Category: Ancient Sacred Sites

“Ain’t this a mess, Sheriff!”

In the film ‘No Country for Old Men’, there’s a famous opening scene at the site of a drugs shoot-out. Everyone’s dead when the local Sheriff and his deputy arrive and start wandering through the bodies as though they were in a Spaghetti Western. The Deputy stays silent for a long time, then says excitedly, “Ain’t this a mess, Sheriff!”. Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee … Read More “Ain’t this a mess, Sheriff!”

Two journeys, one destination (7) : Rosemarkie, the Black Isle

The continuing story of the ‘Pictish Trail’, the Silent Eye’s workshop in the far north-east of Scotland. We encounter the best Pictish stone at close quarters… (A ten minute read, 1100 words) Our final visit of the Saturday was to Rosemarkie, a beautiful village on the Black Isle, whose seafront looks south across the vastness of the Moray Firth. Rosemarkie was also home to … Read More Two journeys, one destination (7) : Rosemarkie, the Black Isle

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

Two journeys, one destination (6) : a Pictish horizon

With the wonderful Portmahomack behind us, it was time to meet the three Pictish stones that marked the horizon line of the Tarbat Peninsula. These would originally have been visible from the sea, and boats approaching from the Moray Firth would have known they were approaching sacred Pictish land – centred on the monastery at Portmahomack. On this second day of the Silent Eye’s … Read More Two journeys, one destination (6) : a Pictish horizon

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

Two journeys, one destination (5) : blood and stone

Writing without the other hand to steady him was hard, but the other was clamped on his thigh, holding back the flow of blood. The words on the vellum were like the wanderings of a dying bird… he smiled at the thought, despite the pain. Through eyes filled with hot and salty water he read what he had written: ‘They came at the end … Read More Two journeys, one destination (5) : blood and stone

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

The Mysterious Picts… and beyond

With many of the restrictions on Scottish travel and locations being lightened, it has become possible for the Silent Eye to resume its celebrated ‘landscape’ weekends. Come and join us in September for a beautiful journey along the Easter Ross coastline to trace the artistic and long-lasting people we call the Picts. A race of artist-warriors who kept the Romans at bay, yet revelled … Read More The Mysterious Picts… and beyond

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