About 13 miles north of Caithness lies Nybster broch, another of those round Iron Age drystone towers scattered across Caithness as thickly as currants on a bun. Brochs are unique to Scotland, and Caithness, with some 300 sites, has more than half of them. Their shape always reminds me of a clay pot on the potter’s wheel, smooth and tapering giddily upwards; most are just ruins, with only the foundations remaining (though a few preserved examples can still be found in Orkney and the Western Isles).
Nybster perches on another of those Caithness goes, the narrow promontories jutting out like splinters of rock into the North Sea. We parked in a small car park next to a couple of taciturn men staring intently through binoculars the size of TOW missile launchers for what I supposed were whales or dolphins, but who may just have been looking for Russian submarines.
The distance to the broch is further than it looks, the path twisting like a Tudor maze, but it’s worth the walk: the location is stunning, there are many unexpected goes and stacks of rock to see along the way, and the broch itself is surprisingly extensive. The central chamber is some 23 feet across, but there are the foundations of a number of outbuildings surrounding it; the evacuations were never filled in, so you can make them all out clearly. There are so many of these outbuildings that, seen from above, the site looks rather like a green honeycomb.
In gansey news, the Hebridean cardigan is moving right along. I have finished the lower body and am, at time of writing, 2 rows away from finishing the gussets. I’ve just started the yoke pattern, which I’ll say more about next time. I do like this yarn: it’s Frangipani Aran (Natural) yarn, but it has a yellowish cream tint, a shade I associate with (and this tells you how old I am) a milk bottle left too long on the doorstep in the sun. It reminds me of those examples of antique lace you find in museums—almost as if it’s been pre-aged.
Nybster, by the way, also features a bizarre stone monument, “Melvyn’s Tower”, erected by Sir Francis Tress Barry, the Victorian archaeologist who excavated Nybster, in memory of his nephew, and using stone from the site; bizarre not least for the gargoyles that adorn it. It seems an odd approach for an archaeologist to take, but then I suppose we should just be grateful Barry didn’t use dynamite to excavate the site, the way Schliemann did with Troy…
TECHNICAL STUFF (PART TWO)
I opted for a simple diamond pattern for the border—I tend to think the border shouldn’t distract too much from the yoke, which is always where the main action is in a gansey, I feel. It adds to the richness of the overall effect, but make it too busy and it gets a bit overwhelming. It’s nice to get a border more or less lining up so that it breaks exactly in the centre of the gansey, like a perfect crease in the leg of a pair of gentleman’s trousers; but it’s even more so with a cardigan employing a steek.
In this case the pattern repeat was 8 stitches, and as there are 173 stitches on the front side, and the back, we inset the border by 2 stitches either side to give us that perfect centre effect.