My holiday to Orkney was with Brightwater Tours (huge recommendation) and the luxury coach picked all 28 of us from various places in Scotland. I got on at Edinburgh with Mr & Mrs Grumpy, and an assorted group of couples and singles. Quickly I had named them in my mind: the Grumpies, the Bathgate girls (all 8 of them), the London veggie, the Perth prims, the one most likely to either fall or die (he did the former but never the latter so that just goes to show what I know), the Sad and Lonely lady, Ginger and her much older husband (who turned out to be her father), Mr Bifocals and his giggling wife, and the Trendy Antipodean amongst others. Isn’t it lovely to people-watch?
Jimmie, our coach driver, was also a fan of the old B&H so I knew that we would get the occasional smoking stop which brought the anxiety levels down a bit. He was also an excellent driver so we quickly relaxed and enjoyed the scenery as we drove north, and north, and north through four dioceses, I think. Lunch was at Inverness where I found a lovely posh shoe shop with Birkenstocks on sale and got the most comfy pair which have been barely off my tootsies since I got them (different pattern to the pic – I have lilac flowers and bit of greenery). Finally we made it to Scrabster which is as far north as I’ve ever been and on to the Hamnavoe ferry to Stromness. My little flock had warned me about the crossing to Orkney and threatened violent sea-sickness among other horrors. In fact it was as calm as a mill-pond and I stood out on the sun-deck (bit of a misnomer but at least it was dry) with a ciggie and some lovely views. We arrived at the Kirkwall Hotel at about 7.30pm and I had a wee wander along the main street in search of decent toilet paper. Found it in the Co-op and was in bed by about 9.30pm and sound asleep.
Over the next few days I adored the Italian Chapel; stooped into Maeshowe and enjoyed the Viking grafitti; hugged more Standing Stones than I care to recall; crossed the Churchill Barriers many times and pondered how the sea could be so different on each side; spent a happy hour or so at the Orkney Winery with the most delicious Dutch man; walked for miles (yes, Walked!); looked down on Skara Brae and was just blown away (it was very windy by the coast ;-)); scampered round St Magnus Cathedral and stroked a rather lovely communion table; and happily wandered round many a gift shop, craft centre and jeweller. On the last night some of us went to The Creel Restaurant where I ate the most delicious hand-dived scallops, lobster bisque and rhubarb compote.
I fell in love with Orkney Fudge, Orkney ice-cream with Orkney Fudge, Orkney cheese, Orkney Fudge and Orkney jewellery. And let us not forget the puffins. No, we didn’t actually see any but every gift shop had a host of them which made me very happy indeed. I do love a puffin. However, we did see seals and porpoises and many exotic birds. Sadly, there were no Twitchers on coach so we mostly argued as to whether they were seagulls or not.
The weather was amazing in that it only rained once and that was during the night. It was windy which I believe is the norm up there, and the sky could change in an instant from dark and broody to blue and fluffy. But what skies – and what greenery. Delicious.
I came home wishing I could go again and see some more. It was a fabulous holiday and just what I needed. And Mr Grumpy just turned out to be incredibly shy, and Mrs Grumpy a joy to behold once we got talking, so there’s a lesson learned again.