Orkney is an archipelago of seventy islands just ten miles off the Scottish coast.
The largest island is called Mainland and as we arrived in Kirkwall, it’s largest town, the sun was shining and the wind had dropped.
We were lucky – it is so windy on Orkney that trees do not grow!
Kirkwall has a charming old fashioned centre with a surprising variety of shops and lots of ice cream. The red sandstone Saint Magnus Cathedral is worth a visit.
The ruins of the twelfth century Bishops and the later Earls palace are next to it. Slave labour built the Earls palace which is said to be the finest Renaissance style building in Scotland.
Something we really wanted to see was the Ring of Brodgar, a neolithic stone circle . Twenty seven of the original sixty stones remain standing after five thousand years. There are many theories but no one can be sure of the purpose of this henge except that nowadays it is used for pagan weddings!
The Churchill Barriers
Next to something more modern – Scapa Flow or bay of the long isthmus. In 1939 the British battle ship Royal Oak was sunk at anchor by a German U-boats torpedoes . To ensure this could never happen again Churchill ordered permanent barriers to close the channels. Labour for this was supplied by Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa and transported to Orkney
The barriers joined Mainland to three other small islands and are now used as roads.
Next to the barrier is a charming chapel made by the prisoners from two nissen huts to provide them with a Catholic worship place.
The Best Town in Orkney – Stromness
Our last stop was at Stromness, this is a place you could fantasise about living in with its harbour and winding street of old fashioned shops. Its a place where everyone knows everyone and all the shopkeepers are friendly.
We arrived in Shopping week a kind of week long Gala with street entertainment, pipe bands fancy dress and a scarecrow competition. All good old fashioned fun that doesn’t seem to happen in our modern cities.
Orkney was beautiful on our day there although you can imagine that when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind blows it might be a bit grim.
There is still a lot we haven’t seen on this small collection of islands- Skara Brae, a prehistoric village for one.
Maybe we can go back another sunny day!