We whisked The Mothership away to Orkney for a few days, because as you may recall she loves, “The history, Shauna, THE HISTORY!”. These islands, ten miles off the north coast of Scotland, have been inhabited for at least 8,500 years. First by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes… then by the Picts… then invaded and annexed by Norway in 875… then re-annexed to the Scottish Crown in 1472.
All that means HISTORY GALORE, with some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe. We started with the Ring of Brodgar, thought to be erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. Turns out The Mothership is a big fan of a good stone circle. If the gale force winds had not blown her back towards the car, I think she would have pottered round there all day.
By the way, here’s a map for context if you like that sort of thing. I do! Whenever someone writes about their travels I have to look it up on Google Maps so I can picture the journey. In this case, picture a very choppy ferry crossing, Mum chattering merrily with Gareth and myself a wussy shade of green.
Tangent: whenever I watch historical documentaries and they show pictures of old maps, I always think about the ye olde explorers toiling away at them. Then I wonder if the first folks that flew into space looked back down at the earth and thought, Hey shit, it looks just like the maps! And then I say this out loud to Gareth and he says, “Yeah!” and I realise I’ve expressed that same thought every time we’ve watched a documentary for the past ten years and I need to get some new material.
Anyway, back to the Ring of Brodgar. The stones have been up there for thousands of years so they weren’t ruffled by the weather, but Gareth was forced to retract hands and retreat into the hood of his jacket.
I will keep this one in case he ever needs a cover for a prog rock album.
Another day, this time with blue skies. The pile of big rocks on the left is one of the Churchill Barriers, four causeways built in the 1940s as naval defences to protect Scapa Flow, but now serve as road links.
We also went to the beautiful Italian Chapel. It was built during World War II by Italian prisoners of war, who were housed on the island while working on the construction of the Churchill Barriers. From the Wikipedia:
“The chapel was constructed from limited materials by the prisoners. Two Nissen huts were joined end-to-end. The corrugated interior was then covered with plasterboard and the altar and altar rail were constructed from concrete left over from work on the barriers. Most of the interior decoration was done by Domenico Chiocchetti, a prisoner from Moena. He painted the sanctuary end of the chapel and fellow-prisoners decorated the entire interior. They created a facade out of concrete, concealing the shape of the hut and making the building look like a church. The light holders were made out of corned beef tins. The baptismal font was made from the inside of a car exhaust covered in a layer of concrete.”
Next stop was Skara Brae, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a stone-built Neolithic settlement consisting of eight clustered houses, and was occupied from roughly 3200 – 2500 BC. Older than the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, as the little stone plaques remind you as you walk down to the site. Being a sketchy-weathered and non-touristy time of year there were no other visitors that morning, just a wind-battered guide roaming round. I nearly did a runner back to the shop for a cuppa, because I feel awkward in such situations. I always overcompensate for the lack of crowds and go, “REEEEALLYYYY that’s so INTEResting!” then buy a souvenir that I immediately regret. But this guide was brilliant and really brought it all to life.
Aside from all the history, there were walks, tea breaks and sampling of local ales.
Then back on the ferry then home again, where Neighbour Cat pounced on the unpacked suitcase.