Our second day on the Orkney Islands was a beautiful sunny day! We tried to get the most out of it by getting up and out at 8:00 AM, and returned at 23:30 PM. If you are interested in history this island can keep you busy for a while! We started our day visiting the Standing Stones of Stenness and were the first people on site. The stones are a Neolithic monument and it might be the oldest henge site in the British Isles.
Next stop was Skara Brae, a stone build Neolithic settlement, located at the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of the Mainland. Skara Brae is really a beautiful site, over 5000 years old, a magical village at sea (although the sea wasn’t this close when the village was build…). The visitors center opens at 09:30 AM and we walked straight to the settlement outside, so we beat the crowds. Afterwards we went to the small information section in the visitors center, but this way I was able to make some pictures without any people.
One of my missions on Orkney was to make pictures of Puffins! We asked around and got some locations were we might be able to spot them. Although they are starting to become rare at the Island, due to the changing weather conditions. We first tried near the northern cliffs on the main island. From a distance a kind of similar bird looks a lot like the Puffin (white belly) but when I finally saw one for real, there was no doubt about it! They are so cute!
We also went to Brough of Birsay, a small island close to the Mainland, accessible by food when it’s low tide. There used to be lots of Puffins between April and August, but we only saw one after searching for quite a while. Anyway, my mission was accomplished: with my tripod and the xf100-400 mm I was able to make quite a good shot!
Before heading west to watch a beautiful sunset at Bay of Skaill, we did a tour to Maeshowe. Maeshowe is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave situated on Mainland Orkney, Scotland. It was probably built around 2800 BC. It looks like a funny little grass hill in the meadows, but once inside you can ‘feel’ it’s history’! Our guide was well knowledgeable and because we were the only 2 in the group there was more time to ask questions and learn about the history of the impressive site.
We also learned one or two things about tourism on Orkney. Every week big cruise ships dock at the island and over 2000 people visit the island at once. Two ships mean double the amount of people and this is also the max the island can handle. Food and accommodation-wise the island is not able to receive too many visitors. Seeing big coaches crossing the island feels strange, almost like they are breaking into the serene atmosphere of the island. Of course tourism is a welcome income source, but the chances of getting ruined by it are a constant thread in my opinion. Like with everything, there are good and bad sides of the same coin.
As said, we ended our day with a beautiful sunset at Bay of Skaill together with a few people who were camping on the campground in the bay. If you go to Orkney by camper van this is a great spot to spent some nights! After the sunset we drove back to Kirkwall, passing the Ring of Brodgar, also a stone henge that together with the other sites form the Neolithic heart of the island. Trying to catch the blue light gave a nice picture, although I’m not quite sure if this is what is meant by the blue light….
All in all we really enjoyed our visit to Orkney. We only saw a small part, there is much more to discover, be we loved the tranquil laid back atmosphere and the lack of too many tourists, at least when we were there.