It was only a few days ago that one of the standing stones at Orkney’s ancient Ring of Brodgar was vandalised in the most recent case of graffiti to appear on them. Widely reported in the mainstream media, comments were posted online from around the world stating people’s disgust and shock at what they said was appalling behaviour.
Orkney’s Ring of Brodgar is 5000 years old. Built with amazing skill , it is an engineering wonder and a testament to the technical intelligence of those ancient Orcadian builders. It is not a replica – it is the real deal. It’s uniqueness means it forms part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Historic Environment Scotland have spent thousands of pounds over the last few years repairing unintentional damage done to the site. All year round, but particularly during the main tourist season, Brodgar is one of the top visitor attractions in Orkney. This caused such wear and tear to the inner Ring, the surrounding ditch and some of the adjacent mounds that there are times when it is temporarily closed. Just the inner ring – you can still walk around and take your time.
You can read all about that here: Ring of Brodgar Update – September 2018
It is a lovely place to go for a walk which I do regularly.
It is, therefore, always sad to see the number of visitors who ignore the clear signage and enter the inner ring when it has been closed off to allow the ground to recover. To do this they go down and up the ditch cutting paths through the vegetation which protects the underlying archaeology.
The Ring of Brodgar has no security cameras , no one on guard duty, there is an expectation of trust that people will respect the site so that it will still be here for generations to come.
Trust is something we seem to be rapidly losing in Orkney.
The Italian Chapel was, until recently, open and free to enter. Visitors were trusted not to abuse this freedom. But it was abused and in 2014, 3 unique wooden plaques were removed from the walls of the chapel. Today there are security cameras inside and a custodian making sure visitors behave. You now pay to enter. It is still a wonderful and moving place to visit – but that element of trust has been lost for ever.
Maybe the people I see at the Ring of Brodgar that trample through the protective vegetation do not realise that they are as much a vandal as the person who carved into the ancient stone? Maybe they don’t care?
The Ring of Brodgar is a very special place in Orkney where we are trusted to take individual responsibility and respect our ancient heritage so that future generations will still have that wonderful place to go to.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame