Stromness, Orkney island called Mainland. 58:57.862N 003:17.634W
Frans & Sarah Toonen
Wed 31 Jul 2013 21:15
|31 July 2013. W4 veering NNW 3/4 under a clear blue sky, mostly beam reach. 138 nm from Gairloch to Stromness.|
Orkney has 70 islands of which 20 are inhabited. We chose Mainland because the wind headed us that way and the entry through Hoy Sound is easier than any approach involving the Pentland Firth tidal streams to the south of the islands. The cliffs of Hoy are breathtaking - they are the highest in the whole UK. We berthed in the smart little Stromness marina behind the ferry pier at 1340 and had a very early night.
Foggy day Thursday 1 August so we took the open top (half the top is covered as this is Scotland) bus and went to Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. These were our first visits to any neolithic sites and Skara Brae was very interesting and so well preserved under the sand all those 5000 years. The bus waits at all these places for you and then takes you on to Kirkwall bus station. We visited a tiny wireless museum stuffed full of radio sets from the earliest times up to the 1960's. They had a lot of military communication equipment from tanks and aeroplanes (not just the allies) plus a vanity case radio set used by a lady spy working with the French Resistance. After lunch we took another bus down the east side of Scapa Flow across the Churchill Barriers down to St Margaret Hope. A number of the WW2 ship wrecks are visible and diving is a boom industry for Orkney tourism.
Hiking day Friday 2 August. Ferry ride across to Hoy where we found the laird on the pier complete with deerstalker and his old minibus. He meets the ferries and drives tourists down to Randwick for £2.50 so they can walk up and along the cliffs to the stack 'Old Man of Hoy'. In a 1906 photo the stack has 2 legs, hence the name, whereas now it is a single stack. Randwick had a lovely bay but it is very remote with only a few residents. The walk to the Old Man is lovely and there are fulmars nesting everywhere. We saw Great Skuas chasing a Hen Harrier which was a good airshow. After walking back to Randwick we had to walk right across the island back to the ferry along a glen filled with heather, peat bogs and beasties. The scenery was great especially the Sandy Loch where over 30 Skuas were having a bath and then flying up and shaking off just like dogs. We did 10 or 11 miles and Frans's leg is doing fine.
Stromness has been having a face lift courtesy of Heritage/EU/Lottery funding and the stone buildings are very smart having been re-pointed and decorated. Many of the houses are gable end on to the water with their own slips or wharfs and apparently this is how Norwegian fishing villages are styled. Kirkwall is the main town but we thought Stromness was more attractive, its smaller and more upmarket somehow.
Hoy: the highest vertical cliffs in Britain… the ferry puts it in to perspective.
Fulmar with a chick:
Old Man of Hoy… back a bit dear.
Just an old man on Hoy: