We had a great day out today, admiring Yesnaby’s natural wonders. Yesnaby is the steep cliffs along the Orkney Mainland’s west coast, so on a windy day such as today we had to hold onto our hats — and children! But the waves were all the more spectacular! Crashing over the clifftops, shooting foam balls soaring into the air; all of a sudden we were soaked.
Some distance along the cliffs, you come to a place with the most curious rocks. They look like paving, and each stone has shapes like eyes and hearts and round rings on them. The children were really taken with these natural wonders, as people have been for centuries. In Kirkwall Library and Archive, there is a manuscript by James Wallace, written in 1684, with beautiful drawings. He writes:
“At the West end of the Mainland near Skeall on the top of high Rocks, above a quarter of a Mile in length, there is something like a street all set in Red Clay with a sort of redish stones, of severall figures and magnitutes, having the Images & representations of several things as it were engraven upon them, & which is very strange, most of these stoens when they are raised up, have that same Image engraven under which they had above. That they are so figured by Art is not probable, nor can the reason of Natures-way in their engraving be readily given, you have a specimen of their figures. This Causey is all along the tops of rocks, and though they be otherwise ofa very considerable heighth above the sea, yet the West Ocean in a Storm leading that way, does dash with such violence against the Rocks, that the Sea breaches do was the ground on the tops of the rocks. If these stones had not the same figure on that side near the groun that they have above, I should think the sea washing over them might occasion these different figures, by washing away the softest parts of the stone and leaving the harder, and so accordingly give them these accidental shapes and figures. Tho’ there are a great many of them still remaining, yet the gentlement living near that place have taken away those that had the prettiest figures to set their Chimnies with, as they use to do in Holland with painted bricks and tiles.”