"Orkney Today" and "The Orcadian" of June 4th 2009 report the discovery of a potential tomb at Heathfield, beehive shaped and built straight into the bedrock. There is a lintelled space opposite the corbelled cell... continues...
BROUGH OF BIRSAY SAFE CROSSING
Radio Orkney has discontinued their early morning tide times for tourists to reach the Brough of Birsay. Their system took three-and-a-half hours off the Kirkwall low tide and then allowed five hours for safe crossing. Ocassionally this proved conservative but on very rare occasions folk still got stuck. The reports will be resumed when/if a more reliable method is found.
On the way to the Wasdale crannog we spotted this mound from the path, which struck me as looking suspiciously like a barrow. A quick check of the O.S. map whilst relaxing on the crannog confirmed it was a 'cairn', and since we were passing it seemed rude to to visit.
As I've posted before I'm never really satisfied with viewing a site from afar, and feel a strange compulsion to connect to the place by actually physically being there or touching it. Maybe it's the same thing that drives me to 'bag' lonely mountain summits, but I'd be deeply unsatisfied by just taking a photo from the path, and not letting a little thing like a complete lack of any visible access to the site stopping me, I look for a way to reach the mound.
Finding a spot where the dry stone wall was a little lower I hop over into a field choked with gorse. The thick bushes are so dense I have to pick my way through veritable maze of spiny branches as I struggle uphill, before working my way around the barbed wire fence which partitions off the field containing the mound. Handily though a gate right by the mound allows access without having to circumvent the fence and then I'm there.
While I'm sure some people would be incredulous as to lengths I'd go through just to visit a small green mound, when I'm there I'm glad I did, as Howe Harper is actually rather good. Firstly the surrounding ditch is still clearly visible and well preserved, and secondly the views from atop the mound are fantastic. Each way you turn gives a new and fine aspect, to the north the loch of Wasdale twinkles below you, whilst west the hills of Hoy loom over the horizon, dominating the skyline as they do all across west Mainland. To the south the mound seems to mirror a small hill which sticks out atop a ridge of high ground.
The cairn itself is also still of a good size, with just a small chunk hacked from the mound, possibly by the world's most half-hearted treasure seekers who just couldn't be arsed, or else feared they may be in danger of disturbing the mound's resident draugr, or more likely through erosion by cattle grazing. Either way it gives a view of some of the underlying cairn structure.
Well as grassy mounds go this is definitely one of the good ones, and perfectly viewable from the path, but if you do want the full experience of the views from the cairn, then try Wideford's directions, I'm sure it would be easier!