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The Storied Isles page 3


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In a direct line with the south transept of the cathedral is, at a distance of about thirty yards only, the bishop's palace, now in ruins, a venerable oblong building. It is one of the finest examples of Scottish domestic architecture extant, and was built by Patrick, Earl of Orkney, in 1606. Within its walls many trials for witchcraft were held. Other ecclesiastical sites of interest in the Orkney archipelago are the church of S. Magnus on the island of Egilshay, and that on Orphir, at Scapa Flow, which has an early Norman character.

No tract of British soil is so thickly cumbered with relics of the prehistoric past as the miles between Maes Howe and Skara Brae on the shores of the Bay of Skail. Maes Howe, or the Maiden's Mound, alluded to in the Orkeyinga Saga, and one of the most famous of British burial cairns, is a truncated cone of earth ninety-two feet in diameter and thirty-six feet high. Its central chamber is entered by a passage fifty-four feet in length, the chamber itself is fifteen feet square, and at each of its corners are great buttresses of stone. The work is Pictish, but Scandinavian runic inscriptions have been found on the walls. For long it was supposed to hold a treasure brought from the East by Crusaders.

A lthough less striking than those of the sister group, the antiquities of Shetland are still eloquent of its tempestuous history in the wild Norse days. Scalloway Castle, which stands sentinel over a land-locked harbour in the south mainland, is in the Scottish baronial style, a building of no great size and not actually of castellated character. It has a square projecting tower at one angle, the three remaining angles of its parallelogram bearing circular corbelled turrets in the manner peculiar to Scottish architecture. It was anciently the seat of the Earls of Zetland. The Broch of Mousa, situated on the island of the same name, is one of the most remarkable buildings of its class in Scotland. Here came Bjorn Brynulfar and Thor Roald's daughter when they eloped from Norway in a.d. 900, and here too, Erlend Urgi and the rather ancient Margaret Countess of Athole were besieged by the latter's wrathful son Harald, who expressed keen disgust at the untimely flirtations of his mother.

At Unst, the most northerly of British islands, a district of wild and almost Plutonic character, may be traced the grass-grown foundations of S. Sunnifa's Chapel, named after the daughter of an Irish king of the latter part of the tenth century, with whom an adventurous Viking fell in love. But she fled him and embraced the life religious. Not many miles off stands Muness Castle, an ancient seat of the Bruces, who acted as the Fonds or Viceroys of Zetland (another form of the name "Shetland"), an oblong building of Scottish baronial type, dating from 1598, having a circular tower at its northern and southern angles and containing a fine great hall and grand staircase, the whole somewhat resembling Scalloway. Unst formerly possessed a score of pre-Reformation chapels, most of which are now practically razed to the ground, though the remains of Lind and Sand will suffice to give a fair idea of the monumental character of the early ecclesiastical architecture of the archipelago. The kirk of Ness, in Yell, is one of the very few really ancient ecclesiastical buildings in Shetland, dating as it does from about the twelfth century. Near Lerwick is the tiny broch of Cleeka-min, standing on an island in a small and lonely fresh water loch.

With prow turned southward, we steam around the stormy Pentland Firth, and after a crossing never very serene, even in the height of summer, enter calmer waters, and make our way down the East Coast to the Firth of Forth.

The islands of the Firth of Forth, "emeralds chased in gold," as they have been called, contain not a few notable remains of antiquity, and literally bristle with legends. Inchcolm, off Aberdour, known as "the Iona of the East," contains a fine Celtic church with a square tower dating mainly from the thirteenth century, which has recently been restored by the Board of Works. During the process of restoration a wonderful painted fresco depicting a procession of monks, and dating from the thirteenth century, was laid bare, but the priests unfortunately lack their heads. An ancient fortress still occupies the Bass Rock, and was alternately the prison of Covenanter and Jacobite, as recounted in the pages of Stevenson. The May Island has traces of an early abbey, and Inchkeith is the traditional site of the long lost Urbs Guidi of Ptolemy.

Holy Island, off the Northumberland coast, a bleak, treeless island, the surface of which is covered by sandy hillocks, is remarkable for a plain and well-nigh perfect First Pointed Church and an ornate but sadly dilapidated Romanesque priory.

The Fame Islands, famous as the hermitage of S. Cuthbert, the apostle of the Lothians, also lie off the bold Northumbrian coast, but of the saint's oratory and unfurnished cell, rudely built of unhewn stone and turf, no trace remains. On the scene of his austerities and death after his return from his bishopric at Lindisfarne at least two religious houses were built in later times, one of which, the Chapel of S. Mary, has nearly disappeared. The other, a building of Second Pointed character, still exists in good preservation. The tower is believed to occupy the site of S. Cuthbert's Oratory. S. Aidan, who hailed from lona, also founded his see of Lindisfarne on the islands, a bishopric which stretched far into Teviot-dale and Lothian, and was primarily responsible for the foundation of the Abbey of Melrose. Longstone Rock, with its lighthouse, is celebrated as the scene of the heroism of Grace Darling, who in 1838 rescued many of the passengers of the wrecked steamship Forfarshire, bound from Dundee to London.

The voyage has revealed to us not only the mystic beauty of our maritime environment, but the rugged and majestic frame and setting by which the peaceful picture of our Britain is surrounded.

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Pictures for The Storied Isles page 3

CASTLE MOIL, KYLEAKIN, ON THE STORIED ISLE OF SKYE
CASTLE MOIL, KYLEAKIN, ON THE STORIED ISLE OF SKYE >>>>
STORNOWAY PEAT
STORNOWAY PEAT >>>>
ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT: BEACON TOWERS, S. CATHERINE'S POINT AND QUARR ABBEY
ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT: BEACON TOWERS, S. CATHERINE'S POINT AND QUARR ABBEY >>>>
OLD STRONGHOLDS OF THE STORMY SCILLY ISLES
OLD STRONGHOLDS OF THE STORMY SCILLY ISLES >>>>
ON LUNDY: THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL AND THE LANDING PLACE
ON LUNDY: THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL AND THE LANDING PLACE >>>>
SLOPING STRATA AT PORT SODERICK, ISLE OF MAN: CASTLE ROCK, ANGLESEY
SLOPING STRATA AT PORT SODERICK, ISLE OF MAN: CASTLE ROCK, ANGLESEY >>>>
RUINS OF THE CATHEDRAL ON lONA'S HALLOWED ISLE
RUINS OF THE CATHEDRAL ON lONA'S HALLOWED ISLE >>>>
THE KING'S CAVES AND TALL GOAT FELL ON ARRAN
THE KING'S CAVES AND TALL GOAT FELL ON ARRAN >>>>
DUNVEGAN CASTLE, ON THE MISTY MOUNTAIN ISLAND OF SKYE
DUNVEGAN CASTLE, ON THE MISTY MOUNTAIN ISLAND OF SKYE >>>>
THE WONDER OF FINGAL'S CAVE ON THE ISLET OF STAFFA
THE WONDER OF FINGAL'S CAVE ON THE ISLET OF STAFFA >>>>
THE LITTLE PORT OF TARBERT AT THE HEAD OF A SEA LOCH OF HARRIS
THE LITTLE PORT OF TARBERT AT THE HEAD OF A SEA LOCH OF HARRIS >>>>
LEWIS:
LEWIS: "STANDING STONES" OF CALLERNISH, STORNOWAY >>>>
LEWIS: A WHALEBONE ARCH, STORNOWAY
LEWIS: A WHALEBONE ARCH, STORNOWAY >>>>
FRETTED CLIFFS OF ORKNEY'S WEST COAST AND THE BISHOP'S PALACE, KIRKWALL
FRETTED CLIFFS OF ORKNEY'S WEST COAST AND THE BISHOP'S PALACE, KIRKWALL >>>>
SUMBURGH HEAD, SHETLAND'S MOST SOUTHERLY POINT
SUMBURGH HEAD, SHETLAND'S MOST SOUTHERLY POINT >>>>
BASS ROCK AND ITS LIGHTHOUSE IN THE FIRTH OF FORTH
BASS ROCK AND ITS LIGHTHOUSE IN THE FIRTH OF FORTH >>>>
RUINED ABBEY OF S. COLUMBA ON THE ISLE OF INCHCOLM
RUINED ABBEY OF S. COLUMBA ON THE ISLE OF INCHCOLM >>>>
S. CUTHBERT'S CHAPEL IN THE FARNE ISLANDS
S. CUTHBERT'S CHAPEL IN THE FARNE ISLANDS >>>>
HOLY ISLAND: THE CRADLE OF CHRISTIANITY IN ENGLAND
HOLY ISLAND: THE CRADLE OF CHRISTIANITY IN ENGLAND >>>>

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