11. Orkney Mainland

P1040802 Waulkmill Bay SAH
Waulkmill Bay (c) Sally Hutt
P1040202 Churchill Barrier No 3 SAH
Churchill Barrier No 3 (c) Sally Hutt

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.

20190508_200321 St Magnus Cathedral DJH
St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall (c) Duncan Hutt

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.

Ferry in St Margarets Hope SAH
Ferry docked in St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay (c) Sally Hutt
Aspen leaves emerging, Waulkmill Bay (c) Duncan Hutt

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.

IMG_7586 ring of brogar DJH
Ring of Brodgar in the evening sun (c) Duncan Hutt

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…

IMG_7601 Ring of Brogar DJH
Ring of Brodgar at Sunset (c) Duncan Hutt


1 thought on “11. Orkney Mainland

  1. Looks like a fascinating trip. We have a friend who has lived and raised family on Benbecular. He has a blog Island Voices.

    Liked by 1 person

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