I've only really been aware of the name/place, Orkney, for the last couple of years. I was introduced to it by the 'rock star' BBC-TV archaeologist Neil Oliver. I love watching him, his programs and listening to him talk! Love his long hair too! The program he presented on the discovery of the 'Ness of Brodgar' really grabbed my imagination and I thought if I ever had the chance I'd love to see it for myself. So we went there!
To get to Orkney from Inverness we had to get out of bed at 5am and drive over 2 hours north to catch a fast car cat/ferry for a one hour sail across the Pentland Firth and into the Orkney Archipelago . There is a larger, but slower, ferry available but we wanted to make the trip over quickly. Our fast sail was sunny and calm and as soon as we drove off the ferry we hit the history trail.
Our first stop was the Tomb of the Eagles. I didn't know what to expect since I hadn't done any research on any of the sites but the tourist brochures said it was well worth a visit. To get there we drove down narrow 2 lane roads winding between well cultivated fields of hay in the process of being harvested as well as small herds of cattle. The hills are treeless ... nothing seems to grow much taller than a small bush. With every turn of the road you could see the ocean or a loch - with nothing blocking the view - and we could just imagine how vicious the winds would be blowing off the North Sea or North Atlantic.
The visitor entrance to the Tomb of the Eagles was a building in the back of a farm shed. We pulled into the car park and went inside for a surprising and enlightening 30 minute one on one education about the area and the 5,000 year old artefacts and bones they found on the site. Then after the talk we were taken into another room to be fitted with "Wellie Boots" and shown the path out across the muddy field to the archaeology site. Turns out, unlike Stonehenge, most of the sites here on Orkney are well preserved but you can get right up and personal with pretty much all of them. First we saw a site dating back 5,000 years which was very very muddy then we walked to the main Tomb site.
|We walked along these rocky cliffs to reach the Tomb of the Eagles. Out there is the North Sea! What a lovely day we had - probably about 14C degrees - and no wind.|
The talk and tour of the Tomb and surrounds took almost 2 hours! It was becoming clear that our planned couple of days on Orkney may not be enough time to get around all the sites we would like. And it's pretty clear this blog could take forever as well ... so I'm going to resort to pictures to describe the rest of the trip. Here goes ......
After we finished at The Italian Chapel we drove on in to the main town of Kirkwell and found our B&B, checked in, had a glass of wine and then walked all over the town that night looking for a pub and then a place to eat. We were there in Orkney as everything was closed or closing for the season. The main site I wanted to see - The Ness of Brodgar - had already closed. Nothing much was open but we still managed to find a place on the water front to drink and eat. It was cold and I can't imagine how hard it must be to live there during the winter.
And a note for our sailing friends .... you don't just snuggle your boat into a marina for the season here. We passed a place where the yachts were winterized. They pull yachts out to a place on land. Remove all the canvas covers and the masts and then they strap them down. Imagine having your boat up on a cradle with as many as 10 ropes lashing it to the ground! I KNOW Orkney will never be on my sailing bucket list!!! Pittwater is still the love of my life when it comes to sailing.
By the time we'd finished at Skara Brae we were both cold, hungry and exhausted. We returned to the B&B and went out for dinner early that night. Oh ... and one thing about the way people in Orkney speak .... they have a very unusual accent. It doesn't sound like Scottish exactly .. more like a mixture of Scottish and Scandinavian. And, it is very hard to understand! George managed to get it .. I was hopeless. Also when you talk to people there they seem to still think of themselves - just a bit - as being part of Norway. These islands are certainly a long way north!!
Our final morning in Orkney we woke to strong winds and grey skies and cold temps. The wind had been howling outside our window all night and I wasn't thinking good thoughts about our one hour ferry ride back to the mainland later. We had one more site to see and then we had to make an 11:50 ferry.
We made the ferry and the sail back to the mainland wasn't too bad .. a bit bumpy but not enough to make me want to lose my breakfast!
We drove back to Inverness via John O'Groats .. the end of the road north in the UK. We'd been to the end of the road in Tasmania so I guess as far as the United Kingdom goes we were at the other end! And here we are ... freezing but happy!!!