Friday, 19 September 2014


On the Ferry to Lyness

A grey day but dry and breezy; we caught the ferry from Houton to Lyness on Hoy. It was a forty-five minute crossing on a choppy sea. We looked out across the grey waters of Scapa Flow. We were sailing over the 23 remaining wrecks of the 40 strong German Fleet who, under orders, scuttled themselves in 1919.

This part of Orkney was home to the British Fleet in 1914-18 and 1939-45. The war being centred on the Atlantic shipping conveys by 1940 12,000 personnel were stationed at Lyness.

The Visitors Centre is a treasure trove of all kinds of paraphernalia and equipment and memento’s and clothing from both periods.

The trail takes one round the Naval Base and imagines what might have been
One of the huge tanks that once held 15,000 tons of fuel oil now contains interesting boats and tackle used in the base. There is film footage from   1940’s projected on one of the tank’s walls.

And then a trail takes you round the base which with map in hand you get a clear sense of the scale of the place which boasted several churches, a cinema and hundreds of accommodation huts. En route there are guns and sections of torpedo nets and propellers propped up on show. The slipways and piers are still visible and the building that was headquarters and communications centres still stands high above the base on a hill.

All in all the former Navel Base at Lyness is a fascinating and memorable place.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


In the Sunday sun we drove northwest back to the Broch of Gurness to again wander at this wonderful settlement and gaze at the stones. 

St Magnus Churchyard

It was a lovely day and each stone in each wall delighted in the sun.

On the way we stopped at Tingwall Dock, which serves Rousay and Egilsay. A lot of cars on the quay but no sign off life, everyone must have taken off for the day! Bird watching? Exploring? It was probably too windy for diving, maybe fishing?  

Weekend pursuits in Orkney.
The return to Gurness

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


Milbrig  Our home on Orkney
Saturday morning a bright clear morning with much sun. We sat outside and read and laid plans for Kirkwall Library and then onto Mull Head, Deerness on the East Mainland. We thought Kirkwall Library might contain records of where the Birmingham University’s Department of Ancient History, and therefore Sian was digging a Picts site in 1981.

No luck in the library and as we drove out to Deerness a thick mist descended on the peninsular! We drove on think we found the field, near Skaill Farm where most of the work was done.  Just before this we thought we found the old school when she and a group of 20 other students stayed during the three-week dig. Enquiring at Deerness Stores we met a farmer who confirmed the old school as the place and also supplied the wheelbarrows for the dig each year. So the mist (of time) partially lifted.

Orkney  Some of the places we have visited 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


We had booked to go into Maeshowe, also on the West Mainland, a complete Neolithic tomb.

Inside Maes Howe

This is a ticket-only experience so with eight others and we were taken to the tomb by our guide George from Sunderland.

Outside Maes Howe towards the coast 
The tomb is about 7 metres square and 7.5 meters high, is reached through a 10 meter passage through which one walks hunched up there are chambers leading off each of three walls.

This is another Orkadian treasure and was embellished by the Vikings in the 1100’s when they discovered it by accident and used it as a resting up place in bad weather. They left Runic inscriptions on the walls of stone, which were deftly translated in a Geordie lilt by George.

Skaill House - 'new build'
We parked and walked across Skara Brae again; a complex of stone built houses and connecting passages. A settlement that was occupied from 2500 BC until 2000 BC; it was wonderful to gaze down into these homes; about five out of a total of ten are clearly visible.

“New Build” was how Christopher (see Wednesday) described Skaill House situated across the fields from Skara Brae.

Skaill build in the 17C and home to the Lairds of these lands until recently. An enterprising heritage scheme ‘froze’ the house in a moment of time, the 1950’s? This allowed us and a part of Italians to wander round the dinning room, library, upstairs drawing room and bedrooms of this isolated house that looks out to sea. The set of some Evelyn Waugh novel came to mind with Basil Seal coming up for the weekend.  We looked at the all the tea services and domestic crockery out on display and decided it was time to return home for Tea.