Study Tour to Orkney

14 – 23 April 2020


Tuesday, 14 April
Pick up at London Baker Street
Wittering Church

Small Anglo-Saxon two-celled church of roughly coursed stone rubble with dressed long-and-short quoins.

The church contains a massive chancel arch with plain, heavy imposts.

Barnack Church

The Anglo-Saxon parts of the church consist of the wester angles of the nave and the lower two stages of the tower.

The fabric of the tower is small blocks of Barnack stone, with larger pieces of the same stone for quoins and facings.

Each of the two stages of the Anglo-Saxon tower ends above in an elaborate cornice, and there are triangular-headed north and south belfry openings with elaborately corved open-work transennae.

Overnight at Middlesborough
Wednesday, 15 April
Leave Middlesborough
Coldingham Priory

Æbbe (born c. 615) first founded a monastery at Ebchester then at what Bede refers to as Uebs Coludi (O.E. Coldongaham). The date of the foundation is uncertain, but the first reference to Æbbe is in 642. The abbey at Coldingham burnt down in 679, but was rebuilt. It was sacked by the Vikings in 870

In 1098 Étgar mac Maíl Choluim confirmed possession of the lands of Coldingham by the monks of Durham, and attended the consecration of the new church to St Mary in 1100.

Burleigh Castle

Although the heart of Burleigh Castle is the three-storey tower house, its chief delight is its remarkable corner tower. Round at the base, its rectangular top floor is corbelled out - an eye-catching piece of Jacobean architecture.

Overnight at Inverness
Thursday, 16 April
Leave Inverness
Ferry Gill Bay to St Margaret's Hope
Orphir Earl's Bu

The Earl's Bu comprises the foundations of ancient buildings which have been identified as the remains of the early 12th-century seat of Haakon Paulsson, Earl of Orkney

Orphir Round Church

The church was built in the late 11th, or early 12th century and is believed to have been built by Earl Haakon. It was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and its design was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

Arrive Kirkwall
Friday, 17 April
Stones of Stenness

The Stones of Stenness has been classed as a henge monument

The stone circle was surrounded by a rock-cut ditch (four metres across and 2.3 metres deep) with an approximate of 44 metres (144 feet). The ditched enclosure had a single entrance causeway on the north side facing the Neolithic settlement on the shore of Harray Loch. Little remains of the ditch today, although traces remain of the ditch today, although traces remain visible around the stone circle.

Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement

The village was discovered in the winter of 1984, after a field-walking exercise undertaked by archaeologist, Colin Richards.

Agricultural activity over the centuries meant that little remained of the site, but the resulting excavations uncovered evidence of 15 small dwellings in varying stages of development

The structures were round - perhaps with timber and turf roofs - with turf cladding surrounding the outer walls. Because there were no roofed passageways between the huts - such as those at Skara Brae - it appears that the Barnhouse dwellings were free standing and not encased in midden.

But particularly intriguing was the fact that each building appeared to have been deliberately demolished at the end of its life.

Maes Howe

Maes Howe is thought to date from around 2700BC, and is one of the monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

Approximately 500 metres from the south-eastern shore of the Harray Loch, Maes Howe is, by far, the largest and most impressive of Orkney's many chambered cairns. There are Viking Age runic inscriptions inside the chamber.

Ring of Brodgar

Because the interior of the Ring of Brodgar has never been fully excavated, or scientifically dated, the monument's actual age remains uncertain. However, it is generally assumed to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, and was, therefore, the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness.

The stone ring was built in a true circle, almost 104 metres wide. Although it is thought to have originally contained 60 megaliths, this figure is not based on archaeological evidence.

Skara Brae

The inhabitants of Skara Brae were makers and users of grooved ware. The houses used earth sheltering, being sunk into the ground. They were sunk into mounds of pre-existing domestic waste known as middens. This provided the houses with stability and also acted as insulation against Orkney's harsh winter climate. On average, each house measures 40 square metres with a large square room containing a stone hearth used for heating and cooking. Given the number of homes, it seems likely that no more than fifty people lived in Skara Brae at any given time.

Saturday, 18 April
Ferry Tingwall to Rousay
Taversoe Tuick

Taversoe Tuick Chambered Cairn is one of a concentration of cairns on the Orkney island of Rousay, and is one of four in care along the south coast. Each seems to have been used for burial over a long period of time.

The cairn has an unusual design. The main cairn has two burial chambers, one above the other - an arrangement seen at only one other Orkney tomb. Slightly downhill of the lower chamber is a third chamber.

Blackhammer Tomb

Blackhammer is a fine example of a Neolithic chambered tomb, of a type known as a stalled cairn, with a long central chamber divided into seven compartments, or stalls. It is one of 15 chambered cairns on Rousay.

Knowe of Yarso

The chamber is divided into compartments by upright slabs similar to the houses at Knap of Howar, also in Orkney.

Skaill, Westness

Archaeologists have found what could be a Viking Age drinking hall during an excavation in Orkney.

The site, at Skaill Farmstead in Westness, Rousay, is believed to date back to the 10th century and may have been used by the chieftain Sigurd.

Stone walls, benches pottery and a fragment of a Norse bone comb were found during the excavation.

Midhowe Cairn

Measuring some 23m long internally, and 32.5m long externally, Midhowe Cairn is a vast and hugely impressive stalled cairn found on Rousay's south west shoreline. While it lies just a hundred metres from Midhowe Broch it dates back to c. 3500 BC, more than three millennia before its near neighbour.

Midhowe Broch

Midhowe Broch is situated on a narrow promontory between two steep-sided creeks, on the north side of Eynhallow Sound. It is part of an ancient settlement, part of which has been lost to coastal erosion. The broch got its name from the fact that is the middle of three similar structures that lie grouped within 500 metres of each other and Howe from the Old Norse word haugr meaning mound or barrow.

The broch tower has an internal diameter of 9 metres within a wall 4.5 metres thick, which still stands to a height of over 4 metres. The broch interior is crowded with stone partitions, and there is a spring-fed water tank in the floor and a hearth with sockets which may have held a roasting spit.

Ferry Rousay to Tingwall
Sunday, 19 April
Brough of Birsay

The earliest settlement on the Brough is thought to date from the fifth century AD, perhaps Christian missionaries. By the seventh century it was a Pictish stronghold, and by the ninth century it had been taken over and built over by the Norse.

Most of the remains seen on the Brough today date from its final, Norse, period of use - giving buildings ranging from 800 to 1200 AD. This means that in some cases, different aged remains lie side-by-side, making interpretation by the visitor rather difficult.

Earl's Palace, Birsay

The Palace was built in two distinct phases, the first in the 1570's and the second in the 1580's

The first phase of work saw the construction of the Great Hall, the principal room of the palace, located initially in the south range and above the main door.

The second phase probably followed Robert's acquisition of the earldom in 1581. This saw the addition of a new range, containing a Great Hall and Chamber, built on the north side of the courtyard.

Brough of Deerness

The Brough of Deerness is a well-preserved Viking Age settlement set atop a c. 30 m high sea stack in Orkney's east Mainland. The summit of the stack is crowned by the ruins of a tenth- to twelfth- century chapel and the earthworks of approximately 30 associated buildings. The chapel was excavated in the 1970s when it was found to have a timber phase that preceded the extant stone building, with a coin of Eadgar (AD 959-975) stratified between the two. The chapel is thus among the earliest known evidence for Viking Age Christianity in the Scandinavian North Atlantoic region.

Skaill, Deerness

A Norse settlement, including the foundations of a 12th c Viking Age square stone tower, was excavated at Skaill farm by the Ministry od Works and by Birmingham University.

The existence of a Viking Period residence and the halls of Amundi and Thorkel at the farm has been suggested by the place-name and by the 11th century references in the Orkneyinga Saga.

Monday, 20 April
Ferry Tingwall to Egilsay
St Magnus Church

St Magnus Church on Egilsay is unique in Orkney and in Scotland as a whole in that it has a highly unusual Irish style round tower. Aside from the round tower, the church has a rectangular nave and a square chancel. Today, the roofless and the tower has been slightly truncated, but it is otherwise complete.

Egisay was the place where Earl Magnus Erlendsson (later St Magnus) was killed in 1117 by an axe blow to the head from his cousin and rival. For hunreds of years the story of St Magnus was considered just a legend until a skull with a large crack in it, such as from an axe blow, was found in the walls of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.

Hillocks of the Graand Chambered Cairn

The Hillocks of the Graand chambered cairn survives as a prominent mound at the south end of Egilsay

Ferry Egilsay to Wyre
St Mary's Chapel
< p> St Mary's Chapel is a small twelfth-century Romanesque chapel in the middle of the island.

Cubbie Roo's Castle

Cubbie Roo's Castle, built about 1150, is one of the oldest castles in Scotland and was mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga. It takes its name from Kolbein Hruga who is described as building a fortification on the island of Wyre.

In King Haakon's Saga, it is mentioned that after the last Earl of Orkney, Early John, was murdered in Thurso, his killers fled to Wyre. They took refuge in the castle, which proved so strong that the besiegers had to come to terms with them to get them out.

Ferry Wyre to Tingwall
Tuesday, 21 April
Kirkwall Cathedral

St Magnus Cathedral was founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald, in honour of his uncle, St Magnus, who was killed on the island of Egilsay in 1117. The cathedral has fine examples of Anglo-Norman architecture, attributed to English Masons who may have worked on Durham Cathedral

Leave Kirkwall
Ferry St Margaret's Hope to Gill's Bay
Mid Clyth Stone Rows

The Hill o'Many Stanes, is also known rather matter-of-factly as Mid Clyth Stone Rows. This unique arrangement of tiny stones (all less than 1m) is fascinating to see, if not ass impressive as some of the megaliths in Orkney just across the sea to the north. Originally there were 250 stones aligned approximately north-south.

Lothbeg Bridge Chambered Cairn

The chambered cairn is a mound of bare, boulder rubble, about 20m NW-SE by 18m and 2m high. The only structural feature which can now be identified is the back slab of the chamber, round the south periphery there are some earthfast slabs, which may be part of a perimeter kerb. The cairn material, generally, bears signs of excavation disturbance.

Immediately outside the cairn in the NW and extending for about 21m in a NW direction are the tumbled and overgrown walls of an enclosure of an 18th/19th century abandoned settlement, wrongly supposed by the RCAHMS to be the original bounds of the west end of the cairn.

Overnight Inverness
Wednesday 22 April
Leave Inverness
Berwick Castle

The remains castle crucial to Anglo-Scottish warfare, superseded by the most complete and breathtakingly impressive bastioned town defences in England, mainly Elizabethan, but updated in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The defensive wall surround the whole historic town and their entire circuit can be walked.

Overnight Middlesbrough
Thursday,23 April
Roche Abbey

A Cistercian Abbey founded in the 12th century. In its heyday, it housed 50 monks and 100 lay brothers. It was suppressed in 1538, and most of the buildings dismantled.

The early Gothic transepts of this Cistercian monastery still survive to their original height and are ranked in importance with the finest early Gothic architecture in Britain.

The Abbey ruins sit in a landscaped setting created by 'Capability' Brown in the 18th century.

Arrive London Baker Street

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