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Trip Report A fine May weekend in Orkney

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It's mid May and we (Mrs Bilbo and I) plan to have a few days in Orkney to show the place to my NZ niece (called hereafter NZN). The islands (some 70 of them) sit on the tip of the north east of Scotland. These islands have been inhabited for over 5000 years and are made up mainly of people from mainland UK, Iceland and Scandinavia. While historically relatively poor the island has developed some fine arts and jewellery industry, beef, a substantial oil pumping industry and a growing sustainable energy industry (i.e. tidal, wave and wind based). You are likely to visit the islands if you take a cruise into the north east Atlantic, want to see some of the bird or marine mammal colonies or some very fine ancient monuments. Neolithic Orkney was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1999. The local language is English with a soft Scottish accent.

We (just Mrs B and I) flew from Leeds Bradford to Glasgow and then an hour later to Kirkwall in Orkney. The NZN will fly up tomorrow. The small turboprop made an “interesting” landing in the strong wind, but the little airport makes a great showing of all the goods for sale on the island and all the staff are very friendly. We picked up our rental car from the airport and WR Tullock a 4th generation rental company and drive to the Shore a “restaurant with rooms”.

The Shore is on the docks and has a restaurant with bar downstairs and then rooms above. Ours is two floors up and very quiet. The day is so bright and blue (and Britain has been so cold and dull for 5 months) we just have to get out and enjoy the fabulous weather.

So we buzz off to some of the finest ancient sites on the island, many of which are contemporary with Egypt's great Pyramids. The Ring of Brodgar, The Standing stones of Stennes and the fantastic Barnhouse Neolithic village (all of which are free) shows the sorts of houses people were living in 2500BC. So plenty of chances to photograph the heather, the rocks and the eider duck. We drove slowly back along the A694 which gave us the chance to see some beautiful vistas in some very fine weather, the Saga centre and the remains of the circular church. It turns out that Viking Earls did an awful amount of killing and trickery in the 1000AD to 1200AD period and then had it written up in the Sagas (history belongs to the victors).

We ate supper in the Kirkwall Hotel Bar “Skippers” paying £22 for home made steak pie, haddock with vegetables, a pint of bitter and a fizzy water. Despite the fine weather the evening turned cold. Tomorrow the weather is forecast as going to turn bad, lets hope not too bad.

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