April in Orkney

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

On the principle that better late than never...

I went to Orkney in April.

Kinda goes without saying that it is an extremely long way away. So many hours in the back of the car. You have to drive to Scotland, then you have to drive all the way to the very top of Scotland, then you have to get on a boat and sail off the edge of the world. But holy shit is it worth it. Not only do you get to venture to John O'Groats (always cause for an amusing selfie)...

But if you're very lucky then a rainbow is there to greet you when you get off the ferry.

Coming from a family of complete and utter history nerds, this holiday was all about the prehistoric remains. Orkney is rather well-off in this respect. There's a stone circle or a neolithic village or standing stone or burial cairn around pretty much every corner. You might think I'm joking but I'm really not. We were talking to someone from Historic Scotland about what would happen if Skara Brae fell into the sea and she said (with no hint of exaggeration) "Oh we'd just dig up a farmer's field and find another one." They have a lot of history up there.

Right round the corner from our holiday apartment were the Stones of Stenness.

Not gonna lie, this recreation of it was my absolute favourite thing in Orkney Museum. I honk every time I look at it.

Just across the causeway from the Stones is...more stones! The Ring of Brodgar to be exact.

You don't really want to get me started on why I think Stonehenge is a bit crap. Honestly people, if you're down that way then go to Avebury instead. A stone circle with a village and a PUB in it. The Ring of Brodgar is better than both of them though, plus as with most things in Orkney, you basically have it to yourself. No other irritating tourists around.

Everywhere you go is blissfully empty and incredibly beautiful.

(This is Maeshowe. Might be a World Heritage Site but shhhh, don't tell anyone. It was a bit dull. Fun Viking graffiti though.)

There are random ancient burial tombs everywhere and you can just let yourself in. Then you can climb into side tombs and poke around and it's awesome.

Some of them are a tad more difficult to get to (hello Cuween!) and you literally have to crawl inside on your hands and knees in the mud but I am an intrepid soul so in I went.

And even when you get lost trying to find one, the views from the hills are quite good as consolation.

Skara Brae is, as we expected, fascinating and breathtaking. Lifetime ambition to visit it: completed! Alas it's not that easy to take an interesting photo of. Soz.

I was also a big fan of the Brough of Gurness. Yes, we did nearly get blown into the sea but a) Shetland ponies:

and b) it reminded me somewhat of Labyrinth. A ruined, windswept, small version of the Goblin City.

Birsay was also rather fab. We found out tide times, strode boldly across the causeway and then sunbathed on the mossy ruins of a Viking house.

And just to finish, because I'm aware this is turning into a flipping essay loudly singing the praises of Orkney, here are some random photos:

Sorry, how much?

Stromness is beautiful.

View from our kitchen window.

Still kinda gutted I didn't buy this.

Couldn't resist.

In summary: GO TO ORKNEY.  It is the windiest place I've ever been in my life and I spent most of the week looking like Cousin It but it's magical. I may have spent half of this post calling things beautiful but I haven't done justice to even a tiny part of it. All these photos were taken with an iPhone camera and I haven't messed around with them at all. No filters: it really is that stunning.


  1. WOW!! I need to go. I would love to take 3/4 weeks and do a big tour of Scotland, I've never been at all :(

  2. Argh this is so exciting, I can't wait for my trip now! Although every single person without fail who mentions Orkney to me has mentioned wind, I'm not sure I can prepare myself enough...

  3. Oh my word, it looks stunning. I have to say, I'm one of those people that gets bored in the countryside after a couple of days if it's not warm, but I should just stop being a dick and go visit!

  4. Orkney has been somewhere I've wanted to go to since I did my final year lecture recital on a piece by Orkney resident, composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, called The Kestrel paced round the sun. I'm pretty sure he has written a piece called 'The Ring of Brodgar' too!!!x

    I'm v envious you got to go in all those tombs too! It really does look magnificent.
    Waw, that parking is mega cheap!!!x

  5. Gorgeous gorgeous! I really need to venture up to some of the Islands and Highlands - my friend and I have grand plans for exploring over the summer, and I'm so excited.

  6. Oh, lovely! I haven't been to Orkney since I was single figures but I'd love to go back some time.

  7. Those photos look amazing! I'd love to go to Orkney one day... That museum piece looks incredible ;)

    Liz x
    Distract Me Now Please

  8. I'm so jealous! I've wanted to visit Orkney for so long but it is a long way ... Maybe one day ...

  9. Better late than never is definitely worth it here, thanks for the opportunity for some virtual tourism without having to face the infamous wind! Looks like a great place for skywatching though. Always love a stone circle, too.

  10. Oh my gosh, it does look like a mini Goblin City, I love that! The photo of the Shetlands is just lovely, they're such cute ponies. This place looks like a trove of hidden treasures. Orkney is definitely going on my list of places to visit! - Tasha

  11. It's beautiful!! I'd love to go and be blown around for those views.


  12. We really want to do a huge tour of Scotland (I'm talking 3 weeks off work to do it) mainly because we want to visit the furthest away bits! The furthest I've gone so far is Ullapool which was amazing (but we were only there for a couple of hours!)
    In summary- Orkney looks awesome and it's totally on my list.

  13. I know this comment is rather late but I'm just getting myself back into this blogging malarkey (and frankly my return is well overdue!), but seeing that you had been to Orkney made my heart skip. I looooove Orkney! Have been three times now and we will be back again. What an adventure it is even to get there which is all part of the magic. I've loved looking at your photographs, they have brought back to me such fond memories. I'm so glad you loved it too! xxx


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