Last week we visited the Orkney Islands in the Northern Isles of Scotland. After debating whether we should get the plane there as it is a very long way, we decided to drive. We thought that it would feel like more of an adventure if we drove and also we wouldn't have to worry about connecting flights and getting to airports etc... also we would be able to bring as much luggage as we liked if we were in our own car!
The drive to Orkney took two full days. On the first day we did 435 miles and then stopped off at a bed and breakfast in Pitlochry. We went out for dinner that night and had a really nice meal. Then we walked around a bit and went to bed.
The second day we drove all the way up, through the highlands (I love driving though the highlands!) to the most northerly part of Scotland - John O Groats! It was right by where we were catching our ferry to Orkney.
I had to get a picture of Topaz at the John O Groats sign. There's proof we were there! As you can see the weather wasn't great at this point. Wet and rainy but it didn't matter. It made the hour ferry crossing all the more fun because it was quite rocky.
(Of course Topaz is wearing her tartan for Scotland!)
We drove off the ferry and onto Orkney. It wasn't far to our holiday house. We stayed in a beautiful converted chapel called Herston Hall on South Ronaldsay. There were no other houses immediately nearby and behind it was a field of cows who kept coming and looking in at the window. One of them came up and mooed at me while I was sitting on the sofa!
We stayed there for one week and we had a great time going out and exploring some of the different parts of the Orkney Islands. It was a very beautiful place and very interesting. It wasn't actually exactly how expected it to be. I thought there would be more mountains and brown, heathery landscapes, being a Scottish island and I thought it would look more wild. However, Orkney is actually reasonably flat and very lush and green. There are cows and sheep in most of the fields and everywhere looked very well kept. It also wasn't as remote as I had imagined it to be. There were quite a lot of houses and towns - also very well kept! It was completely different to the Isle of Harris and Lewis where we went for our honeymoon two years ago.
The weather was very changeable, as you would expect from Scotland but I think we had quite a lot of sun considering. One day was so hot and sunny that we were able to sit on the beach all day! We set up our beach tent thingy and had a picnic and sunbathed and paddled in the sea. The sea, although very blue and twinkly was icy cold.
Topaz had fun collecting shells on the beach! ^
And Henry had fun looking in rockpools. He loves to look in rockpools.
Topaz did some rockpooling too! She didn't catch anything though. They wern't actually very good rockpools. There wasn't much wildlife in them. No starfish or anything. The most we saw were some little fish and a jellyfish.
On one of the days we decided to take a ferry across to one of the other Orkney Islands called Hoy. Henry specifically wanted to go and see a bit sea stack which is called The Old Man of Hoy. Unfortunately we picked the very worst day to do this as it was extremely rainy and grey. However, it was still nice to see Hoy. It was different to the main bit of Orkney that we had been on previously. It was much more mountainous, wild and remote. I found it incredidibly stunning.
Going to see the sea stack on Hoy involved walking three miles round a cliff/mountain and then three miles back again. We were all prepared for this with a picnic packed, walking clothes on, backpacks, raincoats etc. We started walking the route to the sea stack in the grey, ominous weather but I really wasn't liking the atmosphere. The clouds were so black and heavy above us and it was windy and starting to rain. Then I heard a rumble of thunder and that just did it for me! I wanted to turn back. I did not want to walk three miles in round a mountain in thunder and lightening and heavy rain. I get really scared in thunder and lightening so we turned back and went back to the car. I am so glad we did as the rain started to absolutely bucket down and there were crashes of thunder and flashes of lighening. I saw some other people going out in it but it just wasn't for me!
The rest of the week we stayed on the main part of Orkney and didn't get ferries across to any of the smaller islands. There were lots of things to do and see. We went to Kirkwall which is the largest town and the capital of Orkney a couple of times. We had lunch there in a cafe and also looked round the amazing cathedral which was founded in 1137! We also went round a couple of neolithic sites which I ended up finding very interesting despite saying I wasn't interested in going to them before going! I am not usually a one for looking round museums and historical sites and that kind of thing but actually, I bet it is beneficial for story writing etc to do those sorts of things. I am glad we went now anyway. We saw all the tools and the houses that the stone age people used on Orkney so many hundreds of years ago. We also saw an old stone age tomb that had skulls in it.
My absolute favourite parts of being on holiday are just being out in nature. Especially being out on the beach! We had a lovely evening one time, just sitting together on Newark beach in the sunshine, reading and looking for shells and rockpools. I realised afterwards that the book I was reading (Lorali by Laura Dockrill) was all about mermaids and the beach we were sitting on was actually famous for mermaid sightings!
I think Orkney really is a fascinating place and I am so glad we went to visit it. If I could use one word to describe I'd say it is a very pretty place.
There seemed to be bright green grass and flowers everywhere...
We also saw a lot of bog cotton.
And everywhere you turned there was another gorgeous landscape.
It was a really wonderful holiday. I enjoyed it so much!
And it was also good for miniature people. Orkney if famous for a certain type of chair and in some of the shops they sold miniature versions of the Orkney chair! So Topaz got a nice souvenir...