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We are back in Kirkwall in the morning, and have time for another business break at the internet café and a little shopping before catching the ferry to Rousay. We are mainly interested in Orcadian music and purchase CDs by Three Peace Sweet and the Wrigley Sisters. Win also buys some locally made, rune-inspired jewelry for his marvelously tolerant wife.

Rousay is very close to Mainland, but is sparsely populated. The attraction here is a four-mile stretch containing several unusual tombs and a ruined Iron Age broch—a circular stone tower peculiar to northern Scotland. Taversoe Tuick is a rare two-storied cairn, with chambers one atop the other, each with its own entrance. A modern ladder connects the two rooms from the inside now. Blackhammar Cairn is a good example of a stalled cairn, its long interior chamber divided into several spaces by doorways formed of upright stone slabs.

To reach the Midhowe site, we must walk down a long hill, across stone-walled pastureland. We are startled to find the field jumping with rabbits, which scatter like cockroaches as we approach. They are so numerous, you can squint at them in the distance and almost imagine them as vast herds of bison.

Even in its ruinous state, the Midhowe Cairn is stunning. It’s a huge stalled cairn, perhaps a hundred feet long, and is nicknamed “the great ship of death”. Unfortunately, it has been reduced to a height of a few feet, leaving the chamber open. A large, hangar-like building has been built around it, and catwalks provide the visitor with an overhead view. The overall impression is very odd; I’ve never seen a site like this.

Nearby is the Midhowe Broch. The shattered central tower is surrounded by the remnants of a variety of domestic buildings. It mirrors the Broch of Gurness across the water on mainland, one of Historic Scotland’s best-maintained and interpreted sites. Unfortunately, Win will not get a chance to see it.

It’s late in the afternoon, and it has begun to rain, so we cut short our visit at Midhowe and trudge back up the long hill to the car. We check in at the tiny Taversoe Hotel, where its new proprietors are busy building an addition. At the moment, there are exactly two rooms, and Win and I each get one—an October perk. Tourism is problematic on Rousay; it is close enough to Mainland that most visitors make daytrips, and there are few services on the island. The Taversoe’s pub is officially closed on Monday (although our hosts are happy to pour us a beer), so we spend the evening at the Pier Restaurant, back by the ferry landing. We note that it’s up for sale.


On The Ferry

Kirkwall From The Ferry

Taversoe Tuick


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