Jun 15, 2011
|Up early, breakfast and then a 15 minute drive to Scrabster where we catch the ferry to Stromness to Orkney Island.
The ferry sticks very close to the other islands we pass on the way – particularly the island of Hoy with a coastline of cliffs and the single standing ‘old man of Hoy’.
We berth and head off on a day drive around the island. We are most surprised. Expected the island to have a more dramatic coastline but what get is some of the most productive and lush farmland we have yet seen. The crops of silage are heavy and just ripe for harvesting. The grass paddocks have sheep and cattle grazing on them.
Our first stop is the Brough of Birsay – on the way we chatted with a lady who used to farm in the area – we did chuckle when she said she used to be a nurse – forty years ago most farmers in Australia always seemed to marry nurses or teachers.
Unfortunately we were unable to walk out to the actual Brough (pronounced Brock) as the tide was still covering part of the walkway – we would have had to wait another couple of hours.
Still David was compensated by finding three tractors on the beach. A Zetor, a David Brown and a grey Ferguson – the David Brown being the most northern tractor we see, beating the Ferguson by half a head.
As we make our way around the island we see many farms, most have old ruins of sheds along side their more modern version and the houses are mostly grey brick with any formal gardens. The fences made from upright slate slabs.
One of the most notable things is the complete lack of trees on the island - except for a few planted here.
The original vegetation removed for boat building (during the Nordic occupation) and fuel.
We eventually have lunch at Kirkwall and our break includes a visit to a couple of book shops.
From there we venture over the barriers (Churchill barriers). Scapa Flow is where some of the British fleet were based in both world wars.
Towards the end of the Second World War Churchill had the barriers built to minimise the entrances the enemy subs could use to reach the fleet. They were actually completed just as the war was ending.
They now join a number of the smaller islands to the main one thus allowing for further development and a greater economy for the smaller communities
Whilst driving on the lower islands we come across a house flying an Australian flag. David hops out and knocks on the door – out comes a guy in his 70s who has moved back from WA after the death of his wife. He has daughters in Orkney Island and Edinburgh and a son still in Australia. Just lives there with his silky terriers. He does miss Australia – not surprised given the weather on the islands.
We end our day at St Margaret’s Hope where we return to mainland Scotland on a different ferry – arriving at Gills Bay. Once again we hug the islands and can see seals and stacks of sea birds – and our very first puffin floating in the sea.
We pay a brief visit to John o’Groats, erroneously thought to be the most northern part of mainland Britain – it isn’t, Dunnet Head is and we visit there next and watch the birds coming home to their nests in the evening.
Back home to Castletown – another long day.