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Archive for March, 2018

Dead People’s Things

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 30, 2018

September 30th – October 6th, 2017

There is nothing that archaeologists love more than trash and dead people’s things. I guess they might like books more, but the pages don’t always stand the test of time. Trash, pottery, and tomb stones, on the other hand, last almost forever even after being neglected for hundreds of years.

a tombstone of a dead wrestler

In Athens we saw a lot of dead people’s stuff. It was amazing the amount of details that went into making burial chachkies. These items did nothing for the dead or even their family, but they’re doing wonders for us now. Every tombstone, sarcophagus, and piece of pottery tells us so much about the past. Mark and I even went to a museum that told the life story of some guy who died thousands of years ago, all with information they got from the things they found in his grave.

It seems that the more important a person was, the more pottery that person was buried with. These jugs would tell about the person’s life in picture form. If the person were an athlete, there would be a picture of a man running, wrestling, or doing some other athletic activity.

A lot of information about Greece’s past can be found on its old pottery. It’s like they used jugs as note pads. If you were an ancient and you thought that Telemachus was “oh, s00o hot” you would get some clay and throw a new jug with pictures of you making googly eyes at his half-naked body doing push-ups or something. Pottery was like the blogging of its time, except people had to come over to your house to look at your jars.

There is so much pottery in Greece. Every museum has a pottery section. Some dedicated entire floors to pottery. Mark and I found a few museums that only had pottery. By the time I left Athens, I was completely sick of pottery. I still enjoyed the tales they told, though.

Stories told on a dead guy’s pottery 


Greece

How to get there:

You can enter this country air, land, or sea.

Phone:

  • 112 – Emergency
  • 166 – Ambulane
  • 199 – Fire
  • 100 – Police
  • 171 – Tourist Police

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t flush toilet paper.
    • Supposedly, it’s bad for the pipes.
    • You’re supposed to throw it in the trash can in the bathroom.
  • Although Greece is relatively inexpensive, you can go through all your money traveling to all the various islands.

National Archaeological Museum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 10 Euros

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 17:30

Videoes:

Notes:


Ancient Agora of Athens

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €8
  • €30 – special package ticket that’s valid for 5 days and includes:
    •  Acropolis of Athens & South Slope of Acropolis + North slope of Acropolis
    • Ancient Agora of Athens & Museum of the Ancient Agora
    • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
    • Archaeological Site of Lykeion
    • Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos
    • Olympieio
    • Roman Agora of Athens

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 19:00

Video

Notes:


Temple of Olympian Zeus

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €6
  • €30 – special package ticket that’s valid for 5 days and includes:
    •  Acropolis of Athens & South Slope of Acropolis + North slope of Acropolis
    • Ancient Agora of Athens & Museum of the Ancient Agora
    • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
    • Archaeological Site of Lykeion
    • Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos
    • Olympieio
    • Roman Agora of Athens

Hours:

  • 8.00-18.00
  • Last entrance: 17.30

Videos:

Notes:


Hadrian’s Library

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €4
  • €30 – special package ticket that’s valid for 5 days and includes:
    •  Acropolis of Athens & South Slope of Acropolis + North slope of Acropolis
    • Ancient Agora of Athens & Museum of the Ancient Agora
    • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
    • Archaeological Site of Lykeion
    • Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos
    • Olympieio
    • Roman Agora of Athens

Hours:

  • Monday to Sunday 08.00 – 15.00
  • Last Admission: 14.45
  • When the temperature reaches above 39o C, the Archaeological Site will remain open from 8:00 till 13:00

Video

Notes:

  • Built  in AD 132.

Roman Agora

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €30 – special package ticket that’s valid for 5 days and includes:
    •  Acropolis of Athens & South Slope of Acropolis + North slope of Acropolis
    • Ancient Agora of Athens & Museum of the Ancient Agora
    • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
    • Archaeological Site of Lykeion
    • Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos
    • Olympieio
    • Roman Agora of Athens

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 15:00
  • When the temperature reaches above 39o C, the Archaeological Site will remain open from 8:00 till 13:00

Video

Notes:

  • Built between 19 and 11 B.C.

Kerameikos

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €30 – special package ticket that’s valid for 5 days and includes:
    •  Acropolis of Athens & South Slope of Acropolis + North slope of Acropolis
    • Ancient Agora of Athens & Museum of the Ancient Agora
    • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
    • Archaeological Site of Lykeion
    • Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos
    • Olympieio
    • Roman Agora of Athens

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 19:00

Video

Notes:

  • Don’t Miss:
    • The Pompeion

Acropolis of Athens

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €30 – special package ticket that’s valid for 5 days and includes:
    •  Acropolis of Athens & South Slope of Acropolis + North slope of Acropolis
    • Ancient Agora of Athens & Museum of the Ancient Agora
    • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
    • Archaeological Site of Lykeion
    • Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos
    • Olympieio
    • Roman Agora of Athens

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 20:00

Video

Notes:


Lyceum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €30 – special package ticket that’s valid for 5 days and includes:
    •  Acropolis of Athens & South Slope of Acropolis + North slope of Acropolis
    • Ancient Agora of Athens & Museum of the Ancient Agora
    • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
    • Archaeological Site of Lykeion
    • Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos
    • Olympieio
    • Roman Agora of Athens

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 19:00

Notes:

  • The museums nearby are not included. You needed to purchase additional tickets for them.

Acropolis Museum

Basic Information

Website

 

Cost:

  • €5
  • Check the website for days when entrance fees are waved.

Hours:

  • Opens at 8:00
    • Closing time varies by day and season.
    • Check website for closing times
  • Closed: 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 25 and 26 December
  • On August Full Moon and European Night of Museums, the Acropolis Museum operates until 12 midnight.

Video

Notes:


Don’t Miss:

Map:

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Posted in Athens, Greece | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Ghosts of Edinburgh

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 25, 2018

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Before going to Edinburgh, I thought about doing a ghost tour. I hadn’t really made up my mind whether to do one or not. I don’t believe in ghosts, but after seeing Edinburgh, I just knew if ghosts were a real thing, this is where they would all hang out. It’s not that Edinburgh looks creepy, it really doesn’t. The city has a historical look and at sunset, there is a dusting of magic. It looks very Hogwarts-like.

Walking up the Royal Mile, I saw many flyers advertising ghost tours. Some were free, some were expensive, a few were on buses. Mark and I wanted to do a free one first. If that was okay, we would do a reasonably paid tour right after. Around noon, we started looking for a tour. We found one that started at 4 o’clock followed by a paid one that started right after that one ended. This was great because both of them started before sunset, giving us enough sunlight for photos. Unfortunately we lost track of time and got to the meeting point half an hour too late.

We tried to find another set of tours that worked out as nicely as the ones we missed. As we were walking around we were handed a flyer for a new ghost themed tour. Since this was its first day, they were doing a special free promotion. It sounded great, but didn’t start until 6 o’clock that evening and the meeting point was down by the train station.

We could have still done the paid tour we had planned on, but we would risk missing the bus. We decided to skip the paid tour, placing all our hopes for a good evening on the bus. After that we could always just walk around looking for another free walking tour even though it would be too dark for our cameras.

Around 5:30 that evening, we walked to the meeting point for our free bus tour. We were greeted by the bus in the photo above. We both gave a sigh of relief; our evening was looking like it would be quite fun. We approach the costumed man with a clip-board in his hand and told him our names. He looked through the names on his board. “Oh,” he said sounding very disappointed. “You’ve booked the other bus, haven’t you? That one has been canceled. They can’t seem to get the bus started.”

The bus was filling up with tourists as it started to rain. We stood there like sad naughty children at Christmas watching all the good kids get their presents. We wondered if we should just buy tickets for this bus, when we overheard another free bus tour guest asking clip-board man a question. “Sorry,” he responded, “this one’s full.”

We walked back to the Royal Mile to where many of the walking tours start. We found a decent looking paid tour that wasn’t too expensive. We asked when the next tour was and was told that it would start in 10 minutes. We met the tour guide, a friendly guy in a ghoulish suit. He talked with us and other tourists. I liked the guy and hoped for a good tour.

The guide was nice, but the tour was boring. We walked around in the rain as the sunset. The rain added to the eerie look of the city, but it did nothing for the tour. Never were the names of Burke or Hare mentioned. These were Edinburgh’s most famous serial killers. Their story told in Greyfriars Cemetery in the misty rain would have been entertaining.

For contrast, there was another tour in Spanish across the cemetery at the same time we were there. Their guide was really getting into her story. I could see a few of the Spanish speaking tourists holding onto one another. Most did not look scared, but they were intently listening to every word the guide said. They were clearly enjoying the show. Even some of the people on my tour were paying more attention to the Spanish tour than our own.

The creepiest part of the whole tour, was the walk back to the meeting spot. At this point, the tour was over, so we were just quietly following the tour guide. We had wandered through Edinburgh’s streets going this way and that, so most of us had no idea where we were. There was some obstruction on the sidewalk and everyone was just standing around waiting for the way to clear. As I waited I looked up at the building next to me.

It was the church of Scientology!

This time in Edinburgh, we did the Ghost Bus Tour; not the free one (I have no idea what ever happened to them). This tour was not scary or creepy. But, it was funny and entertaining. It was worth every penny!


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Edinburgh Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £17.00
    • Free with Historic Scotland membership
  • Adult £3.50
    • 20% discount for Historic Scotland Members

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 17:00

Video

Notes:


Things to look out for:

Map:

Posted in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Castles with no Crowds

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 20, 2018

September 27th – 28th, 2017

After the Orkney Islands, Mark and I went on a castle bender. We drove from Inverness to Aberdeen and saw just about every castle in our path. After we left Scotland, Mark never wanted to see another castle again. I could still go for another round. I might be a castle-o-holic…

Here are some of the reasons I’m so obsessed with old Scottish Castles.

I sat down after posing for Mark for 20 minutes

1. No one else is.

Looking through my photo album of this time, you will find only Mark and me. There were no huge crowds to negotiate through. I didn’t have to patiently wait to take a photo of anything. I could sit in a corner or stand in the middle of the room and not bother anyone. This was great for Mark because, although he is in denial about this,  he is one of those tourists who take forever to “frame a photo”. Without the crowds, he could take all the time he needed.

2. No more walking for miles in muddy sheep fields.

I like hiking up hills for miles through muddy fields filled with sheep and their “presents”. But I have to admit, I liked driving up to castles with paved non-muddy parking lots a lot more. It was nice to not have to search for the cleanest puddle to wash the mud off my shoes and then wipe them off on the driest patch of grass before getting back into the car. Instead, I could have tea and cake in the cafe when one was available like a civilized person who isn’t constantly stepping in what one hopes is just mud.

in the Price of Wales bedroom

3. The staff love to answer questions.

There were a few castles where we stayed way longer than we had planned to because we started chatting with the staff. These men and women who take care of these castles are very knowledgeable and will chat your head off. They are more than happy to answer any and all questions you might have about the castle, the past, the town, the best place to get ice cream… I really enjoyed my trip to Scotland and the staff at these sites made everything that much more pleasant.

4. I got to learn a lot about Scotland.

I was taught absolutely nothing about Scotland in school. Well, there was a map of the world and Scotland was on it so I might have casually learned where Scotland was. But, that was just happenstance. Before this trip, I could not name one Scottish monarch that wasn’t also an English one. But now I know something about Jacobites and the weird things rich people got up to in castles back in the day…

5. These castles are beautiful.

I’m no great photographer and I’m only using my phone to take pictures. So, it might be hard for you to tell how wonderful the Scottish castles look. Some of them function as museums now. Some of them are partial ruins. A few of them are not intact enough to be used for anything, but they look beautiful none the less.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Spynie Palace

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Note:

  • Built in 1150AD.

Elgin Cathedral

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm

Notes:

  • Built in 1224AD.

Duff House

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Thursday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm

Notes:

  • Built in 1740.
  • The Duff House has a lot of art on exhibit.

Tolquhon Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • It’s pronounced “toh-hon”.
  • It was built in the early 15th century.

Huntly Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £6
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Daily except Thursday and Friday, 10am to 4pm

Notes:

  • Built in the 12th century.

Balvenie Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • Built in the 12th century.

Kildrummy Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • Built in the 13th century.

Don’t Miss:

Map:

Posted in Aberdeen, Banff, Dufftown, Elgin, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Eaten by Otters

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 15, 2018

September 21st – 26th, 2017

When you visit all these neolithic sites on Orkney, you come across the same questions over and over again. Who were these people? Where did they come from? Where did they go? What were they doing with all those large rocks and cairns? The answers are a little hard to come by.

Who were these people? Picts? Maybe… It is believed that the ancient people of Orkney either became the Picts or they were invaded by the Picts. Or neither could be true. Maybe some of them were Picts. There is evidence that people came and went. There might have been several peoples moving about the islands throughout prehistory. It all started sometime after the last ice age when area thawed out and people walked to Scotland.

checking out a cairn

Where did they come from? Europe, most likely; maybe Scandinavia. We know that later on the Vikings showed up and started placing their loot and sometimes their dead in the cairns they found on the island. The Vikings didn’t build the cairns… Well, not many of them. They might have made a cairn or two. Who knows?

But we do know they liked writing on one cairn in particular. Inside the Maeshowe cairn there is a lot of Viking graffiti. Some of the writing is of a woman’s complaints that men just aren’t real men anymore. There is even a few lines about Ragnar Lothbrok and his “smooth sons”, whatever that means. I guess someone would have been a fan of (at least the first few seasons of) Vikings on the History Channel.

Besides the Vikings and the Picts, there might have been other people coming and going. I spoke to a man working at the Broch of Gurnes and he told me what really amazed him. He said that someone would find a wall or some other evidence of a building. Excavation would start and the building would be unearthed. In that process another building further down would be found. In removing that building, yet another would be found underneath.

For some reason, people kept just building on top of buildings instead of picking some place new. Why? Well, he told me that they haven’t figured that out yet. People kept building in the same spots regardless of whether the people one level up knew about the existence of the people one level down. We can only guess what their reasons were.

What are cairns? Cairns are man-made mounds built of stone with grass grown over them. When archaeologists look inside, sometimes they find bones of humans and animals. Oddly, they don’t usually find any complete skeletons. For example, in the Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn they found mostly sculls. Some were from humans and some were from dogs. So entire bodies are not being placed into cairns like we would put a body in a crypt these days.

The cairns are a lot like the homes. But, cairns did not have a fireplace. The houses were round with shelving; the cairns were round with shelving. There is a theory that a building started off as a home. Then after some deaths, the fireplace was removed, bones were placed inside, and it became a burial chamber. Then after some time the stones of the cairn were used for something else and bigger stones, like monoliths, were place around where the cairn once was.

In other words, something like the Stones of Stenness is now on a spot where some house that was turned into a cairn was. Since the islands have a lot of houses and many cairns, but there is a huge lack of standing stones, it is believed that the last part was reserved for only very wonderful people.

There is another belief that these “monoliths of honor” over the years became a religion. Many people deified the dead that they honored. People walked in circles going from one set of monoliths to another for ceremonies at certain times of the year.

Of course, all of this is mostly speculation. No one wrote down, in a way we could understand today, what they did or why they did it.

Then there are the burial places where things are just bizarre. One is the Tomb of the Otters. The other is the Tomb of the Eagles. What makes these places stand out is that it seems that the bodies of the dead were given to animals to be eaten. No where else on the island is there evidence that this was common practice. So, why here?

Both these tombs appear not to have too many people buried in them when the length of time these tombs were being used is considered. So, why were otters and eagles allowed to eat these specific people. Were they especially loved or hated?

Who knows? But, it’s all very interesting.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or buss pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of it’s subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Orkney Islands

Basic Information

How to get there:

Information by Wikipedia:

Website

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Leave the umbrellas at home.
  • Bring a good rain coat, rain boots, rain pants, and hope it doesn’t rain.
  • Before visiting any of the sights, get membership in either Historic Scotland (mainly if you plan to travel all over Scotland) or Orkney Explorer Pass.

Yesnaby

Basic Information

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:


Maeshowe

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £6
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 17:00

Videos:

Notes:


Earls Bu and Church

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • This is the oldest surviving round church in Scotland.
  • This is near a walking path.
  • This is right next to the Orkneyinga Saga Centre.
    • It’s free and unmanned.
    • The door is left unlocked.
    • You can use the bathroom.

Skerries Bistro

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • MONDAY 12-4 PM   &   6-9PM
  • TUESDAY   12-4 PM
  • WEDNESDAY 12-4 PM   &  6-9PM
  • THURSDAY 12-4 PM
  • FRIDAY 12-4 PM     &   6-9PM
  • SATURDAY 12-4 PM  &    6-9PM
  • SUNDAY 12-4 PM

Notes:

  • You can book and pay for your tour of the Banks Chambered Tomb.
  • Great local dishes.

Banks Chambered Tomb
Tomb of the otters

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50

Hours:

  • 11:00 – 17:00 (last tour 16:00)

Notes:

  • Personally, I think this is a must see.

Tomb of the Eagles

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50

Hours:

  • March          10:00 – 12:00
  • Apr~Sept     9:30 – 17:30
  • Oct                9:30 – 12:30
  • Nov~Feb      Closed

Videos:

Notes:

  • This is one of the oldest building in Britain.
  • You are given rain boots and rain pants so your clothes and shoes can stay dry and mud free.
  • It’s also a really lovely walk along the cliff.

Highland Park

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:00
  • Closed Sundays

Notes:

  • It’s best to book a tour in advance.

Don’t Miss:

Map:

Posted in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Departure of Summer

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 10, 2018

September 21st – 26th, 2017

You’ll be there at the right time

On my last night in Inverness, I was talking to two of my room mates. We were giving each other tips we’ve discovered on how to better travel through Scotland. I had mentioned that I would be leaving soon to visit the Orkney Islands. One of them asked me, “Will you be staying on the main island in the next few days?”

“Probably,” I told her. I didn’t know for sure. We would be in Orkney for almost a week and we had no plans for island hopping. I was fairly sure that we would be on the main island the whole time.

“There is a Druid celebration,” she went on to tell me. “It’s the summer equinox. They go to one of the ancient stone circles there. Anyone can go and join in.”

And, of course I went. I’m not turning down a chance to hang out with Pagans doing things they believe Pagans did thousands of years ago.

No one knows what exactly the druids did in their celebrations, but there are many really good theories out there. One of them is that some rituals started at the sight above, the Ring of Brodgar. The ancient people would walk around the ring and then down the road to the Stones of Stenness. There were commemorating their dead, nature, or maybe both.

Our Druids did not do the walk. They just met at the Stones of Stenness. This celebration was about the end of summer and the start of the new season.

The event started about an hour before sunset. We all stood around in a circle. Scripts were given out to anyone who wanted to read them, with a special paper given to the youngest female. I so badly wanted to read something, but I wanted to just relax and observe the ceremony. In the end I didn’t read any of the lines, so I could fully pay attention to what was going on.

You can see the drinking horn and the mead in the circle.

We started off by reading from a script. Some of them, more familiar with Druid activities, recited the lines from memory. Most of the people there were like Mark and me, not Pagan, but there to see what it was all about.

Some of the lines involved us talking to the 4 directions. When we addressed the north, we faced north. When we addressed the west, we faced west, and so on. After some reading, we shared a bottle of beer. I think it was referred to as mead. It was poured into a ram’s horn and passed around. Since I was one of the first to be handed the horn, I took a sip.

Next a pan of honey cake was sliced up and that too was passed around. Again, I was one of the first to be served. I took half a slice, not wanting the cake to run out before every one had had some. I think more people showed up than was expected. I began to regret that decision. The cake was really good and in the end there was a lot left over. I wasn’t the only one to take only half a slice.

After the cake, people were encouraged to share poems, songs, or dances they had created themselves. When no one came forward a talented lady who had written a few songs stepped up. She didn’t just sing, she taught us all a song.

After singing the lovely song, we went back to reading the script to close the ceremony. We talked to the directions again, facing each, and spoke of our hopes for the next season. We chanted for a little bit and then it was over.

It was a nice ceremony. I went over to thank the couple who put this all together before Mark and I left.

Overall, I felt it was a lot like church, only outdoors.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or buss pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of it’s subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Orkney Islands

Basic Information

How to get there:

Information by Wikipedia:

Website

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Leave the umbrellas at home.
  • Bring a good rain coat, rain boots, rain pants, and hope it doesn’t rain.
  • Before visiting any of the sights, get membership in either Historic Scotland (mainly if you plan to travel all over Scotland) or Orkney Explorer Pass.

The Bishop’s Palace and Earl’s Palace

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • Look for the statue of St. Rognvald on the outside of the Reid Tower.
  • Parking is between the Bishop’s Palace and the Earl’s Palace.
  • Built in the 1570’s
  • The was built by Patrick Stewart, not Patrick Stewart

St. Magnus Cathedral

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 1 April – 30 September Monday – Saturday, 09:00 – 18:00 and Sunday 13:00 – 18:00
  • 1 October – 31 March Monday – Saturday, 09:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 17:00
  • (Cathedral is closed for lunch – 13:00 – 14:00)

Notes:


Grain Earth House

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Since you have to get the key from Judith Glue, it’s only available within the hours of Judith Glue.

Notes:

  • Before you go, stop at Judith Glue to pick of the keys.
    • Judith Glue is right across the street from St. Magnus Cathedral.
    • Open M-Sa 9:00 – 18:00 and Su 11:00 – 17:00
  • Bring a flashlight.
    • You are provided with a flashlight, but the battery might be dead.
  • This one is a claustrophobic’s nightmare.
    • It’s a very cramped space, underground, and with no light.
  • Iron Age

Broch of Gurness 

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £6
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • Building started from 500 to 200 BC.
  • Right outside, near the parking lot, is  St. Magnus Way.

Dounby Click Mill

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • The path can be very muddy, wear rain boots.
  • You must park near the road, next to a sign that says, “No cars beyond this point”.
    • Walk the rest of the way.
    • It might not look like you are in the right place. You will not see the mill until you are quite near it.

Birsay Earl’s Palace

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • built between 1569 and 1574
  • There is free parking across the street from the St. Magnus Church.
    • St. Magnus Church is free to enter.

Brough of Birsay

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • Mid-June to 30 September: 9.30am to 5.30pm (tides permitting)
  • 1 October to mid-June: Closed

Notes:

  • You can only go during low tide.
  • Parts of the island can be muddy. Take rain boots.
  • The island can get very windy.
  • There is an unmanned light house in the island.
  • If you come at the right time of the year, you can see puffins here.

The Kitchener Memorial

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Books:

Notes:

  • There is a 20 minute walk from the parking area to the memorial.
  • There is a walking path that goes past this memorial.
  • You cannot enter the memorial.
  • You will see many rabbits on your walk to the memorial.
  • The path can be very muddy, wear rain boots.

Wideford Hill Cairn

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs
  • Though, it would be hard to get to at night

Notes:

  • Park near the tower.
    • Either walk past the stone block to find the path or walk along the road to find the path.
    • You will not see this cairn until you are very close to it.
    • Follow the path around the mountain. After about 10 minutes of walking down you should see a sign. There aren’t other signs or posts, just a footpath made by people walking on the grass.
  • The path will be muddy and there is poo everywhere. Why not wear rain boots?
  • Bring a flash light.

Rennibister Earth House

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • The bones of 6 adults and about 12 kids were found in here.
  • 400BC
  • An easy 2 minute walk from where you must park.
  • Bring a flash light.

Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Notes:

  • Cuween Hill dates to around 3,000 BC
  • The path to the cairn will be muddy. …Rain boots!
  • Bring a flash light.

Ring of Brodgar

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Notes:


Skara Brae Prehistoric Village

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September:  9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: 10am to 4pm

Books:

Videos:

Notes:

  • The settlement dated from around 500 BC.
  • Part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.
  • There is a really nice cafe and restaurant where you can get local dishes.
    • You get 20% off with Historic Scotland membership.
  • Your tickets include access to:
    • A short 5 minute film.
    • A small museum
    •  A recreated house
    • the actual prehistorical settlement
    • A visit to Skaill House

The Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Notes:

  • The settlement dates back to circa 3000 BC.
  • Very closes to the Standing Stones of Stennes.

Standing Stones of Stenness

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Druids:

Notes:

Map:

Posted in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brochs, Cairns, & a Castle

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 5, 2018

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Mark and I bought memberships in the Scottish Heritage. This allowed us access to many castles and abbeys throughout Scotland for free. It also included a booklet that tells us where those things are. But, not all the historical sites cared for by the Historical Scotland Society charge admission or have caretakers watching over them on a set schedule. Many of them are just out in the open next to grazing sheep.

On our drive up north to get the ferry to Orkney we stopped by many of these open sites. To see some of them you had to park your car on the side of the road and follow a series of black and white poles for a mile or two, up hill, through cow or sheep fields, and in the mud. Sometimes the walked didn’t seem worth all the hassle. There were many times I stepped in poo and had to wash my shoes off in muddy puddles. Other times, we had a wonderful view of the country side on the path to see the ruins of an old castle or old sets of rocks.

There were some areas where we were left to our own judgement how safe we wanted to be. But those gave us the most wonderful views. The best part of it was we were the only ones there. There was not an Outlander fan to be seen. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Even though hikes were sometimes long and hard, the weather cold and windy, and I always managed to step in poo, I would do it again if given the chance.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Pentland Ferries

Basic Information:

Website:

Notes:

  • There is a cafe at the dock at Gill’s Bay and on the boat.
  • I didn’t see a cafe at the dock at St. Margret’s Hope.

Don’t Miss:

Map:

Posted in Caithness, Scotland, Ulbster, United Kingdom, The, Wick | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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