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DO IT ORKNEY STYLE!
Orkney in General
Member Name: stripeyfish
Orkney in General
Date: 06/08/01, updated on 06/08/01 (131 review reads)
Advantages: WHISKY AND PUFFINS!, Fan-tas-tic!
Disadvantages: bit windy for folk with long hair, but other than that...none
To get across the sea to Orkney you can either get the passenger ferry from John O'Groats or get on the car ferry at Scrabster. Now if you're gonna want to do Orkney in a day i suggest you take a car. It's £25 each way for a car and £10 each way per adult person, dogs are free. There was 4 of us so that cost us £130 return (£32.50 each). It's advisable to get there about 30-40 minutes before the ferry leaves to ensure a place. The first ferry leaves about 9.40am and there's no need to book in advance and you pay on the ferry. When returning, however it is advisable to book a place. The last ferry back leaves at 5pm and can be quite busy so get booked on the minute you land in Orkney...the ticket office is right at the dock. They'll also give you a weather report at that time as the weather is quite changeable and the area is liable to swells (makes the journey back all the more fun!)
When you arrive in Orkney just follow the main road (A961) across the causeways. These are old WWII defence barriers, known as the Churchill Barriers, which have been re-inforced and now used as roads. At barrier No. 3 you can see sunk and abandoned war ship wreckages peeking out of the sea. Also note the differences in tidal level here! This is due to the meeting of two seas which have slightly different tides. If you follow this road to St. Mary's (on the small island of Lamb Holm), which is just after the first Churchill barrier you come to.
This little chapel was built by Italian prisoners of war during the second world war out of 2 corrugated niss
en huts. It is a memorial now the 550 P.O.W's station at Camp 60, lovingly restored by the same artist who helped construct this church in the mid 40's. The prisoners, obviously catholic, felt the need for a place of worship and after being granted a gift of the 2 huts set about building their own church. A façade was prepared and it provides an impressive entrance to the huts, which are still original and obviously had a military purpose at some point. Once inside though, you would never know that you were inside what is basically a tin hut. The entire chapel has been delicately painted to look like genuine stone and the pulpit area is stunning. He artwork is fantastic and you can tell a lot of work and care has gone in to this. Entrance to the church is free, and with all churches you are invited to leave a donation. For a £1 you can get a little information booklet, which in my opinion, is money well spent! The church is not manned therefore they rely on honesty, so please adhere to this and don't just run off with the booklets without leaving a donation, it's just downright rude!
If you carry on the A961 you eventually come to Kirkwall, the largest town in Orkney, and while you are here you must go the Highland Park Distillery. Value for money or what here! You can get a tour of the distillery for a bargain £3, £2 if you are a student. It's a great tour, informative and enjoyable and you get a nip of the distillery's own aqua vitae and it's gorgeous, believe me! Look out for the 2 distillery cats Malt and Barley, always an added bonus for the kids when you do these things. These are mousing cats though so please don't let your kids torment - like most cats they're pretty docile but won't stand for nonsense! If you manage to get in a small tour its much more personal, and if you're very lucky the guide will let you see a bottle of there 40yr old which is kept under lock and key (it'll cost you
a whopping £999.99?I'll have 3 please!)
If by this point you are hungry, go to Stromness?apparently it's got THE best fish and chips, but unfortunately I couldn't find it! However there are many fine restaurants in Kirkwall, and just as many good chippies!!
After having food get on the B9056 and head towards Skara Brae. It's only 1.9m northwest of Kirkwall and it's the site of a neolithic village that was unearthed during a huge storm in the 1850's. The village was built 5000BC and must be one of the best examples of it's kind! IT unfortunately will cost you £4.50 to get in which I think is a bit pricey and there is no student discount. Be aware of this! It says that a reduced fare is available but it's only for OAP's and try as I might, the nice woman at the desk did not believe that I was 61 (I'm 25 but look 12)! For the privilege of paying £4.50 you not only get entrance to Skara Brae and the excellent reconstruction of House No 7 (its house..not a room! The guide gets very upset if you call it a room!), but into small museum, an audio/visual presentation and Skaill House. Skaill House is a 16th century house and the best thing in it is a display of a crockery set that Captain Cook picked up for the family that owned the house on one of his jolly jaunts. Oh and beware of the people that are buried in the hallway?freaky!!
If you're in to rocks in fields and like things like stone henge you really should go and check out the Ring of Brodgar, just outside of Stromness, west of the B9055. You pass this site on the way back to the ferry so you night as well go. The ring of standing stones is still a pretty complete circle and still very impressive. There is 27 stones remaining out of 60 and the circle is a-huge! Nobody is really sure what the stones were used for. The were once regarded as the Temple of the Sun, and there are 4 stones with carvings on them. One has the Norsk f
or Bjorn, one an anvil, another a cross and one another a really old inscription. These were added after construction of the Ring (which was built around 5000BC as well) proving that vandalism is an age old pastime. Look out for some of the excellent name carving dating back to the 18th and 19th century?it's so neat and must have taken ages! People in those days must have carried specialised chisel equipment!
Further down the road, about a 5minute walk from Brodgar, there are the Stones of Stennes which were known as The Temple of The Moon, and in between Brodgar and Stennes there is a single indicator stone which is consequently known as the Comet stone. Entry to all these is free and tours can be organised through the tourist information.
There is plenty more to see in Orkney but it's difficult to fit it in one day, especially if you've got kids with you so plan ahead if you wan tot see more. Remember to allow time to get back to he ferry and allow for weather. IT's a good idea to phone the ferry terminal (you can get the number from the ticket office on the ferry) at some point during the day to get an update on your ferry and the weather or you may find yourself stranded. Finally, keep an eye out for some of the amazing wildlife you're bound to see on the way back...anything from seals to gannets to terns to the well loved and famous puffins! Fantastic!
For more information on Orkney and these points of interest, check out these web sites:
Go on give it a visit! It's well worth it, and there's so much more to see than i managed to fit in my day trip