Category: Ancient Landscapes

Bridges of Stone and Heart

The emotional story of an unusual wartime chapel on Orkney reveals a different type of heroism… and hope. (A ten-minute read, 1400 words). (Above: the waters of Scapa Flow have not always been so calm…) Shortly after midnight on the 14th October, 1939, a German U-boat, U-47, passed unseen into the vast and hitherto safe waters of Orkney’s Scapa Flow, the base of the … Read More Bridges of Stone and Heart

Stromness by night

A series of short ‘betweens’ from the Silent Eye’s ‘Pictish Trail’ and ‘Ancient Orkney’ workshops. We’re having an after dinner walk along the night streets of Stromness, Orkney’s main ferry port and link with Scotland. My wife and I have stayed here once before. The ‘Ancient Orkney’ part of this Silent Eye trip has been so packed with exploring that this may be our … Read More Stromness by night

The Old Men of Hoy

I remember the ferry poster. May 2018 and we were on our way to Orkney for the first time. Four of us had travelled by ScotRail up from Glasgow to Thurso, a few miles west of John O’ Groats, the most northerly point on the British mainland. From Thurso, we were booked onto the evening ferry to Orkney, landing in Stromness around ninety minutes … Read More The Old Men of Hoy

Two journeys, one destination (4) : two sides of the hill

On the second day of the Silent Eye’s ‘Pictish Trail’ weekend, we are beginning in what is, for me, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Portmahomack is a small fishing village on the north side of the Tarbat Peninsula. It’s an hour’s drive north from Inverness. I’m at the end of the pier, gazing out across the deep blue sea towards … Read More Two journeys, one destination (4) : two sides of the hill

Backwards into a Loch

The sinister man in the white overall was tall and very athletic. He’d just talked me through what was going to happen next – punctuated by rapid movements of his blue gloved hands. I was still shocked and not sure I’d heard correctly, so in the photo I’m watching carefully as he explains things to the car ‘in front’. My one salvation was that … Read More Backwards into a Loch

Two journeys, one destination (3) : the mystery of the Picts

(Above: the view of the neighbouring Inverness Castle from the steps of the museum) ‘The Romans were frightened of them…” I remember reading that the week before our Scottish workshop and being astonished. I knew the Picts had created some of the most mysterious stone carvings I had ever seen. But fearsome warriors? Weren’t these enigmatic people simply farmers? We were in the Inverness … Read More Two journeys, one destination (3) : the mystery of the Picts

Nomadics of John O’ Groats

I thought it might be interesting to take some of the less relevant episodes – the ‘out-takes’ – from the just-completed Scottish workshop (and subsequent journey to Orkney) and run them on Sun in Gemini, in reverse time-sequence. The Thursday blogs, here and on the Silent Eye, will continue with the linear sequence of the Scottish and Orkney explorations. That way the odd bits … Read More Nomadics of John O’ Groats

#NightMoves : unknown quay

We had arrived late in the day, on the CalMac ferry from Ardrossan. Dinner in the hotel had seemed other-worldly, as though we and the other diners had just begun a magical adventure whose substance was to be the exploration and understanding of the island of Arran. The rain storm thrashed the tall windows, and we looked out at the darkening, still unknown world. … Read More #NightMoves : unknown quay

#ShortWrytz : three things

Sometimes there is a kind of poetry in the arrangement of objects in a landscape, not seen, fully, before the finger presses them into personal history. The symmetry, the visual song, is seen later, as here with ancient rocks, weathered and waiting; the out at sea lighthouse; and the distant volcanic dome, worn down into a bullet by millennia. The arrangement is not created, … Read More #ShortWrytz : three things

#ShortWrytz : The house by the river

We’re often in Kirkby Lonsdale. It’s the perfect dog-walk for Tess, our collie, who loves to chase the ball in its riverside park, then sniff her way along the riverbank as we enter the town by the steep steps that lead to one of the best views in the county – Ruskin’s View. This part of the Lune Valley was a favourite haunt of … Read More #ShortWrytz : The house by the river

Never West

I’ve always loved maps… I can remember, when a child, being bought a fold-out schematic of a town with streets, main roads, a river, a hill and a railway line. It was just a layout – a map – but I had lots of my own cars, a model train and some small figures of the right scale to populate the town with activity. … Read More Never West

Keys of Heaven (10): final resting place…

continued from Part 9 The village of Lastingham, of the southern edge of the North York Moors, was a fitting place to end our weekend – both for its mysterious wells and also on the basis that the crypt of St Mary’s Church marks the final resting place of St Cedd. Following the fateful Synod of Whitby in AD 664, Bishop Cedd returned to … Read More Keys of Heaven (10): final resting place…

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