Orkney part 1 – Arrival

My new husband and I were lucky enough to have an unexpected financial windfall the day after our wedding and the opportunity to have a proper honeymoon while the kids were at their dad’s place for a week in early July.  After a bit of discussion we chose the Orkney Islands as our honeymoon destination.

On the morning of Monday 4th July we set off from Glasgow in the car to travel north and get a ferry over to Orkney.  On the way up we took a little side trip to Chanonry Point. Chanonry Point is at the end of a peninsula extending out into the Moray Forth and it is the best place to see wild bottle nosed dolphins from shore.  We weren’t sure if we’d be lucky enough to see any as our arrival time was towards full tide and the best time to see them is on a rising tide when they come in to feed.  We were lucky though and saw one playing in the bow wave of a passing ship and a mother and calf closer to the shore.  It was a good start to our honeymoon.

Next stop was John O’Groats as we arrived at the coast with time to spare before needing to check in at the ferry terminal at Gills Bay.  It seemed silly to be so close and not to visit so we did although I have to say I don’t really think it was worth the stop.  It’s not that impressively scenic there but it is very touristy as you might expect.

We’d chosen Pentland Ferries from Gills Bay to get to Orkney, they were also recommended to us. The journey lasts about an hour and the Pentland Ferries service have a good reputation for reliability, cost and environmental awareness.  Our ferry journey was particularly smooth.  The sea was calm and the weather good. It was fascinating watching the eddies and currents in the sea as we traveled, we even saw a couple of small whirlpools.  The journey also takes you past the islands of Stroma and Swona before you reach the coastline of South Ronaldsay and arrive at St Margaret’s Hope which is the third largest settlement on the Orkney Islands.

Before you even arrive on the Orkney Islands you start to become more aware of the richness of natural environments and historic significance of these beautiful islands.  As you travel from mainland Britain across the Pentland Firth you see more signs of older, abandoned buildings such as croft buildings and World War II gun placements and lookout towers. Your eyes and ears are caught by the sights and sounds of passing seabirds.  And the land unfolds its wild beauty before you.

And then you arrive on the Orkney Island but unless you are staying in St Margaret’s Hope your journey is not yet over. It takes about another twenty minutes by car to travel over a couple of the smaller islands linked by the Churchill barriers to the Orkney mainland.  In our case once we reached that point we still had a bit further to go as we were staying in a bed and breakfast called Lindisfarne just outside Stromness.  Our hosts were a lovely couple with three small children and they made us feel incredibly welcome.  They had even brought us a bottle of champagne and put it in our room with a couple of glasses and a fabric red rose which was both lovely and totally unexpected.

Our room had a lovely view out over Stromness and the Island of Hoy beyond that.  The room was well decorated, comfortable, clean and a good size with a lovely ensuite bathroom.  My particular favorite bit of the decor was the carpets in all the main rooms, they just begged for bare feet and felt wonderful.  We had been given the end room upstairs with the guest lounge (or blue sitting room as one of our hosts children referred to it) beyond separated by a couple of doors and a small entry way to our room.

We settled in, unpacked and went to find some food in Stromness for our evening meal.  We decided on fish and chips for that first evening and ate them sitting on a bench on the main street before then having a bit of a walk along the main street of Stromness before returning to our bed and breakfast for the night.

The next morning our Orkney adventures would start in earnest.

(Photos copyright Neil Pitchford, Awen photos)

 

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