I don’t normally post about holidays but this is the exception. The Orkneys with a group of fellow walkers was the plan and a good plan it was too. It rains a lot in the Orkneys and for those of you not familiar with where I’m talking about it’s north of the very north of mainland Scotland and consists of many islands. We got there by flying to Inverness and then transported from there by fine ‘minibuswalkercarrier’ vehicle to the top of the country.
It was raining, and grey, all day. It got more and more bleak the further north we went. On the way we stopped in the middle of nowhere for a cake and a cuppa at what seemed to be the only café in the land. Kind and attentive, super tea and cakes and then onwards and upwards to the ferry across the sea to Kirkwall.
Tea and cakes in a little cafe on the way complete with discreet fashionable lighting.
Our leader Ken briefed us on the activities of the week and we all got to know one another on the ‘minibuswalkercarrier’ as we headed for the very end of mainland UK.
We were: a former firefighter now probation chap from London whose boots seemed to fill almost all available floorspace, a primary teacher from Yorkshire who helps the Nigerian Government sort out their education, a couple from Connecticut who were both lawyers and were confirmed Scotofiles ( if there is no such word; then there is now ) a woman of vision from Yorkshire who worked for Specsavers, a former teacher from leafy Kingston on Thames, and my other half and me. All led by Ken our guide for the week and driver of the ‘minibuswalkercarrier’.
How wet can you get? Here’s the complete walking team, I’m behind the lens.
As you can tell from all the smiling faces we were all having a jolly good time, and as you may also be able to tell it was wet from the drips on the lens. It was a little breezy too.
On this day we saw seals, a sea otter, and more brilliant birds than you could count. Curlew, oyster catchers with their wonderful carrot beaks, ‘bonxsies’: which are large sea birds which are frankly not the sort you want to be too near. Ancient burial grounds and these wonderful landscapes.
The Italian Chapel
The forecast was reasonable for day 2 but grim for day 3. Day 2 we saw the Churchill barriers, built by Italian Prisoners of War and the little Italian church built by them too. Painted like an Italian Church, all in a nissan hut. Plenty more walking and then for day 3 which was supposed to be the trip to the Old Man of Hoy. Put it into Google and you’ll see what we were going to see. With a grim forecast of very heavy rain we swapped days and for day three got wet looking around Skara Brae ( look that up too and educate yourself like we did )
So day 4 was the trip to see the Old Man and what a good day it turned out to be. A ferry trip to the island with a load of Norwegians. Teacher John and I mused on why the Norwegians, with amazingly similar landscapes on their doorsteps chose to come here, a sort of busman’s holiday, or as we now call it, a Norwegian holiday. The Old Man did not disappoint, great walk in great light and the odd bit of rain to give it some atmosphere. Some people actually climb up to the top of this thing, must be because it’s there.
Spot of rain on the way to see the Old Man
The Old Man himself
The Northern Marsh Orchid, these things were everywhere on Orkney. The blue background bright blue sky was not quite as frequent.
Back to base and one last day to go. Gentler stuff the next day and a day out in the Stromness area, where exists the most amazing collection of modern art that I’ve seen outside London, all in an understated lovely building. Not only that but you can buy Japanese smoked twig tea from the local delicatessen.
Anyone who’s familiar with my postings will know my liking for sheds, and Orkney did not disappoint in that regard. It would seem to me that the good gardeners of Orkney like their sheds. I suspect they keep state of the art grass cutters in there so that they can keep that grass cut finely after each rain shower, as this is all they seemed to grow in their gardens: grass.This was a fine example in Stromness. I’d have loved to know what was inside here.
Whatever next? A holiday in Siberia?