Someone’s Been Busy at Skaill Bay…..

By Bernie Bell

Person or persons un-known, have been busy at Skaill Bay  – making shapes and building structures…

Sometimes, just making interesting/pleasing shapes…


Sometimes making reasonably convincing miniature copies of the kind of structures you might find on an archaeology dig…

People often build towers of stones at Skaill Bay.  I like them – the shapes, and also the idea – one stone a time – one step at time – gets you there………..

Stones Skaill Tower B Bell

One stone at a time, one step at a time.

But…………..someone’s been very, very busy at Skaill Bay! I’ve never seen anything like this before!…..

Stones at Skaill B Bell

Stones Skaill Multiple Towers B Bell

And finally …….Ancient – or Modern?

Stones Skaill B Bell Ancient and Modern

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7 replies »

  1. Did you hear the piece on Radio Orkney about this? I’m with them – tedious. Leave the beach alone. Why do we need to make our human mark on everything?

  2. Lovely to read this article! On Tuesday this week I was down at Skaill one evening (being brave and taking a swim!) and I saw the same structures and was so taken by them. Particularly the miniature scara brae someone had made-with such loving detail, even putting seaweed around the outer walls as turf and in the stone ‘beds’.

    I sat on the rocks for a long while looking at this reproduction, just thinking about it. Like Scara Brae itself its builder(s) are a mystery- a family occupying their time? An enthusiastic archaeologist? A competitive group of children? An artist? I liked the idea that here we are, thousands of years later building toy versions of the stone structures our ancestors made, and I thought the people who lived in Scara Brae would have been very amused that all these years later that even with all our technology and things they could never even have imagined, we like to sit at the beach and make models of their homes.

  3. Thanks Hannah!
    When we were there, we were thinking about how Skaill Bay changes all the time. Most often, it’s a bouldery upper beach, with a sweep of sand along the bay. Sometimes, the sand has been washed away, leaving great stretches of rock, with boulders balanced on them. Sometimes the sand has big pools which children love to play in.
    Things arrive, and things are taken by the sea.
    Always changing, always a great place to be.

  4. No need to be polarised over these structures -too much of anything can overpower nature and geology. The reconstructions are often really interesting, but sometimes the crowds of stacks can affect the beauty of a special place. I’m not sure how long they last?

  5. Hello Liz – here’s a wee tale which may illustrate what you say………..
    At Skaill Bay, on the path to Skara Brae, there used to be a ‘sitootery’ – a space enclosed by a wall, with benches to sit on. Gradually, that sitootery has collapsed down to become part of the beach. The last few time we were there, there was a lot of whirly metal stuff, to try to bolster it up – it was still collapsing. I have to admit, I thought the collapsing stones and the whirly metal looked kind-of impressive. On Tuesday, when we were there and saw all those towers and structures, the sitootery had almost vanished, so has the metal whirly stuff – nearly all gone – just a stretch of beach is there now, with some fragments of wall at the top.
    This was a manmade structure, which was eaten by the sea. “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men’.
    The towers etc, won’t be there for long – nature has a way of showing us who’s boss. I enjoy them, while they’re there – they really won’t be there for long – nothing is, as Skaill bay – hence the big walls, holding Skara Brae together. Here’s something from a previous article in TON………………

    “It’s not just Skaill Bay. A few years ago, I took Ben-the-dog on his usual walk to the Bay of Hinderayre, just down from where we live, and found on the beach these ‘sculptures’ . Mike and I later met the couple who were ‘raising the stones’ . It’s mainly the man that did it. They’re from Northumberland, and were staying at the holiday cottage, The Ayre, on the Bay. The man has a deep love of stone, and raises these pieces, whenever he gets the chance. They are very much ephemeral pieces. Each day, he made new ones, and each day, the incoming tide, knocked them over. They aren’t fixed in any way, he just finds the perfect point of balance, and, as he said himself “gravity is the glue”. I like that, as, yes, indeed, gravity is the glue, without which we’d all fly off into space! The couple will be back, as Orkney has ‘caught’ them. It was their first time here, but they loved it. He’d left his pieces on beaches all round Orkney.
    The man said, that he holds the stone, relaxes, and the stone just leaves his hands, and finds it’s balance. I told him that this reminded me of something the Harray Potter ( aka Andrew Appleby) said to me, some years ago. It was about when he seeks inspiration to produce styles of pots from other times, he said something like, that he will relax, focus, let the inspiration work through his arms and hands, and the clay almost forms itself. The man’s approach to balancing the stones, reminded me of that. Going with the flow.
    Anyhoo, we thought these pieces were great, and also, for that matter, that he was happy to take so much trouble, to produce something which was a delight to come upon on a walk, yet would then go with the next tide. Ephemeral sculptures.”

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