Repair Work Starts at the Skibageo Hoose

DSC_0040Work has started on the repair project at the Skibageo Hoose – a boat house situated high on a cliff near the Brough of Birsay on the exposed north coast of Mainland Orkney.

The project is a continuation of the archaeological building recording completed in partnership with Birsay  Heritage Trust during 2016. This phase involves Orkney College construction students who will, as part of their building course, repair the damage caused by years of storms.

The building was constructed probably during the early twentieth century by fishermen DSC_0038from Birsay. It is not recorded on the 1900 revised O.S. sheet and was used up to the late nineteen sixties when commercial fishing ceased in the geo.

After falling into disrepair, a project by the local school in 1989 restored the building to a functional state enabling its use as a shelter, a place to rest and a point of interest. The present description “Fishermans Hut” was never used locally to describe this building in the past and only appeared after the upgrading by the school. It was always known as the Skibageo Hoose or the Hoose at the Geo.

DSC_10035Dry built random rubble walls consisting of land stone and beach stone on top of an excavation into clay and rock of probably an old boat house (noust). The east end is built almost entirely of stone and incorporates the doorway. The west end consists of little more than a gable with a small opening in the stonework to allow spars, rods, etc., to be stored in the roof space. A stone facing extends almost to floor level internally.  The roof on the north side is supported off the stonework whilst the south side is supported on a heavy wall plate on vertical wooden props. Seven timber couples with purlins incorporating some driftwood, support the roof covering of flagstone and turf. The floor is of beaten clay and of an internal size of approximately 4.4m x 2.5m. The building is sited approximately in a north-south direction, the doorway being on the east elevation.

Archaeological building recording and measured survey of the neighbouring nousts was undertaken during 2016 by a team from the Archaeology Institute and local volunteers. This produced a drawn, written and photographic record of the Hoose prior to the proposed renovations. This formed part of a wider programme of building survey in the Palace village area and making a 3D model of the Birsay whale bone.

The current repair work involved is considerable and includes the following:

  • Strip back turf and flagstone to both gables to allow access to stonework as required.
  • Take down West gable to ground level and set aside for reuse.
  • Take down East gable to below the level of the door lintel at the South side of the doorway and set aside for reuse.
  • Build in area of missing stone to lower South side of doorway to match existing
  • Consolidate or replace loose or missing stones to inside walling as required.
  • Rebuild both gables using existing stone, to profile as before.
  • West gable opening to be retained.
  • West gable may require the formation of a suitable foundation.
  • Build in stone lintel over the doorway.
  • Core of stonework to be reinforced with clean beach sand/cement mix.
  • Top stones of gables to be solidly bedded with bedding kept well back.
  • Replace flagstone and turf to roof making good to gables and existing roofing

When complete, the Hoose will provide a safe and secure haven for walkers who find themselves caught in one of the squalls that frequent this coast.

Community Archaeology in Orkney- Fieldwalking Starts Soon

Early Bronze Age arrowhead discovered by Chris Gee while field walking in the World Heritage Site Buffer Zone, Orkney

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have secured funding from Orkney Archaeology Society and Historic Environment Scotland for this year’s community fieldwalking project.

Organised by Dan Lee and Chris Gee, they will be building on the success of the 2016 Orkney World Heritage Site Buffer Zone fieldwalking project in which over 2000 finds were located, recorded and catalogued by archaeology volunteers. Last year, significant scatters of flint, pottery and cramp were found, including stand-out finds such as flint knives, WWII material and decorated pottery.

9-zoom-using-the-gps-on-field-1The project will commence in the next few weeks (dependant on the weather) and will concentrate on fields in the Ring of Brodgar and Maes Howe area, and wider buffer zone which extends either side of the lochs.

If you wish to participate in the fieldwalking and acquire training then contact Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, on

We ask that participants are local to Orkney as dates and sites can change at short notice due to farm activity, weather and other issues outside of our control.

Thanks to Orkney Archaeology Society (OAS)  and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for grant funding to undertake the fieldwalking.

fieldwalking-poster-080317-page-001There is also a talk being held on Wednesday 8th March by members of the 2016 fieldwalking team at 7.30pm in Stenness Hall. All are welcome and it is free to enter.

Bring along your finds for a show and tell.

If you are intrigued by the history and archaeology of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and want to learn more then either drop us a line through or go to our guide to courses on this blog or visit our University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute web page

Community Archaeology Workshop – Making a 3D Digital Model

Another opportunity to get involved in the Birsay St Magnus 900 Year Commemorations Archaeology Project and learn how to create a 3D digital model.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are teaming up with Birsay Heritage Trust to make a 3D digital model of the whalebone situated on the headland near Skipi Geo, Orkney.

The team will be meeting at Skipi Geo at 10am on the 14th October 2016 for a walk to the whale bone. This will be followed by a visit to the village in order to record some sites there and then onto Birsay Hall to make the computer models and view them.

The workshop should be over by 2pm. Bring warm clothes, suitable footwear and a packed lunch.

All are welcome and the event is free.


The event is supported by Orkney Islands Council and The Birsay Heritage Trust


Training Event at Pett Level Submerged Forest, East Sussex

Pett Level Submerged Forest. Photograph courtesy of Thomas Desaille

A three day training and recording event at the submerged prehistoric forest at Pett Level, East Sussex.

Environmental geoarchaeologist Dr Scott Timpany from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, carried out a Historic England funded project at this fascinating site in 2014 and will be joining the team again for all three days as more trees are recorded at the site.

The programme of events is now confirmed:

Friday 23rd September: A evening classroom session with mini lectures looking at the site, the recording methods that will be used and the CITiZAN project as a whole. There’ll also be a round up of work from local societies.

Saturday 24th September: (low tide 12.05): A guided walk of the site followed by a recording session

Sunday 25th September: (low tide 13.35): Foreshore recording session

It is possible to just attend the talks and/or the guided walk. Everyone who attends all three sessions will receive a CPD certificate and a CITiZAN edition Archaeology Skills Passport. As with all CITiZAN training sessions, there is no cost for attending.

Timings, the classroom session venue and the foreshore meeting places to be confirmed.


For more details contact Lara Band at or on 07718 570384

Archaeology, Teaching and Learning for Class 6

Using archaeology to help teach school children is an important element in our outreach programme.

Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, has been working with Glaitness School and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Rangers to integrate fieldwork into the Year 6 curriculum.

The project not only involved the study of archaeology, but also delved into biology by examining animal bones, art by using Neolithic rock art techniques, creative writing through listening to the stories associated with the site, a little science and of course  history and culture!

Neil Oliver from the BBC helping Year 6

The visit was designed to be integrated into the Year 6 curriculum – to include a programme of cross curricula learning experiences which would draw on the day. In effect the idea was to create an ongoing project which would utilise the resources available at the Archaeology Institute UHI. This is an ongoing project which the teachers and archaeologists will continue to develop as the term progresses.

The whole idea does not stop there….the pupils have used digital technology to publish their work by uploading to their own website blog. The project will develop as the children, with guidance from their teacher, add to the digital record of their learning.

But don’t take my word for it….click through to the Glaitness School blog and see for yourself..Glaitness School Year 6 blog

Rousay excavations at Swandro and Skaill starting this week!

Outreach poster

Investigations at Westness, Rousay start this week

Lots of opportunities to get involved, from workshops, kids summer club, volunteering on site and placement training.

Two Excavations along the Westness shore start this week: at the coastally eroding site at Swandro and Viking Farmstead at Skaill, Westness, Rousay, start next week. Combined, these aim to investigate the deep history of this fascinating stretch of coast.

Swandro excavations: 4-29 July – Local volunteer opportunities. Two 2 week placements for local residents available for mid to late July. Help us excavate this Neolithic to Viking aged site that is being eroded by the sea. Project details and reports here.

Skaill farmstead excavations: 4-8th July – Local volunteers welcome. Help us excavate some test trenches to investiagte the Viking farmstead below the current ruined farm buildings.

Contact Sean Page for details 01856 569229