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History and Heather -Tony Keeling

Blog post   •   Oct 12, 2010 17:30 BST

Orkney Islands – September 11th – 18th

The week on the Orkney’s started with a relaxing walk, an ideal way for us to get to know our fellow ramblers and for our leader Claire to asses our abilities. We walked in the sunshine exploring Stromness, then along the coastal path in search of seals, after a lunch break back into town to explore the museum and teashops.

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After a miserable Monday walking in the rain from Brough Head to Skara Brae we gathered at the harbour on Tuesday for, what for me was to be one of the highlights of my holiday, the trip to the Island of Hoy and the opportunity to see the ‘Old Man’. After a 30 min ferry crossing we were met by the North Hoy Ranger, and then went by mini bus and a short walk to see the Dwarfie Stone- the only British example of a rock hewn Neolithic tomb. Then it was on with the backpacks to walk to the ‘Old Man’. It seems that every time you read about the Orkney’s there is its picture and the sight of it emerging out of the showers of rain – and wind added to its magnificence. Trying to take a photograph from the correct angle became a challenge against the elements; I wonder how long it will survive.

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The walk back included the choice of going to the Scapa Flow Museum at Lyness or a longer walk through the valley on the western side of Ward Hill to the ferry. The walk was my choice and the reward was walking in low heather taking in the amazing colours and watching trout in a stream. It also gave some of the group the opportunity of discovering the properties of heather when making a soft landing after missing one’s footing!

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The grand finale to the day was the ferry crossing back to Stromness, which was not for the faint hearted. We stayed on the open deck and were entertained by the wild waters of Hoy Sound crashing over the wheelhouse and across the deck.

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The Orkney’s are a wonderful place to visit if you like the sea – it’s there whichever way you look. The rest of the week was spent exploring some of the many sites including, the Midhowe Broch and Cairn on the Island of Rousay, from 4000 years ago to the Churchill Barriers. The Italian Chapel on the Island of Lamb Holm, left as reminders of the use of the Orkney’s as a naval base during Two World Wars. A ‘must do’ is a visit to St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall whose building is believed to have begun in 1137, but not completed for over three centuries. Look out for the monuments to William Baikie and John Rae the Artic explorer!

There are many things to see on the Orkney’s with easy walking, a pleasant hotel and good company what more could one ask for…Maybe a bit less wind and rain but the warmth of my fellow ramblers and excellent Leader made up for this.


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