Sunday 12 July 2015
Day trip to Orkney
John O’Groats Ferry and coach tour
John O’Groats campsite
It rained heavily and was very windy during the night but my tent survived. Putting on wet boots was not pleasant this morning but they dried out a bit during the day and at least I didn’t have to walk far.
A cup of tea and a bacon and egg roll from the burger van opposite the ferry made a fine breakfast and then we were off to Orkney, the land of farming and extreme wind. It took 40 minutes by foot ferry across the Pentland Firth to Burwick on South Ronaldsay.
There was a lot packed into a long day but it was a good way to see the islands quickly and we had a very knowledgeable, and entertaining, guide. We drove over the 4 Churchill Barriers, erected to stop U-boats entering Scapa Flow, which is a huge natural harbour that was used by the Royal Navy.
We visited Skara Brae Neolithic village at the Bay of Skaill. It is 5000 years old and yet the ‘houses’ look strangely modern with beds, shelves, even a type of larder and a mantelpiece.
There is plenty of archaeology on Orkney and we saw the Rings of Brodgar and Stenness, two stone circles that pre-date Stonehenge.
I learned a bit about Orkney’s history, such as the scuttling in Scapa Flow of 74 ships belonging to the German Navy after WW1. Also the close links between Orkney and Norway; the Viking heritage.
The last stop was at the Italian Chapel. A remarkable church that was built by Italian POWs from 2 Nissan huts and a load of concrete. It is an incredible building that shows off some wonderful imagination, skill and artistry. Apparently it is one of the most visited sites in Scotland.
Having been to Shetland I was glad to get the chance to see a bit of Orkney, only 3 of the 70 islands (of which 22 are inhabited) but a few of the sights.
[Note: according to Orcadians a rock in the sea is classed as an island if it has enough grass to sustain one sheep for a week]