Bonxie attack !!!!
when the Great Skuas arrive and start to nest on foula (nearly everywhere) they dislike being disturbed (understandable). You will soon realise that you have entered bonxie territory ...these large brown birds will swoop low and fast around your head repeatedly. It is threatening (thats the whole idea) and can be a little frightening at first.Bonxies very rarely will actually make contact with you...but it has been known. I personally walk everywhere and have never been hit yet!
Be aware that it is you that are the cause of the bonxies reaction and you are the trespasser. Dont duck..dont run (this will make it much worse) and just look around for nests and try and avoid them. most of all consider yourselves priveleged to be among these wonderful birds . I talk to them and explain and apologise for my disturbance...it sounds cranky ...but it has worked for me.Related to:
You'll need a car (or a long walk) to get to this Neolithic settlement and 'temple' site, but it really is worthwhile making the effort.
Stanbury site is set in one of the very few Shetland locations where the sea is not visible...that is interesting in itself, I think.
There are several oval houses in the settlement, and excavated pottery shows they were in use from the Neolithic through to the late Bronze age. There are standing stones too, of course, but the most unusual and interesting structure is the 'temple'.
This is a much larger oval building with two massive postholes in its centre, presumably to support a timber roof, which in itself is highly unusual in the treeless Shetlands. Investigation suggests that the two poles were spruce, so it may be that they were simply driftwood.
The excavator thought it was a temple because of its interior similarity to both the local heel-shaped cairns and to the Neolithic temples in Malta, but it could equally well have been simply the house of the most important person or the settlement's meeting place.
You can park in a passing place at the base of the site (which is signed at the spot and from surrounding roads) and walk up. The walk takes about 10 minutes, on a gentle slope, and although boggy in parts is not at all strenuous. The least boggy route is marked by black and white poles.
On a windless day, you will find you are in almost total silence, apart from birdcalls and the very rare passing vehicle. A strangely evocative place, this....
From Lerwick, take the A970 northwards and then the A971 towards Walls. Turn first left about a mile after the B9071 turning. The temple is signed from that point.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Catpund burn lies to the south of Cunningsburgh. It cuts its way through a band of steatite (soapstone/talc) which is very easy to cut but hardens when exposed to heat.
Its properties were known long before the Vikings settled Shetland, but they were very fond of using it for making large bowls.
If you find Catpund burn (a pretty place anyway) and walk up it just a little you can still clearly see where the vessels were carved out, by Vikings (many such vessels were found at Jarlshof) and by earlier inhabitants too.
There is a similar steatite 'quarry' at Fethaland, much further to the north in Northmavine district.
To find Catpund, follow the A970 south through Cunningsborough. After you have passed through the settlement keep your eyes open for a layby/parking spot on the right-hand side of the road. It's actually a bend in the previous road which has been cut-off by subsequent road improvements.
Catpund burn (its water and many of its rocks stained bright reddish-brown by the peat) rune down to the centre of this layby.
You'll need to climb over the fence to explore. Take heed of the notice about the 2003 landslides in the area; they were highly unusual but you do 'enter at your own risk'.
I didn't climb the burn to the higher area of quarrying: the difficult fence was a clear indication that the landowner was not keen. I've since discovered that there is a track nearby, which I shall seek out next time..Related to:
- Historical Travel
Muness Castle on Unst
This 15th century castle has been carefully restored and is in really good condition - as castles go. There is an explanatory plaque by the gate giving you full details so no need to say much here other than it was in much better condition than I expected. Sadly raiders ransacked the castle fifty years after its completion destroying the roof. Despite this, it's well worth the ten minutes up the road from the ferry at Belmont. Why not detour en route to Belmont and turn off at Uyeasound? Just follow the signs to Muness castle.Related to:
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