Musings about wanderings

Month: July 2013

Summer Holiday 2013 Part 2 – Pickaquoy Centre Kirkwall

The road to the ferry terminal at Gills Bay was short and traversed quickly. Turns out I wasn’t the only one at Dunnet Bay who was heading for Orkney as another van from the site pulled up behind me in the queue. The ferry arrived and the loading started.

Ferry to Orkney

Ferry to Orkney

The thing about the Northlink ferry is that it is necessary to reverse on if not a car. I made a bit of a mess of this but got it into position and headed for the sun deck (even though there was no sun at this point).

The crossing was quick and while not totally flat not rough at all. Disembarked at St Margarets Hope and headed over the mainland to the Broch of Gurness. The broch is the most complete one in existence and the small exhibition gives a taste of what life would have been like. It was fascinating to walk round the remains and imagine the lives that were lived there so long ago.

Broch of Gurness

Broch of Gurness

Broch of Gurness

Broch of Gurness

The weather wasn’t great and spitting rain so cut short the visit to the broch and headed for Pickaquoy. This is part of a leisure complex that lies at the edge of Kirkwall on the harbour. Strangely, the hardstanding pitch was actual tarmac. That and the wind that was blowing meant no awning. And funnily enough, next door was the van from Dunnet Bay and the ferry was parked alongside.

 

First full day in Kirkwall was a chance to explore the town. First up was the Ortak showroom that was next to the site. Orkney has a deserved reputation for jewellery and crafts and Ortak had a display of how they develop the pieces and and extensive shop next door.

Then on to the Orkney Wireless Museum. This was much smaller than expected but packed to the roof with old radios and some radar and military equipment. There was even a Pong game going in the back. Looked round and the development of radios from crystal, through valve to transistor ones. Many different shapes, sizes and designs.

Round the corner was St Magnus’ Cathedral. Impressive even if small for a cathedral. Wandered round the outside marvelling at the building then headed inside for a look round. There was the story of St Magnus and baptism font which contained stones from every parish on Orkney.

St Magnus' Cathedral

St Magnus’ Cathedral

St Magnus' Cathedral

St Magnus’ Cathedral

St Magnus' Cathedral

St Magnus’ Cathedral

Across the road was the Earl’s and Bishop’s Palace, a Historic Scotland property. Again the story of the buildings were told and although not much left of the Bishop’s Palace, plenty to walk round the Earl’s palace.

Earl's Palace

Earl’s Palace

Bit of shopping and then back to the van.

The second, and last, full day on Orkney was to be the main reason for going. A tour of the neolithic sites. A bit of a hiccup occurred with the tour bus but then it was on the way. First up was the Standing Stones of Stenness. Only three remain with a table that was added later. Turns out they’ve not always been popular with a local farmer trying to dynamite them at some point.

Stones of Stenness

Stones of Stenness

Round the corner was the Ring of Brodgar. This is more complete, a ring still exists and it is though that it is linked with the Standing Stones and another now missing ring.

The highlight of the tour was up next with Skara Brae. This was an amazingly well preserved neolithic village that was uncovered in a storm in the 19th century. Again amazing to think of the lives that lived there so long ago. Historic Scotland has done a great job of preserving and making the site accessible with a replica house to see.

Skara Brae

Skara Brae

Maes Howe was last on the tour. This is a tomb which was uncovered by Vikings. Thus there is entertaining graffiti in the tomb in the form of runes. It turns out people havn’t changed that much over the centuries.

Next day was heading back to the ferry terminal and back to the mainland. Again it was reversing on to the ferry and again a bit of a mess was made of it. This time they really packed the vehicles on like sardines.

 

Summer holiday 2013 Part One – Dunnet Bay

Summer holiday started with an early departure heading north along the A9 all the way to the north coast.

It was easy going all the way to Inverness. Stopped at the tourist information just north of the bridge to get a bite to eat and have a rest. For this trip I decided to give the usual mix of music a miss and listen to a talking book thus I was listening to Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale.

North of Inverness, the A9 isn’t as good a road and there were a few nasty hills that had to be taken in second gear with disturbing signs like “Test Brakes Now”.

But a right turn at Thurso brought me to the campsite at Dunnet Bay. And what a fantastic location it is. Almost right on the bay with a few steps to a sweeping golden beach. The site itself is grass pitches and quite cramped for a Caravan Club site. Quite relaxed as well, the wardens were not on duty and I was instructed by the notice just to pick a pitch and come back when they opened.

Dunnet Bay CC Site

Dunnet Bay CC Site

Dunnet Bay

Dunnet Bay

The second day at Dunnet bay was scorching hot. The showers were the usual Caravan club standard with the added amusement of only one millimetre travel between boiling and freezing.

The plan was to head to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point in mainland Britain. Thus clad in suntan oil, I headed off on the ten mile round trip. The walk was rather nice and the head itself was worth it. Great views over the Pentland Firth and a light house and abandoned radar station to look at. Was really impressed when a coach turned up having made it along the narrow road.

On The Way to Dunnet Head

On The Way to Dunnet Head

On The Way to Dunnet Head

On The Way to Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head

Dunnet Head

Back at the van I hit the showers for the second time that day and sat and read in the sun.

The third and last day an Dunnet head was overcast and cooler than before. Broke camp early and hit the road about 8am for the ferry to Orkney and the second part of the holiday.

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