The Orkney Islands are un-Scottish. Closer to Norway than to London, proven very very early inhabitants, once occupied by Vikings, strategically important in both World Wars, this Island group is full of history. Not yet spoiled by mass tourism (although getting there), we experienced a tranquil heaven.
The ferry leaving from Scrabster brought us in 1,5 hours to the small port of Stromness, the second largest place on Orkney Mainland. Before heading of to our lovely cottage in Kirkwall, we wandered around the small town enjoying the views. We were surprised by the different types of houses compared to what we have seen so far in Scotland.
Driving from Stromness to Kirkwall is about 30 minutes by car. Kirkwall is the largest place on the Orkney Mainland with around 8500 inhabitants. Kirkwall is a convenient starting point for daytrips in any direction of the Island(s). In the middle of town you find Saint Magnus Cathedral, a beautiful red stone building. We visited the cathedral and it's graveyard and walked around to find ourselves a nice restaurant... finding out diner reservations is a MUST.
Our next day on Orkney was a very very wet day! It poured... But we anticipated ahead of times and made reservations for a Distillery tour at Scapa. There are actually two distilleries, the much bigger Highland Park can also be found on the Main Island. But we chose Scapa and it turned out to be a great tour! Due to renovations production wasn't running which gave good photo opportunities! And off course some whisky tasting!
After the whisky tour we did some site seeing by car. First stop was the Italian catholic chapel, build by Italian prisoners of war during WWII. Close by you can find the Churchill barriers, also build by the same Italians. The barriers now form a series of causeways on Orkney but were originally build as naval defenses to protect the anchorage at Scapa flow.
We drove as south as possible via the barriers to Burwick, visiting St. Margaret's Hope (just a small place) along the way for a quick lunch. No tourists to be found, just a lonely church and some sheep.
Not being able to drive any further south we headed back to Kirkwall for a nice and relaxing evening. The next day would be a very packed day. 17 degrees and sunny so we wanted to get the most out of it. You can read all about it in my next blog!