Field Trip I

Our first field trip to Orkney was for the purpose of scoping out potential sites for the focus of our interdisciplinary work. We assembled at Edinburgh on 11 July, and made our way to the ferry at Gills’ Bay.

Day ONE involved meeting up with Carol Dunbar, Education Officer at the Pier Arts Centre and Anne Bevan, the project artist. We also visited Skara Brae, and the Stromness Museum, followed by an evening walk across the sea cliffs at Yesnaby with Carol. Highlights were sea stacks at Yesnaby, the Brough of Bigging, and the tiny rare Scottish Primrose (Primula scotica) which is endemic to Orkney and the North Coast of Scotland.

On day TWO we took the ferry to Hoy, for a full day exploring the Scapa Flow museum and glimpsing the Old Man of Hoy. En route we visited the Dwarfie Stane, the Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, and Betty Corrigall’s Grave. We were lucky enough to see a sea eagle, courtesy of an RSPB telescope. We stopped to explore some peat cutting alongside the road, which stimulated much discussion among the team about property rights, energy, sustainability and time’s visibility in the landscape. Some of the team took advantage of the long evening light to climb up the adjacent Cuween hill in order to visit the chambered cairn known as Tomb of the Dogs, after the 24 skulls of small dogs that were discovered there.

We spent much of day THREE in Kirkwall, visiting the magnificent sandstone cathedral of Saint Magnus, and the Orkney Museum. Some of the team spent the afternoon in the local library and archives, to consult specialist collections.

Group photo of the project team

Our expert advisory panel joined us on day FOUR to bring their insights of interdisciplinary working to the team. They joined us on a tour of the Ness of Brodgar site, and a visit to the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness in the pouring rain. The Pier Arts Centre kindly hosted a reception for the project in the evening, where we were able to meet archaeologists, writers, geologists, artists, and other members of the community with an interest in the project. We look forward to seeing some of those who attended when we return for our second field trip in April 2017, to deliver a Festival of Deep Time.

Day FIVE began with a tour of Highland Park, where peat was again, in our minds, and on the tip of our tongues. We then visited The Italian Chapel, the Orkney Fossil and Heritage Centre, and the family-owned Tomb of the Eagles, where we were received a warm welcome from the museum guides. An evening trip to Maeshowe completed a full day of archaeological, geological and historical exploration.

On our final day, we were treated to a guided walk along the coast of Rousay, with one our advisors, Professor Jane Downes, and a visit to the ‘Gateway to the Atlantic’ project. The project investigates how people have reacted and adapted to climatic and environmental change over time, and we were able to see first-hand the impact of erosion and rising sea levels on the archaeological sites under investigation.