Bishop’s Palace

The bishop in Kirkwall would have had a longer commute to work than I do, but not by much. You can see St Magnus Cathedral from his palace, and vice versa. Even I wouldn’t have needed a cup of tea on arrival if I’d had one just before leaving home – although I’m fairly sure tea wasn’t an option back then.

We’re very much enjoying Orkney. As far as we can see there are only two downsides – the wind (cold and doesn’t let up much) and the lack of an LPG filling pump. The van needs gas for heating, hot water, the fridge, cooking and, most vital of all, the kettle! It’s OK though as we have a cunning plan.

Some of the positives of Orkney include the beauty and drama of the landscape, very friendly people, loads of historic sites to visit, great campervan facilities and wonderful park ups, lots of wildlife especially birds, plenty of bakeries and tea rooms, great walks, a decent number of ships for Gary to photograph, loads of wild flowers… It’s amazing I’ve found time to write, but that short commute to work helps and I’m making progress with the novel.

Broch of Borwick

Yesnaby was so beautiful, there was more to explore, and the weather forecast for the next day was good, so we stayed where we were. I did a little writing before cooking our dinner. The following morning, after a pot of tea and writing a few more words as Gary sorted out the camera stuff, we headed for the Broch of Borwick.

There were many distractions on the route, including Northern Marsh Orchids and another sea stack. This time it was my turn to cling to a cliff edge for the benefit of a photo. OK, so there was a path down to almost sea level and the bit I had to negotiate was only a few feet above that, but you have to remember I’m not at all brave!

After visiting the broch we walked on to Skara Brae – but decided to visit that another day, as although the walk to that point was only a couple of miles we’d taken a long time doing it, and had eaten nothing and only drunk the one pot of tea before leaving the van three hours earlier.

Comet and Watch Stones

Both the Comet and Watch stone are located between the Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stenness. It looks as though all the stones are part of the same extended monument, but apparently they were erected over a period of over 1,000 years.

The Comet (shown first) is relatively small – not even my height. The Watch stone is massive!

I like the fact that, although quite a lot is known about these stones and credible theories have been proposed, nobody knows for certain precisely why they were built, or how they were used.

The weather was a bit blurgh when we arrived, stayed that way as we drank a pot of tea and ate Empire biscuits and fruit slices respectively, and stayed that way after we’d had a good look and another tea break, so we plan to go back again later. It would be great to get sunset or sunrise photos, wouldn’t it?

Very old and quite new

We visited the Grain Earth House in Kirkwall, which turned out to be a mini adventure. First we had to collect the keys and find the place – not too difficult, even though it’s surrounded by an industrial estate. Then we had to open the gate and door, which wasn’t easy. Then we had to climb down some steps, which looked relatively modern, but might not have been. It’s hard to tell with solid stone. They lead to the underground tunnel or passageway, which was partly dug out of the earth, but the floor and lower part of the walls were cut into solid rock.

Next we had to do a weird crouching shuffle along the low and narrow passageway. It’s a jolly good thing we’ve been doing a lot of walking as well as cake eating recently! It was also a good thing the person who provided the keys warned us we’d need a torch, as it’s completely dark as soon as you turn the first corner. Once inside the chamber we could stand up. We’re not tall and only had an inch or so of clearance.

The souterrain was created around 2,800 years ago, making it very old. I made a mini youtube film of the experience – something I’m very new too!

Yesnaby – and the ‘castle.’

We arrived at Yesnaby in the evening. The light was good, so we set out on a walk without even stopping for a cup of tea! (We’re getting plenty of sunshine and good photographic light, but the weather is very changeable, so we grab every opportunity we get.)

Yesnaby has a sea stack which, with an imagination as active as mine, does look something like a castle with a drawbridge. I’m not sure if that one has a name, but there’s another very close by which is called the castle – and looks nothing like one!

Gary did his taking a photograph whilst perilously close to a cliff edge thing, and I attempted to find the rare wildflower Primula Scotica. I think I did, but as it wasn’t yet in flower it’s difficult to be certain, so I’ll keep looking.

After that we went back to the van for a restorative pot of tea as we planned what to do next.

Wednesday word of the week – Orcadian

An Orcadian is a native or inhabitant of the Orkney Islands. This beautiful place is where Gary and I will be living (in the mobile writing retreat aka photographic base aka campervan) which I hope qualifies us as temporary Orcadians. While we’re here, we plan to see many of the sights, eat the local food, and learn something of the history and culture. So far we’ve met some lovely people, visited several fascinating places and discovered Orkney sunshine frequently comes in liquid form!

We’re not complaining about the weather btw. We had an idea what it would be like and came prepared, the wind and rain are part of what makes the place so spectacular and beautiful, plus the breaks in the sunshine encourage us to get on with some work.

It’s a sign

While on South Ronaldsay I picked up a piece of sea glass, which I thought looked very like a standing stone. Obviously that was a clear sign that the Ring of Brodgar needed to be one of our next stops after photographing some ships of course. (If you’d like to see the ship photos, follow Maritime Photographic on Facebook.)

I was right, wasn’t I? It does look like a stone.
And here’s how some of the other stones in the circle look.

A bridge to nowhere

OK, it’s not a bridge and it does go somewhere, but don’t you think it looks as though crossing over might take us into a different world, time or dimension? There must be a story there!

It’s actually one of the ‘Churchill Barriers’ built during WW2 by Italian prisoners, both to link some of the smaller islands onto Mainland Orkney and to protect Scapa Flow – doing a better job than the ‘block ships’ which can still be seen. (Google is sure to be able to provide a more detailed history lesson, should you want it.)

We got across safely, and returned later to swim in the beautifully clear, and breathtakingly cold, sea. We’ll do that again when we get the chance, and hopefully visit the nearby Italian chapel – something else built by the prisoners of war.

On Orkney

We intend to see as much of Orkney as possible during our trip. One of our first stops was St Mary’s Hope on the island of South Ronaldsay (reached by a causeway). We photographed a ferry, than had lunch watching ducklings bobbing about in the bay. I think they’re eider ducks.

After that, we headed down to Burwick, which is the southern tip of Orkney. The land you can see in the distance in one shot is mainland Scotland. We did part of the coastal walk towards Sandwick, which is incredibly beautiful. Then we photographed St Mary’s church, before finding a place to park the mobile writing retreat / campervan for the night – and yes, I did do some writing!

Nearly there

Pictures taken on the route up to Scrabster, where we’ll catch the ferry. And yes, this is still writing related as in addition to writing on route I’m also scouting out a location for a future book in my cosy mystery series. And yes, I’ll be using those two excuses a lot over the summer.