Thursday, 5 September 2019

Day Four - South to Sumburgh Head

Today we went south, starting by identifying the "most complete broch in Scotland".  A broch is an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structure found all over the north of Scotland. Brochs belong to the classification "complex atlantic roundhouse" devised by Scottish archaeologists in the 1980s. Their origin is a matter of some controversy!  The one we saw is on Mousa and is said to "already be over 1000 years old in Viking times".  We investigated another broch more closely on our final day.

On the left is the Mousa Broch and on the right is Lo looking at it.  The plaque photographed here is in Scalloway Museum and explains a little:

St Ninian's Isle is a small tied island connected by the largest tombolo in the UK to the south-western coast of the Mainland. The tombolo is known locally as an ayre from the Old Norse for "gravel bank" and is 500 metres long. During the summer the tombolo is above sea level and accessible to walkers. During winter, stronger wave action removes sand from the beach so that it is usually covered at high tide, and occasionally throughout the tidal cycle, until the sand is returned the following spring. 
 Depending on the definition used, St. Ninian's is thus either an island, or a peninsula.  It has an area of about 72 hectares.

 This is one of the many formations created by the sea round here. The sea, driven by the wind, is quite gentle at the moment, but in winter it is rather different and many, many years of this sort of attention creates something wonderful to look at.


Heading further south, we came to Quendale Mill, a water mill which is not now working but has been restored.  As we have found so often, the custodian was terrific - very nice and very knowledgeable.  For the first time ever, we were given concessional entry without asking   He showed us round quickly, then set the DVD going which gave the history of the place, then left us to it.  It's a really interesting place which properly explains how a water mill works.
Then onward to Sumburgh Head and, as we passed the airport, we had an unexpected but interesting delay.  The road crosses the runway and we were stopped as an aircraft came in to land and another took off.  We were also able to see helicopter movements as they carried crew to and from the oil and gas rigs off the shores of Shetland.  The crews change mode of transport here using an aircraft (Loganair) to get to Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Then onward to the lighthouse - now disused.  We were slightly disappointed to find that we had to walk the last bit UP to the buildings from the car park ... the emphasis being on up!  We couldn't quite see why since there was loads of car parking space at the top, all completely empty.  Their story was that the walk was "part of the experience", but we were not convinced.  It's quite good, the best bit being the restored engines that ran the foghorn (right) and a reconstruction of a wartime radar hut which saved the fleet in Scarpa Flow, Orkney from being bombed in the war.  Quite convincing and well done.  Sadly, we couldn't see much of the actual lighthouse nor was the cafe open, but the views from the top were pretty good:

Since it was well after lunchtime by now (the lighthouse cafe being out of action) we decided to see if there was a cafe at Sumburgh Airport, which of course there was - and rather a good one.  They had this mural on the wall:

 "They'll meet the people who have come so far to see them.  As they come through the gate and through the croft, and say, 'You're welcome back, we're glad to see you - come in and sit down."  Vagaland: Come Agyan - Yere Wylcom

On the way back we found some of the genuine residents ...

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