Leaving Skaill behind, after a play time with the dogs in the lay-by near St Peter’s Kirk, we trundled off in Brunhilde to find Kirbuster. We arrived just in time for the site’s lunch break. We had a brief five minute viewing then had to leave. It was an ideal prompt for lunch, which we made and ate in the van. There remained half an hour until the site reopened, so we explored farther afield and went to see what the car park at the Brough of Birsay offered. What it did not offer was any suitable parking space for Brunhilde. We had to park illegally so that we could give the dogs a run but could not chance staying in the bus bay long enough to cross over to the island. The Brough of Birsay now goes back on the To Do list.
The footpath along the cliff was ideal for the dogs and gave us a distant view of Westray too.
Back at Kirbuster…
…where the homestead originated in the 16th Century. Kirbuster is said to be a unique survival in Northern Europe of a traditional firehouse, with peat fire in the centre of the house and stone neuk beds. Later additions date to the 18th Century, I believe. This property was inhabited and the farm worked until the 1960s – no running water, no electricity – just life as it always was. That’s fairly mind-blowing.
The site is owned by Orkney Islands Council and, like all Scottish Museums, is free to enter. The Custodian was friendly and knowledgeable and was both helpful and informative, giving us the choice of ambling or a guided tour. We chose to amble unaided and I took many photographs.
Once again, the photos will appear at Flickr or elsewhere soon and I’ll avoid boring the casual reader here by posting a small selection only.
It’s a wonderful place and the first impression gained as one approaches is of how well kept the site is. The instantly-following second impression is the pervading smell of peat smoke.
Great attention to detail in all the room sets – note the long johns airing over the kitchen fireplace and the two high-backed Orkney chairs designed to keep the draughts from the sitter’s bones. I love the rag rug too.
It was a lot darker inside than it appears here – this is the 6D doing its high-ISO performance trick again.
Passing through the low doorway on the right is like passing back in time – from the later kitchen addition here, into the smoke-filled original building, with its central peat fire.
The family would have lived in this room together with their livestock. The air must have been thick and pungent.
The stone “neuk” beds were built into the fabric of the walls and designed, like th eOrkney chair, to keep the draughts off.
The fireback at the left divided the room into space for people and stock, more or less.
Note the “creepie” stool by the bed and tallow lamp hanging to lighten the gloom.
There’s a drop spindle for spinning yarn in a basket with some fleece, and teasels on a window that would have been used for carding – but also later tools like this spinning wheel.
There are bedrooms in the extended building and a room set as an Edwardian parlour. In here I found another fine rag rug and a silver tea service catching the afternoon light.
Kirbuster is well worth the visit and I would like to return.
We left Kirbuster to see what parking at the Broch of Gurness might be like and in the event, elected to stay there overnight. More of that in the next post.