On our last full day on Orkney we took the ferry to Rousay, a small island with about 200 inhabitants. Like most places in the Orkneys this island is littered with neolithic sites. One of those is the famous Mid Howe Cairn, a burial site created about 3,000 BC. It has a central passageway with 12 ‘stalls’ used to create separate space for storing the bones that were left after the corpse of the deceased was left outside for the animals and elements to strip away the flesh.
The whole cairn is covered over to protect it. A viewing gallery has been built, so that visitors can walk above the cairn and look down into the central passageway.
Right next to the cairn is a much younger structure: Mid Howe Broch. A broch is a round tower that served as a dwelling. It was built around the 1st century AD, probably for a powerful local family. Inside it is surprisingly sophisticated with separate rooms and storage areas. Therre was probably a wooden structure that held up two floors and may have been used for dried meat and fish.
They chose a place with a good view of the Eynhallow Sound with its treacherous currents. It was a strategic position as enemies would have to sail up through these waters.
There were a lot of sheep in the fields of Rousay and the dry stone walls kept the herds apart. There was also a lot of wildlife: we saw lots of seals, a hen harrier, some hares, cormorants, fulmars, etc.