Neolithic Remains, Picts and Vikings
Orkney was a veritable centre of Neolithic buildings, from the intriguing stone settings to a settlement like Skara Brae - a village older than the pyramids which has become one of the main tourist attractions.
Skara Brae, a Neolithic settlement on Mainland Orkney
Stone circles are very photogenic. The Ring of Brodgar may be less impressive than Stonehenge, but it's a lot more atmospheric. Especially with those dramatic clouds - though it never rained, fortunately. There's another, smaller stone setting, the one of Stenness, which I also managed to sneak in.
Ring of Brodgar, a detail shot
An then there's Maes Howe, the large cairn we are not sure what it really was; temple, burial place, meeting room....? You can only get inside on a guided tour and photographing is officially not allowed. *wink*
Maes Howe, also on the mainland
Definitely used for burial were the chambered cairns. Several fine examples can be found on the island of Rousay. Here's the largest one. I also visited a much smaller one you need a torch and a ladder to get into.
Chambered cairn on Rousay
Cairns can be found elsewhere in the Highlands, too, like the Clava Cairns near Inverness which come complete with standing stones and all. They're about 2.5 miles walk from the battlefield of Culloden.
But Neolithic remains are not the only fun thing to be found on Orkney. There are some nice Pictish brochs, too. Well, remains of brochs; they used to be much higher. Here's the Broch of Gurness.
Broch of Gurness, Mainland Orkney
They often come attached with the remains of settlements, though the latter was much smaller around the Broch of Midhowe than in case of Gurness. A lot of those places are off the roads and bus stops so I had some walking to do. :-)
Broch of Midhowe, Rousay
I was lucky again with the tide and could put a visit to the Viking settlement on Birsay into my schedule. Orkney had been in Norse possession for centuries and they left their traces behind. I've also taken a few pics of some smaller places like the round church in Orphir.
The Viking settlement on Birsay
In one case I was out of luck: since the tourist office in Inverness gave me the wrong opening times for the Pictish museum in Rosemarkie, I missed that one.
And finally, a church that dates back to a Viking martyr: St.Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.
St.Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, west front
This one is a fine example of Romanesque architecture. I especially loved the interior with its sturdy, red columns.
St.Magnus Cathedral, main nave
Luckily, Henry VIII never got that far. He left enough ruins in his wake as it is. Though they are nice camera fodder. :-)
Abbeys and Cathedrals in Northumbria
I got some abbeys and cathedrals, too; a few famous ruins among them.
The Abbey of Whitby in the mist.
Yes, there is a ruined church there - Whitby
Not the usual tourist website photos, I'm afraid, but they may be more realistic than the sunny ones. I'm sure Hild would have known a lot of that fog.
I had much better luck with the weather when I visited Rievaulx Abbey.
Rievaulx is grand. It must have been a huge and busy place once and even the ruins are still impressive. Most remains of the church, but there are some considerable traces of the other buildings as well.
Rievaulx Abbey, remains of the main nave
I spent quite some time there photographing and then went on to another church that's not a ruin: Ripon Cathedral.
Ripon Cathedral, the nave between west work and transept
There's a difference to German churches in the flat-roofed west towers, the larger crossing tower, and often the length of the nave on the side of the apse as well.
I had to wait out a funeral service for the interior shots, but I got some eventually.
Ripon Cathedral, view from side nave to the crossing
Ripon has a long and interesting history and I got more research set out for me. *sigh*
And there is lovely Lindisfarne
The Abbey of Lindisfarne
Less imposing that Rievaulx but a charming place, esp. in the sunshine. I was lucky to catch a low tide so I could get a taxi to drive me over.
Castles in Northumberland and the Scottish East Coast
I'm back and over the next days I will present the usual photo overviews. The weather wasn't bad; in fact, the rain stopped during my way up to Scarborough Castle (my first place to visit) and never came back while I was traveling around. Must have been scared of me, lol. Several days were even warm and sunny, though Orkney was a bit on the grey and windy side.
Without further ado, here are a few castles I visited with special interest of some readers in mind:
For Anerje: Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle; the keep seen from the outer gate
No wonder the Earl of Pembroke tried to coax Piers Gaveston into surrendering; laying siege to that place would not have been fun. And with the wind like the day I visited it would have been nasty and cold, too. You owe me a cookie or two for braving that wind. *grin*
The curtain wall on the town side
Look at those walls and the steep slope in front of them. I know what I talk about; I walked the blooming path all the way to the top. And there I had thought only German castles sat on hilltops and cliffs. ;-)
Scarborough Castle seen from the northern beach
I took this one a few days later on a sunny evening when the sea fog was just coming in with the tide. The atmosphere became a bit mysterious, but I didn't see a headless Piers. Or one with a head.
For Kasia: Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle, the keep with the state rooms
Alnwick (pronounced something like 'Annick') Castle is still the residence of the Dukes of Northumberland and thus some features have been altered over time. But the overall layout of the bailey is still the original one.
The barbican dates to 1440 (albeit the figures were added by one of the later duchesses). It was built by Henry 2nd Earl of Northumberland - known as Harry Hotspur - during the wars with Scotland at the time. He must be a particularly popular member of the Percy family since he got his own statue and a charming little video presentation of his life.
The inner bailey from the inside (the Norman entrance is to the right)
William the Lion may have entered the castle through this gate. No plaque or anything though, the focus lies more on the later Medieaval history of the castle and the state rooms.
Alnwick Castle is also a place where you can meet Mrs. McGonagall on occasion, and a bunch of wannabe wizards on broomsticks. Some scenes of the Harry Potter movies have been filmed there and there are Potter-y events for kids.
For Kathryn: Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle in the evening sun
I was lucky to find a castle I didn't have on my list but which fit into my schedule quite well and which turned out to be connected to Thomas of Lancaster and fell into King Edward's hands after Lancaster's execution. So you'll get your castle as well. *grin*
Closeup of the keep
Lancaster built that one after his relationship with Edward II detoriated. It sits in sight of Bamburgh Castle (at least on a clear day) and there was an element of 'neiner, neiner' to the place which the duke actually never lived in. He was caught before he could flee to Dunstanburgh.
View from the keep towards Constable's Tower (in the middle) and Egyncleugh Tower (close to the sea)
It's a lovely ruin I had a lot of fun exploring. Even though I got a sunburn on my nose for a change.
Here are the other castles I visited this time.
Richmond Castle is one of the oldest Norman castles of which parts still remain.
Richmond Castle, the keep
Quite substantial parts, as you can see. Richmond Castle was the kernel of the large Honour of Richmond that would play a significant role in history.
Richmond Castle, view towards Scollard's Hall and Gold Hole Tower, with the Fallen Tower to the left
Warkworth is another of the Percy of Northumberland castles. They kept collecting those. :-)
Warkworth Castle, the keep seen through the gate of the Lion Tower
It's a beautiful, picturesque ruin I enjoyed very much.
Warkworth Castle, view from the keep to the eastern hall range
The famous Bamburgh Castle. I could not get the seaside view you find on every book cover about Northumbria, but I got some decent pics nevertheless.
Bamburgh Castle, seen from the land side
Bamburgh has been rebuilt in Victorian times, and I must admit that some of the architecture jars a bit. The Wartburg
reconstruction is more in style, imho.
Bamburgh Castle, the Keep (one of the original Medieaval buildings)
A cliff, a knife edge way that's closed to the public, and lots of stairs down one hill and up the other. Constance may try her best with Dunottar Castle, hehe.
Dunottar Castle, sitting on a cliff
Did I say: stairs, lol? And those likely weren't around in former times.
Dunottar Castle, the way up along the outer curtain wall
I visited Urquhart Castle in 1998, but I wanted to go back with a digital camera since I had fond memories of the place.
Urquhart Castle, view to 14th century keep and gatehouse
There is a new visitor centre now, and lots more tourists. Just well they start getting dinner-hungry long before the castle closes.
Urquhart Castle, view to the 12th century part of the castle
So a nice booty overall; enough for a score of posts. Like I have no other stuff in my archives. *grin*