Archaeo-optics in Orkney Day 5: The hills of Hoy

I first walked along the coast, passing the spectacular sea stack of the Old Man of Hoy, before heading uphill to St. John's Head. This is one of the highest sea cliffs in Scotland.

The cliffs of Hoy, domain of fulmars (Video: Aaron Watson)

I left the coastal cliffs behind and headed across country to the distinctive domed summit of Cuilags, the second highest point in Orkney after nearby Ward Hill.

View from the summit plateau of Cuilags (Photo: Aaron Watson)
Cairns made by walkers on the summit of Cuilags appear to be set on top of earlier and more consolidated mounds. I do wonder if this was originally a cemetery of prehistoric cairns (Photo: Aaron Watson)
Another possible prehistoric mound underlying a walkers cairn on Cuilags (Photo: Aaron Watson)

Together, the group of possible cairns on Cuilags are located to be visible on the skyline from the core areas of Neolithic Orkney, including monuments such as the Ring of Brodgar.

Curious erosion patterns in stone can be found across the summit of Cuilags. They resemble the geometric patterning of some prehistoric rock art (Photo: Aaron Watson)
Stripes of stone on Cuilags, most likely the result of ice repeatedly freezing and thawing (Photo: Aaron Watson)

If prehistoric people visited the uplands of Hoy, they too would have encountered these features in the landscape. I wonder how they might have understood these patterns in stone?

Inquisitive mountain hare (Photo: Aaron Watson)
Inquisitive great skua — a.k.a bonxie (Photo: Aaron Watson)
Panoramic views above Rackwick with the summits Cuilags, on the left, and Ward Hill in the distance (Photo: Aaron Watson)
A distant view of the Dwarfie Hamars cliffs which define one side of the basin containing the Dwarfie Stane, just visible in the centre (Photo: Aaron Watson)