Ferry John o"Groats to Burwick

Cycling Scotland #7. Orkney Islands

As for many cyclist the goal is to get to John o’Groats, not many of them take ferry further to Orkney. Usually people do it in separate trip, together with Shetland Islands.

Hope. St. Margaret Hope

Ferry John o"Groats to Burwick

Ferry John o”Groats to Burwick

Ferry brought me, freezing and wet, from John o’Groat to Burwick around 7PM. The last people have gone from the Burwick pier, three passengers, who came with me, jumped into the bus, waiting for them. The driver raised eyebrows, asking if I’m coming. I shook my head, answering negative, and I was the only person left in a horizon view.  It was around 7PM and yes, it was raining.

St. Margaret's Hope, Oarkney

St. Margaret’s Hope, Orkney

The only hope was St. Margaret Hope about 7 miles ahead. It’s a pretty town with many pubs and hotels. It connected with Mainland by Churchill Barriers, which story I learned further. I’ve got my space in Bellevue Inn like that:

St. Margaret's Hope, Orkney

St. Margaret’s Hope, Orkney

St. Margaret's Hope, Orkney

St. Margaret’s Hope, Orkney

Why Churchill

Churchill

Churchill

At the times of WWII, by Churchill’s order, the barriers were built in the Northern Sea, to protect UK fleet from German submarines. Later local folks started jumping on the barriers from island to island, visiting each other, so they built bridges on these barriers. There is a very interesting exhibition in Orkney Fossil & heritage centre about that

Churchill Barriers, Orkney

Churchill Barriers, Orkney

A lot of ships and submarines were sinked by these barriers, I can understand divers and kayakers  hanging around.

Another interesting subject in this museum are fossils with the related story of, again, Pangea. Some fossils are even from Utah, US.

Another footprint of WWII is Italian Chapel. Italian prisoners of the war built it.

 Highland Park Distillery

Highland Park Distillery

Highland Park Distillery

That is a place for testing whisky. Yes, Scottish spelling of their distilled drink is whisky. However to spell it, I’ve got a spasm in my throat even from thinking about it.

Highland Park Distillery

Highland Park Distillery

 

Three times this whisky was named The Best Spirit in the World. They still turn each batch of malt by hand on traditional malting floor. Besides of local sparkling water The test of local whisky mostly comes from specially matured sherry oak casks. Orkney climate, neither hot no cold,  makes them special. The test of whisky we were given for testing, was smoked.

Kirkwall

The Earl's Palace, Kirkwall, Orkney

The Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall, Orkney

I chased away the thoughts about pinching my tent on the grass under the beautiful trees around The Earl’s Palace because of, hm… ghosts. I spent rainy evening in a cosy and classy (as usual) West End Hotel.

The West End Hotel, Kirkwall, Orkney

The West End Hotel, Kirkwall, Orkney

and set my tent on their backyard with following breakfast in the morning.

The West End Hotel, Kirkwall, Orkney

The West End Hotel, Kirkwall, Orkney

B&B&B is one of my favourite outdoor sleeping option. Which means backyard, bathroom, and breakfast. The favourite is just get out of the wind and rain to any shelter!

Orkneyinga Saga in Orphir

The Orkneyinga Saga Centre, Round Kirk, and Earl's Bu, Orphir, Orkney

The Orkneyinga Saga Centre, Round Kirk, and Earl’s Bu, Orphir, Orkney

On some reason The Saga Centre is not on the map of Cycling Route, but the word saga didn’t let me miss this place. Some events, happening here hundreds of years ago, were reflected in this saga.

The Orkneyinga Saga Centre, Round Kirk, and Earl's Bu, Orphir, Orkney

The Orkneyinga Saga Centre, Round Kirk, and Earl’s Bu, Orphir, Orkney

The Round Church and the ruins of Norse buildings, believed to be the Earls Bu, are close by.

Rolf the "walker", the Orkneyinga Saga Centre

Rolf the “Walker”, the Orkneyinga Saga Centre

Orphir heroes , Orkney

Orphir heroes, Orkney

Farm. No food

Carrigall Farm museum, Orkney

Carrigall Farm museum, Orkney

The Corrigall Farm Museum is also not on cycling map, but… shame… on working farm I was expecting farm’s artefacts together with food. Can’t help, always thinking about food, raw milk and fresh bread in particular, when hear farm. By the way, it was interesting collection of antic farming tools.

Rendall Doocot

Rendall Doocot, Orkney

Rendall Doocot, Orkney

Nothing heroic, just place for birds, fertilised vikings’ fields.

Birsay. Skiba Geo and Earl Robert’s Palace

Sciba Geo, Orkney

Sciba Geo, Orkney

Skiba Geo is an 19th century locked fisherman’s’ hut, staying above the cliffs. Mysterious Birsay Whalebone “monument” stays  below.

Earl's Palace, Birsay, Orkney

Earl’s Palace, Birsay, Orkney

The castle was built in 16th century and was mostly a fortress rather then a residence. Ground floor was equipped with gun-holes for musketeers.

This day I was absolutely exhausted from cycling against 15 km/hour wind. I would rather stop, but there were no places even to seat down, so I just keep pedalling, and at the very end of the day pedalled into Barony Hotel, where I slept in a cosy end of the corridor. With a sea-view.

Barony Hotel, Birsay, Orkney

Barony Hotel, Birsay, Orkney

This view at the day time:

Barony Hotel, Birsay, Orkney

Barony Hotel, Birsay, Orkney

Barony Mills. Beer from Bere

Barony Mill, Orkney

Barony Mill, Orkney

It’s a real working old brewery on the real working old mill. Or Museum machinery is making real beer from growing right here, unique grain named bere.

Skara Brae

Skara Brae, Orkney

Skara Brae, Orkney

These remains of Neolithic village are older then Egyptian Pyramids and it stays under UNESCO patronising. People lived here between 3200BC and 2200BC and it’s still a mystery why they left the village after living there for 600 years,

The village was discovered in 1850, when its reminds showed up after a big storm. Local laird, William Watt of Skaill, initiated excavation works. His house turned into a museum with interesting artefacts like Captain Cook’s dish or Red Army’s flag from Russian Civil War.

Better come in the afternoon, after the tour buses with tour groups will be gone.

Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

It’s another one UNESCO World Heritage Site in Orkney. Some stones contain runic carvings. Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness also known as the Temple of the Sun and Moon. According to one of the legends, young people prayed to Odin. “Odin Stone” laid between the stone circles until it was destroyed by a farmer in 18’s.

Stromness

Stromness, ferry to Thurso

Stromness, ferry to Thurso

Instead going further to Shetland Islands I took a ferry from Strombess to Thurso, so exhausted I was with the wind. I was told that Shetlands are also bold, no trees… Buy the way, don’t fell sorry for the tour buses, waiting on the top of the hill at the passing places of narrow roads, while you are pedalling  up towards this hill. I can imagine how much happier getting they in their bus, watching a cyclist through the window. I’ve got this feeling in the train from Thurso to Inverness. It was raining.

 

Lena Faber used to work as a journalist at a mainstream Russian newspaper, she wrote books for a major publishing house, and directed her original concept on Drive TV in Russia. In 2009, she moved to South Africa and taught at the University of SA, where she took up running competitively and won a silver medal at the World Masters Athletic Championship. She has also won an international photo contest and had a photo exhibition of her work. In 2014 she decided to try fast long-distance hiking and started with the Appalachian Trail where she earned a trail name "Brave" from other hikers. She has also cycled US Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, as well as other parts of the world. Still hiking and cycling somewhere.