This year our Walk the Walls Tour took us to Northern Scotland, the Orkney Islands and on to the western Islands of Mull and Iona. This was our fourth tour and as in previous years, no trip is complete without meeting our familiar friends from the dry stone walling community, workshops and festivals, were at each locale we visited including George Gunn, Dave Goulder, Norman Haddow, Duncan Haddow and Jason Hoffman. We also met dry stone waller Kevin Shaw who talked about his work repairing walls on the Orkneys and mason Colin Watson who has been the main consultant and restoration expert on the St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall Orkney
We visited stone age ruins and contemporary sites of stone walls, bridges, buildings, gardens and follies.
The first half of the trip took us to the Orkney Islands, just a short step from the Scottish mainland. These islands are mainly “low lying, gentlysloping, fertile valleys, where spring days are long and skies enormous”. However, our interests were in the well preserved treasury of Stone Age settlements and the recent discovery of Ness of Brodgar. As National Geographic describes this site in their August 2014 article, “Before Stonehenge...one long day ago around 3200 B.C., the farmers and herdsmen on Scotland’s remote Orkney Islands decided to build something big...”.
From Orkney we took the ferry to the mainland to meet our friend and DSWA Master Dry Stone waller George Gunn who showed us Bucholie Castle
There is a wide variation of building styles and stones in the Lairg/Dornoch vicinity, -- double and single walls (dykes), sheep fanks, cairns and castles. Our tentative plans are to stay in a Scottish Castle (Dornoch Castle Hotel), on the edge of the Dornoch Firth, a designated National Scenic Area in the Highlands of Scotland.
The second half of the tour we traveled south to the Inner Hebrides Islands of Mull and Iona. Here we were joined by our very good friend and past host from the Balmoral Castle portion of our 2011 tour, Norman Haddow (DSWA Master’s Certificate)
Most of our time was spent on Iona, a pilgrimage site for several centuries and a place of Christian worship for more than 1400 years. The extensive pink granite ruins of the Augustinian nunnery, and the Abbey that dates from the arrival of the Benedictines around 1200, as well as the sacred burial ground which is said to contain the graves of kings of Norway, France, Iceland, and Scotland, including Duncan and Macbeth, are all within a walking tour of the island.