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.
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:
Still kinda gutted I didn't buy this.
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.