A Missing Link on Orkney by Paul Mclean of Mclean Scotland Whisky Tours

A missing link on Orkney

Wideford distillery – Islands Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Wideford distillery was located about two miles from Kirkwall on the slopes of Wideford Hill and on the Burn of Hatston, which was likely its water source. Wideford was licensed to Mr W. Traill in 1813 and he distilled there until its closure in 1825. In 1825 it closed, cannee find much info about it. A missing whisky link to our past, has anyone got more details of this lost distillery?

What I did find; Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn – built some 5,000 years ago on an artificial terrace on a steep hillside. It’s placed in a location with views out across Wide Firth and other Orkney islands. The nearby Cuween Hill chambered cairn is also visible. The cairn was intentionally in-filled during prehistory, though when and by whom is unknown, it had been opened and robbed of any contents before any antiquarians were able to investigate it in the 1800s. Its layout comprises: a narrow entranceway, a central chamber, with side walls reaching almost 3m in height, three complex side cells. Today entrance from the cairn is no longer through the low, narrow passage. Visitors now have to enter by descending through a modern roof. Part of the original roof survives and the large lintels forming the passage’s roof and the cells were constructed with architectural expertise, think about that, built so long ago, who had the brains?. The form and architectural techniques here are similar to Maeshowe. On the tomb walls there are still rare examples of Neolithic art. The presence of such imagery reinforces the relationship between tombs such as Wideford Hill and other settlements such as Skara Brae, where similar marks have been found. The Wideford Cairn faces west and as such is bathed in the light of the setting sun from the end of February. The entrance to the cairn is very low and small, unlike Maeshowe’s grand entrance to welcome the light of the midwinter sunset. The name “Wideford” probably comes from the Norse “vide-fjord” referring to the hill’s proximity to the stretch of sea known as the Wide Firth.

A few miles to the west, and facing the Wideford Hill tomb, is the Cuween Hill cairn. The name “Cuween” derives from the Old Norse, “kúa-eng”, meaning “Cattle Pasture”. The current spelling of the name “Cuween” is a fairly recent corruption. In the early years of the 20th century the hill was still written as “Kewing”, in common with other “Kewing” placenames in Orkney. Like many others in Orkney, the Cuween Cairn was thought to be the home of fairies. As a result, the local name for the cairn was simply “The Fairy Knowe.”  Building a chambered cairn required considerable effort. Working only with stone tools, the Neolithic craftsmen erected structures that are estimated to have taken between 10,000 and 100,000 man-hours to complete. The sheer manpower required for the structures confirms their significance to the Neolithic people of Orkney. Stone blocks and flagstones had to be quarried, often from sites some distance from the site of the cairn, and where the chambers were cut into hills, such as Cuween, the main chamber had to be carved from solid bedrock before work on the roof could begin.The builders’ work, even by today’s standards is impressive. Their drystane walls are neat and level and the interiors today, after many thousands of years, are still stable and dry.

Orkney-Cromarty cairns: These are made up of a single long chamber, divided into stall-like “compartments” by stone uprights, found in Orkney and the Scottish mainland. Although the Orkney-Cromarty tombs do not have side cells, a few hybrid chambers, such as Unstan in Stenness, have incorporated them in their designs.  Maeshowe-type Cairns: This style is unique to Orkney. The tombs have one main central chamber that is reached by a low, long entrance passage. One, or more, side chambers branch of from the main central chamber. Regarding the Maeshowe-style cairns, their construction, with larger, well-cut and fitted stones, is more monumental.

Generated by Feedzy