Walk of the week: Broch of Gurness, Orkney

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ORKNEY is so full of ancient history that a few days there will see you passing standing stones, chambered cairns and Neolithic villages with the regularity of passing a take-away franchise in one of Scotland's cities.

Skara Brae is perhaps the best known, a 5,000-year-old farming settlement, with the chambered cairn of Maes Howe and the Stones of Stenness also hogging the headlines with the impossible longevity of their construction.

This is also a place which is no stranger to brochs such as the 2,000-year-old Broch of Gurness, surrounded by a unique partially preserved village.

Spending time on an island gives a sense of isolation and closeness with the surrounding natural environment that came to the fore on the Sands of Evie, a beautiful bay just near the broch, where four seals were content to continue their everyday activity in the presence of a Gortex-clad human. Behind the dune the biggest hare I have ever seen sprinted away with all the speed it could muster. To spot seals or hares is not the stuff of a BBC Natural History exclusive but it is a real joy and one to be remembered when you are stuck in the minutiae of modern life.

Luckily the rain lifted as I reached the broch and once I had my fill of history my eye wandered across Eynhallow Sound to the tiny island of the same name and the larger presence of Rousay. To properly explore the archipelago of Orkney takes many years but if you sample even a small part, you will be impressed.

DISTANCE 2 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED Negligible. TIME 1 to 2 hours.

MAP OS Landranger 6.

PARK Drive into Evie village, north of Kirkwall on the A966, and turn right, down a small road after a church. Go past a house with a totem pole and park next to public toilets.

IN SUMMARY Go right from the car park, along a track. As it bears left drop down to the Sands of Evie. If the tide is out you can splash over (or try to jump) the burn at the end of the bay then go up to a single-track road and turn left.

Otherwise, return to the track and follow it to a junction, where you turn left on to the single track road.

The road takes you round the Point of Hellia to a car park. At the far end follow a path to the Broch of Gurness (there is an admission charge – 4.70/ 2.80/ 3.80).

Re-trace your steps to the Sands of Evie and either follow the road and track back to the start or, if the tide is out, enjoy the beach before returning to the car park.

REFRESH Head for Kirkwall.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA Skara Brae is the best-preserved prehistoric village in northern Europe and is only a few miles away, and Maes Howe is a massive Neolithic chambered tomb. (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk).

This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 13 February, 2011