WELL, the last few days I had the pleasure of going up to the northern part of Scotland all the way to Orkney. A friend of mine from high school has been studying in Orkney all year and I finally had the chance to go and visit him! Orkney is an archipelago located in Northern Scotland, which is comprised of about 70 islands (but only 20 are inhabited). The main island is called Mainland which is where I went to visit, in particular, the town of Stromness. It was quite a journey to get there from Glasgow, it required a train from Glasgow – Inverness, Inverness – Thurso, a cab from Thurso – Scrabster, and then a ferry from Scrabster – Stromness, a grand total of 10 and a half hours. BUT the entire voyage was definitely worth it.
Day 1, following a good sleep after the long voyage the day before we set off on our adventure. This island was the most beautiful place I have ever driven around. The entire island is filled with green fields, single lane roads, cliffs, ocean views, cows, and lots and lots of sheep. In Orkney, the ratio of sheep to humans is 2:1, that is how many sheep live on this island!
Our first stop was Skara Brae and Skaill House, on the west side of the island. Skara Brae is an old Neolithic Village that dates back to 5000 BC, making it at least 2000 years older than Stone Henge! The site was inhabited archaeologist believe for between 500-700 years before the civilisation mysteriously disappeared. At this site, there is a little museum where you can learn about the discovery and different theories around Skara Brae. Once you step outside they have a model of parts of the settlement so you can walk through in and get an idea of what the settlement was like. Then you walk out to the actual site, which is partially dug out. The site is preserved so well that in the Archaeological world it is often referred to as the “Scottish Pompeii.” The site was initially discovered in 1850, following a severe windstorm that ripped away sand and dirt from close to the water in Skail, which revealed bits of this site. William Watt of Skaill, whose house was nearby discovered the site and began his own amateur excavation. His house is still on the site, and we were able to go in and see it!
The beach down off the site was so beautiful. It was the first time I had been to a beach all summer! I couldn’t get over how soft the sand was and how clear the water was. If the cool wind had not existed I could have sworn I was back in Spain!
Stop number two was St Margaret’s Hope, a little seaside town on the island South Ronaldsay for lunch! It was quite easy to manoeuvre around Mainland with a car, and we were able to drive through various little villages and towns all over the island. To get to St Margaret’s Hope we had to drive across various causeways that connect the little islands to the mainland.
Stop number three, was The Tomb of the Eagles, which was also on the island of South Ronaldsay. The Tomb of the Eagles is a Neolithic chambered tomb, which dates back to 2450 BC. The site was called the Tomb of the Eagle because on the site 16 000 human bones were found and 725 bird bones, mainly eagles. To get into the site you have to lay down on this skateboard like board and pull yourself in using the rope for a distance of 3 meters, then you are able to stand up and look around the little tomb.
The cliffs which were opposite the tomb were really incredible (and the first of the cliffs I was going to see while on my trip). I had not realized how much I have missed living on the ocean until I actually saw the ocean again! The cliffs were also covered with sheep, and we even saw a few rabbits bouncing around too.
One little detail I learned about Orkney is that every time you pass a pile of stones on a cliff or up on a hill you are supposed to find a rock and add it to the pile. So over the last five days, I added my own rock to various piles around Orkney.
My first day of exploring Orkney was fantastic. I literally said “this place is so beautiful” at least once every ten minutes (questionably even more). Even more of my adventure will be revealed in the next couple of blog posts, so make sure you keep your eye out for them!