It’s a little unfair on the largest island of the Orkneys (coupled by causeway to former islands such as Burray and South Ronaldsay) that we treated this as our jumping place to the further flung islands. While we spent 4 nights on Mainland we never spent a full day. We’ve visited before and know it has much to offer in terms of wildlife and archaeology, this time our explorations were relatively limited.
Kirkwall formed our base for much of the holiday, a handy place for ferries to the northern islands and close to the airport that formed our transport hub for North Ronaldsay and Papay. St Magnus Cathedral dominates the town and is a focal point in the distance as ferries approach from the North. The main street weaves past the cathedral and down to the harbour, wandering past buildings that step out into the narrow road.
Our arrival in Orkney had been to St Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay. The road to Kirkwall passes over the four Churchill Barriers, the first to Burray (No 4) is so banked up with sand to the east that any thought of separation of these islands has long gone. Other visits were all linked with other ferries. On the way back from Houton (Hoy Ferry) we called at Waulkmill Bay, the tide was out and there was plenty of sand. The beach looks out to ships resting up in Scapa Flow while the low cliffs around the bay are home to cliff dwelling aspen trees. These low growing, slope living aspen are noteworthy survivors but presumably clinging on there by virtue of the inaccessibility for grazing animals in centuries past. Low thickets of willow also surround the bay area, mini-woodlands with primroses under the low canopy.
Our last visit was to the Ring of Brodgar, large slabs of standing stones reddened by the setting sun. A wonderful end to a to an intense visit to this archipelago, as many islands missed as visited. Our night was B&B on the ferry in Stromness harbour, a relaxing way to catch the 6:30 ferry back to Scrabster…