With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

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:

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