by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Journeys : Dec10 Jan11
December 2010 / January 2011 15 We are seeking something different from the cluttered motorways of mainland Britain. Travelling north by P&O ferry from the Scottish port of Scrabster, a two-hour tr ip through the Pentland Firth takes us past the magnificent red cliffs of the Isle of Hoy. Ar riving at Orkney’s second-largest town, the 1000 year old port of Stromness, we immediately feel we are stepping back in time. The flagstoned passages of this ancient town are so narrow we pull over to allow other cars to pass. We find a B&B, run by a woman with an interesting lilting accent, quite different from others we have heard on our tr ip around Scotland. We drop our bags and set out to explore. Orkney has a long history. We gaze down into the roofless ancient stone houses of Skara Brae, a prehistor ic village discovered in 1850 when a wild stor m uncovered a section of it. Excavations unear thed the ruins of the ancient dwellings built into and surrounded by a midden that helped protect the village from the weather and assisted in its preservation. We can easily imagine people going about their daily lives among their stone dressing tables, box beds, storage compartments and central fireplaces. We are ama zed to realise this 5000-year-old village was inhabited before the Egyptians built their pyramids. Another fascinating find is the 5000-year- old tomb of Maes Howe. This huge mound contains an entrance passage and several burial chambers linked by a central domed chamber. Constr ucted of stone and covered by turf, Maes Howe has also been well preser ved. The Vikings discovered this tomb in the mid-twelfth centur y and have left carved messages that speak of treasure. We explore other ancient monuments including brochs (round tower fortresses), earth houses and standing stone circles. Orkney is made up of numerous islands including ‘The Mainland’, Hoy, South Ronaldsay, Westray, Burra and Flotta. Ferry services connect many of the islands and several of the larger islands are linked by the roads constr ucted on top of the historic ‘Churchill Bar rier’. Orkney was of key strategic importance during both world wars. The Barrier was built to prevent German submar ines reaching the naval anchorage of Scapa Flow. In World War I, the German Grand Fleet was scuttled in Scapa Flow. Many of the vessels have since been salvaged but there are several still remaining which, along with the blockships sunk to create the Barrier, provide excellent scuba diving. Italian prisoners of war sent to work on the Churchill Barrier transformed two connected Nissen huts into a quaint yet beautiful chapel. The overall effect of the art work at the Italian Chapel at Lambholm is breathtaking. We find it hard to tear ourselves away and we can imagine romantic weddings taking place here. A much larger religious structure is St Magnus Cathedral in the town of Kirkwall. It was built in 1137 and we marvel at the vaulted ceilings and buttresses. How did people build such massive structures so long ago, we wonder, and in such a remote place? Orkney is home to many professional artists and craftspeople and the Nordic inf luence remains strong. Silver is used to create stunningly unique pieces of jewellery. The tapestries and knitwear too are of distinct designs. Orcadians, like Tasmanians, are proud of the quality of their local produce. Fertile soils ensure healthy cattle and Orkney seafood is fresh and plentiful. We feast on local herring, cheeses, fudge and wine. Our landlady at the B&B places glass bowls full of rich cream on the lacy breakfast tablecloth. We spoon huge dollops of the cream onto warm, soft scones, smothered in jam. Orkney is a peaceful place with a unique landscape. The low hills are bare of trees, and you are never far from water. The wind buffets my binoculars as I try to identify some of the numerous birds on the island. Seals can be found basking on many of the beaches. The combination of a long history, interesting architecture, delicious food, diving, endless photographic opportunities, wildlife, magnificent scenery and peace ensures there is something for ever yone v isiting Orkney. We queue for the return ferry trip to the mainland of Scotland, regretting that our four-day exper ience has come so quickly to a close. Fortunately the trip back is much calmer than the one over. We feel part of us will always remain in that wild, w indswept, remote yet fascinating place. Skara Brae Italian Chapel at Lambholm Puffin
Oct Nov 2010
Feb March 2011