The Broch of Gurness as twilight falls and the spirits rise on Mainland, Orkney.
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village on the northwest coast of Mainland Orkney in Scotland overlooking Eynhallow Sound, about 15 miles north-west of Kirkwall. It once housed a substantial community. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC.
At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it (resembling the set-up at Mine Howe). It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.:38
The Mainland is the main island of Orkney. Both of Orkney’s burghs, Kirkwall and Stromness, lie on the island, which is also the heart of Orkney’s ferry and air connections. Seventy-five per cent of Orkney’s population live on the island, which is more densely populated than the other islands of the archipelago. The lengthy history of the island’s occupation has provided numerous important archaeological sites, such as the Broch of Gurness, and the sandstone bedrock provides a platform for fertile farmland. There is an abundance of wildlife, especially seabirds.
A form of the name dates to the pre-Roman era and the islands have been inhabited for at least 8500 years, originally occupied by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts. Orkney was invaded and forcibly annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse. The Norse knew Mainland Orkney as Megenland “Mainland” or as Hrossey “Horse Island” The Scottish Parliament then re-annexed the earldom to the Scottish Crown in 1472, following the failed payment of a dowry for James III‘s bride Margaret of Denmark. Orkney contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe, and the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.