At the end of October, with leave to use up, my flight reflex was kicking in. The one where I want to be far away, and probably alone. And well Orkney at the end of October seems like a place you’d find a bit of space.
On the ferry from Gills Bay to St. Margaret’s Hope I saw a Puffin. I mean that’s a life’s ambition right there. Puffins are cool!
Back on the Surly for the first time in a while, and loaded up. Its pretty heavy, but low gears keep you rolling. South to the Tomb of the Eagles.
Tomb of the Eagles
During sightseeing the wind picked up. By the time I remounted I was set for one hell of a tailwind. North across the Churchill barriers, Kirkwall bound.
The Italian chapel is a bit of a mind fuck; slavery, religion, stewardship, and tourism. Reconcile that if you will.
The Italian Chapel
By now the light was fading, and it was dark by the time I made Kirkwall. I found the SYHA closed for the winter (meh!), but also found the lovely peedie hotel, very open.
The weather was wild so I decided to hole up in Kirkwall and read (Soil and Soul as highly recommended by Laura). I ventured out to explore Kirkwall. Which feels very much like the middle of somewhere. I liked it. Also bought another book; George Mackay- Brown -what else?
A day of wet roads and tailwinds. Coast road north, finding and following signs; first stop Rennibster earth house. It’s in the middle of a working farmyard, and you have to climb down a ladder to get in. There is a nice feeling from knowing that you are trusted to cycle up the road to the farm, and climb down the ladder to look around by yourself.
A typical ‘nowhere is open’ lunch: A sausage roll, a slice of tiffin, and some good banter from the wee shop at Evie, eaten in the rain sat on the bench outside.
As I arrived at Skara Brea the sun began to poke through. After re-fueling in the cafe, (it’s hard to appreciate things on an empty stomach) I took a wander around. It’s hard not to be captivated by the sense of community the hamlet brings. I spent a few hours picking stones and shells off the beach and enjoying the place. There’s something about that wee place that will stay long after the shells have broken; you can see why you would live there.
Then on towards Stomness, but just time to stop for a walk around the Ring of Brodgar before it got dark .
Ring of Brodgar
Stomness is pretty easy to love. That town has heart, and soul. It also has a great map.
I spent the morning in the Stromness Museum, loving the Canadian exploration stuff, some of the native american beadwork was amazing. I also fell totally in love with the oil painting “Linklater and Greig Entering Yesnaby Noust” by Stanley Cursiter. The cliffs and waves reminded me of a summer’s climbing on sea cliffs. I also stopped of at the Northlight Gallery, which wasn’t strictly speaking open, but I was allowed in to look at the tapestry exhibition.- I really want to go on one of the courses here.
In the afternoon I headed off on the bike again, to visit Meas Howe. The tour guide was great – I liked her a lot – and after our tour she pointed me in the direction of a few other nearby sights, and gave me a wee map they had put together. So i stopped of at Barnshowe and the Stones of Steness (and the village of) on the way back.
I made it back to Stromess as the sun was setting – so I cycled out past the campsite and along the coastal path to watch the sun set over Hoy.
Sunset over Hoy
The only ferries from Stromess are early, so my hopes of seeing the old man of hoy were dashed in pre-dawn darkness. Once the ferry had docked in Scrabster I had a calm cycle 18miles along the coast to collect my car.