Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, day 2
Thu 12 Jul 2012 22:35


The weather remained in unchanged. We learned that the average temperature in Kirkwall ranges between 4° in winter and 12° in summer, so any expectations beyond that were quickly set aside, and we proceeded to find a car to rent.

Unlike most of coastal towns in Croatia, the main source of income in Kirkwall comes not from tourism, but from fishing and agriculture, as evidenced by the many fields visible while approaching the town as well as by the fact that the town is hidden behind a rather unappealing industrial port. There really isn't much to see here beyond the church of St. Magnus (who btw. was a viking warrior quarrelling in 1115 with his cousin Haakon for control of this area. Both were going to meet at Tingwall, with two longships each, but Haakon came with 8, so he gained the control of the islands, while Magnus had a church named in honor of his premature demise), but we were still rather surprised to learn that all the cars on the island were rented out for the next couple of days. Fortunately, the government provides a rather good bus service around the island, so we opted for that instead of bicycles, to go to Stromness, on the south coast of the Mainland-Island.

Stromness lack the industrial areas makes it much more appealing than Kirkwall. Furthermore, the locals of this town of two main streets seem to take gardening quite seriouosly. Irrespective of the size of the garden, the lawn is always nicely trimmed, flowers are blooming and little garden gnomes (maybe relatives of the mysterious "trows", or trolls as they are known in Scandinavia) are smiling at you. With the addition of friendly locals and good food, Stromness is definitely a good place to visit for an afternoon.

After lunch we boarded a hop-on, hop-off double decker tourist bus, which, and I'm not kidding, features an open roof on the top floor, in direction Skara Brae. Meanwhile, the driver entertained us with little detailes about the island, mostly though with his rather funny accent, which sounded like as if he had spent half his life in Scotland, and the other half in India. Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Steness are all evidence of neolithic civilization on the Orkney islands (that is that bit of Stone age, when people shift from hunting and gathering to farming and domesticating animals, as well as living in communities). Skara Brae features an excavated housing complex from that era, complete with room layout and tools used, while the ring and the standing stones are most likely religious sites from then and succeeding bronze age.

Upon returning, the chefs served delightful spare ribs (amazing how little of a kitchen one needs to prepare yummy food), and then it was time to plan the next day: The journey to Inverness. Departure time is scheduled at 5am, in order to catch favorable tidal waters out of the Orkney islands and high tide when entering Inverness.