Two Go Glouping In Deerness

By Bernie Bell

Pics by B&M Bell

The First of September –  a day of rain and sunshine – autumn beckoned, and we set off for The Gloup in Deerness.  There is a sizable car park for the Mull  Head Nature Reserve, and, just up the track, a visitor centre with a handy map showing a choice of walks, varying in length and difficulty.

It’s possible to just go to view The Gloup itself, or carry on to the Brough of Deerness, or, if you are reasonably fit, hale and hearty, continue round the top of Mull Head, and back down to the car park.  We did that, once, years ago, and it was a crackin’ walk.  For the last bit of it, the light was fading, lights were coming on and twinkling across the sea – it was fiiiiine.

Now, I can manage as far as the Brough, so, that’s what we do.

The Gloup is a strange and intriguing feature, a large sea cave, the roof of which has caved-in, creating a deep cleft which leads to the sea, and which actually makes “Gloup” noises, as well as various booming sounds.  The name comes from the Old Norse “gluppa” – a chasm or blow-hole.

The Gloup Bell

It is possible to actually go into it, from the sea. We did so once, on a trip with the local RSPB group, and it was magical – another world – the Underworld – you’re on the water, and under the earth, at the same time.

On this visit, we weren’t in it, we were above it, and saw two kayakers, who had paddled in from the open sea.

The Gloup Kayakers Bell

They were delighted with their adventure, waving to us, and enjoying the waterfall – even paddling in under it for a soaking. Imagine how invigorating that must feel!  They were two happy chappies.

There isn’t always a waterfall here, and this one was evidence of just how much rain had fallen in the last few days.

The Gloups waterfall Bell

We then carried on along the cliff-top path, to the Brough, seeing a host of flowers of Grass of Parnassus on the way………..

grass of parnassus Bell

And, as we approached the Brough – a tempting view  of the sea, through the cliffs.

The Gloup walk Bell

You can access the Brough by going down a steep wooden stairway to a little bay

Gloup walk - Brough at Deerness Bell

Then, turning to your right, take a path up the side of the Brough, which is quite precipitous, and which can be slippery when wet!  There is a chain railing to hold onto, but this path is not for the feint-hearted, or the bad–backed, so I stayed put, and Mike made his way to the top of the Brough, to visit the ruins of a Norse Chapel, which I have previously mentioned, here……..

 The chapel has a small alter, and, if you look hard enough at this picture you will see that folk still leave ‘offerings’ of coins on the alter – offerings to their own Gods, maybe?

Near to the chapel is a small pool, which is understood to have been the well which would have provided water for the settlement here.

Brough of Deerness pool Bell

Another one of the ancient wells of Orkney  I wonder do folk drop offerings into the well, too?

Near the well, Mike noticed small paw-prints in the mud, and wondered were they from a rat?  Or…….an Orkney Vole, which is a species of vole, only found on Orkney.  Mike’s footprint provides some idea of scale…

Brough of Deerness tracks Bell

Coming down from the Brough, and back up the wooden stairway, you can now turn right to continue on, to Mull Head, or, as we did, head inland to follow a path to the left, back to the Gloup, and the car park.  Here, we turned to see the Brough, with its ruins, and the white lighthouse on Auskerry, shining in the sun, in the distance.

Brough of Deerness Bell

On the way back, we came across…..

Brough of Deerness mushroom Bell

A very big mushroom!!! Glowing like the moon! A foragers delight – which set us off thinking about substantial mushroom omelettes. We were hungry after our walk, and meant to go to Sheila Fleet’s for something to eat, but forgot that it closes at 4 on a Sunday, so, into Kirkwall to Judith Glue’s Real Food Cafe, which serves food ‘til 6.

One of those days which started off dreich – we didn’t let that stop us, set off, thoroughly waterproofed, and – the sun came out, I sang ‘Incy wincy spider’, and Mike commented that Incy wincy was a foolish creature, who didn’t learn a thing from experience.

There is another Gloup, near Halcro Head on South Ronaldsay

It’s not possible to get into that one, but I suspect that, if archaeologists ever do investigate it, they might find some interesting objects down there.

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8 replies »

  1. Another fine gloup is Long Gloup up the coast from the Birsay Whalebone, easiest accessed at the end of the ‘village’ in Northside.One waterfall at the head and another along the north side

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