Lara, Leah, Sally, Maria, Lizzie, Kyle, Mary, Saini and James: Imaginary tours of Orkney from elsewhere in the UK 01, 07, 08/03
In response to the idea to create imaginary sites to add to the Map Orkney Month archive, blurring the distinction between fact and fiction as the archive moves into the future, we mapped a group journey around Orkney, using prompts from the real Orkney, but in the landscapes around where we each live.
The plan is to fly into Kirkwall Airport, get into Kirkwall somehow then head out to the Ring of Brodgar with a stop to take in the sea views on the way. After that, we’ll go up to Skara Brae before we travel back into Kirkwall for food and cocktails at Helgi’s. When we’re suitably refreshed, we’ll go back to the airport and go home! It’s a pretty packed day but we’re an intrepid bunch.
1. Kirkwall Airport
“Within the airport Terminal Building, there is a great cafe called Airfayre offering a range of locally prepared and sourced meals, light snacks, soft drinks, tea and coffee. And for those passengers looking for last minute presents and gifts, there is a good range of local crafts and products on sale.”
2. Into Kirkwall
“It is worth going to the community centre at the rear of the cathedral as they have a little film show of the history of Kirkwall and the cathedral, it is free but always worth a few £ in the donation box, there is also a little shop and cafe in there too, you will be made very welcome.”
3. Orkney seascape
Sky, water, islands…
4. Ring of Brodgar
“The location is impressive, the ring is mostly complete and you can touch the stones. It’s not only older than Stonehenge, it’s more fun to visit. One of the neat bits is that it’s small enough that you can see how a small community could create it by hand and yet large enough that you know it had to have been hugely significant to them.”
5. Skara Brae
“Quite a lovely old site and very interesting to wander around and see the ruins and imagine the living then. Staff are friendly and helpful. Well worth a visit to see even though there were several buses there at the time we visited.”
“I love Helgi’s, the drinks, food and atmosphere is really good. I definitely recommend to anybody travelling Orkney to go in to Helgi’s for food, you won’t be disappointed! I love the decor too, very Orcadian! I always have a Viking Wife cocktail when I’m there.”
7. Kirkwall Airport again
Home time! Time for an end-of-day selfie.
Additional guest post appearing soon, watch this space ….
Richard Clubley: Swanbister 17/03
Early this morning Dog and I walked to the shore at Swanbister (HY352049). It was warm and I went bare-headed, without coat, for the first time this year. There was not a breath of wind. The sea was like glass but the angle of the sun was such that it only reflected at the very edge.
Two eiders swam past, right to left, and tilted the sea sufficiently in their wake for it to bounce the sun, like a dream catcher. Each time the surface wobbled the sunlight winked, but each time less than the last, until the sea was glass again.
I actually did this walk. It was a real journey and one I will recall many times in my bed, south, before I go to sleep.
Fran Flett-Hollinrake: Custodian of Kirkwall Cathedral 18/03
It’s going to be a busy day in the cathedral and I want to open it early, so I get up at about 6 o’clock. It is really misty outside and the sun is shining through as I drive to work.
A cruise ship has arrived in Kirkwall on its way to the Faroes, where the passengers hope to see the solar eclipse on 20 March. The mist in Orkney has cleared and it is a beautiful day. I open the cathedral at 8.30am and almost immediately people start coming in. After a long, quiet winter it is lovely to have people to talk to again.
During the course of the day two visitors ask me to open the HMS Royal Oak memorial book to a particular page; this happens occasionally – a family member wants to see the name of their relative who died when the ship was torpedoed in Scapa Flow in 1939. It is always an emotional moment for them, and for me too. I usually try and get a story – how old was he? Was he married? What relation is he to the visitor? I think by talking about the men, we bring them back for a little while.
Mid-morning I get a visit from our friend Paz who is staying with us for a week. He was with us in 1999 when we saw the total eclipse in Devon, and he has come up to see the eclipse in Orkney. At the same time, Sophie the apprentice stonemason comes in; the three of us climb the cathedral tower and wind the clock.
The clock is 100 years old this year, and is proper clockwork that needs to be wound every day. There are three parts to wind and it takes about 5 minutes to do the job. After that, we climb to the very top of the tower and go out onto the parapet to see Kirkwall laid out below in the sunshine. The cruise ship Marco Polo can be seen berthed at Hatston Pier.
After a long, busy day (during which over 500 visitors have come through the cathedral doors), I wait for the bells to chime five o’clock, then I lock the big front door and head for home.
When I get in, Paz and I go for a walk up Cruaday Hill behind our cottage. It has a great view – most of the West Mainland is visible. When we return to the cottage, my husband Andy has made a lovely curry for us, which we enjoy with a bottle of cider. I turn off the GPS – not going anywhere else tonight!
Dan Lee & MSc students: solar eclipse at Unstan tomb 20/03
We stopped at Unstan Tomb to watch the solar eclipse (98% in Orkney) en route to Mousland, West Mainland coast, for a second day of walkover survey for the Practical Archaeology module. My cardboard box pin hole camera wasn’t very successful, but the use of a welding mask and then light cloud just at the right moment allowed us to view the solar eclipse with the naked eye. We then set off for a days walking and mapping of Mousland’s remarkable and unexplored multi-period landscape.
Chris Cox: Egilsay 22/03
What a beautiful day for a walk with ‘Tinker’ my 4 year old collie/springer cross. On days like this it seems that winter has at last given way to spring it is sunny with virtually no wind and the skylarks are singing away overhead. Turning left at the end of our drive and left again on to the ‘main road’ heading north down the spine of the island, another left at the crossroads and down to the first photo stop at Egilsay Pier. The sea is flat calm with barely a ripple.
As we turn West down the track to the church we see plenty of oystercatchers in the fields looking across to Sourin Brae on Rousay.
St Magnus Church is bathed in spring sunshine. Back up to the main road and turn left again to the end of the tarmac at Weyland before retracing our steps the way we have come. Back at the crossroads we take a short detour left on the track through the RSPB bird reserve.
Just a few metres through the reserve we slip through the gate on the Right hand side of the track to the St Magnus memorial built in 1938 to commemorate the spot where St Magnus was slain. Back up to the road and walking up the centre of the island to the Trig Point at 35m above sea level. Looking NE we see Howan to the right, Kirbist farm to the left, Maeness in the distance and Eday to the East.
Retracing our steps once again for about 800m before turning west towards Warsett where the tarmac runs out, we continue on the track towards Cott and then on down towards the Hubbert, a sheltered inlet on the west side of Egilsay looking across to Rousay behind.
Walking south past the Bay of Vady along the rocky western shoreline to the fish farm where it looks like the fish have got their own back (a man in a cage?) before retracing our steps along the beach looking for groatie buckies – but despite best efforts, not today.
At the Bay of Vady – very low tide today, one of the lowest in the year. It’s rare to see this much sand exposed. The tip of Wyre with Gairsay behind can be seen top right of photo. This was the last stop before heading back up the track and home. A really lovely walk on a beautiful spring day.
Diana Leslie: Stromness 25/03
A rough memory of events:
- From Hamnavoe (Home) to the Travel Centre laundrette by car
- Laundrette to South Pier by foot (drawing), Pier Head (drawing), laundrette, car
- Laundrette to Co-op, Home
- Home to Laundrette, drawing boats, up the street, up Boys Lane past Academy to Brinkie’s Brae (drawings) down past old primary school, TC, laundrette, home, walk into town from Hamnavoe, to Dan and Antonia’s, machine is switched off.
Final post of contributions to follow soon …