Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Mousa and its broch

The big question was would the wind drop in time before we had to move to the north of the Islands?  After the high winds of yesterday it was our only chance to make the trip to the island before we had to head north.

An anxious call to the ferryman gave the welcome news that the wind had dropped enough and the sailing was planned unless the wind picked up again. In Shetland this was a distinct possibility so it was with some relief that we boarded the boat and with half a dozen other hardy souls  made the short trip to the island and our objective - the broch.

A broch is a stone building consisting of two concentric circles with a staircase between them. They are believed to have been residential as well as defensive and the one at Mousa is the most completely preserved, still standing to its full height of 44ft.

This is a massive construction in every sense of the word. It is built entirely of drystone, so no mortar at all and is believed to date from 100BCE so some 2100 years old. The state of preservation is astonishing. 

 First things first and it is up the stair we go. Historic Scotland have kindly provided torches for visitors to use and you need them.

Although the stairwell looks well lit here thanks to the camera flash, it was extremely dark with the only light provided by small occasional "windows" into the centre of the structure. If the roof had still been there then there would have been virtually no natural light at all for the original inhabitants.

They must have had very small feet. Each step was only about 3 or 4 inches deep and I wasn't looking forward to coming down them despite the handrail that has been installed.

Looking down from the half way point. All around the perimeter are small rooms/cubby holes.

 Inside one of the cubbyholes.

 These were pitch dark. It was a case of aim the camera in, fire off the flash and then see what you had! I generally try to avoid using flash in my pictures as I get far better results without. Sometime though there is no choice!

The entrance to the staircase and some of the little rooms. This also shows one of the occasional openings to let light into the staircase ( just above the lintel).

Leaving the broch we continued the circumnavigation of the island. The ferry allows a couple of hours before it leaves again for the mainland and the island is an RSPB bird sanctuary. We saw many skuas but sadly it is a little too early for the Storm Petrels who shelter in the external stonework of the broch. A highlight was watching the selkies ( seals)  with their pups on one of the sheltered inlets. Although a favourite haunt of otters too we were not lucky enough to see them.

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