Overseas2023: Orkney #2

Stromness Harbour

I have already introduced one of our activities on Orkney – a visit to the doctor. This meant a trip into Stromness in the morning. While I was in with the doctor, K managed to take a walk around the town. When I got out, I took the opportunity to have a quick walk around the dock area to take a few photographs. After returning to our accommodation, we set off to visit a few more points of interest.

The mainland of Orkney is not very large, making everything accessible, not only to random tourists, but also the cruise hordes. However, K learned from one of the Stromness shopkeepers that Stromness escapes them as they only go as far as the Ring of Brodgar from Kirkwall, maybe a good thing(?).

Nature walk

This walk starts at the car park for the Ring of Brodgar and winds its way to the Loch of Stenness passing fields of wild flowers in full colour at this time of year. It is also an RSPB reserve, with a number of birds, reputably (we only saw a few fairly common species.)

On the way back, the local trout fishing club have an area where they park their dinghies. I had spotted it from the road and thought it would be good for a few photos.

RSPB Loons

We then headed north west to the Listening Wall at the Loons bird sanctuary, without really knowing what it is. It turned out to be a concave wave that, in theory, focuses the sounds of the birds in the sanctuary. Apparently, it was used during the war to try to listen for enemy aircraft.

Another mile up the road, we dropped in to the bird hide, which for once did not have vision obscured by overgrown trees and bushes. Despite the listing of birds that frequent the area, K spotted only a very few (seems to be a repeating non-occurrence).


From there we drove further north to the NW corner of the mainland, the location of the Brough of Birsay. This is a part time island, connected only at low tide by a causeway. Although we did not venture out to view the Pictish and Norse settlements and a modern light house, we found much of interest on the mainland.

The Earl’s Palace is a ruined 16th century, built by Robert Stewart 1st earl of Orkney. Robert was imprisoned after obtaining a letter from the King of Denmark & Norway declaring him the sovereign of Orkney, as well as colluding with Shetland pirates. After his release in 1579, he built a second phase to the palace to create a fully enclosed square courtyard. The palace is now in the hands of Historic Scotland


Our time on Orkney came to a far too early end – on Thursday we caught the ferry to the mainland. However while waiting for the ferry, I took a few photos of Stromness from the harbour:

After a picnic lunch in Thurso, we drove for an hour to Helmsdale for an overnight B & B stay. K was immediately taken with the bird feeder as it attracted a wide assortment of species, including Goldfinch.

Since we arrived early, we walked along a track that followed the coast line to the nearby Navidale Bay where we found the ruin of a house before turning back for dinner in the local hotel.

Unable to sleep beyond 06:00 I got out of bed to take some early morning shots of the old and new harbours before a breakfast of eggs, black pudding and haggis (the latter two, however, did not feature on K’s plate).

Old harbour
New harbour

Back south

After stopping at Carrbridge for lunch, our journey south took us through Tomintoul and Braemar. This is a very scenic drive, so it took us the rest of the day to get to our destination – Kirkcaldy – the town where I was born. The rest of the weekend involved catching up with family, included the spreading of my mother’s ashes.

The old bridge at Carrbridge

The weather

Since we arrived, the weather has been getting better and better.

It is now Tuesday and I am sitting in a B & B on Mull having had a 30 degree day! However, when we went to spread mum’s ashes it was a very overcast and drizzly morning, but it cleared in the afternoon. Perhaps the weather realised the sombre nature of the task in hand.

As I said, we are now on Mull, but the story of how we got here and what we have been doing will have to wait until the next post.

In the meantime, I am pleased to say that we have a only very minor residual coughs and feeling much fitter.

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