Bernie Bell: Orkney Walks (with Stories) – Wideford

For all these walks, take a good map with you and wear stout footwear!

Following on from Cuween


Wideford cairn, is across the vale, from Cuween, straight across.  The two cairns, look at each other, across the vale, by the sea.

To get there, it’s a case of turning off the Kirkwall-Stromness- Inter-City-Super-Highway,  and following the sign for the cairn.  You then turn off the road, onto a track which goes through a farm, and carry on, up Wideford Hill.  There’s a small car park, to the left of the road.  You’ll start the walk , going along the side of the hill, becoming  a member of the Contour Club.  The Contour Club, consists of folk, like myself, who don’t  like going up steep slopes, crossing the contours, but who prefer to go round the hill, along the contours.

At the beginning of the walk, it’s a good idea to stop and look back, to see Kirkwall, Scapa and  the Southern Isles, stretching away….south!  A good perspective, and a crackin’ view!  Then , toddle along the path, looking across to the hills, all very lovely….and you’ll get to the cairn.

You enter the cairn’s enclosure, via a kissing gate, so KISS!  Kiss, at any opportunity!

Wideford Cairn

Wideford Cairn, Orkney (B Bell)

Wideford is a very smart cairn, built with pleasing symmetry

We tend to go up on the top of the cairn, and sit on the wall, to eat our sandwiches, looking across to Cuween.  The views here, across the vale, out to sea, back down the vale, are……….indescribable, so I won’t try!

This is what we do, and one time, whilst doing so, and looking across to Cuween – this is what came to me………….

There were two sets of people here, the farmer-folk, and the fisher-folk.  Obvious enough, a good, fertile vale, and the sea nearby.  The farmer-folk had Cuween as their cairn.  The Fisher-folk had Wideford as their cairn.  I could see one of the kind of fish they caught, it had dangly things by its mouth, I described it to Mike, and he said it sounded like a Ling, which would, apparently, be a likely fish for them to have caught in these parts.  The two groups worked together, and helped each other with their cairns, and in general.  I’m not saying they never argued, that’s just people, they’d have to be different beings, not to have rowed a bit!  But, they helped each other, bartering the different surplus at different times of year, and all that.

This all came to me, as clear as day.  I know it sounds a bit obvious, when you look at the situation, and at the cairns, but, as far as I’m aware, no-one has mentioned this yet.  The information on Cuween tells of the farmers, but I’ve not seen anything about the fisher-folk, but this is what I saw.  The cairns look across at each other, as balance, if you look from Cuween or Wideford, you look to Wideford or Cuween, they worked that closely together.  It’s a wonderful balance and clarity.

Anyway, there it is.  Farming-folk and fisher-folk, working together to feed the people, and working together to raise their cairns.

I see the smaller cairns as being like Parish churches, for the local folk.  Old churches often have people buried under the floor, that doesn’t make them just ‘tombs’, though, does it?  They were for all the big human things, Joining, Naming, Growing and acknowledging that the spirit was returning to Spirit.  I know other people have said this too, and the more you look at it, the more it makes sense.   I certainly see this as the case with Cuween and Wideford, and the Eagle Cairn.

And so, back to the cairn itself.  The actual, original entrance-way is very low and narrow, so, some-one, in their wisdom, saw fit to knock a hole in the top of the cairn and place a ladder in it.  This hole is accessed by a sliding ‘door’ thing.  I’ve never been into Wideford Cairn, because I’m not good with ladders, but access can be gained, in this way.  You may have noticed an edge of dis-approval, there.  Well, as I see it, why not leave the original entrance?  If a person can get through it, fair enough, if not, that’s too bad.  Was it really worth making a hole in the top of the cairn, and adding a sliding contraption?  That’s the question.  It lets water in, too, into what was probably a water-tight place, originally.  Mutter, mutter, mutter.

After visiting the cairn, it is possible to either walk or drive right to the top of Wideford Hill, and achieve stupendous views!

There is also a lot of associated interest, connected with Cuween and Wideford.  Just down from Cuween, a Neolitic site has been discovered and excavated, at Stonehall.  Very interesting.  Is it domestic?  If so, why no hearths?  Hmmmm.  And there are also numerous other ancient sites located around Wideford Hill.

But this is about the actual walks, so I’ll leave you to investigate further, for yourself!

Related stories:

Bernie Bell: Orkney Walks (with Stories) – Cuween

Bernie Bell: Orkney Walks (With Stories) – Warbeth

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