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Ring of Brodgar: Do People Really Care?

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.

Brodgar improvements 2

Ring of Brodgar

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.

wildflowers at Brodgar

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.

ditch at Ring of Brodgar

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

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?

Ring of Brodgar protecting the path

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.

Ring of Brodgar view up from Comet stone

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

5 replies »

  1. The Italian Chapel gets carvings “Removed” OUTCRY!! so now its all secure and making LOTS of Money…The Ring Gets someones name scratched in to one of the stones ( easily removed with careful low pressure sandblasting ) But what the betting its about to be protected and hey ho it will turn into just like the Italian chapel a VERY profitable business…funny how things work out…

  2. The Italian Chapel gets carvings “Removed” OUTCRY!! so now its all secure and making LOTS of Money…The Ring Gets someones name scratched in to one of the stones ( easily removed with careful low pressure sandblasting ) but what the betting its about to be protected and hey ho it will turn into just like the Italian chapel a VERY profitable business…funny how things work out…

  3. “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?”
    Indeed – it’s all potentially causing damage – and many who would “Tut tut” at the graffiti, would cheerfully walk on ground which needs time to recover. One interpretation of the Ring of Brodgar, includes the idea that the people who raised the stones, reverenced LIFE – what might be referred to as the Universal Life Force. Many who visit, today, come there for that reason, too , and yet – do they pause to consider the land, which needs to heal itself?

    I’ll take this opportunity to say a big thumbs up and thank you to Helen & Mark Woodsford-Dean, who have moved many of their ceremonies to the Comet Stone – this helps to preserve the land around the Ring itself. https://www.orkneypaganweddings.co.uk/
    Not so many folk go to the Comet Stone – I suppose because it’s not part of the ‘get out of coach – walk round a bit – take a few photos – get back in the coach’ schedule. A good thing, too, as it means that that area, remains un-damaged.

    A thorny issue – more visitors – more wear and tear – but more awareness and thought given to why the stones were raised? I’m not sure.
    A thorny issue – but respect is respect – however a visitor ‘sees’ the place, they, surely, can’t help but see the position, and engage with it.
    I’m afraid I, also, can see a day when Brodgar will need to be fenced off – a sorry day, but – needs must when the ‘devil’ of numbers + lack of consideration, drives.

  4. I can see a day when every historical site is fenced off and made in to a profitable business. It it is ridiculous as it is.

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