickets. Shortly the ferry arrived, dropped its front gangway and on we drove - backwards. The trip over to the island takes 30 minutes. We headed left to tour the island clockwise. First stop was the small Blackhammer Cairn.

Waiting for the Rousay ferry to arrive.
Yes we all backed on...
Farm on mainland
Farm on Rousay
Departing the ferry, we turned left at the war memorail to drive clockwise around the island.

Blackhammer Cairn

Close beside the road and high above the beach lies Blackhammer Cairn. It is s small cairn with stalls for the burials. Today it has a solid concrete roof covered in earth. There is a glass panel in one side to expose the oroginal stone wall and a heavy sliding door that allows access to the cairn, but presumaby keeps local animals and birds out.

The cairn
Inside the cairn
Locals on the road.

Mid Howe Cairn

On the northwest coast of Rousay lies the Midhowe Cairn and beside it the Broch. The cairn is one of the best preserved in Scotland. It is a burial site with a central corridor lined with stone "stalls". It is a large structure and today is preserved under a massive roof structure with central walkway high in the structure.

Looking SW across Eynhallow Sound
Looking west across Eynhallow Island to Mainland.
The cairn is under the barn-like structure
The cairn under the barn roof.
The central aisle of the chambered cairn.
Detail of the roof structure
The cairn is close to the water.

Midhowe Broch

A few metres away lies the Iron-Age circular stone structure or broch. It too is well preserved but it has a massive concrete retaining wall on the seaward side to stop the broch being lost to the sea.

Midhowe Broch as approached from the Cairn.
The entrance to the broch.
The curved inner wall with some modern reconstruction
Some of the external structures.
Gate to keep the sheep out....
with stone-age closing mechanism.
The extensive retaining wall can be seen on the left.
Climbing back up the hill to the car
The air rescue ambulance arrived near the ferry terminal as we waited.

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Last updated: 20/06/2019