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Fiming the Maeshowe winter sunset

22 December 2006

Filming the setting winter sun as its rays reach inside the ancient Maeshowe tomb and light up the inner chamber is not the easiest of tasks. For the past week, Douglas Scott, a silversmith from Tain, has been studying the weather forecasts as he awaits the right moment to load his camera equipment in the car and make a dash for the Orkney ferry.  So far his plans have been foiled, but the next couple of days look hopeful. It’s all part of a project to produce a CD showing the sun and moon as they rise and fall over some of Scotland’s most enigmatic ancient monuments.

Mr Scott has spent three decades researching how stone circles, burial cairns and other prehistoric sites are aligned to celestial bodies.  He has already produced one CD called Watchers of the Dawn of still photographs from around 80 sites, but the current project is more exciting as viewers will be able to watch events unfold.

Mr Scott said: "We hope to use two or even three cameras so we can video the way the passage and chamber are lit up and also get outside shots of the sun setting against the cairn. I already have footage from a series of other Bronze Age sites across Scotland.  The idea behind the CD is that it encourages people to think about these places and what they might once have been for."

His own view is that as they were built by farming cultures, they may have been religious sites connected with beliefs about the turning of the seasons and cycles of death and renewal.  Mr Scott is also interested in surviving folklore about ancient sites and how these often relate to the idea that they were occupied by spirits or other supernatural beings.

The filming will be carried out with the help of professional cameraman Norman Strachan.  To contact Mr Scott call 01862 892373 or 894297 or 07884 411576.

Notes for editors
  • Maeshowe is the finest chambered tomb in north-west Europe and more than 5000 years old. Access to the tomb is by guided tour only with timed ticketing in operation. Car parking and tickets are available from the nearby Tormiston Mill. Adult £4.50, Children £2.00, Concessions £3.50 (for one visit).

  • For the first year, the site has introduced a special Winter Solstice Ticket. The Winter Solstice Ticket is available between 11 December 2006 and 5 January 2007. Costs: Adults £10.00, Concessions £7.50, Children £5.00. This allows up to three entries to Maeshowe between these dates. Visits must be booked in advance as only a maximum of 18 people are permitted in the chamber at any one time. Please call 01856 761606 to book. The site is open Monday and Sunday from 9.30am and 4.00pm (due to safety reasons, the last tour is at 2.15pm and coincides with the sunset).

  • Maeshowe was broken into in the mid-twelfth century by Viking crusaders who carved graffiti runes on the walls of the main chamber. This is the largest collection of runic inscriptions in the world, an assemblage of international significance for their nature and content, including examples of Norse humour.

  • In 1999, Maeshowe was designated a World Heritage Site with Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness.

  • Historic Scotland has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae.

For further information


Kate Turnbull
PR Executive
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8959
kate.turnbull@scotland.gsi.gov.uk