Sunday, 28 August 2016

Finally a visit to Orkney!

Triana, a friend who lives in the US, has been wanting to visit Orkney for a long time, as have I.  So when she came to Scotland for a wedding, we planned a trip.

After researching coaches, ferries, trains, etc we found the best way to go was the short flight from Glasgow to Kirkwall, Orkney.

We booked this hotel which we were very pleased with:
The Shore Hotel

Since I can only drive automatic cars, Triana drove the hire car.

And off we go.............

More photos of the trip

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Orkney - a very brief history

Orkney history

The history of Orkney spans over 8,800 years.

Timeline of the history of Orkney

There are 70 islands on Orkney, 20 of which are inhabited.

"Following the Battle of Largs, in 1263, and the loss of the Western Isles as a result of the Treaty of Perth, in 1266, Orkney and Shetland were the only part of what is now Scotland to remain in Norwegian hands."

Much more detail on the link below:

More history

Due to an unpaid debt, Orkney became part of Scotland in 1469.

On Orkney we noticed that many of the names were Norwegian - Ola Olaf, etc.  And the accents sounded more like Norwegian than Scottish.  I enjoyed listening to it!

Orkney dialect

Friday, 26 August 2016

Day one

Arrival at Kirkwall Airport about 12:30.  I can only drive an automatic so Triana agreed to drive since manual transmission cars are much more plentiful and much cheaper.

After checking in to the hotel we went to the Visitor Centre.  The man on staff who helped us told us how wise we were to have booked the private evening tour of Skara Brae as the next day would be 'manic'.  We discovered the next day that a huge cruise chip had docked and the island was flooded with coach tours.

I had booked a tour of Maeshowe ahead of time as I learned  it can only be seen by guided tour.

Maeshowe is a 5,000 year old neolithic chambered cairn, one of the finest in Europe.

Inside the cairn is Viking 'graffiti', some of which is similar to 'Ragnor was here' some were mentions of treasure.

Photography was not allowed inside, and my photos of the outside have disappeared.  Here's one I borrowed from online:

Found my photo!

After the fascinating Maeshowe tour, we took a drive past the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, but didn't stop as it was raining.  We made our way to the town of Stromness and wandered the cobbled streets until dinnertime.


Dinner at The Ferry Inn was fantastic!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Day two

At the Visitor Centre we picked up tourist maps showing the location of every site of interest.  So we decided to just follow the map.  It's hard to get lost on Orkney so when I lost the signal on my phone there was no need for panic.  We followed the road out of Kirkwall to Cuween Chambered Cairn but it seemed to be up a steep hill, so we didn't go up.

We then looked for Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn but couldn't find it.

Going north on the road from Finstown we took a long single track road to the Broch of Gurness.

Driving across the north of Orkney we came to the village of Birsay in the northwest corner.

From Birsay

"Now a parish of Orkney, Birsay was already ancient when it became the centreof Viking power in the days of Earl Thorfin of Saga fame.  Orkney's first cathedral was in Birsay, and St Magnus was buried here following his foul murder, c 1116.  St Magnus Church now stands on these foundations.  Centuries later Earl Robert Stewart, bastard brother of King James V, built his palace here, testimony to the richness of the area. Today peace reigns over good farm land, fishing grounds, bird colonies, convenient services and quiet, beautiful scenery."

Earls Palace

St Magnus Church, Birsay

Brough of Birsay

This island can only be accessed at low tide and we were several hours too early.  You can see in the lower right corner the walkway which is safe to cross at low tide.

During our tour at Maeshowe the previous day, the guide mentioned that there were tours of the Ness of Brodgar archaelogical site, and that the site would be closed for the season on the day we were leaving the island.  No booking was needed so we timed our tours to arrive at the site for the very last tour of the season at 3pm.

The blog of the dig

Ness of Brodgar Trust

The site is 5,400 years old!  It will take decades to excavate the entire site.  The tour was fascinating and both Triana and I decided to donate to the site by placing a pin in one of the small squares of the site for £10.  We will be kept updated on any finding in our specific squares.

Explore a 3D of the site

Neil Oliver documentary on the site:

Obviously not my photo:

One of mine:

Skaill House - first mansion on Orkney

The owner of this 17th century mansion, William Watt, discovered Skara Brae in 1850.

Skara Brae

The main reason I wanted to visit Orkney was to see Skara Brae.

A few weeks ago I got an email from an Orkney tourism site I'd signed up to telling me that this summer they had begun having private evening tours of the site.  The size of the group was between 12-15.  During the day this site is mobbed with tourists, especially in summer.  Having a private tour meant that we had a guide and we also allowed past all the 'no admittance' signs into the dwellings.

Ring of Brodgar

The stones were erected between 4,000 and 4,500 years ago.

Triana against a stone

Standing Stones of Stenness

The stones were erected at least 5,000 years ago.  Only 5 of the original 12 stones are left.  I did not take any photos as it was pouring rain, but here's one from online:

Maeshowe, Standing Stones of Stenness, Ness of Brodgar site, and the Ring of Brodgar, and the Barnhouse Neolithic settlement are all very near each other.